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The Japan Society Review

The Japan Society Review is published on a bimonthly basis, both online and printed (members are entitled to receive a copy by post). Since the starting of the publication in 2006, each issue covers a selection of Japan-related books and films, as well as theatre and stage productions, tv series and exhibitions. Its purpose is to inform, entertain and encourage readers to explore the works for themselves.

The Japan Society Review is possible thanks to the work of volunteers who dedicated their time and expertise to help us to promote the learning and understanding of Japanese culture and society.

Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese

Books

Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese

Reviews by Ben-Ami Shillony The Pacific War was the most traumatic event in the modern histories of Japan, China, the United States, and many other nations. No wonder that more than sixty years after it ended it still attracts attention and stirs debate. In the various writings about the war, the former black and white stereotypes have given way to more shaded presentations, in which heroes and villains are not always distinguishable. The three interesting books under review here open a window through which we can see how the war was presented and perceived in Japan. Reading them together helps us understand the atmosphere in which the Japanese lived in those turbulent years.

The Thought War: Japanese Imperial Propaganda

Books

The Thought War: Japanese Imperial Propaganda

Reviews by Ben-Ami Shillony The Pacific War was the most traumatic event in the modern histories of Japan, China, the United States, and many other nations. No wonder that more than sixty years after it ended it still attracts attention and stirs debate. In the various writings about the war, the former black and white stereotypes have given way to more shaded presentations, in which heroes and villains are not always distinguishable. The three interesting books under review here open a window through which we can see how the war was presented and perceived in Japan. Reading them together helps us understand the atmosphere in which the Japanese lived in those turbulent years.

Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

Books

Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers

Review by Sir Hugh Cortazzi This moving history presents diaries and correspondence left by members of the tokkotai and other Japanese student soldiers who perished during the war. Outside of Japan, these kamikaze pilots were considered unbridled fanatics and chauvinists who willingly sacrificed their lives for the emperor. But the writings explored here by Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney clearly and eloquently speak otherwise. A significant number of the kamikaze were university students who were drafted and forced to volunteer for this desperate military operation. Such young men were the intellectual elite of modern Japan: steeped in the classics and major works of philosophy, they took Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” as their motto. And in their diaries and correspondence, as Ohnuki-Tierney shows, these student soldiers wrote long and often heartbreaking soliloquies in which they poured out their anguish and fear, expressed profound ambivalence toward the war, and articulated thoughtful opposition to their nation’s imperialism.

The Chichibu Mikado

Theatre & Stage

The Chichibu Mikado

Review by Sean Curtin For the first time ever a Japanese theater company came to the UK to perform the Mikado in Japanese to an enthusiastic British audience. The lively and brilliantly colourful production was part of the 2006 International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Buxton, Derby. It perfectly blended Japanese and British elements to create an astonishingly successful hybrid which was true to the original, while incorporating some crowd-pleasing Japanese innovations.

Hula Girls - special event and screening

Films & Series

Hula Girls - special event and screening

Review by Susan Meehan For the third year running, the Embassy of Japan organised an excellent festival of new Japanese films at BAFTA over the weekend of 14-16 September 2007. Guided by the expert hands of Tony Rayns and Alexander Jacoby, the choice of films on offer was extremely good.

Rondon Nikki, 1936-7 (London Diary 1936-7)

Books

Rondon Nikki, 1936-7 (London Diary 1936-7)

Review by Ian Nish Readers may like to receive a brief notice (rather belatedly, I fear) of an interesting and insightful work. It is the London Diary of the Japanese academic, Oka Yoshitake (1902-1990) who became after the war one of the most eminent professors of Japanese political history at the University of Tokyo. As an assistant at that university, he spent the years 1936-7 on sabbatical in Britain, based in London. He wrote substantial diary entries daily and these were dutifully assembled by two of his successors after his death.

ASEAN-Japan Cooperation: A Foundation for East Asian Community

Books

ASEAN-Japan Cooperation: A Foundation for East Asian Community

Review by Tomohiko Taniguchi This book assesses the importance of enhanced ASEAN-Japan cooperation as a step toward a greater East Asian regional community. Fifteen international relations experts from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and Japan, as well as China, South Korea, and the United States, review the history and current status of this bilateral relationship and propose how it can be strengthened.

From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States

Books

From Mahan to Pearl Harbor: The Imperial Japanese Navy and the United States

Review by Ian Nish Drawing on previously unused Japanese records from the three naval conferences of the 1920s—the Washington Conference of 1921-22, the Geneva Conference of 1927, and the London Conference of 1930—the author examines the strategic dilemma facing the Japanese navy during the 1920s and 1930s against the background of advancing weapon technology and increasing doubt about the relevance of battleships. He also analyzes the decisions that led to war with the United States—namely, the 1936 withdrawal from naval treaties, the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact in September 1940, and the armed advance into south Indochina in July 1941—in the context of bureaucratic struggles between the army and navy to gain supremacy.

Japan's Love-Hate Relationship with the West

Books

Japan's Love-Hate Relationship with the West

Review by Sir Hugh Cortazzi Professor Hirakawa in a postscript (page 544) emphasises the importance "for Westerners to study not only the life and thought of the Orient but also to study those of the Occident from the Oriental points of view." This book is a significant contribution to this task. It is written in good clear English and demonstrates the width of the author's knowledge and cultural understanding. For anyone interested in Japanese literature and Japan's relations with the rest of the world this book contains much of interest as well as insights into a wide range of historical as well as cultural issues.

Create Your Own Japanese Garden: A Practical Guide

Books

Create Your Own Japanese Garden: A Practical Guide

Review by Sir Hugh Cortazzi In this book, renowned garden designer Motomi Oguchi offers the reader a step-by-step, practical approach to creating Japanese gardens, drawn from a wealth of experience that covers thirty years and encompasses the design of more than 400 gardens. The author uses real examples from gardens he has designed, constructed, and photographed to illustrate his key points, approaching each work from the perspective of the home or building owne