Roberson, author of China: From Manchu to Mao, provides a highly readable account of the history of Japan in the modern era. The narrative traces major events from the first contact with European traders and missionaries to Japan's postwar rise to economic power. The photos and reproductions of Japanese paintings that accompany the text (all in black and white) are well chosen. As the book's starting point might indicate, Japan's relations with the West form a central theme. Roberson offsets this ethnocentric viewpoint with an appreciation of the strength and adaptability of Japanese society. The centralization of government in the 16th century was a great accomplishment, as was the rapid industrialization which followed the Meiji restoration in the late 19th century. The close cooperation between industry and government which made Japan's postwar recovery so successful is traced to its 17th-century roots, during the period of the Exclusion Acts. The balancing of Western and Japanese perspectives is particularly strong in the author's account of WW II. Thus, while Westerners such as Commodore Perry and General MacArthur get their share of attention, Roberson doesn't allow them to hog the spotlight. A good introduction to the history of this fascinating nation.