Cover image for A history of Japan : from stone age to superpower
A history of Japan : from stone age to superpower
Henshall, Kenneth G.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 242 pages ; 22 cm
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DS835 .H386 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In a rare collection of comprehensive coverage and sustained critical focus, this book examines Japanese history in its entirety to identify the factors underlying the nation`s progression to superpower status. Japan`s achievement is explained not merely in economic terms, but at a more fundamental level, as a product of historical patterns of response to circumstance. Japan is shown to be a nation historically impelled by a pragmatic determination to succeed. The book also highlights unresolved questions and little known facts.

Author Notes

Kenneth G. Henshall is Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Despite its current business slump, Japan remains an economic powerhouse and, potentially, a major political force in world affairs. Thus, it is useful if ordinary Americans, as well as specialists, obtain an understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture and history. Henshall, professor of Japanese studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, has provided a short but reasonably thorough survey of Japanese history, beginning with the first human settlement of the islands. There are no major surprises here, and Henshall handles controversial issues with an evenhanded approach, declining to advocate a particular position. Still, he offers some useful insights into the Japanese "national character," and he convincingly asserts that the supposed assimilation of Western values is overstated by some historians. This informative and easily digestible work is ideal for general readers who wish to learn more about this important and fascinating nation. --Jay Freeman

Library Journal Review

Henshall, a New Zealand professor of Japanese studies, has written a lively and literate introduction to the vast sweep of Japanese history, providing a well-balanced overview that is accessible to the novice without being at all dumbed down. Although his emphasis is on political history, he devotes enough attention to cultural, literary, religious, and economic developments to give the reader a good sense of these spheres as well. He even manages to flavor the text with excerpts from poetry and key historical documents. Roughly equal weight is given to pre-modern and modern Japan. Henshall focuses on key issues in each of his six chapters and provides very useful tables summarizing both historical chronology and the main values and practices that characterized each period. A paperback version of this book, if made available, would find its way into many university surveys of East Asian history.ÄSteven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Tablesp. viii
Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgementsp. xi
Introduction: Japan and Historyp. xiii
Part 1 From the Stone Age to Statehood: Myths, Prehistory, and Ancient History (to 710)p. 1
1.1 Making Gods of Emperors: Ancient History According to Japan's Mythsp. 1
1.2 The Earliest Inhabitants (to ca 13,000 BC)p. 3
1.3 Stone-Age Hunters and Gatherers: the Jomon Period (ca 13,000 BC-ca 300 BC)p. 5
1.4 New Beginnings: the Yayoi Period (ca 300 BC-ca AD 300)p. 8
1.5 The Early State Emerges: the Kofun/Yamato Period (ca 300-710)p. 11
Review of Part Onep. 18
Part 2 Of Courtiers and Warriors: Early and Medieval History (710-1600)p. 20
2.1 Learning from the Chinese--within Limits: the Nara Period (710-794)p. 20
2.2 The Rise and Fall of the Court: the Heian Period (794-1185)p. 24
2.3 The Warrior State: the Kamakura Period (1185-1333)p. 30
2.4 A Nation at War with Itself: the Muromachi Period (1333-1568)p. 36
2.5 Reunifying the Nation: the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600)p. 40
Review of Part Twop. 45
Part 3 The Closed Country: the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868)p. 48
3.1 Stability Equals Survival: Establishing the Tokugawa Shogunatep. 48
3.2 Samurai and Ethicsp. 56
3.3 Commoners, Culture, and the Economyp. 60
3.4 The Return of the Foreign Devils and the Fall of the Shogunatep. 63
Review of Part Threep. 67
Part 4 Building a Modern Nation: the Meiji Period (1868-1912)p. 70
4.1 Consolidating the Restorationp. 70
4.2 The Westernisation of Societyp. 75
4.3 Harnessing the Energies of the Peoplep. 79
4.4 Moves towards Democracy--of Sortsp. 82
4.5 War and Politicsp. 88
4.6 Guided Economic Developmentp. 93
4.7 An Era Comes to an Endp. 97
Review of Part Fourp. 99
Part 5 The Excesses of Ambition: the Pacific War and its Lead-upp. 103
5.1 The Fragile Democracy of Taisho (1912-26)p. 103
5.2 A Troubled Start to Showap. 107
5.3 The Ideologies Behind Expansionismp. 111
5.4 Preparations for Warp. 115
5.5 The Pacific Warp. 121
Review of Part Fivep. 132
Part 6 A Phoenix from the Ashes: Postwar Successes and Beyondp. 136
6.1 American Dreams for a New Japanp. 136
6.2 Cold War Realities Reshape the Dreamsp. 147
6.3 Becoming Number Onep. 153
6.4 A Superpower Adriftp. 164
Review of Part Sixp. 175
Conclusion: Lessons for Aspiring Superpowersp. 180
Notesp. 187
Referencesp. 217
Glossary of Japanese Termsp. 229
Indexp. 233