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Everyday Life in Traditional Japan (edition 1972)

by Charles J. Dunn

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157576,038 (3.47)3
Member:ashamel
Title:Everyday Life in Traditional Japan
Authors:Charles J. Dunn
Info:Tuttle Publishing (1972), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Japan, non-fiction

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Everyday Life in Traditional Japan (Tut Books. S) by Charles J. Dunn

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For an overall view of Tokugawa-era Japan, Everyday Life in Traditional Japan is a great start. The book packs quite a bit of information in its 182 pages. The chapters are broken out by social strata, beginning with the revered samurai down to the lowly hinin (untouchables). Numerous illustrations are included with the text, proving very helpful when trying to visualize day-to-day life during this time period.

To expand and fill in the knowledge gaps, Dunn provides a "Notes on Further Reading" section at the end.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a cursory overview of the period as well as a starting point for deeper research.
  beatbox32 | Jun 9, 2013 |
The "traditional" Japan of the title is the era of the shoguns, and Dunn describes the living conditions and daily life of people in a variety of roles, from samurai to monks to merchants to farmers. I watch a lot of Japanese historical movies, and I had picked up a lot of what this book discusses, but it's nice to have some extra detail and context.There are illustrations. In this edition, the illustrations are pretty small and it's hard to see detail, but I have seen a larger format edition of this book, which might have better illustrations. The illustrations were created by someone with a European-sounding name and rendered in a "Japanese" style. Some aspects of the illustrations depict stereotypes and thus might feel offensive to some.This book was written in the 1960s and is aimed at an audience of Westerners who don't know much about Japan. Some of the attitudes are outdated. ( )
  firecat | Jun 11, 2010 |
I know very little about Japanese history beyond what I learned about World War II in high school. Well, that's not entirely true. In regards to the "traditional" Japan of samurai epics, I've actually managed to pick up quite a bit from some of my favorite manga and anime (I'm particularly thinking of Blade of the Immortal and Samurai Champloo here). Perhaps not the most academic of sources, but I mange to hold my own pretty well among my history major friends--just don't ask me for specific dates. However, I knew there was a lot that I was missing and so I turned to the LibraryThing community to ask for book recommendations about day to day life in Japan during the Edo/Tokugawa period. It didn't take long for someone to suggest Charles J. Dunn's Everyday Life in Traditional Japan which was pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

During the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1868), the Emperor became more of a figurehead while the majority of the power lay with the Shogun who was basically a military dictator. At this point in history, Japanese society was rigidly divided into a hierarchical class system and was mostly isolated from the rest of the world. In his book, Dunn provides an overview of the era, beginning with a brief introduction to the state of the land, people, and government when Tokugawa Ieyasu took power in chapter one, "A Country in Isolation." Over the next four chapters, Dunn examines each of the four main classes of Japanese society separately: the samurai, the farmers, the craftsmen, and the merchants. Those who lived mostly outside of the class system are dealt with in chapter six, "Courtiers, Priests, Doctors, and Intellectuals" and in chapter seven, "Actors and Outcasts." The final chapter, "Everyday Life in Edo" explores the typical issues encountered living in the capital city from day to day that aren't necessarily limited to one particular group.

It's quite impressive how much information Dunn is able to pack into under 200 pages, though the treatment is somewhat uneven. At times his approach is very generalized, making broad sweeping statements while at other times he is very specific focusing closely on an individual person family or event. He also has a tendency to wander a bit from topic to topic. Some issues, like education and schooling, receive little attention. He does include suggestions for further reading, but doesn't really include much of anything in the way of citations or bibliography. I can only assume that the information remains accurate since the book continues to be published unchanged since its first printing in 1972.

Everyday Life in Traditional Japan turned out to be a great place to start learning about Edo/Tokugawa era Japan. I can tell by his phrasing that the book was written in the sixties and his style can be a bit dry at times. But, because I was so interested in the topic and because the book was so concise, I didn't mind that much. The book includes as small index which is unfortunately not as comprehensive as it could be. The numerous illustrations, prints, and photographs are marvelous additions although they are not always conveniently placed. Overall, Dunn provides a great overview and introduction to Edo/Tokugawa Japan with Everyday Life in Traditional Japan--I know that I've certainly learned quite a bit about the era that I didn't know before.

Experiments in Reading ( )
1 vote PhoenixTerran | Feb 20, 2010 |
This book certainly packs a lot of facts between its covers and would probably be good as a textbook for a class on Japanese history. There are also a lot of useful and detailed illustrations. That said, I thought the writing was very dry and though the book was quite short, less than 200 pages including illustrations, I struggled to finish it. I think I would only recommend it to Japanese history buffs or students of the subject. ( )
  meggyweg | Dec 9, 2009 |
An excellent cultural overview of Tokugawa-era Japan. Very basic and somewhat spotty in places, but if you need a book to START with, this is the one. Nice illustrations as well, particularly if you ever wanted to know how to plant rice. ( )
  selfnoise | Oct 1, 2005 |
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In fascinating detail, Charles J. Dunn describes how each class of old Japan lived: their food, clothing, & houses; their beliefs & their fears. At the same time he takes account of certain important groups that feel outside the formal class structure, such as the courtiers in the emperor's palace at Kyoto. Originally published: London: Batsford, 1.… (more)

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