In This Review

The Making of Modern Japan
The Making of Modern Japan
By Marius B. Jansen
Harvard University Press, 2000, 871 pp

This magisterial work has all the details one would want in a reference work, but the mature reflections of a lifelong Japan scholar at Princeton make it a pleasure to read. Last year, the Japanese recognized Jansen's learning by decreeing him a "National Treasure: A Person of Cultural Merit." (Jansen, who died just as the book was published, is the only foreigner ever to have been so honored.) Nearly half of the book is devoted to the Tokugawa period, when Japan became an integrated feudal state and put in place many of the fundamentals essential for modern nation-building. Jansen answers the question of whether the Meiji Restoration destined Japan to authoritarianism by detailing the interwar period, when Japan went far in the liberal, democratic direction. At every turn, Jansen looks behind the political stage to examine cultural and social developments. He avoids abstract theorizing by recounting the experiences of specific Japanese individuals, giving the story a strong human dimension. This authoritative work goes up to the present and ends with Japan's current economic problems.