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The Making of Modern Japan Paperback – November 14, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0674009912 ISBN-10: 0674009916

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 936 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (November 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674009916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674009912
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jensen conducts his readers through the labyrinthine path taken by Japan over the last 400 years, from centralized feudalism under the shoguns of Edo (now Tokyo) to Japan's postwar emergence as one of the world's most developed and peacefulAnations. For Westerners the most fascinating aspect of this monumental work will be Japan's always uneasy, sometimes violent relationship with the outside world. Jensen pays careful attention to Japan's struggle to differentiate itself culturally from China and to subjugate Korea. With the West, Japan's first hesitant acceptance of Portuguese and Dutch traders gave way to contemptuous rejection of Western values, religion and culture. The debate thus framed has resounded throughout the last two centuries, and Jensen patiently explains how xenophobia and openness to the outside world have alternated as dominant impulses in Japanese life. Jensen does his utmost to make intelligible the complexities of Japanese politics since 1600. Besides politics, he ventures into economics, military affairs, literature, education, social organization and both high and popular culture. He observes that postwar Japanese managed "to achieve in business suits what they had failed to bring about in uniform," and he shows how this extraordinary result came about, in the context of Japan's long and conflict-ridden emergence into the modern world. Japan has been a subject of intense interest in the West in recent years, though only serious students will want to read this lengthy history. Still, it should receive major review coverage, and sales may increase if it's promoted with Herbert P. Bix's Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (Forecasts, July 31). (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Despite our deep national involvement with the Japanese people since the end of World War II, this still frustratingly insular nation remains a puzzle for Americans and other westerners. Perhaps, as some have suggested, genuine understanding will remain elusive. Still, Jansen, professor emeritus of Japanese history at Princeton, strives valiantly to explain the foundations of modern Japanese history and culture in this richly detailed, smooth-flowing narrative of the past four centuries of Japanese development. While acknowledging the sweeping changes that occasionally buffeted Japan since the Meiji Restoration, Jansen emphasizes the remarkable strands of continuity in Japanese history that have helped maintain unique social cohesion in an internally dynamic culture. Although well written and not bogged down with useless detail, general readers are advised to devour this massive work in small doses; if they do, they will find it a greatly rewarding examination of an admirable but enigmatic and ancient land. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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I could not put this book down once I started reading it.
Robert Miller
So, if you are looking for a good overview of recent Japanese history you will enjoy this book.
Crossfit Len
There is an excellent annotated bibliography for each chapter.
R. Albin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This books covers the last 400 years of Japanese history in a series of very well written and well organized chapters. The focus on structural changes in Japanese political and social organization with briefer but insightful discussions of intellectual and economic history. Relatively unfamiliar topics such as the emergence and articulation of the Tokugawa state, the Meiji restoration, and the complex structure of Japanese politics in the pre-WWII era are discussed with great insight. There is an excellent annotated bibliography for each chapter. Jansen does an excellent job of balancing the need to explain and analyze events properly with the need to produce a one volume (though pretty thick) book. This is the book for someone looking for an introduction to Japanese history.
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69 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Crossfit Len on December 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
First and foremost, I was very surprized at how readable this book is at times. For a book of this size, and the amount of material it covers, I was glad at how readable it was in certain parts.
I also liked that the book was relatively neutral approach. The author clearly respects Japanese history and has mastered it, while not making excuses for their mistakes. To often Japanese and Chinese scholars have been seduced by the cultures of these areas and it clouds their writing and interpretations. I liked the neutrality of this book.
I am less interested in social history, so I will not lie and pretend to have found those chapters interesting, it is not my thing.
The chapters that I felt were the best dealth with the unification of Japan around 1600 and the events surrounding the Meiji Restoration of 1868.
To me, one of the most interesting periods in Japanese history is the 16th and 17th century. The stories and actions of Oda Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu (my screen name)fascinate me greatly. However, there is so little in English about them. It is so hard to find many sources on these great Japanese leaders and the final battles at Sekigara and Osaka castle. So it was quite enjoyable to read about them in this book. The Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan for over 200 years and was great to read how it came into power and stayed in power. If this time period interests you, you must read Totman's bio of Tokugawa and of course Cavells Shogun.
Equally as interesting is how the Tokugawa Shogunate collapsed and the Emperor was restored. The book does a great job detailing Perry's arrival in Japan and its forced opening to the west. The book also does a great job discussing the infighting in Japan going on at the time of Perry's arrival and after.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Paul Wiseman on March 26, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What an exasperating book. At times, The Making of Modern Japan is a joy to read, filled with wonderful translations of primary sources and with Jansen's own wry asides. At others, the prose is painfully academic. It's almost like it was written by different authors. I found the first quarter of the book, a detailed description of the Tokugawa status quo on the eve of revolutionary change, to be deadly dull - 200 pages of sentences, none of which seemed to contain verbs. As the action increases - and Japan begins to reform in the face of foreign pressure - the book gets better. But even here the prose can be deadly. Readers approaching Jansen's otherwise interesting survey of Meiji culture must first get past this sentence, standing like a sentinel at the start of Chapter 14 waiting to bludgeon them senseless: "Histories of Meiji Japan usually follow a periodization derived from the construction of the modern nation-state.'' I found myself crying: "Stop this man before he writes `periodization' again!" But Jansen's immense knowledge, judicious analysis and well-chosen excerpts redeem the book. I loved the Japanese scholar who, upon encountering Western learning, describes the joy of discovery as "sweet as sugar cane.'' I was thunderstruck by the 19th century writer who sounds like Saruman ranting in Isengard as he extols the glories of environmental destruction: "The smoke coiling up from thousands of chimneys will obscure the sun. Ship masts will be as numerous as trees in a forest. The sound of drills, levers and hammers will be orchestrated with the echoes of steam engines...How delightful it will be!" The book also concludes with a lengthy and useful list of recommended reading. For readers who want a comprehensive, balanced and at times delightful introduction to the events that made modern Japan, this book is worth the slog. But a slog it sometimes is.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By W. D ONEIL on September 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The late Marius Jansen has left us with a superb single volume introduction to modern Japanese history. Anyone approaching Japanese history for the first time would do very well to start with this book. Those who know the story well already will nevertheless find many delights. The book is good reading and explains the intricacies of Japanese history with remarkable clarity. Jansen treats the social and cultural as well as political and economic sides, and integrates them into a coherent whole. When reading more specialized accounts, I find myself referring back to Jansen's book as a convenient way to put their stories in context. The illustrations are well chosen and well presented. Strongly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Filip Lein on December 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Having lived in Japan off and on for over 10 years I tremendously enjoyed Marius' detailed knowledge on Japanese history. Although hard going over a number of weekends, it put all the snippets of my own knowledge of modern Japanese history in context and made the pieces of the puzzle fit. Indispensable reading for any serious student of Japan.
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