CRESTED KIMONO: Power and Love in the Japanese Business Family by Matthews Masayuki Hamabata

CRESTED KIMONO: Power and Love in the Japanese Business Family

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A charming, often amusing personal memoir interwoven with a study of the structure and rituals of Japanese tycoon families. Hamabata (Sociology/Haverford College) went to Japan hoping that his Japanese appearance and heritage might permit him the entrÉe that his third-generation American background could not. He had introductions to a group of high-level business people but quickly found that his ignorance of highly ritualized social behavior isolated him from a culture generally closed to foreigners. Such seemingly trivial matters as how to enter a room, where to sit, how to interpret gifts he received counted for much more than he expected. ""When I thought I was in, I was out,"" he confesses, ""but when I acknowledged. . .that I was out, I was in."" So, learning to manipulate his ambiguous identity, he eventually established the intimacies he sought--and his account provides a unique insider-outsider study of powerful families. Focusing on the concept of the ""ie""--the family as the paramount social unit to which all individuality is subservient--he describes, through vignettes of the people he knew, the often Byzantine efforts to retain business control from generation to generation. Although overlaid with unfamiliar form and ritual, these appear fundamentally the same as those of the great wealthy families of Europe and America, although the details are eye-openers, and the descriptions of rituals are intriguing. Smooth style, fascinating subject, solid bibliography: a delightful contribution to an understanding of Japan.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0801499755
Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press