JAPAN: A Historical Study by Mikiso Hane

JAPAN: A Historical Study

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Though Hane sustains the conventional overemphasis on customs, samurai codes, and dynastic successions, his ability to integrate the development of Japan's cultural life with political and economic activity in each era makes this history one of the best available. It displays a fine sensitivity to the conditions of life of all strata of the population as well as the motion of social development. Literary references are included in the overview of each period; court life, manners, and religion are discussed in separate chapters but related to broader social phenomena. Unlike many other writers on Japan, Hane carefully documents the wretchedness of the peasantry, especially during the Tokugawa period, and the massive disruption of peasant life during the Meiji reforms; he also connects the Confucian moral codes with the specific needs of social classes in periods of social upheaval. Hane flatly denies that the Meiji restoration was a bourgeois revolution, but he does show full cognizance of the capitalist character of the administrative and tax reforms, and describes the extremities of the early silk and cotton factories and mines. Hane tends to mistake the militarist conspiracies of the 1930's for the root causes of Nipponese fascism and consequently devotes inordinate space to the conspirators' plots and philosophies; he does, however, mark the delight of Japanese manufacturers when, after the 1931 occupation, they could pay Chinese workers one-third the Japanese wage rates. Postwar history up to 1969 receives concise but undistinguished treatment. Though not innovative, the book as a whole represents a significant improvement over G. B. Sansom's standard History of Japan and because of its fuller treatment it is superior in most respects to Edwin Reischauer's Japan: The Story of a Nation (1970).

Pub Date: June 7th, 1972
Publisher: Scribners