Japan: A Reinterpretation
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 Reinterpretation 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.
For years westerners have viewed Japan as a nation of democratic, hard-working, unabashedly pro-Western people, a viewpoint promulgated mainly by a group of postwar scholars known as the Chrysanthemum Club. Journalist Patrick Smith takes a hard, fresh look at Japan and its relations with the West—particularly the United States—in Japan: A Reinterpretation. Smith asserts that the economic miracle we in the West have long admired was achieved at the expense of true political reform, creating a corporation instead of a democracy. Now that the miracle has collapsed, the Japanese are in a state of cultural, political, and social malaise.
Smith approaches Japan from many different directions: first by reinterpreting the country’s postwar history as presented by the Chrysanthemum Club, then by delving into the lives of ordinary Japanese. From the overworked salarymen to the upper echelons of Japanese politicians, Patrick Smith paints a bold new picture of a nation suffering from overdevelopment. In addition, Japan: A Reinterpretation focuses on infrequently examined topics such as Japan’s educators and writers. Though some of Smith’s statements may seem a bit hyperbolic, his book is solidly researched and impeccably presented.