Books on Japan

Books on Japan -- "Mental Health Challenges Facing Contemporary Japanese Society, The `Lonely People`"

by Yuko Kawanishi

From the book:

"Particularly mysterious to many observers from abroad is the way Japanese people opt for one response or solution over others. This mystery is compounded by a lack of explanation for the reasons behind their choice. Any foreigner staying in Japan, regardless of how long, recognizes that the Japanese are - to put it mildly - not the most expressive people in the world." p. xviii Introduction

This is a fantastic book and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone planning to live in Japan for a year or more. A MUST READ! Kawanishi is a sociologist, who specializes in social psychology and mental health. She has spent a lot of time in Japan, teaches here, and sees her adopted country clearly.

She explains some of the pains Japan is going through since the end of World War 2 and since the burst of the bubble economy. I found it very enlightening and I have lived here for over 20 years.

Currently Kawanishi is an Associate Professor at the International Student Center of Tokyo Gakugei University.

Need a Cheap Guest House in Japan?

Merry Lue`s Guest House in Minamiashigara, Kanagawa has got you covered!

Nearby, there are beautiful views of Mount Fuji, hot springs, Hakone, Odawara Castle, Izu and more. Full suites available at a reasonable price. Discounts for weekly and monthly rentals.

Near Hakone and Hot Springs

Minamiashigara shi, Kanagawa, Japan
Located near the Kari River across from a supermarket with access to nearby Iiwahara Station (Daiyuzan Line). There is a restaurant next door and a Sri Lankan restaurant and Japanese restaurants n...

Books on Japan: What should you read?

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is one of the great books on Japan

"The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture is a book on Japan that attempted to predict the behaviour of Japanese during World War 2. In her book about Japan, Benedict wrote that the Japanese were a people of many contradictions--both aggressive and unaggressive etc., etc. Some have criticised her for it. However, it is still enlightening.

(Pictured: Kochi by Devanshe Chauhan)

Chrysanthemum while dated, is still a good read. It is worth reading it to see what you think of Japan and the Japanese people, as you live here. I highly recommend the books below. I merely recommend Benedict`s book. There are many criticisms of Benedict`s book, yet in some ways, I think she has hit the nail on the head.

Books on Japan: Books you must Read

Any guidebook by Ian L. McQueen tells it like it is. With no fluff or hype, McQueen delivers the goods on the good, the bad and the ugly on Japan.

I have always admired McQueen`s no punches pulled style that gives you a clear idea of what this country is all about. If I only wanted to read about how beautiful the cherry blossoms are, or gloss over the negatives of Japan, I would visit a Japanese government tourism website.

McQueen doesn`t sugar coat it. For that I applaud him!

Books on Japan -- Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Is another must read. It reexamines the history of Japan`s wartime past and how it still affects the country and her people today.

"To the very end, Hirohito refused to acknowledge any responsibility for his role in the death of millions as well as the brutalities inflicted by his forces in China, Korea, and the Philippines. In fact, he worked with none other than General MacArthur to select his fall guys and fix testimony at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials--the emperor trying to protect the throne at all cost, the U.S. acting to ensure control of the Japanese population and the military by retaining Hirohito as a figurehead.

Not surprisingly, this hefty work of scholarship is making waves, as Americans and Japanese reconsider their roles in WWII and its aftermath. By placing Hirohito back in the center of the picture and puncturing the myths that surround him, Bix has effectively asked the Japanese to come out of their half-century repression of the past and face their wartime responsibility. Without doing so, he implies, the monarchy will forever impede the development of democracy. For those interested in Japan's wartime past and its influence on the present, this is fascinating, if lengthy, reading."

--Lesley Reed at

Edwin Reishchauer

Reischauer wrote a classic called, "The Japanese." In it he explores the Japanese people, their history and their culture.

Reischauer obviously knew the Japanese people well, from his years as American ambassador to Japan. "The Japanese," is still a great, balanced overview of Japan and her people.

Alan Booth

Grab any book you can find by Alan Booth. His best one I feel is "The Road to Sata," in which he describes his experiences as a fluent, Japanese speaking foreigner, walking the length of Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Not only is it a great read, Booth is amazingly accurate about the Japanese people. Also recommended is Booth`s book, "Looking for the Lost."

Pico Iyer`s Books on Japan

While I recommend his books less highly than the above two, his books that mention Japan are interesting nonetheless.

Recommended Reading--Iyer`s Books on Japan:

"Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-so-Far East" (April 1988, hardback, July 1989; paperback) / ISBN 0-679-72216-5

In this book he has a chapter or two on Japan, and a lot about Asia.

"The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto" (August 1991 / ISBN 0-679-40308-6; September 1991, hardback, October 1992; paperback / ISBN 0-679-73834-7)

In this book Iyer details his life in Kyoto.

Books on Japan -- Japanese Only

by Arudo Debito (Dave Aldwinkle)

In his book, Debito discusses the kinds of discrimination NJs or (non-Japanese) face. He talks about actual cases throughout Japan and shows signs in front of businesses that actually state:

"Japanese Only"

If you spend some time in any part of Asia, you will undoubtedly experience some racism. It is often different from the racism you may have only witnessed "back home," but it is worth knowing about it before you come.

Japan is still well worth visiting or living in, but racism unfortunately is still a fact of life in Japan for non-Japanese, and it comes in many guises.

My own aging parents were told to leave a business hotel in Odawara. Their bags were ready for them at the front desk and they were told they had to leave. They were both 70 at the time.

We had booked them a room for two weeks at this hotel but they were told to vacate the room after only one week.

We were very upset about it. The hotel made some lame excuse that they only liked guests to stay for a short time as it was a business hotel, but to turn away paying customers doesn`t make sense.

The reason was never fully explained and I suspect it was because they couldn`t speak Japanese. My parents, far from being trouble-makers, were gracious guests wherever they went. They were well travelled (had travelled the world) and had never, ever been told that they couldn`t stay any longer at a hotel until they visited Japan.

That said, do I regret making the decision to stay and live in Japan for more than two decades?

No I don`t.

And I don`t think the author Arudo Debito does either, but he hopes to make Japan a better place. See the Japanese Only homepage to learn more about this book.

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