In This Review

Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women
Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women
By Mark Weston
Kodansha America, 1999, 352 pp.

Everyone knows that consensus and conformity rule in Japan, right? Wrong, says Weston, who uses the biographies of outstanding Japanese to better understand Japanese economics, history, cultural traditions, and politics. Starting with the founders of Japan's great corporations -- Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Honda, and Sony -- Weston devotes more discussion to business life in Japan than to individual personalities. His treatment of historical figures provides a vivid picture of Japanese feudal society, and his recounting of the great shoguns serves as an excellent introduction to Japanese history. His unique approach allows him to fill the pages with interesting anecdotal information, but Weston also verges on excessive awe of the Japanese, especially in economic matters. He balances that approach with personal accounts exposing the warts of individuals and Japanese politics alike -- with former Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei as one good example.