THE JAPANESE by Edwin O. Reischauer
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THE JAPANESE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Since Edwin Reischauer first summed up the evolution of modern Japan in 1946, successive revisions have provided a record not only of Japan's resurgence but also of his changing views of the country he has known as missionary's child, scholar and teacher, Occupation official and American ambassador. His present concerns, then, give interest to what might otherwise slip on to library shelves and into student hands as a textbook, a smooth, comprehensive (part geography, part history, part economic-social-political survey), highly sympathetic introduction to the land-and-people today. He finds Japan strong and stable, its imported, shallow-rooted democracy sufficiently secure to weather the imminent loss of a 25-year Liberal Democratic (conservative) majority. Prospective problems, rather, are external. As the world supply of importable raw materials dwindles and other countries become capable of producing--and exporting--the same industrial goods and services, ""the terms of trade are likely to turn against Japan."" The language barrier will be mitigated only by improvement in English instruction, an old Reischauer plaint. But he is most outspoken, here, on the Japanese sense of ""solidarity and exclusiveness."" Long-time foreign residents remain gaijin, or outsiders, racial consciousness is Strong--so much so that blacks are regarded with ""wonderment and revulsion."" Ranking is pervasive (in terms of how Japan stands, and how much they like and dislike others). And, considering Japanese involvement with the world, their outside contacts are ""thin and inadequate."" lust because Reischauer is an eminently friendly witness--who takes pains, for example, to balance Japanese group-orientation with individual self-expression and self-discipline (""He is not a weak-willed yes-man"")--his strictures carry weight. They also stiffen a book endangered by its own bland and featureless efficiency.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press