This frank, unhostile appraisal of the Japanese is a better book than the scare-titling lets on. Taylor, who spent his early...


SHADOWS OF THE RISING SUN: A Critical View of the Japanese Miracle

This frank, unhostile appraisal of the Japanese is a better book than the scare-titling lets on. Taylor, who spent his early childhood in Japan (and various periods since), has no quarrel with ""the Japanese miracle"": ""most Japanese successes are entirely legitimate""; in trade relations today, moreover, ""Japan is more sinned against than sinning."" What he wishes to do, reasonably, is remind us that Japanese methods are rooted in Japanese culture: ""a dense mix of values and behavior that Americans might not care to adopt."" So, for the most part, he discusses universally-recognized Japanese traits--the sense of uniqueness, the pervasiveness of hierarchy, group-consciousness, conformity--and certain aspects of Japanese life (the corporation, sex and sex roles, recreation) in terms of what appear to Westerners their less attractive aspects. What is different, in general, is not the information but the slant or emphasis. The first chapter, appropriately on the illusion of uniqueness, is both salient and funny--stocked with illustrations of the Japanese conviction that no one else can master their language, appreciate their food, or understand their thinking, as well as with examples of their tenacious arm's-length treatment of foreigners. Apropos of hierarchical ranking, Taylor notes its relatively innocuous aspects (ranking by sex, age, company) and some distasteful ones (sex tours of Southeast Asia, disdain for the boat people, dislike of blacks). He also speculates that, as the Japanese lose their sense of inferiority to whites, they ""will not be as pleasant to deal with."" Along with the observations comes a little sociological analysis--the desire for everything in its place, so they won't have ""to decide too much for themselves."" Though Taylor believes the Japanese have gone far toward opening their markets, he examines remaining sources of trade friction. On the rearmament issue, he concludes that ""the United States is making a serious mistake in urging Japan to rearm""--for a variety of excellent reasons. In the last chapter, he remarks on changes in Japanese management and strikes the note Edward Seidensticker expands on in the Foreword: for solutions to our own problems, we will have to look to our own traditions. Some things, moreover, both people have done well: the Japanese are not so unique as they (or we) think. A moderate, sensible nudge to devotees of the Japanese business model--and the friendliest candor since George Mikes' 1970 Land of the Rising Yen.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

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