Customer Review

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
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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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Sep 2012 11:09:03 BDT
gwaan says:
Thanks for the review, critical appreciations like this one are much valued. I have ordered the book based on this review.

I am curious to see how the sentence about "Japan's first invasion in its history" should be interpreted as some sort of legitimacy on the author's part? Perhaps you reach this conclusion after page and page, but the paragraph you mention, to me, taken as it is, reads as a very ovjective writing. Change the word Japan and the dates for Persia, for instance, and it could be from any other history book, couldn't it?

Posted on 27 Oct 2013 20:50:52 GMT
T H Mitch says:
I think your point is unfair, and even if it is slightly in favour of the Japanese at certain occasions (especially where you pointed out) it makes a change from the plethora of Jingoistic American history books. About the incident of Pearl harbor especially.

And when you say "Given the awful things done by Japan in the 1930s and 1940s". Can;t the word Japan here be replaced by so so many other countries? Especially America, Germany and the United Kingdom to say the least.
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