In this sweeping narrative, Andrew Gordon paints a richly nuanced and strikingly original portrait of the last two centuries of Japanese history.
Gordon takes us from the days of the shogunate--the feudal overlordship of the Tokugawa family--through the modernizing revolution launched by midlevel samurai in the late nineteenth century, the adoption of Western hairstyles, clothing, and military organization, and the nation's first experiments with mass democracy after World War I. Gordon offers the finest synthesis to date of Japan's passage through militarism, World War II, the American occupation, and the subsequent economic rollercoaster. But the true originality and value of his approach lies in his close attention to the non-elite layers of society. Here we see the influence of outside ideas, products, and culture on home life, labor unions, political parties, gender relations, and popular entertainment. Gordon shows the struggles to define the meaning of Japan's modernization, from villages and urban neighborhoods, to factory floors and middle managers' offices, to the imperial court. Most important, he illuminates the interconnectedness of Japanese developments with world history, demonstrating how Japan's historical passage represents a variation of a process experienced by many nations. Japan forms one part of the interwoven fabric of modern history.
As head of the prestigious Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, Gordon is one of the foremost American authorities on Japanese society. In this striking book, he brings all his knowledge and deep personal experience to bear, providing the most comprehensive portrait to date of Japan and its place in the wider world. [via]