SHINOHATA: A Portrait of a Japanese Village by Ronald P. Dore
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SHINOHATA: A Portrait of a Japanese Village

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This gracious and wise book should make Ronald Dore (Aspects of Social Change in Modern Japan, etc.) as well known to readers at large as he is to specialists, and place Shinohata alongside Ronald Blythe's Akenfield and Laurence Wylie's Village in the Vaucluse as a unique, universal village. When Dore first went there to study postwar land reform in 1955, Shinohata was an isolated farming hamlet of 64 closely-knit, hard-working, plain-living households. On return visits he has seen the advent of paved roads, motor vehicles, telephones, a prestigious Factory and other places of paid employment; a consequent switch to part-time farming; the liberation of daughters-in-law and other traditional underlings; the rebuilding of virtually every house (at the Yamamotos, Dore experienced ""three generations of bathrooms""); and, overall, a large upgrading and general leveling of living standards. But rice is still the centerpiece of the meal ""and Shinohata people place considerable store on it being their rice""--a matter of self-sufficiency, not quality, prosperity being so recent as to be suspect. And, despite the old people's fears, a surprising number of eldest sons--even some with city--bred wives--still return to take over the land and ""continue the family""; government generosity to Sparsely Populated Areas and political log-rolling help villagers keep up with urbanites. Similarly, the neighborhood kumi still rallies for roof-raisings and the ""return-gift"" repast which follows, and Shinohata as a whole still ""sponsors"" a local candidate for the town council (though the telephone has made it harder to block solicitations from outside hamlets). Dore also reports with the meticulousness of a John McPhee on the niceties of planting rice or raising silkworms, and frequently enlists the villagers--including, notably, the two local ""bullies""--to tell their own stories. Concluding, he comes down firmly on the side of economic development--while wondering if others will have the patience to postpone its rewards as did the Japanese. No one has put it all better.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1978
ISBN: 0520086287
Publisher: Pantheon