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In the Realm of a Dying Emperor
     

In the Realm of a Dying Emperor

by Norma Field
 
When the Emperor Hirohito died in 1989, Japanese newspapers had to use a special, exalted word to refer to his death, and had to depict his life uncritically, as one beginning in turbulence but ending in magnificent accomplishment. To do otherwise would have exposed them to terrorism from the vigilant right wing. Yet this insightful book by a Japanese-American

Overview

When the Emperor Hirohito died in 1989, Japanese newspapers had to use a special, exalted word to refer to his death, and had to depict his life uncritically, as one beginning in turbulence but ending in magnificent accomplishment. To do otherwise would have exposed them to terrorism from the vigilant right wing. Yet this insightful book by a Japanese-American scholar who grew up in both cultures reveals the hidden fault lines in the realm of the dying emperor by telling the stories of three unlikely dissenters: a supermarket owner who burned the national flag; an aging widow who challenged the state's "deification" of fallen soldiers; and the mayor of Nagasaki, who risked his career and his life by suggesting that Hirohito bore some responsibility for World War II.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Field, the daughter of a Japanese mother and an American father and currently an associate professor of East Asian studies at the University of Chicago, returned to Japan for a year's study just prior to the final illness and death of Emperor Hirohito on January 7, 1989. Using this event as a means to probe the nature of contemporary Japanese society, Field presents an in-depth study of three individuals who stood up against what she sees as ``the death-in-life quality of daily routine'' in contemporary Japan. These include an Okinawa supermarket owner who protested resurgent nationalism by burning a Japanese flag just prior to a national athletic competition, the Christian widow of a member of Japan's Self-Defense Force who fought against her husband's inclusion in a state shrine honoring the military dead, and the mayor of Nagasaki who spoke out publicly concerning the emperor's role in World War II. The book's message is both troubling (in its overall depiction of Japanese society) as well as inspirational (in the courage displayed by Field's subjects). Altogether, this is an intelligent and thought-provoking analysis. Generally recommended.-- Scott Wright, Univ. of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.
From the Publisher
"Well-researched, well-observed and completely absorbing...an important and necessary book." — The New York Times Book Review

"Remarkable...a vivid, taut, graceful piece of writing...with enormous power."— James Fallows, The Atlantic

"Marvelous...Field uncovers a Japan rarely seen or acknowledged by Westerners, a Japan of individual expression, active dissent — even open rebellion."— Village Voice Literary Supplement

"Superb...one of the most important books...on Japanese who refuse to conform." — Ian Buruma, The New York Review of Books

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679405047
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/24/1991
Pages:
273

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