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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, great work
I picked up this book, expecting it to be somewhat good. What I got was a masterpiece.
Encompassing both political, military and, foremost, cultural elements, this book is a must-have for people interested in the history of Japan, both for those with and those without foreknowledge.
Lengthwise, it's a bit short of 400 pages.
Published 24 months ago by Jane Wivian

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but certainly not the best.
I had quite big expectations for this book, as the back side advertises a big promise: "the best one-volume introduction to the history of Japan in English."

It started off rather well and, despite having graduated in East Asian Studies, I learned many small details about Japanese history which I was unaware of. However, the scope of this book being too...
Published 21 days ago by D. Pestilli


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, great work, 1 Sep 2012
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This review is from: A History of Japan (Paperback)
I picked up this book, expecting it to be somewhat good. What I got was a masterpiece.
Encompassing both political, military and, foremost, cultural elements, this book is a must-have for people interested in the history of Japan, both for those with and those without foreknowledge.
Lengthwise, it's a bit short of 400 pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but certainly not the best., 9 Aug 2014
This review is from: A History of Japan (Paperback)
I had quite big expectations for this book, as the back side advertises a big promise: "the best one-volume introduction to the history of Japan in English."

It started off rather well and, despite having graduated in East Asian Studies, I learned many small details about Japanese history which I was unaware of. However, the scope of this book being too broad, I must admit that the writing and focus became progressively sloppier. Some parts are very dull and some others require 100% of your focus in order to get the gist of what the author means, as he throws a flurry of Japanese names at you page after page. Here's an example:

""Even after the weakening of its court noble component (principally Iwakura, Sanjō Sanetomi), of its Hizen component (Ōkuma, Etō Shimpei), and of its Tosa component (Itagaki, Gotō), the inner cadre of Meiji leadership continued to represent at least two distinct and equally powerful interests: Satsuma and Chōshū."

It's a decent introduction to Japanese history, but certainly not the best nor the clearest. Reading this book with some background knowledge of the land of the rising sun helps greatly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars V boring writing, flat and dull, 21 July 2014
This review is from: A History of Japan (Paperback)
V boring writing, flat and dull. The author knows his stuff but sadly is clueless how to write in an engaging manner. Sorry.
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11 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite good; very pro-Japan when it gets to the 20th century, 31 July 2009
This review is from: A History of Japan (Paperback)
Overall this seemed fairly good to me. You get a general overview of most aspects of Japanese history from ancient times to the 1990s. The back cover claims that the book "provides an in-depth analysis of the religion, culture, and arts of the Japanese people from the 6th century BC to the present". Obviously, it is impossible to give an in-depth analysis of all the Japanese arts in a 400-page book. The noh drama gets six pages - not too bad, but far from "in-depth".

The last quarter or so of the book suffers from sloppy editing. And the chapters about the first half of the twentieth century are extremely strange and frequently objectionable. The authors consistently take the most positive conceivable view of Japan. Here is the start of the 17th chapter:

"The fifteen years from 1937 to 1952 were among the most eventful in the experience of the Japanese nation. They opened with an invasion of China proper, the first in Japan's long history, followed in December 1941 by a sudden attack with sophisticated aerial weapons on the world's strongest economic power and the dispatch of troops to far-flung places: Burma, Sumatra, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Japan's leaders chose force to solve problems affecting her relations with foreign nations. Inadequate appreciation of the will of foreign peoples to resist was matched by too great a reliance on the spirit of the Japanese people."

There are a thousand things wrong with this. Why say "the first in Japan's history"? It is as though they are trying to praise Japan for graciously holding off from invading China for so long. The attack on Pearl Harbor killed thousands of innocent Americans for no good reason. But instead of mentioning that, the authors praise the sophistication of Japan's weapons and the bravery of Japan for attacking a more powerful country.

The last part of the book is full of this kind of thing. They consistently phrase everything to make Japan seem as good as possible. They often explicitly praise Japan; they frequently criticize and (as I recall) never praise any other country. Given the awful things done by Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, this is very distasteful.
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