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A History of Japan: Revised Edition

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  573 ratings  ·  56 reviews
A fascinating look at Japan from its early pre-history through the post-cold War period to the collapse of the Bubble Economy in the early 1990's. Recent findings shed additional light on the origins of Japanese civilization and the birth of Japanese culture. Also included here is an in-depth analysis of the religion, arts and culture of the Japanese people form the 6th ce ...more
Audible Audio, Unabridged; Revised Edition
Published November 27th 2018 by Tantor Audio (first published January 1st 1972)
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3.46  · 
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 ·  573 ratings  ·  56 reviews


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Smiley
Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, japan
3.5 stars

This 'classic work' as claimed at the back cover is reasonably readable, informative and neutral since both authors have done their best. A few chapters're a bit lengthy but we need to keep reading, pause when necessary due to Japan's long history and complex politics/administration since Jimmu ascended the throne as the first emperor in 660 B.C. I'm not a historian, therefore, these three extracts below should imply and inform us how and why Japan has achieved her own identity as one o
...more
Steve
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Could not finish this book. There are places in the writing where things could be said a little more concisely. At times, he seems to focus on peripheral facts of a historical age. To the authors' credit, the first half has a good flow to it, but then, they seem to lose focus and it gets a little convoluted toward the end.
Annikky
Useful for a beginner, but somewhat dense to be read in one go (as I pretty much did). Some editorial decisions seemed questionable, but I'm honestly in no position to judge.
Michael A
I'm trying to clear some books off my Kindle recently. This is one of them. I will state up front that I did not manage to get through the entire thing, but I will count it as being read since it's for a challenge and I did read a good eighty percent of it before stopping. I think it was the chapters on the Meiji era that caused me to give up at some point when it was trying to stuff too much information into a tight space and I could not retain anything.

Books like this are useful in getting the
...more
Celeste Haehnel
Well it certainly was factfull. Meaning it was jam packed full of facts strung together one after the other with a lack of over arching narrative and sometimes coherence, but man were there facts.
Declan Melia
This does just exactly what it says on the bottle. I found it to be informative and all encompassing, it avoided being one thing, just a military history or just and art history but encapsulated all the disparate aspects of Japan's history (poetry, rural history, foreign interaction) to provide a complete portrait. Sure, it could have been juicier, Mason seemed to actively avoid details of particular incidents and personalities which could have made this a little more human and engaging. But as ...more
Jerry Day
While I did learn some history, it was quite a slog. The authors’ style is both academic and grammatically torturous. The level of detail was uneven. By about the turn of the century it just seemed to become a long series of names. I felt the authors’ treated the buildup of the Japanese Empire as some sort of fait accompli, rather than a brutal, conscious action. Finally, the Amazon page says it was revised in 2011, but there’s no content here later than 1995, making some of the concluding remar ...more
Carlos
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This was an interesting book, especially regarding the 20th century where the authors shine in giving context and depth to what is more commonly known of Japanese history. The authors also do a great job of laying out the centralization of Japan from ancient times up to the medieval period, paying particular attention to the role played by Chinese influence. However, in the medieval and early modern period the authors focus more on literature and the arts, in definitely interesting chapters, but ...more
David Rodolfo Areyzaga Santana
While this book opens as an informative and interesting introduction to Japanese history overall, it feels like a competition among five books that never quite achieves much. One book wants to talk about the political history of Japan, another one about economy and agriculture, another one about painting (without actually including paintings among the almost random selection of illustrations), another one about literature (and giving very damning opinions about high art), and one about family an ...more
Kes
This is an extremely dry and dense book. It's basically a series of academic essays on Japan.

Some notes:

- It's cool that one of the "tithes" would be to make x number of persons enter religion as priests, and that it gets recorded as "in consequence of this, she recovered".
- The shoen-shiki system sounds like an early version of tax evasion.
- There was an interesting system of cloistered emperors.
- The impact of commerce on the growth of civilisation (especially during the Tokugawa period).
- I
...more
Mr.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This does have the feel of a textbook, so it's not always the most riveting read. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable and provides a general overview of Japanese history. As someone who was looking for just such an overview, I was satisfied. As a non-expert, I can't speak to any inaccuracies, but the book's value lies in providing a framework to support further research.

The chapters from the Heian through the Tokugawa period were the most effective at summarizing the events covered. From the Meiji Rest
...more
Sicofonia
This book offers a wide view of the History of Japan, from the archaic period until modern Japan. As a trade-off, certain periods are not covered in detail and somehow feel rushed. Especially the last chapter that covers the developments from 1937 until the 90's. The most controversial period of Japanese history is given an apologetic view, with no mention whatsoever to the savage actions the Japanese troops inflicted on countries like China or Korea.
Overall it succeeds in giving a broader view
...more
Cade
Aug 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was informative and wide-ranging, but the flip side of that is that it was occasionally dry and unfocused. This book covers the history of people on the Japanese isleas from pre-agrarian humans to post-war economic juggernaut. I was really only interested in the political and economic aspects of Japanese history, but this book touches on art and culture including writing, painting, music, and theater over the course of many eras in Japanese history. Reading this book was a bit of a cho ...more
Gregski
This is a great single volume presentation of the history, arts, politics, and religion of Japan. It’s a great introduction and can orientate the reader to general themes and areas of study. That said it often tries to give too much info on each particular area and can sometimes feel like a recitation of facts. That said, it’s impressive to get everything from the Yayoi through the Occupation in one volume. A must for those seeking to better understand Japan, its people, it’s institutions, and i ...more
David Thomson
An ambitious book that tries its best to cover as much as possible...but probably needed another volume of similar size to do the topic justice. Provides a reasonable overview of a great number of themes, culture and events but I found myself wanting more depth. Was slightly disappointed by what I'd classify as a 'nebulous' discussion of early Japan, but this improved as we moved towards discussion of early modern events.

Okay for a grand overview of this country's history, but left me wanting t
...more
Michael
Good survey but it reads too much like a textbook. The narrative is weak and so most of the historical figures blend together. Knowing next to nothing about prewar Japan, it was a good introduction but I could have used a lot less art and culture and more on political organization, historical motivations, and color.
John
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a dry academic rendering of Japan's history

The writing was easy to follow without wordy academic passages. It was hard to remember the meaning of Japanese terms requiring rereading certain pages.
Colin Roy
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clear and concise overview that could have used a few deeper dives into specific subjects, but is still an engaging read and a great starting place for people new to Japanese history.
John
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book seemed to focus on everything in Japanese history that just wasn't very interesting.
eli
Very well written book on the history of Japan. I am no expert on this subject so I cannot speak to any inaccuracies that might have been made, but I can say that there is plenty of good to say about the book.

First, the organization of topics seemed to work well. As the narrative went on I never felt lost or questioning why whatever was being discussed was important. Also, the selection of topics was good. Not only were the political and military histories of Japan explained, but also the arts,
...more
Dean Simons
Really struggled to give this 3* and settled for 2*.

Most of the book is fine, if a bit inconsistent in style which would have easily given a 3* rating but chapter 16 felt like a list and chapter 17 was an appalling whitewash of world war 2/the Pacific war and aftermath.

The book seems to imply the war occurred by a series of happy accidents, that the treatment of prisoners and civilians by occupying Japanese forces were benign (it used the word massacre once but rushed through that one, but doe
...more
Skye
Aug 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the same length and the same topics I would recommend Understanding Japan: A Cultural History instead, which was much more engaging. The one exception is if you are particularly interested in the political details of 1868-1941 which this book by Mason goes in depth about. It ends with the end of the Occupation in 1952, whereas Ravina's book continues through to the present day.
Joschka Nakata
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too brief on political and military history, while the snobbish commentary on art and literature takes up too much paper for my taste. The post-war era is treated very scantily, but I suppose it's natural as this book was first published in the seventies. Nevertheless, overall it still provides a well-written and interesting outline of Japanese history.
Trevor Smith
Dense, and a lot of knowledge is assumed. Overall, I guess it could be okay, but I couldn’t finish it.
Eddie Jurkovic
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great for what it does - very comprehensive and let's you find other areas of the history to study more.
Naveen Urmese
The only disappointing thing about the book was that it fails to explain satisfactorily what led Japan to take the role it played in World Wars.
Francesca Calarco
I am often skeptical of history books covering especially long stretches of time, but A History of Japan was not terrible.

That being said it was not perfect either. Though informative, the prose could be dry. As with many history books, the sections on archaeological history were lacking. Also missing was information on women and Japan's ethnic minorities. I would have been especially interested in Japanese interactions with the Ainu, specifically in reference to the country's acquisition of Hok
...more
bravebird
Jan 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Don't fall for the catchphrase that this is one of the most classic books of Japanese history. It does not even catch up with the most basic historical facts. Its starting part where it covers ancient history is pretty much biased against Korea in a way that runs counter to solid historical facts.

It mentions "Mimana" stuff while depicting Yamato influence on Korean peninsula. Also, the author narrates the advent of artisans and Buddhism from ancient Korea in such a fictional way such as "These
...more
R.C. Matthews
Not a whole lot to say about this book. If you are looking for a very basic introduction to Japanese history and don't mind some awkward prose and a lot of skimming through some of the more interesting bits of history, then this book will suffice. Personally, I only made it to the sections discussing the Tokugawa era, and then swapped the book for a more detailed historical account of the Tokugawa period to modern Japan. I also feel that, despite it being the revised edition, "A History of Japan ...more
Jose Caldwell

It started out well, there is a lot of interesting information, and the writing isn't bad, but after reading through a few different periods in history, I started to get a little frustrated with the repetitive format. Mostly the book focuses on a lot of technicalities of the various governments, economy, and some art, as well as religion, but its treatment of these topics feels a bit cursory and dry. You have to give the author props though, since the history of a entire nation from prehistoric
...more
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Richard Mason graduated from Cambridge University. He received his Ph.D. from the Australian National University where he subsequently lectured on Japanese history as a member of the Faculty of Asian Studies for over thirty years. Dr. Mason is also the author of Japan's First General Election (Cambridge University Press, 1969). Now retired, he continues to live and work in Canberra.
“Sōkagakkai's proclaimed principles of goodness, beauty, and benefit cannot be quarreled with; but, lacking a more systematic ideology, it has placed great emphasis on organizing and making zealous militants of its followers.” 0 likes
“The Manyōshū is Japanese in the vital sense that the language in which it was written was Japanese, a language quite different from Chinese in its structure. But since the Japanese had not yet evolved a script of their own, the verses were written in Chinese characters. Some of the characters were used, as in China, to convey meaning; but others were used in a different way—to give an idea of the sounds that made up the Japanese words. The result is that while the Manyōshū looks Chinese, it is really Japanese written down in the only script its compilers knew.” 0 likes
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