Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation

Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation

by Michael Zielenziger
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Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation by Michael Zielenziger

The world’s second-wealthiest country, Japan once seemed poised to overtake America. But its failure to recover from the economic collapse of the early 1990s was unprecedented, and today it confronts an array of disturbing social trends. Japan has the highest suicide rate and lowest birthrate of all industrialized countries, and a rising incidence of untreated cases of depression. Equally as troubling are the more than one million young men who shut themselves in their rooms, withdrawing from society, and the growing numbers of “parasite singles,” the name given to single women who refuse to leave home, marry, or bear children.

In Shutting Out the Sun, Michael Zielenziger argues that Japan’s rigid, tradition-steeped society, its aversion to change, and its distrust of individuality and the expression of self are stifling economic revival, political reform, and social evolution. Giving a human face to the country’s malaise, Zielenziger explains how these constraints have driven intelligent, creative young men to become modern-day hermits. At the same time, young women, better educated than their mothers and earning high salaries, are rejecting the traditional path to marriage and motherhood, preferring to spend their money on luxury goods and travel.

Smart, unconventional, and politically controversial, Shutting Out the Sun is a bold explanation of Japan’s stagnation and its implications for the rest of the world.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307490902
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/06/2009
Series: Vintage Departures
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Michael Zielenziger is a visiting scholar at the Institute of East Asian Studies, U. C. Berkeley, and was the Tokyo-based bureau chief for Knight Ridder Newspapers for seven years, until May 2003. He has written extensively about social, economic, and political trends in Japan, Korea, China, and Southeast Asia. After September 11, 2001, Zielenziger also spent long periods in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Israel, covering the aftermath of terrorist attacks.

Before moving to Tokyo, Zielenziger served as the first Pacific Rim correspondent for The San Jose Mercury News, and was a finalist for a 1995 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on China. He was also a contributor to two other Pulitzer Prizes awarded to the Mercury News.

Zielenziger was a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University in 1991, where he studied in the Asia-Pacific Research Center and Stanford's Graduate School of Business. He is a graduate of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy. He is a 2003 recipient of an Abe Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council of New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really all encompassing! Everything from shut-ins to the decade-old economy problems and U.S. occupation! The interviews with the shut-ins was really interesting to me. Korea vs. Japan economy, not so interesting to me. I came to this book hoping it was purely a micro (one-on-one interview) perspective. But it was macro and micro. A good book, but now you have fair warning. Also, I liked that the author was fluent and conducted his own interviews. For this in-depth-sociology-writing, I felt it was only approprate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The interesting parts of the book are when the author stops fawning over the hikikimori, the most extreme examples of the breakdown in the Japanese social contract. The chapters focusing on alcoholism, alienation of men from their families, consumer fad focus of the young, etc... are insightful and thought provoking. It's eminently readable for people without a background in modern Japanese history, written in a clear and accessible manner. Unfortunately, many readers might be turned off by the first 5 chapters about the hikikimori, the 'subject' of the book. 92 pages of talking about these 'sensitive', 'creative', and 'intelligent' shut-in's. They are the weak link - people who want to be rebels but lack the strength to translate their desires to action. Instead, Mr. Zielenziger portrays them as tragic heroes. That fawning sympathy detract from the book and I recommend readers to simply skip to chapter 6. The book is far more enjoyable that way.