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A Reinterpretation

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The Japanese are in the process of re-creating themselves--an endeavor they have undertaken at intervals throughout history, always prompted by a combination of domestic and global forces. In this landmark book, Patrick Smith asserts that a variety of forces--the achievement of material affluence, the Cold War's end, and the death of Emperor Hirohito--are now spurring Japan once again toward a fundamental redefinition of itself.  

As Smith argues, this requires of the West an equally thorough reevaluation of the picture we have held of Japan over the past half-century. He reveals how economic overdevelopment conceals profound political, social, and psychological under-development. And by refocusing on "internal history"  and the Japanese character, Smith offers a new framework for understanding Japan and the Japanese as they really are. The Japanese, he says, are now seeking to alter the very thing we believe distinguishes them: the relationship between the individual and society.

Timely, measured, and authoritative, this book illuminates a new Japan, a nation preparing to drop the mask it holds up to the West and to steer a course of its own in the world.

Jacket image: The Great Wave of Kanagawa, from 36 Views of Mount Fuji (detail) by Katsushika Hokusai. Private collection.

From the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 31, 1997 – "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. Author tour.
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Politics & Current Events
  • Published: Apr 01, 1997
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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