In This Review

Japan: A Modern History
Japan: A Modern History
By James L. McClain
W. W. Norton, 2001, 724 pp.

A lively, vividly written, and up-to-date history of Japan's modernization from the Tokugawa era, through the Meiji Restoration and the imperial wars, and finally its postwar economic boom and now bust. McClain has a keen eye for not only feudal pageantry but the living conditions of ordinary people. The text is filled with accounts of the actions of individuals, both high and low, who are presented with all their eccentricities. He demonstrates a solid grasp of the inside story of the decision-making that led to foreign wars, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although writing with sympathy and an infectious fascination for most things Japanese, McClain remains a professional historian who strives always to get the past right. This book is both useful as an introduction to Japan and a pleasure for Japan hands to read.