The Japanese Today: Change and Continuity

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Harvard University Press, 1995 - History - 459 pages
2 Reviews

With the two-thousand-year history of the Japanese experience as his foundation, Edwin O. Reischauer brings us an incomparable description of Japan today in all its complexity and uniqueness, both material and spiritual. His description and analysis present us with the paradox that is present-day Japan: thoroughly international, depending for its livelihood almost entirely on foreign trade, its products coveted everywhere--yet not entirely liked or trusted, still feared for its past military adventurism and for its current economic aggressiveness.

Reischauer begins with the rich heritage of the island nation, identifying incidents and trends that have significantly affected Japan's modern development. Much of the geographic and historical material on Japan's earlier years is drawn from his renowned study The Japanese, but the present book deepens and broadens that earlier interpretation: our knowledge of Japan has increased enormously in the intervening decade and our attitudes have become more ambivalent, while Japan too has changed, often not so subtly.

Moving to contemporary Japanese society, Reischauer explores both the constants in Japanese life and the aspects that are rapidly changing. In the section on government and politics he gives pithy descriptions of the formal workings of the various organs of government and the decision-making process, as well as the most contentious issues in Japanese life-pollution, nuclear power, organized labor-and the elusive matter of political style.

In what will become classic statements on business management and organization, Reischauer sketches the early background of trade and commerce in Japan, contrasts the struggling prewar economy with today's assertive manufacturing, and brilliantly characterizes the remarkable postwar economic miracle of Japanese heavy industry, consumer product development, and money management. In a final section, "Japan and the World' he attempts to explain to skeptical Westerners that country's growing and painful dilemma between neutrality and alignment, between trade imbalance and "fair" practices, and the ever-vexing issue of that embodiment of Japanese specialness, a unique and difficult language that affects personal and national behavior.

 

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The foremost interpreter of Japanese history and culture provides an incomparable description and analysis of present-day Japan in all its complexity. Read full review

The Japanese today: change and continuity

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A revised edition of The Japanese (1977; 1981) by eminent Japan scholar Reischauer. As before, the text begins with a sketch of Japanese history and society, with more, mostly new illustrations. A new ... Read full review

Contents

The Land
3
Agriculture and Natural Resources
15
Isolation
31
PART TWO Historical Background
39
Early Japan
41
Feudalism
52
Centralized Feudalism
64
The Meiji Restoration
78
The Emperor
239
The Diet
245
Other Organs of Government
252
Elections
261
Political Parties
266
The DecisionMaking Process
273
Issues
278
Political Style
289

The Constitutional System
87
The Militarist Reaction
95
The Occupation Reforms
103
PostOccupation Japan
112
PART THREE
123
Diversity and Change
125
The Group
128
Relativism
140
Hierarchy
149
The Individual
159
Women
175
Education
186
Religion
203
Mass Culture
216
PART FOUR Government and Politics
229
The Political Heritage
231
PART FIVE Business
293
The Premodern Background
295
The Prewar Economy
300
The Postwar Economy
309
The Employment System
320
Business Organization
331
PART SIX Japan and the World
345
The Prewar Record
347
Neutrality versus Alignment
351
Trade and Economic Dependence
370
Language
381
Uniqueness and Internationalism
395
Japan Today by Marius B Jansen
413
Suggested Reading
445
Index
451
Copyright

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Page 446 - Thomas P. Rohlen, Japan's High Schools (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983); and Merry I.

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About the author (1995)

Edwin O. Reischauer was born in Japan in 1910, the son of Protestant educational-missionary parents, founders of Japan's first school for the deaf. After being educated in Japanese and American schools, he received his B.A. from Oberlin College in 1931 and his M.A. from Harvard in 1932. Four years later he received a Ph.D. in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard. In 1938 he joined the faculty at Harvard, where he rose to the position of professor and acted for an extensive period as director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. His academic career was interrupted by World War II, during which he served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, and he held civilian posts first in the War Department and later in the Department of State. In 1961 he again took leave from Harvard to accept a position for which he had been hand-picked by President John F. Kennedy---ambassador to Japan. The Japanese accepted him as one of their own; one editorial writer welcomed him by writing that he was well informed about Japan, "having no equal among foreigners on that point." Another remarked how satisfying it would be to "write an editorial and know that the American Ambassador will actually be able to read it." Reischauer was a prolific writer and an energetic speaker who saw his role as introducing Japan to America. In his writings and in his activities in other media such as film, he was committed to reaching as broad an audience as possible. At Harvard he led in training the first generation of true American scholars of Japan. As U.S. ambassador to Japan, however, his role became reversed as he sought to educate Japanese about America and Americans. In the wake of the war in the Pacific, Reischauer hoped to show Americans and Japanese that the two countries could and should be close allies and friends. His assessment of Japan's history emphasized the nonrevolutionary character of its modern history and its outward-looking development. In his view Japanese war and aggression were aberrations in a long emerging liberal tradition. His positivist interpretation has been a leading influence in defining America's postwar vision of Japan.

Marius B. Jansen was Professor Emeritus of Japanese History and East Asian Studies, Princeton University, and author of Sakamoto Ryoma and the Meiji Restoration.

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