Japan: A Reinterpretation

( 27 )

Overview

Current Affairs/Asian Studies

Winner of the Overseas Press Club Award for the best book on Foreign Affairs
A New York Times Notable Book of the year

"A stimulating, provocative book . . . fresh and valuable."  
--The New York Times Book Review

In 1868, Japan abruptly transformed itself from a feudal society into a modern industrial state. In 1945, the Japanese ...

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Japan: A Reinterpretation

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Overview

Current Affairs/Asian Studies

Winner of the Overseas Press Club Award for the best book on Foreign Affairs
A New York Times Notable Book of the year

"A stimulating, provocative book . . . fresh and valuable."  
--The New York Times Book Review

In 1868, Japan abruptly transformed itself from a feudal society into a modern industrial state. In 1945, the Japanese switched just as swiftly from imperialism and emperor-worship to a democracy. Today, argues Patrick Smith, Japan is in the midst of equally sudden and important change.

In this award-winning book, Smith offers a groundbreaking framework for understanding the Japan of the next millennium. This time, Smith asserts, Japan's transformation is one of consciousness--a reconception by the Japanese of their country and themselves.  Drawing on the voices of Japanese artists, educators, leaders, and ordinary citizens, Smith reveals a "hidden history" that challenges the West's focus on Japan as a successfully modernized country. And it is through this unacknowledged history that he shows why the Japanese live in a dysfunctional system that marginalizes women, dissidents, and indigenous peoples; why the "corporate warrior" is a myth; and why the presence of 47,000 American troops persists as a holdover from a previous era.  The future of Japan, Smit suggests, lies in its citizens' ability to create new identities and possibilities for themselves--so creating a nation where individual rights matter as much as collective economic success. Authoritative, rich in detail, Japan: A Re interpretation is our first post-Cold War account of the Japanese and a timely guide to a society whose transformation will have a profound impact on the rest of the world in the coming years.

"Excellent . . . a penetrating examination."
--International Herald Tribune

This landmark book reevaluates the picture we have held of Japan over the past half century--as a virtual American protectorate--by examining its culture, customs, history, and the probable shape of what is to come. Timely, measured, and authoritative, this book is a revelation of Japan's protean position in world affairs--in the recent past and in the foreseeable future.

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Editorial Reviews

Frank Gibney
A stimulating, provocative book . . . fresh and valuable. — The New York Times Book Review
International Herald Tribune
Excellent . . . a penetrating examination.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Alone among primitive societies, Japan is `advanced'; alone among advanced societies, Japan has remained primitive." This is the burden explored in this wonderfully engrossing book by an Asian correspondent for the New York Times, the Financial Times of London and the International Herald Tribune. Smith maintains that what we call the Japanese character "is the result of a primitive habit of confinement and exclusion, fixed for centuries" and not yet completely disassembled. The imposition after WWII of the U.S.-designed constitution, based on Western democratic ideals, was followed immediately by our restoration of the power of the old ruling class. This created not a democracy, Smith explains, but an extension of the old system and a confusion about identity, the current search for which is complicated by the increasing stresses felt by a feudal country thrust into the modern world. Smith examines these stresses in detail, playing them against the fantasies and myths of Westerners. He describes Japan's growing dissatisfaction with its educational system, which is the envy of many Americans but which is now, ironically, under pressure to liberalize to produce creative thinkers rather than obedient workers. Smith also gives evidence of both past and present-day rebellion against the severe denial of individuality for the sake of the state's strength and prosperity, and he examines the loveless marriages, the growing assertiveness of women and the slavery of the sararimen (salary men). In his sweeping analysis of the country's history, economy, politics and culture, Smith has produced a new, startlingly clear-sighted vision of the often misunderstood Japanese.
Library Journal
Smith, a journalist (New York Times, International Herald Tribune), attacks the view of Japan held by most Americans. Articulated best by Edwin O. Reischauer (The Japanese, 1977; updated as The Japanese Today), it sees the Japanese as "our hard-working, uncomplicated, compliant friends." This view, argues Smith, glosses over many unattractive things about Japan, including the subservient position of women, violence in the educational system, poverty in rural areas, and undue stress in the workplace. Smith believes that by acting as apologists for Japan, Reischauer and others in what has become known as the Chrysanthemum Club have failed to allow the Japanese their own past. After examining Japanese history, society, and culture, Smith sees the Japanese "re-creating themselves, making themselves anew." -- William L. Wuerch, Micronesian Area Research Ctr., Univ. of Guam
Library Journal
Smith, a journalist (New York Times, International Herald Tribune), attacks the view of Japan held by most Americans. Articulated best by Edwin O. Reischauer (The Japanese, 1977; updated as The Japanese Today), it sees the Japanese as "our hard-working, uncomplicated, compliant friends." This view, argues Smith, glosses over many unattractive things about Japan, including the subservient position of women, violence in the educational system, poverty in rural areas, and undue stress in the workplace. Smith believes that by acting as apologists for Japan, Reischauer and others in what has become known as the Chrysanthemum Club have failed to allow the Japanese their own past. After examining Japanese history, society, and culture, Smith sees the Japanese "re-creating themselves, making themselves anew." -- William L. Wuerch, Micronesian Area Research Ctr., Univ. of Guam
Frank Gibney
A stimulating, provocative book . . . fresh and valuable. -- The New York Times Book Review
Time Magazine
An invigorating blast of fresh air . . . An important book.
International Herald Tribune
Excellent . . . a penetrating examination.
Kirkus Reviews
A radically against-the-grain appraisal of Japan and the Japanese from a journalist who spent many years on the Asia beat. Drawing largely on his own experience and research, Smith (The Nippon Challenge) offers a thoughtful refutation of the stereotypes that tend to inform Western perceptions of Japan and its people. To begin with, he takes strong exception to the fiction that the island nation is an independent democracy populated by obedient, industrious souls glad to work themselves to death on behalf of the state's ambitious commercial/trade goals. As a practical matter, the author argues, Japan remains a ward of the US, which in aid of Cold War objectives during the post WW II occupation restored to power a ruling class that still runs the country in semi-feudal fashion. Smith also asserts that portrayals of Japan as a hotbed of consensus, group identity, and loyalty err, since such attributes have more to do with the coercive requirements of a mass-production society than indigenous custom. In this context, he documents the ways in which government elites rely on educational institutions to school a population willing and able to serve the national interest, not to cultivate knowledge, rational inquiry, or other liberal values. Smith goes on to reckon the cost to Japan's citizens of the gap between their image and reality, and what their aspirations might augur for the country's place in the world. Covered as well are the myth of the sarariman (salaried middle manager) as a samurai warrior, the undeveloped state of Japan's interior, and the diminishing justification for America's continued presence.

An astute, accessible, and absorbingly original appreciation of a nation whose true colors have been exaggerated or misrepresented by Japan-bashers and others with special-interest agendas.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679745112
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: 1 VINTAGE
  • Pages: 378
  • Sales rank: 788,840
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Smith has worked as an editor and correspondent for more than twenty years (fourteen of them in Asia) with, among other publications, the New York Times, the Financial Times of London, the International Herald Tribune, and The New Yorker. He is the author of The Nippon Challenge: Japan's Pursuit of the Americas Cup. He lives in Norfolk, Connecticut.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Pt. I Among Themselves 5
Ch. 1 The Invisible Japanese 7
Ch. 2 Hidden History 41
Ch. 3 Becoming Nihonjin 75
Ch. 4 Fences in the Heart 107
Ch. 5 Happiness in a Hidden Corner 138
Ch. 6 Concrete and Democracy 164
Pt. II Among Others 187
Ch. 7 The Spirit That Runs Through History 189
Ch. 8 The Sacred "Nothing" 207
Ch. 9 The Unfinished Dreams 238
Ch. 10 The Other Within 267
Ch. 11 A Fugitive Virtue 293
Epilogue 319
Chronology 323
An Acknowledgment 334
Notes 335
Bibliography 354
Index 373
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 27 )
Rating Distribution

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4 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2014

    To no one likes you

    If your talking to the author the you are a buttface but if yiur calling someone else that then ?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    NO ONE LIKES U

    GAWD

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    STOP POSTING YOUR AD AT NAPLO

    NOW

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    Shiho

    Um........i dont know what your talking about.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    Oshantaki

    Konnichiwa, can I join Japanclan?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2013

    Kuriketto

    "Welcome to JapanClan. It's renewed once more. After being destroyed by Supaida. I'm Kuriketto, Deputy to be chosen tonight."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2013

    BEER

    'MURICA

    I LIKE BEER IS GOOD FOR YOU

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

    Kit

    Hides in a bush. Wondering if he should join.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Why did all of you have a converstion unrelated to  this book

    Why did all of you have a converstion unrelated to  this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2012

    Hailstorm

    I am.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2012

    BAKABAKABAKABAKABAKABAKAB

    Bakabakabakabakabakabakabakabakabababakababaka
    Chi Yamada

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2012

    Nghtkit

    O_O It's one in the morning...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    Mydstar to Shinohara Ayui

    If you are trying to get on, just go to the next result. It looks like the Nook has locked you out agan, even with your brilliant English!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2012

    Jay

    Im a ninja . Im jay from ninjago . Can i join ???

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2012

    Chase

    Yes

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    Kenny

    *muffled* HELP IM DYING

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2012

    Aura

    Smiles good u?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2012

    :1 ITS JON

    ?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2012

    To elise

    R u in middle school if so im jackie and i got narcoossee middle school

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