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Japanese History Books

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  • Japanese History Books

    Hey all

    Can someone recommend a good book on Japanese history?

  • #2
    That depends upon what era in Japanese history you wish to read about. When you talk about over a thousands years of history, you've got to pare it down a bit.

    My personal recommendation would be anything by Karl Friday, although he specializes in older history of early medieval Japan.

    Stephen Turnbull has written a number of books about Japanese history and the samurai, but I've heard his books referred to as "history lite" since he doesn't use citations or list sources.


    • #3
      Thanks, I will check them out.


      • #4
        Also look at Edwin O. Reischauer's books.


        • #5
          Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family by Sterling and Peggy Seagrove is about the Imperial family after the Meiji restoration. It's so readable that I struggle to put it down! It's slightly disturbing to see how the Imperial family and Japan itself has and is manipulated by many different factions-usually big, rich, businesses as well as gangsters and the ultra-far right. I'm sure this is the case with most countries....I thoroughly recommend this book.


          • #6
            Could look at the classics:

            The Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, Heike Monogatari, etc


            • #7
              The thing about Japanese history is there is rather a lot of it. I don't see an indication of the desired reading level, but once a basic grounding in the culture and timelines is established, some books I can recommend in particular (in addition to the above recommendation of Dr. Friday's work):

              Early Modern Japan, Totman (huge and dense, but detailed)
              Tour of Duty, Vaporis (About alternate attendance. Not all historians can write well. Vaporis can.)
              Splendid Monarchy, Fujitani (about the invented traditions of the Meiji)
              Women and Class in Japanese History, Tonomura, Walthall, and Wakita (collection of scholarly articles on a range of topics)
              Women of the Mito Domain, Yamakawa (Mito domain in the Bakumatsu/early Meiji, showing the difficult time samurai families had as the world changed.)
              Musui's Story, Katsu (Father of an important Meiji reformer tells his "Kids, don't do the things that I did," story. Hilarious.)


              • #8
                Hey Beth!
                Good to know you're still around. I've now ordered a couple of your suggestions as they sounded intriguing!

                Thanks for the tip!


                • #9
                  Hi Paul,

                  Yep, I'm still around. The further I get on less-traveled paths, though, the less I have to say in general conversations. In the meantime, I've been taking a lot of Japanese history classes, so my bookshelves are crammed with good books. Glad some of my suggestions were interesting to you.