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Japan as Number One: Lessons for America

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1583484104
ISBN-10: 1583484108
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ezra Vogel is Professor of Socialogy and Chariman of the Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (September 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583484108
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583484104
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,998,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have just finished Ezra Vogel's Japan as Number One and I found it a surprisingly good book. I say surprisingly good because I had some preconceived notions about the book without having even read it. I thought that it was full of cliches, that it was too positive about Japan and that it ignored the bad aspects of Japanese economy and society, that it wasn't based on serious research and that one could only learn distorted lessons from it.

And in a way all these criticisms proved to be true: the cliches in the book are those generalizations that Japanese love to repeat about themselves, especially in the presence of foreigners; painting a rosy picture was all too natural for a country that had experienced more than two decades of unprecedented growth and overcome the first oil shock; most of the structural weaknesses of the Japanese economy were not already visible (although the book does pinpoint social weaknesses), Western scholars who had studied contemporary Japan were only a handful, and the knowledge base was very thin; and the book proved too pessimistic in its depiction of American ills that it thought could be cured by drawing lessons from the Japanese model.

So what makes it a good book? First, one has to consider the date when it was published: 1979. At that time, an academic pretending that Japan was a number one nation may only have invited incredulity and bewilderment. Americans knew very little about Japan or, if they did, were mostly attracted to the traditional aspects of its culture and national character.
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Format: Paperback
Ezra Vogel is a Harvard educated and based scholar on the Far East. He has published 10 or so books on the area, including ones on China, Korea, and "the four tigers." In 1979, when this work was published, it advanced the controversial thesis that America had already been eclipsed economically. Japan's success was primarily attributed to the flexibility and willingness of their governing institutions to do what worked, shorn of ideological considerations. And, they had an "industrial policy," with the government picking and supporting likely "winners," and closing down the "losers."

There is an old adage on Wall Street that when a company makes the cover of a popular news magazine, touted as a success, then it is time to sell it short. All the good news has been "fully discounted." Vogel's book was a bit too "cutting edge" to merit the same fate. Japan continued to flourish, as he indicated, for another entire decade, before its ludicrous real estate "house of cards" collapsed in 1989 (as one indicator, the land under the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was valued at more than all the land in California). Hum, real estate "games" does have a familiar ring.

Vogel is knowledgeable. He had been visiting Japan annually, for extended periods, for two decades prior to this work's publication. His first chapter is entitled the Japanese "miracle" and recounts how it quickly recovered from the utter devastation of World War II. In part, the "clean slate" allowed them to have a fresh look, and actually make changes in the way their society was organized, with very real poverty being a constant goad to pragmatism. He says that if there is a single factor that explains their success, it is a group-directed quest for knowledge.
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Format: Hardcover
This was the book that launched a thousand other efforts in the "Japan Hyping" that marked the Bubble Economy of the 1980s. The very same qualities that Vogel pointed out as key to Japan's success, and thoroughly worthy of emulation, are now attributed as being the cause of the country's post-bubble stagnation, and it is laughable to think that the Japanese edition of this book was an all-time bestseller on the country's non-fiction list. Who still advocates taking lessons from Japan on education, finance or corporate governance today?
Ezra Vogel deserves a place of honor alongside Paul Ehrlich and other would-be prophets of the future whose prophecies ended up being egregiously far off the mark. His book should
be read, if at all, as a caution against buying into journalistic hype, a problem those susceptible to today's China-boosting would do well to take heed of; the future is rarely a straightforward extrapolation of the past.
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Format: Paperback
This book investigated the Japanese development after the Second World War, especially in 1970s era, when Japan developed as the one of the swiftest development in the world, like nowadays China and India.
The author concentrates and investigates, not only the economic development, but also (rather) investigates the Japanese Knowledge, Politics, Company, Education, Welfare, and Crime Control....like "Soft Power" in japan, which we use these words in this century. So we can profoundly understand what's sustaining the Japanese development, it is not miracle, but people's group consensus, education, and fairness and others.
He gave a warm eye to Japan, not only for Japanese, but rather for American. He wrote, it is the Mirror for America, and what will be the lesson can a western nation learns from the East?
Such high quality modesties even after the World War II, at that time the USA was really the No.1, until now, but he didn't become arrogant, but saw and investigate very warm and scientific eyes. Perhaps it was the most important and wonderful reason, why this book was sold so long time, not only in Japan, but in the US, as well.
His modesties and clearness showed Japanese society and US Society, which the US must not become arrogant, even for Asian defeated country, if they work diligently with good team work and strong consensus of Companies, they could become as No. 1. It is so hopeful book, if we are defeated and weak, or poor, we can do anything, like Japanese, at that time. Excellent book, I recommend.
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