Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle Reading App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Temporarily out of stock.
Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
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.Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
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.Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
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.
Written in 1979 before the world new just how big that little country on the edge of Asia was going to be, this book prefigured the realisation if not the reality of Japan's rise to economic power by a decade. In that decade many more 'Japan Hype' books came out, and a decade or two later the "Japanese miracle" is seen as a debacle. But Japanese economy remains the second largest in the world and there are still lessons to be learned from the Japanese in various areas such as education (still doing far better than the US despite the lack of inter-school competition), public safety (still way up at the top of the OECD tables), and manufacturing technology and management. Japan has its problems, and so does the US, but who would have thought, when this book was written, that the Japanese economy and Japanese way, would compare almost on a par with that of the USA some thirty years later? Which economy will turn out to be 'number one' is still open to debate, but as a book that started the debate, it deserves to be read for its insight.
Furthermore, despite the initial postwar success of the Japanese economy the Japanese have and continue to import Western economic, educational and management systems wholesale, with decreasing sucess. Who knows, perhaps if this book had been read *more* in Japan, and the Japanese had more confidence in their own convictions, the Japanese way might even still be flourishing. The Japanese themselves, increasingly nationalist and increasingly self-confident, are starting to think so.
Was this review helpful to you?