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Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912
     

Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912

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by Donald Keene
 

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This is the extraordinary story of how Japan was dramatically transformed during the long reign of Emperor Meiji, from an isolated island nation to one of the five great powers of the world, poised as a rival in Asia to Russia and the European colonial powers.

Overview

This is the extraordinary story of how Japan was dramatically transformed during the long reign of Emperor Meiji, from an isolated island nation to one of the five great powers of the world, poised as a rival in Asia to Russia and the European colonial powers.

Editorial Reviews

New Yorker
When Emperor Meiji ascended the throne, in 1867, Japan was a feudal, pre-industrial dictatorship, administered by sword-wielding samurai and closed off to foreigners. By the end of his reign, in 1912, the country had become a cosmopolitan constitutional monarchy and a military superpower, defeating Russia and China. Keene gracefully marshals evidence to illuminate this astonishing transformation by focusing on the earnest, dutiful Emperor, whose Confucian conscience obliged him to wear a patched uniform and to live in comfortless and shabby rooms. Unflinchingly describing such episodes as the Port Arthur massacre, Keene also shows how Meiji's exercises of martial strength did not preclude a sincere distaste for war.
Publishers Weekly
Drawing extensively from the Meiji tenno ki, the official Japanese record of the emperor's life, noted Japan scholar and Columbia professor emeritus Keene fills this monumental work with a wealth of factual information from the emperor's childhood illnesses and tours across the country to his political role in the state apparatus. This work is also, as the title suggests, an examination of Meiji's world, and Keene uses diaries and letters of the emperor's contemporaries, as well as secondary sources, to describe important events and people in Japan's transition to a modern nation-state. Keene is seeking the personality behind the historical figure, but since Meiji kept no diary and wrote almost no letters, it is difficult to determine his personal feelings about the historical events of the time. Keene does examine Meiji's poems and anecdotes from acquaintances in order to provide a rounder sketch of the man, but often, in the attempt to personalize him, Keene must resort to speculation about how the emperor "must have felt" at particular moments. Keene is obviously attracted by the subject of his study and often points out qualities in the man that he finds lacking in European monarchs of the same period (Meiji was more frugal and less arrogant, Keene notes, than the tsar, his enemy in the Russo-Japanese War). But in the end, Keene admits that "Meiji seems almost to repel attempts by a biographer to come closer" than the officially prepared chronicles allow. Perhaps, as one contemporary politician noted, "The emperor had almost no private side to him." Keene's achievement, then, is the enormous wealth of information that he makes available to the English reader. This book will undoubtedly be the most complete picture possible of a sovereign who remains as distant as a proper Confucian ruler should. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
During the Meiji era (1868-1912), Japan entered world politics as a modernizing and ambitious imperial power. Previous studies of this era largely slighted the emperor himself, but Keene (Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus, Columbia Univ.), a titan of Japanese studies, brings the emperor out of the wings and onto center stage in this vivid and richly detailed chronicle. Using a multitude of Japanese and other sources, Keene argues that Meiji was no mere figurehead but an increasingly active participant in the politics of modern Japan, particularly after he outgrew his youthful impatience with state affairs. Keene's admiration for Meiji, an unsympathetic figure who drank to excess, ignored his own children, and often slighted his duties, is somewhat baffling on the evidence presented. Ultimately, the Meiji era is much more interesting than the man himself. Keene, a literary scholar, is a master narrator with an eye for fascinating details, but his sprawling chronicle is weak on analysis of the historical significance of an era that he views almost exclusively from the vantage point of court politics. For academic and larger public libraries. Steven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Even Japanese who consider Meiji the greatest ruler of all time, points out Keene (Japanese literature, Columbia U.), can rarely name anything he actually did. He searches for the elusive human who was born into a country that had refused almost all contact with the West for centuries, but saw Japan transformed during his lifetime into a world power and a members of the community of nations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
New York Times Book Review
Few scholars are as well qualified to undertake this tremendous project.... [Keene's] special gifts are on display in Emperor of Japan... [which] brings us as close to the inner life of the Meiji emperor as we are ever likely to get.

Los Angeles Times
Utterly brilliant... the best history in English of the emergence of modern Japan.

The New York Review of Books
Keene does a heroic job of painting a personal picture of the Meiji Empire, which is an impossible task.

Times Literary Supplement (London)
Distinguished and massively authoritative... This book probably comes as close as we shall ever get to the man himself.

Booklist
Despite the book's massive scale, Keene's graceful writing holds the reader's interest throughout.... This should become the Meiji biography against which all others are judged.

Choice

A fresh and fascinating portrait.

The Japan Society
This is a monumental work, the result of years of painstaking research and meticulous scholarship, unlikely to be superseded by any book about the Emperor Meiji in this century and destined to be required reading for all foreign students of the Restoration and the growth of modern Japan.

— Hugh Cortazzi

Washington Post
The first reliable and full biography of the Japanese monarch in any language.... Carefully crafted, judicious, balanced, authoritative, it is another remarkable gift from a distinguished American author.

Foreign Affairs
One comes away from Keene's lively account with the feeling that one person made an extraordinary difference in Japan's history.

Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer
Eminently readable... a staggering achievement.

The Historian
This book is as close to being a definitive biography of the Emperor Meiji as we are likely to see in Western languages. It is an important contribution to our understanding of Japan's modernizing experience.

— W. Dean Kinzley

Time Magazines Literary Supplement (London)
Distinguished and massively authoritative... This book probably comes as close as we shall ever get to the man himself.
The Japan Society - Hugh Cortazzi
This is a monumental work, the result of years of painstaking research and meticulous scholarship, unlikely to be superseded by any book about the Emperor Meiji in this century and destined to be required reading for all foreign students of the Restoration and the growth of modern Japan.

Post Intelligencer - Seattle Times
Eminently readable... a staggering achievement.
The Historian - W. Dean Kinzley
This book is as close to being a definitive biography of the Emperor Meiji as we are likely to see in Western languages. It is an important contribution to our understanding of Japan's modernizing experience.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231518116
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
928
Sales rank:
1,041,219
File size:
24 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Donald Keene is Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author of more than thirty books, including the definitive multi-volume history of Japanese literature. He lives in Tokyo and New York City.


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Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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