Issue 33

Japan Book Review Issue 33 Volume 6 Number 3 (June 2011)

Editor: Sean Curtin
Managing Editor: John Toppon

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05 Aug 11
The Blue Sky: A Tale of Christian Descendants at the end of Tokugawa Era [青い空 幕末キリシタン類族伝]

The Blue Sky: A Tale of Christian Descendants at the end of Tokugawa Era [青い空 幕末キリシタン類族伝]

The Meiji Restoration in 19th century Japan not only overthrew the Shogun’s rule but rewrote the nation’s religious map. That propelled the emperor into a deity whose absolute authority was crafted by the founders of the new regime for political purposes. Prior to that transformation, no traditional belief held that the emperors were gods; that was so even among scholars who believed in the Way of the Gods. This is the basic theme in Yasuhisa Ebisawa’s best-selling novel that got rave reviews in 2004 and is now available in paperback.

03 Aug 11
The Russian Protocols of Zion in Japan: Yudayaka/Jewish Peril Propaganda and Debates in the 1920s

The Russian Protocols of Zion in Japan: Yudayaka/Jewish Peril Propaganda and Debates in the 1920s

The 1920s were a crucial period in modern Japanese history, when new and revolutionary western ideologies, like communism and fascism, entered Japan and found adherents there. Anti-Semitism was one of those western ideologies to arrive at that time. It offered a simplistic explanation of the perplexing turmoil of the world. It appealed to conservatives alarmed about communist subversion and to those attracted by conspiracy theories.

The Ideologies of Japanese Tea: Subjectivity, Transience & National Identity

The Ideologies of Japanese Tea: Subjectivity, Transience & National Identity

Cross explains that his book “maps how the pleasures of tea were useful in the invention of a particular form of Japaneseness. Tea precepts such as purity, harmony and respectful appreciation of social stability will be shown to be coercive forces that became keywords in the official definition of wartime Japanese identity, a sacrament that demanded the ultimate sacrifice.”

 Portraits of Chōgen, The Transformation of Buddhist Art in early Medieval Japan

Portraits of Chōgen, The Transformation of Buddhist Art in early Medieval Japan

The title of this book gives only a hint of the scope of this masterly study. It focuses on the life and work of the Buddhist priest Chōgen重源(1121-1206). It covers the development of portraiture in East Asia and the revival of realism. It then describes the Great Buddha of Tōdaiji 東大寺and the efforts to rebuild the temple after its destruction in 1180 in the war between the Minamoto 源and the Taira平 clans. The development of Buddhist sculpture in Nara and Kyoto is described together with an analysis of the methods used. This is accompanied by an account of some of the leading sculptors.

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