Edwin O. Reischauer and the American Discovery of Japan

In This Review

Edwin O. Reischauer and the American Discovery of Japan
By George R. Packard
Columbia University Press, 2010
368 pp. $32.50
Purchase

Edwin Reischauer was a pioneering American scholar of Japan at Harvard from 1938 to 1981, with time off to serve as U.S. ambassador to Tokyo under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. As ambassador, he took the first steps toward putting the U.S.-Japanese relationship on a more equal footing after the occupation. This gracefully written, compassionate biography by Reischauer's former student and cultural attaché throws light on some of the perennial issues of scholarship and diplomacy -- how to balance objectivity with engagement, how to interpret one culture for members of another, how to combine loyalty in public service with dissent, and how to reconcile professional ambition with family obligations. Packard discusses State Department infighting over China, Japan, and Vietnam; exposes the small-mindedness of academic controversies; and dismembers the once flourishing literature on "the Japan threat."