The focus of this book is on contemporary Japan and the events that happened in the second half of 2004 and the first half of 2005 against the background of its history for the past 150 years.
This island-country originally called Nippon or Nihon is made of four islands along with many small islands attached to the main ones. Tokyo is the capital and was witness to a terrible earthquake on September 1, 1923 followed by a devastating fire. Of greater relevance to us in India is that Rabindranath Tagore was specially responsible for arousing Japanese interest in India during his three visits in 1916, 1924 and 1929 respectively to Japan. Rash Bihari Bose and Subhas Chandra Bose were the other two unforgettable names in the history of Indo-Japanese relations. The latter regarded Japan as an ally in fighting the British during the World War II.
The author, an academician at the Institute of Developing Economies at Tokyo from 1959-1991, begins his book by tracing the history of his nation during the Yayoi period.
The author writes in detail in the first two chapters about the Edo period which lasted till 1867. For most of the time Japan was closed to the outside world except for maintaining restricted trade with the Chinese and the Dutch. Here the author digresses to talk of Ando Shoeki (1703-62), who was an unbending critic of feudalism. He was a doctor who respected the self-cultivating peasants and criticised the samurai and the priest, saying that it ?was unnatural and foolish that those who were fed by others should govern and preach, while those who feed the others should be governed.? He propagated that both Buddhism and Confucianism subscribed to false teachings ?designed to justify the domination of the common people by their superiors.? He wanted the people to be self-sufficient in grains, rice, fish and timber so that there would be no rich or no poor, and no superior or inferior. Here the author pays tribute to Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901), the leading ideologue of Meiji Japan.
The author talks of the year 1853 when an American fleet arrived at the Tokyo Bay to put pressure on the Japanese government to open up the country. Soon they were joined by almost all the European sea powers and hence Japan had to open up in 1858.
The author also talks of the appointment of the International Military Tribunal for Far East against Japan, where the emphasis was on detecting how Japan had declared war on the United States.
Another interesting aspect of this book is that the author admits that while the Chinese were countering the Japanese attack, Japan tired to ?invade the north-eastern part of India in what is known as ?Operation Imphal? in Japan, presumably to cut off the land route from Ledo (now Arunachal Pradesh) to Burma and China. It cost Japan ultimately Burma itself.? He also talks of the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and then three days later of Nagasaki on August 9.
(National Book Trust, India, A-5 Green Park, New Delhi-110 016.)