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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.

Britain and Japan: Biographical Portraits, Volume VI

Books

Britain and Japan: Biographical Portraits, Volume VI

Review by Adrian Pinnington At one end, we have scholarly studies, such as Peter O'Connor's piece on the journalist Hugh Fulton Byass, which actually manages to cram an account of the fortunes of the entire English language press before World War II in Japan into 12 pages; at the other extreme, there is Roger Buckley's elegant meditation of under five pages on the difficulty of knowing just what experiences the cult British novelist, Angela Carter, actually had in Japan. Some pieces are based on research; others are personal memoirs - including no less than three accounts written by relatives or descendants of the subjects - containing much information not available elsewhere. Other essays are based primarily on archival materials, making them essential reading for historians of the period.

Titus Andronicus

Theatre & Stage

Titus Andronicus

Review by Sean Curtin As part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's the Complete Works Festival, legendary director Yukio Ninagawa's Japanese language production of Shakespeare's bloodiest play was transported around the globe to Stratford-upon-Avon for just ten performances. Although Titus Andronicus is not so frequently performed, it's a strangely compelling tale of intense violence and horrific retribution. Ninagawa masterfully utilizes these extremes to create a brilliant new interpretation which creates the illusion that Japanese is Shakespeare's original language.

Utsukushii Kuni E (Toward a Beautiful Country)

Books

Utsukushii Kuni E (Toward a Beautiful Country)

Review by Fumiko Halloran Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at 53 the youngest to hold that office in the post-war period, has written a revealing book about his life, political philosophy, and vision for a good society. The timing of its publication was impeccable as the book hit the stores just before he was elected to the premiership. The book, "Toward A Beautiful Country," swiftly rose on the bestseller lists.

Japan Be a Strong Nation (Nihonyo Tsuyoki Kuni to Nare)

Books

Japan Be a Strong Nation (Nihonyo Tsuyoki Kuni to Nare)

Review by Takahiro Miyao Because of her seemingly nationalistic and anti-Chinese stance, Ms. Sakurai has become a very popular figure in Japan, especially among conservative Japanese, both young and old. Having read all the chapters of this book, however, one might wonder if she is a real nationalist as a Japanese (like Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who is well known for his book "The Japan That Can Say No") or a hard-core anti-communist conservative as an opinion leader regardless of her nationality. Actually, she is relatively optimistic about American intentions to support Japan (for example, she denies a change in American stance toward North Korea), whereas she is overly critical of almost any move on the part of China. In this sense, her argument may be appealing more to conservatives in the US rather than to their Japanese counterparts.

Kita Ikki and the Making of Modern Japan: A Vision of Empire

Books

Kita Ikki and the Making of Modern Japan: A Vision of Empire

Review by Ben-Ami Shillony This important new study of Kita Ikki, one of Japan’s influential pre-war idealogues, focuses on the twin poles of nationalism and socialism that inform his three principal works, located always in the context of the dominance of Western imperialism at that time.

Brokered Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Migrants in Japan

Books

Brokered Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Migrants in Japan

Review by Takahiro Miyao The interactions between Nikkeijin and natives, says Joshua Hotaka Roth, play a significant role in the emergence of an increasingly multicultural Japan. He uses the experiences of Japanese Brazilians in Japan to illuminate the racial, cultural, linguistic, and other criteria groups use to distinguish themselves from one another. Roth's analysis is enriched by on-site observations at festivals, in factories, and in community centers, as well as by interviews with workers, managers, employment brokers, and government officials.

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

Books

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

Review by Tomohiko Taniguchi James Bradley's #1 bestseller Flags of Our Fathers made real the humanity and legacy of war as few books had before. Now, in Flyboys, Bradley returns to World War II and an extraordinary-and totally unknown-true story of courage.Over the remote Pacific island of Chichi Jima, nine American flyers-Navy and Marine pilots sent to bomb Japanese communications towers there-were shot down. One of those nine was miraculously rescued by a U.S. Navy submarine. The others were captured by Japanese soldiers on Chichi Jima and held prisoner.Then they disappeared.When the war was over, the American government, along with the Japanese, covered up everything that had happened on Chichi Jima. The records of a top-secret military tribunal were sealed, the lives of the eight Flyboys were erased, and the parents, brothers, sisters, and sweethearts they left behind were left to wonder.Flyboys reveals for the first time ever the extraordinary story of those men.

Multicultural Japan: Palaeolithic to Postmodern

Books

Multicultural Japan: Palaeolithic to Postmodern

Review by Takahiro Miyao This book challenges the conventional view of Japanese society as monocultural and homogenous. Unique for its historical breadth and interdisciplinary orientation, Multicultural Japan ranges from prehistory to the present, arguing that cultural diversity has always existed in Japan. A timely and provocative discussion of identity politics regarding the question of 'Japaneseness', the book traces the origins of the Japanese, examining Japan's indigenous people and the politics of archaeology, using the latter to link Japan's ancient history with contemporary debates on identity. Also examined are Japan's historical connections with Europe and East and Southeast Asia, ideology, family, culture and past and present.

Japanese Envoys in Britain, 1862-1964: A Century of Diplomatic Exchange

Books

Japanese Envoys in Britain, 1862-1964: A Century of Diplomatic Exchange

Review by Sean Curtin Commissioned by the Japan Society as the companion volume to British Envoys in Japan, 1959-1972 (2004), this collection of essays on a century of official Japanese representation in the United Kingdom completes the history of bilateral diplomatic relations up to the mid-1960s, concluding with Ambassador Ohno Katsumi’s highly successful six-year assignment in 1964. In all, twelve authors, half of whom are Japanese , contribute to the work.

Enigma of the Emperors: Sacred Subservience in Japanese History

Books

Enigma of the Emperors: Sacred Subservience in Japanese History

Review by Sir Hugh Cortazzi This important new and original study on the institution of the Japanese emperors, from their mythological beginnings to the present day, focuses on the enigma of the institution itself, namely, the extraordinary continuity of the Japanese dynasty, which is unknown anywhere else in the world, yet which is now at risk on account of more recent laws of succession. The prisms through which this remarkable achievement is examined are the notions of divinity, gender and subservience.