A Traveller's History of Japan

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Interlink Books, 2008 - Travel - 292 pages
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The Traveller's History series is designed for travellers who want more historical background on the country they are visiting than can be found in a tour guide. Each volume offers a complete and authoritative history of the country from the earliest times up to the present day. A Gazetteer cross-referenced to the main text pinpoints the historical importance of sights and towns.

Illustrated with maps and line drawings, this literate and lively series makes ideal before -you-go reading, and is just as handy tucked into suitcase or backpack.

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A Traveller's History of Japan

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Tames ( Encounters with Japan , LJ 6/1/92, among others) has written an interesting and informative introduction to Japan. The first two-thirds of the book comprise a mad dash through Japanese history ... Read full review

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this review relates to the fourth edition, published 2008.
Richard Tames provides a very readable and short overview of Japan's history from pre-history through to the first few years of this
century. I relied on this book to provide me with background information prior to a 5 day trip to Tokyo in November 2008.
The strengths of the book were in the introduction and first chapter, followed by the chapters beginning with Japan's contacts with the West. It could be my own bias, but in my opinion Chapters 2, 3 and 4 (covering the period from 500 A.D. to 1543) were not presented as well as the remaining chapters.
The book begins well with a brief geographical review of Japan, it's natural strengths and weaknesses in terms of natural resources, and thoughts about how these attributes have served in part to form some of the essential qualities of what it has meant to be Japanese. Tames immediately emphasizes the isolation and homogeneity of Japan:
"To be Japanese is to be a Japanese citizen, born in Japan, living there and speaking Japanese. State, people and language coincide to a degree altogether remarkable in the modern world. Ninety-nine per cent of all the Japanese in the world live in Japan itself. . . Japan has no minority greater than one per cent which is different by virtue of religion or ethnicity."
The recounting of the tumultuous arrival of Christian missionaries (and subsequent violent reprisals against them and their converts) as well as the recounting of Japan's rise to strength before and after World War II, were told well.
Unfortunately, I read this book three months ago already, and I'm struggling to recall more of the thoughts I had of it.

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