One hundred years ago, Japan was just beginning to emerge from feudalism. It was not until 1853 that Commodore Perry opened the country to Western trade and technology, and Emperor Meiji's rule did not begin until 1868. The present monarch, Hirohito, is MeiJi's grandson--and so, in the three lifetimes, Japan became a world power, a devastated loser of a world war, and then a major modern industrial nation. It is an astonishing story. Shigeru Yoshida is a politician rather than a historian; as the first Prime Minister after World War II he knows the end of his tale as well as anyone could, but there--and everywhere else--he is too cautiously polite to divulge the specifics necessary to any real understanding of what his nation has experienced. The militaristic expansionism of the 1930's is passed over quickly, with blame Cast on unnamed persons and while World War II itself is left out entirely. Political issues are treated out of actual, partisan context, as abstract ideals.Economic factors come in for somewhat livelier treatment, but all from the author's own conservative point of view. Japan's future responsibilities are seen in terms of aid programs for her less fortunate neighbors, and the delicate task of guiding ""chronically self-centered and egotistical"" Communist China into the international community. The book as a whole demonstrates the old adage, that politicians may retire from office; but never from the enforced prudence of politics.