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Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to…
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Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present (edition 2019)

by Christopher Harding (Author)

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761347,213 (4.5)None
Japan Storyis a fascinating, surprising account of Japan's culture, from the 'opening up' of the country in the mid 19th century to the present, through the eyes of people who always had their doubts about modernity - who greeted it not with the confidence and grasping ambition of Japan's familiar modernizers and nationalists, but with resistance, conflict, distress. We encounter writers of dramas, ghost stories and crime novels where modernity itself is the tragedy, the ghoul and the bad guy; surrealist and avant-garde artists sketching their escape; rebel kamikaze pilots and the put-upon urban poor; hypnotists and gangsters; men in desperate search of the eternal feminine and feminists in search of something more than state-sanctioned subservience; Buddhists without morals; Marxist terror groups; couches full to bursting with the psychological fall-out of breakneck modernization. These people all sprang from the soil of modern Japan, but their personalities and projects failed to fit. They were 'dark blossoms'- both East-West hybrids and home-grown varieties that wreathed, probed and sometimes penetrated the new masonry and mortar of mainstream Japan.… (more)
Member:kaixo
Title:Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present
Authors:Christopher Harding (Author)
Info:PENGUIN (2019), 528 pages
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Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present by Christopher Harding

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An excellent, readable history of a fascinating period; I confess, this is precisely what I was looking for at the time, so I'm not entirely unbiased, but I still feel free to recommend this to anyone other than scholars of this exact thing (who will probably take exception to all sorts of details, as scholars ought to do). Harding covers a lot of territory, and does an exceptionable job of balancing various aspects of history: there's enough high-politics to give context, but not so much that you get bogged down in it; there's great, great stuff on culture; and, most importantly, there's no attempt to offer ludicrous definitions of 'the' Japanese soul or whatever. It's a populous country. There are lots of different people there. Harding focuses on unexpected protagonists--psychoanalysts, novelists, victims of oppression, feminists, socialists. But he doesn't act as if everyone was an analyst, novelist, victim, feminist, or socialist. There are plenty of gangsters, conservatives and so on, as well. My only complaint is that the last few chapters felt more ripped-right-from-the-headlines than the rest of the book. That's what happens when you write history of present, though. Also: his goodreads profile is adorable. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
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Japan Storyis a fascinating, surprising account of Japan's culture, from the 'opening up' of the country in the mid 19th century to the present, through the eyes of people who always had their doubts about modernity - who greeted it not with the confidence and grasping ambition of Japan's familiar modernizers and nationalists, but with resistance, conflict, distress. We encounter writers of dramas, ghost stories and crime novels where modernity itself is the tragedy, the ghoul and the bad guy; surrealist and avant-garde artists sketching their escape; rebel kamikaze pilots and the put-upon urban poor; hypnotists and gangsters; men in desperate search of the eternal feminine and feminists in search of something more than state-sanctioned subservience; Buddhists without morals; Marxist terror groups; couches full to bursting with the psychological fall-out of breakneck modernization. These people all sprang from the soil of modern Japan, but their personalities and projects failed to fit. They were 'dark blossoms'- both East-West hybrids and home-grown varieties that wreathed, probed and sometimes penetrated the new masonry and mortar of mainstream Japan.

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