Item description for Japan (Country Topics) by Richard Tames...
A Traveller's History of Japan not only offers the reader a chronological outline of the nation's development but also provides an invaluable introduction to its language, literature and arts, from kabuki to karaoke. This clearly written history explains how a country embedded in the traditions of Shinto, Shoguns and Samurai has achieved stupendous economic growth and dominance in the twentieth century.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 10.5" Width: 8.3" Height: 0.3" Weight: 0.7 lbs.
Binding Library Binding
Release Date Jul 30, 2005
Publisher Sea to Sea Publications
ISBN 1932889973 ISBN13 9781932889970
Reviews - What do customers think about Japan (Country Topics)?
Good but needs supplemental texts or maps. Nov 20, 2006
This is certainly an ambitious book. It attempts to cover thousands of years of Japanese history, as well as explain various aspects of Japanese culture and religion. It is highly readable however the cast of historic characters can become overwhelming.
I will first list the strengths of the book. The book does a very good job of explaining the centralization of Japan under a single Emperor and then the process by which the royal family was relegated (and overwhelmed) to court formality and ritual. A very curious tradition began whereby the Emperor would abdicate to a son or grandson who would then take on the all the responsibilities of court rituals and ceremonies. The abdicating emperor would then become a monk and live in a reclusive palace beside the main ceremonial palace. However, the former emperor would actually control the government while the 'official' emperor would be stuck with hours upon hours of court formality and ritual. A very wise system was thus developed that divided governing from the rituals of governing. The slow movement of power from Kyoto to Tokyo is also well documented. This period is marked by the rise of military dictators, Shoguns, who shared power with the royal family and frequently intermarried with the royal family so that eventually Shogun families had claims to the throne.
The book does a very good job of explaining the differences and similarities between Shinto and Buddhist religions and their combined influence on Japanese culture and spirituality.
The book has a weakness however that should be mentioned. The book does not discriminate well between landmarks and shrines that no longer exists and landmarks and shrines that are open to the public. The book does not tell the travel how to find significant historic sites or how to navigate within the sites once they are found. In this regard I found I needed a second book to help me. I used the Eyewitness Guide to Japan which offered many photographs and clear directions and between the two books I was able to identify significant sites and then locate them and reach them using the Eyewitness book.
If you wish to learn far more about Samurai, the Pillow Book, the Book of Genji, the rise and expulsion of Christian missionaries, and the bloody internal wars - this is certainly a good book. If you wish to then use some of this knowledge to see actual sites within Japan, you need more information.
Concise history, but I wish it would tie in with the sights. Jul 21, 2006
I read this book while travelling around in Japan. It is a very concise, readable history of Japan, but the title is misleading. It actually has nothing whatever to say about linking travel in Japan with Japanese history. I was hoping to find a book which could relate the many sites one visits in Japan with its history. If you want to get a feel for the history behind the tourist traps, you will be disappainted in this book, as I was. If you want a straightforward, easy-to-read general history of Japan, this book is for you.
A Great Book for Starters! Feb 22, 2004
Contrary to the popular opinion here, I enjoyed this book. For some one who does not really know much about Japan, or Japanese history, for that matter, the book is great. It starts off with a short prehistory, followed by the first Yamato state in Japan, followed by the Heian era, and the different shogunal dynasties, such as the Tokugawa and the Kamakura Shogunates. Then, it gives information about the Meiji Period, Japan's time as a power, and its defeat in World War II. It ends with a description of Modern Japan politically, socially, and economically.
One person said that Buddhism gets no treatment. Actually, it does. All of the important Buddhist sects (Tendai, Shingon, Nichiren, Pure Land, and Zen) are mentioned and information given about them. I do have to say, however, that Shintoism gets hardly any treatment.
And I do wisht hat the book gave more pictures and more information about the imperial family. But apart from that, I would get it!
Missing the most important aspect of Japan Oct 17, 2001
Any visitor to a foreign country is well advised to get to know its religion, not only because it's practiced by most inhabitants of the country, but also it illuminates many cultural and social parculiarities of the locale. This book claims to be a travellers' book on Japan, yet Buddism, which informs most of Japan's architectures, art, literature, is relegated to an a few index pages in the back of the book. More distressingly, Christianity is treated with a whole chapter, "The Christian Century", which should be appropriately titled "Encounters with the West". The Christian Century implies somehow that Japan was almost Christianized, when in fact the reader will find that at most 50,000 Japanese converted during that time. Too much emphasis is put on how these converts were persecuted, without putting these incidents into historical context. In 16th century Japan, the Emperors saw Christianity as a threat and meddling to their affairs, due in part to the missionaries' arrogant dissimal of Buddism as idolatry. In the index, Buddism is said to be a religion that "conceives salvation as extinction, rather than redemption." This is a serious misunderstanding of Buddism.
Great, quick, and well-balanced general history May 24, 1998
By title, this book, indeed this series, may put fear into the reader of being a too-general and non-scholarly vast account of a subject matter too complex for any quality to come from the short format. Tames proves these fears wrong almost from the beginning in this indeed scholarly, engaging, and very well-balanced account of the history of one of the most misunderstood nations among today's world leaders. Tames does write a very general account, but "general" can be better understood as "broad" and "far-reaching" in this narritive. Regardless of the period discussed, his approach is rarely too single-tracked. This is a developmental history, and as such, properly includes development of Japanese government, culture, arts and literature, and the cumulative effects of this development onto the subsequent generations of Japanese. Tames does an excellent though suggestive job of relating the development of the Japanese nation to that of its people, and vice-versa. Throughout, except for the beginning, where it is often difficult to make any pre- and early histories come to life, the narritive flows freely with a purpose, and Tames' clear interest in his subject shines through the pages to take the reader with him on the easy, air-conditioned, and quick monorail tour through the safari of Japanese history, which is exactly what it is meant to be. In addition to the narritive is an excellent bibliography with commentary, as well as an entire reference section on everything Japanese from language to food and drink to holidays and their meanings. Especially for ex-pats living in Japan who don't want to be bogged down with anything dry or without connection to their experience, this is a quick, excellent read. It does a great job of subtly explaining the oft-seemingly unexplainables of Japan today.