A History of the Japanese People

A History of the Japanese People is a comprehensive history of the Japanese Empire from its mythological beginnings up to the date of publication in 1912. Because the copyright has expired, it can be downloaded free, which is very convenient for anyone who wishes to learn more about the earliest Japanese history.  Naturally, this book cannot cover more recent events, including World War II and after, but the lack is more than made up for by the authors’ exhaustive coverage of Ancient, Medieval, and early modern Japan.

The first chapters do drag a bit as the authors describe the mythological history of prehistoric Japan. The myths and legends are rather disordered and the names of the gods are confusing and repetitive. Once they move on to firmer ground, the story becomes more engrossing.

Despite the excellent quality of this work, two weaknesses made the book less than completely satisfactory. First, the kindle edition does not include the illustrations or the maps. I could do without the illustrations, but at least one map of the Japanese islands would have enabled me to follow the events better, especially the military campaigns.  The second weakness is that in a comprehensive history such as this, there are many unfamiliar (to the Western reader) names and terms and it is sometimes difficult to remember them all. A glossary would have been helpful. Despite these weaknesses, I highly recommend this book.

I might add, not as part of the review, in light of later events in Japanese history, it is a bit chilling to read the authors defense of Japanese aggressions in Manchuria and Korea, especially when they suggest that the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910 was for the benefit of the Korean people. I think few Koreans would agree with that sentiment.

The Decline and Fall of Asia

Walter Russel Mead has identified an important trend that will surely lead to the destruction of the formerly vibrant economies of East Asia.

But this latest news from New York Times makes it official: Asia’s decline has begun. Asia’s biggest companies are sending their brightest executives to American style MBA programs.

Fueled by an appetite for growth, corporations in China, India and other markets in Asia are sending an army of managers and executives to Western business schools to groom future leaders. U.S. and European business schools, meanwhile, are cashing in on the growing roster of clients from cash-rich companies and strengthening ties with the markets and people driving the world economy.

The rise of business schools in America led to greedy CEOs milking their companies for multimillion dollar benefit packages, to weird financial market transactions that took down some of the biggest names in American business, and to one destructive management fad after another that left dozens of American companies as hollowed out shells.  Business school grads also pioneered exotic new tax dodges that helped bulk up the federal deficit, to say nothing of the kind of corporate ruthlessness that hollowed out the US industrial base in record time.

They are doomed. To make sure though, Mead has one more suggestion.

The next step? We need to sell them on the need to build law schools.  Lots of them.

That would be going too far. I wouldn’t wish a plague of lawyers on our worst enemies.

China Then and Now

The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck

In my copy of “The Good Earth“, Pearl Buck‘s Nobel Prize winning novel about China before the revolution of 1912, there is a reader’s supplement and study guide, which includes photographs taken in China taken about a hundred years ago. Judging from these pictures, life in China really hasn’t changed all that much. People think of China as the next, great superpower, and China is modern and prosperous in the coastal cities. In the interior, rural areas, however, there are still millions of people living in desperate poverty.