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A History of Japan: Revised Edition

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  744 ratings  ·  77 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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Apr 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, history
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
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. ...more
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. ...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.
David Rodolfo
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
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
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
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mason & Caiger's History of Japan is what I wanted: a nice, thick, detailed history of Japan. I was hooked in the mythic and prehistory periods, though it was not always nearly so gripping. A real strength was considering Japan not just through military history or political movement, but also in the realms of art and literature and faith. Of the latter, of religion, I would like to see a good deal more, and I think that it shows the need for a critical update. The '90s 2nd edition does not do a ...more
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
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
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
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
Christina Reid
I borrowed this audiobook from my library to listen to whilst doing things around the house. It is a comprehensive and clear overview of thousands of years of history, but does run the risk of coming across as quite dry at times, particularly when some chapters start with a long list of names reminiscent of some books in the Bible where genealogy is listed.
A solid introduction, but quite dry.
Rex Gian
It is a nice read if you are looking for a specific part of Japan long history. Would not recommend to read it unless for the beforementioned reason as it is quite a lot of information.
Furthermore, the way how Japan played a role during and after World War II was written felt quite rushed.

Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
nice one
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book to get introduced to Japanese history and culture. The authors cover practically the whole history the country in a very concise way.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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. ...more
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.
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,
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
May 16, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is actually a well-done survey history, which means that it's dry and dense but careful to include cultural, social and international context. I had to dock it a star, though, because of a strange omission of description of the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate while simultaneously emphasizing the importance and poetic justice or symmetry of that event. Maybe it did a better job than I give it credit for, since it left me looking for a more fleshed-out history of modern Japan, but I think it w ...more
Books on Asia
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my gosh, so boring! But I did enjoy the historical perspectives of poetry, literature and the arts and their effects on Japanese society. The book is not arranged entirely chronologically so it skips around a little. The chapters are based on concepts so I believe the best way to read this book is one chapter at a time rather than trying to read the whole book at once. It lends itself to reading a chapter, stopping and processing that chapter, then moving on. Otherwise it's too difficult to t ...more
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. ...more
Borislav Itskov
It is indeed a history book but you need to know a lot about politics to understand it completely.

Also, a lot of passages were dragged out with details no human I believe could remember. For a book that should present overall overview for the History of Japan there were passages with insufficient information and ones with abundance of not so important detail.

At the end of the day, I got my history overview, but I would not read this book again.
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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. ...more

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