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The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation Paperback – June 10, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Vintage; Reprint edition (June 10, 1990)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 528 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0679728023
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679728023
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,285,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Another interesting thing that Van Wolferen covers in his book is that the way that Japanese people are today is not due to culture. The Japanese character has been molded by political decisions made in the past. It's interesting to see how he comes at this idea. Read the book and check it out for yourself.
As a 27 year veteran of living in Japan, I can categorically say that if you live in Japan or plan to, then you MUST read it. It is not simply a book about politics and economy as the review says, although there is significant information on those areas.
First, James Fallows, very respected journalist and author, did a piece for Atlantic Magazine on Japan based on the information in an unpublished manuscript of this book that was floating around Washington D.C.. That issue of Atlantic was NOT sold in any bookstore in Japan, and the issue was also not put on display in any American Center in Japan. I wanted to read the Atlantic monthly, as it was previously always on display in the Center, and when I went to the American Center in Fukuoka, the librarian told me that he had a photocopy of the article under the counter and in hushed tones, said, "Here is a copy of the article. Please return it when you are done."
The magazine itself was never released for public sale in Japan, ANYWHERE !
Secondly, this book, when finally translated into Japanese, was banned from sale by the Japanese gov't for the first week or so after it's release. Only by a very vocal protest by the foreign community about the blatant censorship of the Japanese gov't was the book put back on the shelves.
Thirdly, in the publication process in Japanese, there was significant pressure put on the publisher by "outside sources" to make the book into TWO volumes, as it was deemed "too long to put into one book for Japanese readers." This, naturally doubled the price of the book. Another example of the obfuscation of the information contained in this book.
Someone once said, "only banned books are worth reading." Well, perhaps that is not true in all cases, but I would definitely say it is true in this case. Wolferen is lucid, not apologetic and spot-on truthful in his expose' of one of the most misunderstood countries on earth.
It is true.
To summarize the key point: power in Japan tends towards absolute power unfettered by laws or "western ideals" of truth and morality. As a self-defense mechanism, Japanese culture tries to surround any real power with layers of custom and protocol which prevent real power from actually being wielded. The result is that there is a huge gap between what is "said" vs. what is "done"; between what is "offically" the truth vs. what is actually happening; between who is in office vs. who actually makes the decisions.
BTW: Japan is not the only country in the world where this is true, take a look at Algeria since independence and you will find a country where power and appearance are equally seperate.
2nd point: most of the rest of the world does not understand Japan and Japanese don't tend to understand the rest of the world. In my opinion, Japan has the wierdest culture of all the major powers (Europe, U.S., China, and Japan). However, this book goes a LONG way towards solving at least one part of the equation: understanding the way Japan really works.
If you have ever wondered why the Japanese Army didn't cooporate with the Japanese Navy during World War II, this book tells you why. If you ever wondered why trade deals with Japan during the 1980s had no effect on Japanese policy, this book tells you why. If you ever wondered why Japanese prime ministers seem to have no power to get things done in Japan, this book tells you why.
This book has my highest recomendation.
Top reviews from other countries
Reviewed in Mexico on January 22, 2021
If you are doing business in /with Japan, definitely read this book.