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Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 15 Aug 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (15 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199235694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199235698
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.3 x 10.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

A wonderfully engaging narrative of a complicated history, which from the beginning to end sheds light on the meaning of modernity in Japan as it changed over time. An exemplary text. (Carol Gluck, Columbia University)

With remarkable clarity and breadth of coverage, Goto-Jones introduces the major topics and themes of the modern history of Japan, giving particularly thoughtful attention to the complex and tortured efforts of figures seeking to define and defend a properly Japanese modernity, and those striving to come to grips with the trauma and shadow of World War II. (Andrew Gordon, Harvard University)

Lively, lucid, and full of insight, this is an outstanding exploration of Japan's troubled modern past. (Stephen S. Large, Wolfson College, Cambridge University)

Review

With remarkable clarity and breadth of coverage, Goto-Jones introduces the major topics and themes of the modern history of Japan, giving particularly thoughtful attention to the complex and tortured efforts of figures seeking to define and defend a properly Japanese modernity, and those striving to come to grips with the trauma and shadow of World War II.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The subject of this book is Japan during the 150 years or so from the 1853 visit of the American "black ships" to the early 21st century. The book's strength is in describing a couple of narrow aspects of this period: the major events in Japan's political history, and the dominant theories of Japanese nationalism. It neither is effective, nor seems to be intended, as a book describing contemporary Japanese culture, society or even domestic politics. So if you're mostly interested in manga and anime, or are anticipating your first visit to Tokyo, this book will probably disappoint you -- unless a visit to Yasukuni Shrine will be the highlight of your trip.

The book is most solid when reviewing the major events and figures in Japanese political history from the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate to the to the 1960s or so. The author (CGJ) shows that contrary to the popular image, Japan wasn't entirely closed to the West prior the the Black Ships' visit. He also describes how samurai from the Satsuma and Choushuu regions were to play important roles into the early 20th Century, though the book fails to include maps with these and other older place names, which may confuse some readers. Unfortunately, no light is shed on the role of the Shouwa emperor (a/k/a "Emperor Hirohito," though he was never known as such in Japan) in the lead-up to WWII; but events of the post-WWII occupation, including the rise of Communist and Socialist parties, are covered fairly well. CGJ emphasizes the importance of the Korean War for igniting Japan's economic boom, a fact often overlooked.
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By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read numerous `Very Short Introduction...' books and some have been as dry as a mouth full of crackers in a desert, but thankfully `Modern Japan' isn't one of those books and kept me interested and engaged throughout. This looks at the period of history from the early 1800's until the present day and Japans development as a modern nation. It goes to great lengths to distinguish if being modern equates to being westernised and explores whether Japan can be modern (or even postmodern) whilst retaining it's inherent eastern spirit and identity. This looks at the demise of the Samurai and lords, the growth of a central government, Japans imperial exploits, WW2 and it's aftermath and Japans post war economic resurgence. Each chapter is clear and lucid and makes its point eloquently, backed up with various sources. There are also assorted illustrations and maps doted throughout which add to the text. This is a brief and informative look through Japans recent history and I found it thoroughly engaging and fascinating throughout. If you have even a passing interest in Japan then this is worth a look at some point.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Christopher Goto-Jones' short introduction to modern Japan is an ideal "first read" and paves the way for a more searching exploration of the history of this fascinating country. The book has all of the excellent qualities of the highly regarded series of "Very Short Introductions" and more. Indeed the book confronts the reader at the outset and challenges any preconceptions he or she might have about the subject. Thereafter the author constructs a clear and forthright account of Japan, beginning at the start of the Tokugawa Shogunate, in 1600, but places the greatest emphasis upon the period 1850 to the present day.

Despite the brief nature of the book it addresses cultural and social issues, as well as purely historical and, in the later period, military concerns, and offers a good introduction to the reader who wishes to pursue the subjects raised throughout. There is a good 'further reading' list. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Modern Japan is one of the most enigmatic and intriguing countries in the world. A highly sophisticated society and an economic and technological superpower, Japan has maintained many aspects of its traditional values and lifestyle well into the twenty-first century. Part of the mystique of Japan lays in the fact that even though it has been officially open to the World for over a century and a half, Japan is still a very insular society. Not many people in the West get to travel to Japan, and Japanese popular culture (with few notable exceptions) is not all that familiar to Western audiences. In light of that, it is very helpful to get a better sense of Japan from a very authoritative short introduction such as this one.

The book is arranged chronologically, and starts with a brief history of Japan prior to its opening up and modernization in the nineteenth century. It proceeds with the arrival of commodore Perry and the subsequent Meiji restoration. The book is good in that it doesn't reinforce the conventional wisdom on these events, but it tries to give its own much more nuanced analysis of these events. Likewise, most of the twentieth century Japanese history is presented from a critical angle that tries to take into the account Japan's own perception and understanding of those events.

One of the particularly pleasing traits of this book is the attention that it gives to cultural and artistic developments. Many of Japan's most famous writers and artists have been spotlighted. However, I would have also liked if the book mentioned some of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century like Yukawa and Tomonaga, who have helped put Japanese science in the World map.
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