Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation” as Want to Read:
The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Enigma of Japanese Power: People and Politics in a Stateless Nation

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  80 ratings  ·  18 reviews
A full-scale examination of the inner workings of Japan's political and industrial system.
Paperback, 524 pages
Published June 10th 1990 by Vintage
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Enigma of Japanese Power, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Enigma of Japanese Power

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 209)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Hadrian
Sep 23, 2014 Hadrian added it
Shelves: japan, nonfiction
Intense polemic on the nature of Japanese society - van Wolferen says that there is no central power structure, but instead a broader decentralized network which he calls 'the System'. The Enigma of Japanese power came out in the late 1980s, a time when Japanese economic growth was forecast to be one of the most preeminent in the world - but all this disintegrated in the real estate asset bubble which exploded in 1991, and Japan is still recovering from, even today. Now China is the Yellow Peril ...more
Ricardo
An impressive book on the way politics and power work in Japan. For all those with an activity related to Japan this is fundamental reading. It will also help you reflect on the political system of your own country, and you will find yourself asking - is it different in my country? You will also wonder if such a comprehensive analysis on how things really work has been done for many other countries.

After reading this book, many things will fall in place, and you will appreciate much better what
...more
Nash
Jan 10, 2010 Nash rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one.
Not worth your time. The author got it all wrong. Despite a lot of research, he still seems couldn't grasp the enigma that is behind the Japanese power. In p. 251, for example, he intentionally quoted Zen priest Shosan quote of context when he was writing on Bushido and Zen, and ridiculing the ancient samurai ideal and basically trying to make it look bad. I think he just didn't get it. Period. And by his inability to understand the Law of Karma, Law of Impermanence, and other concepts of Dhamma ...more
David B
Journalist Karel van Wolferen makes a compelling case for the argument that there is virtually no one in control of the Japanese state: it's ruling elite consists of administrators who jockey for position as they seek advantage for their respective ministries, thereby making it difficult for Japan to speak with a unified voice on the international front or make commitments to foreign governments on which it can follow through. Detractors unfairly stain van Wolferen's name with the epithet "Japan ...more
Keith
Aug 17, 2011 Keith added it
Finished the Enigma of Japanese Power in 2006- it's a book that came out in 1989 + 'the bubble that does not burst'. It's a very scholarly book by Karel van Wolferen. I must have tried reading it over the past decade because I have penciled notes. The gist of the book- Japanese power is not the emperor's power or the prime minister's power but a collective power of the established system-( the government is 80% who graduate from Todai etc- no outsiders please) + their agenda is to keep themselve ...more
David Bonesteel
Journalist Karel van Wolferen makes a compelling case for the argument that there is virtually no one in control of the Japanese state: it's ruling elite consists of administrators who jockey for position as they seek advantage for their respective ministries, thereby making it difficult for Japan to speak with a unified voice on the international front or make commitments to foreign governments on which it can follow through. Detractors unfairly stain van Wolferen's name with the epithet "Japan ...more
Kshitiz
The book gives an inside view of Japanese society, culture and economy.It touches almost every aspect of Japanese society, but mostly dwells on politics and economy. It gives a totally alternative view of Japan from what the outsiders generally think. Instead of a hardworking and free country, it shows how the people of Japan are instructed and taught to behave in a certain way from the beginning. The great role that personal political influence or 'jinmyaku' play in the Japanese politics is ver ...more
Vasil Kolev
This book definitely answered a lot of questions on the Japanese culture and people that I had in my head.

Mostly what it describes is a combination between an autocratic bureaucracy and a cult that encompasses the whole country. It explains all the cliches you can see in anime/manga and the general behavior of the Japanese people. There's some bias in the author, but that doesn't seem to affect the conclusions of the book.

All in all, the best book about Japan that I've seen. I wonder if there's
...more
Sean
This is a very intriguing survey of Japanese culture written by a Westerner who has spent much of his life in Japan. It focuses on the different means by which social order is maintained in Japanese society. Van Wolferen concludes that Japan is a "stateless nation" whose institutions mask the racial ties through which real power flows. Even if you are not particularly interested in Japan, or if you believe that Japanese culture has undergone fundamental changes since the book was written in the ...more
Dinda
The Japanese have been taking over entire industries worldwide and storming the high ground of international finance, yet Japan does not behave in the way that the rest of the world expects a world power to behave. In The Enigma Of Japanese Power, the first book to effectively analyze the structure of the Japanese social and political reality, the author shows how the docile conformity exemplified by company loyalty, near absence of litigation, and lack of individualism of Japanese society and c ...more
Sandy
this blistering book was initially banned in Japan shortly after it was published. It is full of hard truths about that complex and contradictory land. Ultimately, the ban was removed as that was where I bought and read it.... and finally found some answers to plaguing questions.... is it me? is it the Japanese? Beautiful country, exquisite culture but how do you reconcile that with so much brutal and bristling nastiness.... read this book if you are curious of what I speak and saw and to some e ...more
Adelle
This book mainly talked about how power is organized in Japan, and how that manifests itself in different aspects of Japanese culture. I recommend this for anyone living in Japan or interested in the culture. It's very academic/dry, and what kept it interesting for me is that living in Japan, I was able to witness firsthand some of the claims of the book.
Joel
Aug 20, 2007 Joel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: japan buffs
Shelves: japan
This is the most comprehensive book on the often slimy inner workings of Japan. A must read for anyone who is thinking of living here.
Cnevin
Interesting book, but Van Wolferen does not read Japanese, so I kind of wonder about a lot of his assumptions.
AC
an utterly brilliant book -- for anyone interested even remotely in Japan -- this is a MUST read.
Joichi Ito
Classic book about the power structure of Japanese politics and the Japanese economy.
Arjen
If you want to understand Japan and the Japanese this book is a must read
Steve
A very intelligent work on the subject of form over content
Michelle
Michelle marked it as to-read
Nov 05, 2014
Paola
Paola marked it as to-read
Nov 02, 2014
Daniel
Daniel marked it as to-read
Oct 17, 2014
Jim
Jim added it
Oct 17, 2014
Adam
Adam marked it as to-read
Oct 14, 2014
Nicholas
Nicholas marked it as to-read
Oct 13, 2014
Evan
Evan marked it as to-read
Oct 11, 2014
Don
Don marked it as to-read
Oct 09, 2014
Juan Rivera
Juan Rivera marked it as to-read
Sep 29, 2014
Rose
Rose marked it as to-read
Sep 28, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Dogs and Demons: Tales From the Dark Side of Modern Japan
  • The Making of Modern Japan
  • Japan: A Reinterpretation
  • Inventing Japan: 1853-1964
  • The Anatomy of Dependence
  • Looking for the Lost: Journeys Through a Vanishing Japan
  • Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival
  • Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
  • The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture
  • Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan
  • Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation
  • Speed Tribes: Days and Night's with Japan's Next Generation
  • Japanese Culture
  • The Inland Sea
  • Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan
  • The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture
  • From Fatwa to Jihad
  • Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage & Sex in Contemporary Japan
人間を幸福にしない日本というシステム [Ningen O Kōfuku Ni Shinai Nihon To Iu Shisutemu: Shinʼyaku Ketteiban] 人間を幸福にしない日本というシステム 日本 権力構造の謎 Vol. 1 Nihon No Chishikijin E = To The Japanese Intellectuals  / Kareru · Ban · Worufuren = Karel Van Wolferen ;  Nishioka Hiroshi · Shinohara Masaru · Nakamura Yasuo Yaku Kaiketsu Worufuren No "Nihon Waido Gekijō"

Share This Book

“This may seem labouring the obvious, but in Japan one meets intelligent people who claim that ‘logic’ is something invented in the West to allow Westerners to win discussions. Indeed, the belief is widespread that the Japanese can as happily do without logic now as they supposedly have for centuries past.” 0 likes
“To sum up what is most crucial in Japanese political culture: the Japanese have never been encouraged to think that the force of an idea could measure up to the physical forces of a government. The key to understanding Japanese power relations is that they are unregulated by transcendental concepts. The public has no intellectual means to a consistent judgement of the political aspects of life. The weaker, ideologically inspired political groups or individuals have no leverage of any kind over the status quo other than the little material pressure they are sometimes able to muster. In short, Japanese political practice is a matter of ‘might is right’ disguised by assurances and tokens of ‘benevolence’.” 0 likes
More quotes…