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Contemporary Japan: History, Politics, and Social Change Since the 1980s (Blackwell History of the Contemporary World) Paperback – August 24, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1405191937 ISBN-10: 1405191937 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1st edition (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405191937
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405191937
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Japan's anaemic economy is well understood, but how it has affected Japanese society is not. This is where Mr Kingston's contribution shines.
--Economist August 19, 2010

Selected as CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2011 - 3.01.12

"Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." (Choice, 1 February 2011)

"In a highly dispassionate and balanced analysis of contemporary Japan, Kingston has brought out both the negative and positive sides of the nation, its economy, its society and governance. There are issues that Japan needs to squarely address. And this book points the way to it. An excellent source book on today's Japan." (Organiser, 20 March 2011)

"Kingston's discussion of the changes Japan faces in the 21st century is among the most comprehensive and accessible treatments of Japan's recent history available." (CHOICE, February 2011)

"As the most current and definitive topic analysis available, this accessible and engaging study is highly recommended for both political science and Asia-focused collections". (Library Journal, 15 December 2010)

"Okinawan music rhapsodized, bloody battles retold, thrilling tales unleashed and Japan's gloom exposed - our favorite books of 2010". (The Japan Times, 29 December 2010)

"One of the foremost foreign writers on modern Japan, Kingston provides another wide-ranging analysis of interest to all of those with a stake in the nation's future." (The Japan Times, September 2010)

From the Back Cover

At the start of the 1990s, the Japanese post-war economic miracle came to a screeching halt. A series of disastrous market collapses and an ensuing economic meltdown resulted in what is now referred to as Japan's "Lost Decade." Yet the phenomenon represents much more than a singular economic debacle and case of bungled government policy decisions. Contemporary Japan: History, Politics and Social Change presents an accessible and comprehensive examination of the causes of the Japanese housing bubble in the late 1980s and the socio-political consequences of the ensuing implosion of asset values. Author Jeff Kingston reveals that while after two decades the Japanese economy remains mired in a deep recession, the apparent stagnation is misleading. He shows how the discrediting of the Japan, Inc. model has lead to significant policy reforms and transformative social change -- most apparent in the dramatic political victory of the Democratic Party of Japan in 2009. Kingston also addresses many other challenges faced by contemporary Japan, including the implications of its aging society, environmental issues, immigration policies, neo-liberal reforms, evolving traditional institutions of the imperial family, and the 'yakuza' criminal gangs. Contemporary Japan offers deep and probing insights into the turmoil in Japan since the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989 until the present day.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jake Adelstein on June 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The complexities of modern Japan and the changes in social structure since the 1980's are difficult to comprehensively cover in a mere 328 pages. Mr. Kingston does an exemplary job of giving an ordinary reader great insight into Japan as of 2010, prior to the Great Tohoku Earthquake. In particular, his chapter on the yakuza, Japan's powerful mafia, is concise, informative and revelatory. He not only does a commendable job of summarizing their history, their economic activities, and their standing within Japanese society, he also manages to show how they are also a microcosm of the endemic problems of corruption and gentrification that modern Japan faces.

The previous reviewer who spouts on and on with phrases like "liberal-fascist dogma" clearly has an ideological axe to grind and some strong nationalist tendencies. If you're interested in Japan and seeking to gain knowledge of modern Japanese society in a timely and understandable medium, there are few books that come close to being this good. I've been a journalist in Japan for over 16 years and I highly recommend this work. I have met the author and was impressed by his deep knowledge of this country.

Anyone can write an academic treatise that is inaccessible and packed with foot-notes that only other academics would find valuable. Mr. Kingston has written a book that both scholars and students of Japan or simply those interested in political science or sociology will find useful and elucidating.

If you can read Japanese, there are two books that I would highly recommend you read as well. One of them beautifully explains the collapse of the Japanese work force [...] and the other the problems within Japan's government structure. [..]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on December 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love the voice that the author puts into his work, for starters.
Also, this book is easy to read, informational, and it really touches home with the ideas that are really important. It does address a little further in the past from time to time, but it keeps to the topic of "contemporary" very, very well.

Great book, learned a lot, and was able to enjoy it, as well.

Definitely a reccomendation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert S. Whiting on April 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
A clear-eyed, cogent and insightful analysis of how Japanese society has evolved since the collapse of the bubble, one which covers every important area of study from the Imperial Family to the Japan's yakuza criminal gangs. Jeff Kingston is one of the keenest, most knowledgeable observers of modern Japan there is and is also one of the very best writers on the subject as well. Students of Japan are fortunate to have him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Barrett TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 21, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is exactly what it says, though I was expecting something a little less 'textbook' like. This is definitely suited for a classroom environment.

The book focuses on politics in Japan since the end of WW2. But the heavy focus is on the 80's to the present, basically the bursting of the Japanese economic bubble, the lost decade, then the recent decade. The book focuses heavily on political parties, mainly the LDP. There are other social topics covered, but mainly in the realm of political effects. Topics include the increasing average age of the population, immigration, unemployment, and Japanese perception of politics.

The author is very knowledgeable about the topic and presents the information well. The only reason I gave it four instead of fives stars is that I feel it has a place in a classroom environment, but makes for a tedious read for anyone not using the book for University coursework. The book is a recent publication, so the information is well up to date and covers through to 2010/2011.

I do highly recommend the following as a broad overview of Japanese culture, politics and history: A Short History of Japan: From Samurai to Sony (A Short History of Asia series)
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