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The Meilairean Reviews

A bookish branch of The Meilairean Wednesdays by Febriani Savitri.

Jepun Negerinya Hiroko by Nh. Dini

Jepun Negerinya Hiroko - Nh. Dini

Jepun Negerinya Hiroko is a memoir of a French diplomat’s wife during her living in Japan. This memoir took place after Kemayoran, after Dini was proposed by Yves Coffin. She began her life as the diplomat’s wife in Japan. She spent her days in Japan by taking French cooking class, watching her friend’s ikebana class and learning Japanese language with her Japanese friend. Her sociability helped her to get some new friends, including some close friends whom she would need to endure her tough days with her husband. As how the previous memoir was, we were shown many things she observed during the time-frame of this book. She observed the characters of her Japanese friends and the intricate details of Japanese buildings and environment. However, there are significantly less historical events mentioned, compared to her previous memoirs that took place in Indonesia.


Since Dini got engaged and married Yves, she noticed that her husband was either changed or simply not as perfect as she thought. He became stingy and temperamental. Because of his moody trait, they kept changing their household assistant. Each assistant could not bear with his impatience and harsh scoldings, while the ones who could bear it were recalled by their family to get married. Thankfully, Yves was still willing to help with the household chores. The middle to the end of this memoir told us how Yves' photography hobby took more and more portion of their daily life. In contrast, Dini had a hard time keeping up with her writings, of which Yves perceived as an unproductive hobby that could not be monetized. Even Dini had to hide her novel's draft to avoid Yves' anger for bringing "useless thing" during their travels. As tough as it was, Dini gave her best to bear with Yves’ difficult upbringing, for the sake of her baby and her family in Indonesia.


Thankfully, her days in the wonderful Japan were not just all about living with her difficult husband. She got to know some Indonesian, Japanese and French friends who helped her a lot. They helped with her daughter's milk, borrowed each other's clothes and jewelries, and taught her some tricks to deal with her stingy husband.


As mentioned earlier, this memoir captured significantly less historical events compared to the previous memoir. In contrast, there are significantly more descriptions of the places she visited and stayed in Japan, Hong Kong and Vietnam. There are a lot of people introduced in this memoir. Sometimes it could be confusing, and unfortunately Dini tend not to refresh our memory when some characters reappeared after a long while. For example, during their visit to Hong Kong, they stayed at their acquaintances' place. The acquaintances appeared without any introduction, which made me assume that they were already introduced in the earlier chapter. However, there are so many characters that I could not recall when they were introduced!


Because of the detailed descriptions and daily life events that dominate this memoir, sometimes I found myself bored when reading this. However, if we intend to follow her memoirs up to the latest one, this memoir is an important part that shows us the gradual change of Dini and Yves' relationship. This memoir may also tell many new things for readers who are not familiar with Japanese living yet.


Maybe I found myself bored partially because there are not so much things that are new to me as a Japanophile. However, this shows me that the daily life in Japan in the 1960s is not significantly different from the present. Many still hold traditional value, and some out-of-traditional-norm relationships such as premarital domestic partnerships, mistress-keeping and one night stands in love hotels were already seen as not-so-unusual back then. However, I may be biased, considering that Dini is known for her explicit sexual descriptions and openness to taboo topics in her writings since her books were published in the 1990s. Apparently, some of her books were banned because they were considered vulgar in the New Order Era.


I would recommend this book for people who have read Kemayoran and intend to read Dini's later memoirs. This memoir can also be considered as Namaku Hiroko's behind-the-scene, as it was obviously inspired by many events occurred and people Dini met during this memoir's time-frame.