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Best Books on Japanese History

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Today, Japan happens to be a supreme country in terms of its industrial and technological prowess. There are many facts about Japan which are quite interesting to know about. So as a reader, it is only obvious for you to feel anxious about reading them too.

To make things easier for you, we have compiled a list of books on Japanese history. Here are some of our top best picks in this category.

7 Best Books on Japanese History & Reviews

1. Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan

Author: Ian Buruma

Publisher: Atlantic Books

Pages: 352

In this book, the author extensively talks about the damaging results of a war on the people and its country. The author makes a stark comparison between Japan and Germany in this book and calls out to the impact that the second world war had on both these countries. His expressions invoke a clear understanding of the national attitudes in the two countries.

It gives credit to the work that the author has done on this book, given that he understands the political and cultural aspects of both the countries. Readers will find it fascinating, as much as painful to read the accounts laid out by the author in this book. This is because he draws substantial facts and thoughts from a thicket of those and presents them to the reader with an aimful clarity.

Summary: Readers will find this book highly absorbing and entertaining in the sense that it speaks much about the history of Japan. The engaging text written by the author is an incentive for the reader.

2. Japan’s Longest Day

Author: The Pacific War Research Society

Publisher: Kodansha USA 

Pages: 340

This book is an exemplary reconstruction of the hours and events leading up to Japan’s surrender in the world war. The pacific war research society is a conglomeration of renowned Japanese authors and journalists. Together, they recount the period of twenty four hours before the announcement made by emperor Hirohito made the broadcast, which is believed to have changed the course of the second world war.

In this book, the readers will find a very heart wrenching account of the final moments of many soldiers. This book is a solid introduction to the mind set and actions of the valiant people who stood the test of time and did what they had to, to keep their country safe.

The authors have done a splendid job while introducing the beginning of the end of the second world war and even though the book does lack in nuances at some spots, it does cover it up with its excellent readability.

Summary: The book will easily turn out to be a rewarding read for ardent readers who are fond of history and culture. The book is certainly thoughtful and insightful, which will attract the reader’s interest.

3. The Rape of Nanking 

Author: Iris Chang

Publisher: Basic Books

Pages: 360

This is a book meant for the readers of thrilling adventure. It talks about a very controversial episode in the history of Japan. In this book, the author spells out a brutal massacre, which has been long forgotten but remains hidden in the hearts of many. He talks about the events that occurred in 1937 in the month of December.

During this time, the Japanese troops flocked into the city of Nanking, that was the capital city of China. It is believed than in the weeks to come, more than 3 lakh soldiers and civilians collectively, were subjected to rape, torture and murder.

In this account of barbaric incidents, the author recollects his words from three different perspectives. Because of this, the reader gains a very wide view of the events as they really happened. It is interesting to find revelations made by real life documents and interviews made with survivors, in this thrilling book which presents another side of Japan’s history.

Summary: This book is unlike any which the readers might have come across. Owing to this, it proves to be a very interesting read on the history of Japan.

4. Japan Rising: The Iwakura Embassy to the USA and Europe

Author: Kume Kunitake

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Pages: 558

This book is a compilation of five volumes of travel diaries. The author has inscribed the travel expeditions of various politicians and other eminent personalities around the USA. It is believed that the Iwakura embassy led to a major change in the history of Japan.

In this book, the author uses a very expansive stream of content to arouse the interest of the reader. The structural flow of the story line ensures that the reader never loses sight of the author’s vision and also keeps them engaged.

This book covers the events which led to the ultimate transformation of japan into the nation that it is today. So, for someone who seeks to understand the history of the empowered nation, this book is truly an inspiring read.

This book will find immense use not only for students but also for scholars. The remarkable journey captured in this book is truly the essence of Japan’s rise to power.

Summary: This is a captivating book for the readers who shall rejoice in the abundance of past laid out between the words since this book serves as a source of knowledge to many.

5. Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival

Author: David Pilling

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 432

This book is an essential read for those who want to pick up the history of Japan and its people. It is because the author makes a poignant and fresh paced approach in compiling this text, which is why it has earned many awards and accolades. The state of Japan and its progress leaves many in wonder. Thus, this book serves as an entertaining and engaging read about the strengths and resilience of the country.

There are many instances to show how the country and its political state has impacted its condition today. Thus, the author reports several incidents with accuracy and records responses amid the natural calamity of 2011 to stage his book. So this book might leave many with gaping mouths, nervous at the prospect of getting to know the country from this perspective. So, altogether, this book is a treasure among many.

Summary: The author has made a splendid effort to compile the information in this book. His tenacious efforts are well highlighted throughout its many pages.

6. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

Author: John W. Dower

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company 

Pages: 692

Given the fact that this is a Pulitzer prize winner book, there is little that remains to doubt. This book draws inspiration from several Japanese source documents and photographs, because of which, many extraordinary facts have not come to light.

This is a classic work of non fiction which has been attempted by the author with utmost brilliance since this book includes several instances which highlight the supreme work done by the author. So, the readers will clearly appreciate and enjoy reading this book.

The author makes explorative digs in this book which are worthy of being applauded. Thus, from politics to religion, he explores his narrative from several angles, which gives his readers a comprehensible amount of knowledge and learning of facts. At first glance, this book looks anything but extraordinary. However, as the journey through the words progresses, the readers come to appreciate the engaging text and the sincerity with which the author has portrayed it to them.

Summary: This book is much more than a collection of facts and history. It is a journey, which the reader takes with the author to explore the zenith of written prowess.

7. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present 

Author: Andrew Gordon

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Pages: 464

This book is a rich elucidation of the history of Japan. But at the same time, it manages to present a striking and original portrait of the country which seems to have been the centre of many revolutions. The author travels back in time to the eighteenth and nineteenth century to elaborate on the cultures and experiences which must have shaped the people of Japan as they are today.

The author also spans the time of the world war and the events which unfolded during that time. The fine lines in this book speak about the history of the nation which has suffered many defeats but also gained many revolutions.

Summary: This book is highly interesting to read, especially for someone with a deep rooted interest in history. This is a typical book on Japanese history, though with much weight to its credibility and facts.

In Conclusion

With this, we complete our list of best books on the history of Japan. So, we hope that you will find these books quite interesting to read and stock in your book collection. If you have read another book on the history of Japan, do let us know about it as well.

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