Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan Paperback – 30 May 2002
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"Keen insight into the unique causes and disastrous results of the once heralded 'Japan Model' of development . . . a must read." --Michael Judge, "The Wall Street Journal" "Should be required reading for anyone who writes about or studies the Japanese economy . . . " --Eric Johnston, "The Japan Times"
About the Author
ALEX KERR was educated at Yale, Oxford and Keio universities. He is the author of LOST JAPAN (Lonely Planet Books) which won the Shincho Gakugei nonfiction prize. He lives in Kyoto and Bangkok.
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Top Customer Reviews
However, I feel that a lot of his criticisms of Japanese society as a whole were either over the top, irrelevant to most people, or (most often) merely signs of more global trends. For example, he is highly critical of the amount of manga and anime in Japan, sneering at salarymen who read comics on their commuter trains. And yet what are the best sellers in the west? Harry Potter, Dan Brown, 50 Shades of Grey... Just because they're novels doesn't make them in any way intellectually superior to manga, which often features dark quasi-philosophical themes and which comes in just as much variety, catering to just as many tastes and stages of maturity as regular books.
He's also supremely critical of Japanese obsessions with 'kawaii' (cuteness), suggesting it reflects a dumbing down of culture and infantilisation of the population. Well, not only is Japanese 'kawaii' culture now popular across large swathes of the world, but I hardly think that western popular culture - the Kardashians? - is something to hold up in answer.
As another reviewer noted, I wasn't keen on how he kept holding up other countries' (specifically America's) achievements in specific fields to show the errors of Japan's ways. If you do that, you absolutely must do the opposite, since specific gains in one field are almost always at the expense of gains in another. Kerr never does this. He is relentless in his criticism. Also, as soon as you hod up China as an example to anyone about anything, I'm afraid you're drifting into fantasy.Read more ›
But the best part of the book is the second half, where he talks about Japan's rigid educational system which stifles individual creativity and new ideas, in the name of social harmony. No country on earth may be more prone to totalitarianism, he warns us; an exaggeration, perhaps, but it is clear to me that Japan's leaders are reluctant to undertake the changes the country so badly needs because it is fearful of disrupting harmony. For example, they need to do away with the latent sexism, groupism, and fear of foreign people, if not foreign ideas (my opinion, not Kerr's).Read more ›
I actually agree with many of his criticisms of Japan and its officials. (Some I don't agree with, and some things also I think he has portrayed in a ridiculously overly negative light to pad out his book.) Readers with no or little experience of Japan need to bear in mind that this book is basically just one long angry rant of ONLY gripes and nothing else; certainly some of them are justified, in my opinion, but virtually no attempt was made to show the other side of his criticisms. There is no balance in the argument here, nor perhaps was there intended to be.
As I said, I did actually agree with a lot of what he wrote, but would have appreciated the book much more had he refrained from constantly judging Japan against what he seemed to see as the "Gold Standard" of the US. A tediously large number of paragraphs are punctuated with words along the lines of "but this doesn't happen in the US, so there!...." This is a real shame because it's unnecessary. Many of the aspects of Japan he complained about could be perfectly well illustrated without these references to other countries he implies are better. And he really shoots himself in the foot by doing this, as many good points though he does have to make, he sadly sets himself up to be very easily dismissed as just another bitter westerner in Japan who couldn't handle the fact that Japan is sometimes not what he wants it to be.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good book. Informative, entertaining considering serious subject matter. Useful resource book for anyone looking at either Japan or world economics.Published on 11 Mar. 2009 by June
I bought this book for two reasons: first, because I wanted to understand more about Japan's fall from economic grace and second, as I was planning a holiday in Japan, I thought... Read morePublished on 11 Feb. 2009 by pjlsgs13
The author's persistent use of the USA as a comparison point undermines a series of criticisms which are probably generally fair, though often unnecessarily overstated. Read morePublished on 12 July 2008 by AK
This book is a fascinating and horrifying look under the surface of modern Japan. The author analyses many (government and business) policies and explains their hugely negative... Read morePublished on 18 July 2007 by Cambridge Writer
Dogs and Demons presents a scathing but poignant indictment of many facets of post-Meiji Japanese society, describing with a solemn but not disconsolate tone the two... Read morePublished on 21 May 2006 by Duncan R. Lowne
This subject (the destruction of Japan's cultural heritage) has been better tackled by others, for instance, see McCormack's The Emptiness of Japanese Affluence. Read morePublished on 27 July 2004
I`ve just finished reading this book and got a lot out of it. As a resident of Japan but a poor speaker of the language it`s often difficult to understand why a lot of things... Read morePublished on 29 May 2004 by Mr Timothy R Fawcett
Alex Kerr's criticisms of Japan are, on the whole, valid, but many of the problems highlighted are not specific problems to Japan and have their counterpart in the West. Read morePublished on 5 Mar. 2004
This is a book written by a Westerner and is relentlessly critical of certain aspects of Japanese society, business interests and government agencies. Read morePublished on 26 Dec. 2003
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