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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Achievement - Putting Japanese History In Context, 8 April 2014
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This review is from: Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival (Hardcover)
This book is an enthralling read. David Pilling clearly knows Japan intimately and although he has huge affection for the country his analysis does not avoid some difficult questions. He is even handed with both the country and its people, drawing significantly on how Japan recovered from the earthquake in 2011.

In addition, as the author points out, Japan is some way ahead of the curve in dealing with the challenges faced by post-affluent societies. In the UK we can learn a great deal from what Japan has experienced in economic and social terms in the last twenty years.

Bending Adversity is written in a fluent style that manages to make both an interesting yet easy read.

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accomplished guide for enriching one's understanding of Japan, 14 Jan. 2015
By 
AK (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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David Pilling - a journalist with extensive in country experience - has done a rare job with this book. Namely he managed to portray a relatively balanced account of Japan, neither falling into the trap of glorifying all aspects of it, nor vilifying it completely - a trap many books on Japan fall into.

The book sheds light on the country from many perspectives, from the Meiji restoration, the economic 'miracle' of the post war boom, the two lost decades from 1989 to the current day, the cultural uniqueness or lack thereof, the recovery after great catastrophes (including the 2011 tsunami), the political and economic landscape, to the outlook for the future.

As such one cannot expect an expert level discourse on any specific topic, the author, however does a good job of presenting informed opinions everywhere and blends the total into more than the sum of the individual parts.

As such you will get a broader and deeper understanding of the country, its culture and the likely further evolution both of its strengths and its problems. If you are more interested in the economic end of the spectrum, reading the book in conjunction with How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region works particularly well.

If you are planning on interacting with the country, its culture or people more intensively, you will do well to start with the book. It is not the be all / end all and certainly not a practical guide to the etiquette of bowing, business card presentation and gift wrapping but it presents a good mental framework for you to put all the other issues into the right context.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Penetrating, 16 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival (Hardcover)
This is a thoughtful analysis of an inscrutable world which generates real warmth for this unique place. Well judged mix of politics and cultural references makes for an enjoyable lesson in the powerlessness of state. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really informative, 12 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival (Hardcover)
I know relatively little about Japan and was looking for a quick bit of background reading to give me some sense of the country and its people and I found this book did just that. Really clearly written and not difficult to read. I would give it 5 stars but got a bit bogged down in some of the more technical economic sections.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book says it all!, 6 Mar. 2014
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It was the Best book to read about Japan for non- Japanese as well as the Japanese to rediscover their country!
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4.0 out of 5 stars On Japanese resilience, 23 Mar. 2015
By 
reader 451 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
David Pilling was the Financial Times' Japanese correspondent for several years in the noughties, and his book takes stock of the last two decades of change, especially economic and political, in the country. Japan, indeed, presents a confusing picture to the outside observer: stuck economically since its 1980s bubble burst, it remains a rich and modern country, and apparently incapable of reform politically, it has been rocked by catastrophes such as the Fukushima nuclear plant explosion that have nevertheless mobilised civil society in entirely new ways. It is Pilling's conclusion, indeed, that Japan as a nation is far more resilient than recent events appear to show, and that even economically it has been more successful, even through the 'lost decades', than is superficially thought. The book meanwhile also takes stock of Japanese self-perceptions, relations between the sexes, and the nation's complicated relationship with China and other Asian countries. It also contains numerous first-hand anecdotes, especially about the Tsunami, its after-effects, and the rebuilding effort, as well as drawing from interviews with politicians, high-level civil servants, writers, artists, and even the granddaughter of admiral Tojo.

Pilling's book should appeal to anyone with an interest in or relationship with Japan. I read it while travelling there as a tourist and found it fascinating. It is not a history and is best read with some prior knowledge of Japan's past, but it is targeted at the general reader - as indeed Pilling's newspaper reporting was. While it tends to be positive and was clearly written by a fan of the country, it is also nuanced, even critical at times. If you want the Koizumi era decoded, or would like the full story on Fukishima, or are looking for an update on post-bubble Japan, this is the book to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly researched and highly readable., 10 Mar. 2015
A very thoroughly researched and highly readable book - even as a long-term resident of the Japan who has read many books on the country, there was plenty of interest even in the parts of the book covering familiar ground. Other reviewers have also pointed out the strengths of interviews with a number of very high level people in Japanese society, as well as many ordinary people, and the book managing to steer a middle ground between a hagiography and a portent of doom.

It's also worth adding that it's one of the first books to be written on Japan in English since the Tohoku Earthquake, and the author's account of the nuclear disaster and its repercussions and the areas affected by the tsunami is one of the high points of the book.

A couple of small criticisms - The Yamato Dynasty was conspicuously absent from the bibliography, in which the authors convincingly argue that Japan's rapid postwar recovery was as much to do with spending its accumulated gold and other treasures systematically looted from previously colonised Asian countries as it was about central planning and hard work. I think this opinion should have at least been mentioned in the section on post-war Japan.
Also having described how Japan's civic society has developed and Japanese people have become more vociferous, catalysed by the Kobe earthquake and the 2011 disasters, Pilling fails to point out that the current administration is systematically trying to reverse this trend through greater interference with the media, legislation to make whistle-blowing on state corruption more difficult, increased control of education and changes to the constitution giving the government the power to make wide-ranging changes and move in a direction that most Japanese people are uncomfortable with.

Despite these minor criticisms, this is an essential book for anyone wanting an in-depth profile of contemporary Japan.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most books fall into one of two camps - either the "everything about Japan is fantastic and it's the best country on Earth" camp, 7 Nov. 2014
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I read this book while living in rural Japan, so hopefully this will add some legitimacy to my review.

What this books offers is very commonly lost by many authors when writing about Japan. The author takes a balanced, level-headed and fair approach to Japan. Most books fall into one of two camps - either the "everything about Japan is fantastic and it's the best country on Earth" camp of the "Japan is so weird and backward and it is doomed because the Japanese don't understand the outside world" camp. This book provides a much more robust and accurate analysis of contemporary Japan, and I found that immensely valuable as it gives room for the author to reach some very interesting insights (both to the long-term resident of Japan and the uninitiated). Another point that sets this book apart is the access the author had to high-ranking public officials and widely respected figures of public life in Japan. These interviews add a layer of validity that other books on Japan do not have.

The author has a very accessible right style which mostly outweighs some of the issue of structure in the book. Generally speaking this book was a highly enjoyable and engrossing read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive and balanced analysis of contemporary Japan, its foibles and forces, 4 Mar. 2014
By 
Jean-Pierre Lehmann (IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival (Hardcover)
Really excellent, indeed outstanding. The “big picture” is complemented by multiple encounters of people with different backgrounds, personalities, ideas, demonstrating so well the point the author makes makes that, yes, there is diversity in Japan, even if it is sometimes not easy to discern! Actually there may be more diversity and individuality among the “little people” than the elites whose education system provides them with the proverbial rod to insert up their backsides. It is a very affectionate perspective on Japan, that is quite clear, while at the same time unrelentingly criticising what there is to be criticised, especially on the xenophobic and revisionist fronts. Pilling has achieved difficult-to-achieve balance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, intelligent and balanced, 6 May 2014
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David Pilling has a great perspective on the country covering the issues from several angles and using Japanese perspectives to illustrate the arguments.
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Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival
Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival by David Pilling (Hardcover - 2 Jan. 2014)
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