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on January 13, 2006
This books seeks to give the reader a broad grasp of the space of Japan's cultural history. Important names and dates are mentioned in connection with their cultural accomplishments. More than simply telling who killed whom in what war and when, this book gives the reader a vague understanding of how Japan's customs, architecture, art, and prose evolved into the form they are today.

This book is best for those who know next to nothing about the history of Japan and would like an outline with which to proceed to learn more.
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on January 4, 2000
Morton has made an effort to impart understanding of Japanese heritage and culture. For the most part, he succeeds; the historical survey has about the right amount of depth for this type of book, and cultural issues are discussed.
What would have made it better would have been a section on specifically Japanese concepts that are hard for non-Japanese to grasp accurately. Many are touched on throughout the book, but words such as 'wa' and 'giri' really deserve a page or two each to go into full descriptiveness, and that doesn't happen. It is clear that Morton has the understanding of them to share; I wish he'd done so.
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on April 28, 2001
This book is perfect for anyone who knows nothing about Japanese history (as I did). It is short and easily readable (less than 250 pages for Japanese history to WWII). As an introduction to Japanese history it does just what it should.....inspire you to learn more....
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on August 5, 2009
There's no way you can expect a book of this length (about 300 pages) to fully cover the history of a civilization as ancient, rich, and varied as Japan, but this book does a good job of providing a fairly comprehensive introduction into the main trends in Japanese culture from prehistory to the modern day. As might be expected, the events of the 19th and 20th centuries occupy a considerable amount of the book, and a substantial percentage of the end of the book, which covers post-World War II Japan, was written by Olenik, who Morton specifically brought on to cover parts of modern Japanese culture which Morton is not an expert in. (The change in style is noticeable.)

Because this book is covering so much history in such a small number of pages, very few events are written about in detail. There is considerable discussion about the historical evolution of the cultural aspects of Japanese civilization (as opposed to the political or military), and the authors do a good job of emphasizing the particular nature of the shogunate and why the military used to hold so much power in Japan. By the end of the book, the authors also discuss the economic and pop culture aspects of Japan, which is appropriate in light of their status in the modern world.

If you're already reasonably well-versed in Japanese history, then this book isn't for you. The intended audience is probably students in an introduction to Japanese or East Asian history class, or perhaps the reasonably educated layperson who is ignorant about the main trends of Japanese history but is interested in learning more. As other reviewers have mentioned, this book provides a good foundation from which to start learning more about Japan.
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on November 3, 2012
This is the text book utilized in the course on Chinese and Japanese History that was taught in CSUF during the autumn months of 1988, from the leading authority on the subject W. Scott Morton, that traces the migration of the Japanese people from the People's Republic of China to the land of the Rising Sun, aptly named as an allusion to the worship of the Sun God, namely encompassed in the religion of Shintoism, as they migrated from the harsh cold weather of China to the warmer clime of Japan. Traces the development of Japanese culture and tradition from the days of imperial Japan to present.

Also discusses eminent Japanese literary books from the earliest periods of history to present as well as art forms, the religion of Shintoism - its traditions, practices and rituals; while incorporating elements of Japanese philosophy and the influence of Buddhism on the Japanese people, in particular the Samurai.
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on June 14, 2010
This was an interesting and broad overview of Japanese history and culture. It was very informative to the casual reader, but to readers who know a lot about the culture and history it was a fairly basic review. It covered a lot of information in such a short amount of space. I would recommend this book to the extreme anime fans who know nothing about Japanese culture outside of its anime.
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on January 24, 2011
This is a book assigned to an Economics class in order for us to understand the Japanese culture. I have not finished the book yet and that is why I am giving it 4 stars. So far the book concentrates on quick facts that help me know about the culture without getting into too much detail. I believe the book is good to obtain a brief understanding of the background of the Japanese people and certainly a good source of information before visiting the country.
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on September 26, 2015
Don't expect more than a bland textbook-style read. There's plenty of listing of facts but it reads with less flavor than an entry on Wikipedia, which at least covers the same amount of ground with more style. Personally speaking, I was disappointed, but I was looking for a broad overview of Japan's history and culture, how they developed together, with more of a narrative style...I was looking for the Edward Gibbon of Japanese history. What I found was the driest Japan 101 college history course conceivable.
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on February 10, 2014
The book provides good information on the Japanese history and culture. It is easy to read and well written. The book also includes some pictures that help in understanding and demonstrating some topics covered in the text. Purchased this book for one of my classes and found it to be very helpful.
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on February 20, 2013
bought this for a college class back at Mills in '06. This is a very neat, clean format and the author really gets the message across in a way that is easily understood. It is because of how the author wrote the book that the information was able to be retained for several years.
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