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Freedom from Choice


By Pico Iyer, from A Beginner’s Guide to Japan, out this month from Knopf. Iyer, a British-­American essayist and novelist, has lived in Nara, Japan, since 1992.

Japan is the Land of Must, I decided as soon as I set foot in Tokyo, as surely as America is the Land of Can. It’s the difference between an arranged marriage, a practical affair in which, it’s hoped, affection can grow and grow, and an affair of the heart, in which, too often, passions burn wildly and then peter out.

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