The Shortest History of Japan: From Mythical Origins to Pop Culture Powerhouse?The Global Drama of an Ancient Island Nation (Paperback)

The Shortest History of Japan: From Mythical Origins to Pop Culture Powerhouse?The Global Drama of an Ancient Island Nation By Lesley Downer Cover Image

The Shortest History of Japan: From Mythical Origins to Pop Culture Powerhouse?The Global Drama of an Ancient Island Nation (Paperback)

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The story of a small Asian country with extraordinary aesthetic traditions that avoided colonization and overcame the devastation of World War II to become a highly prosperous modern force, while preserving its unique spirit and culture


Zen, haiku, martial arts, sushi, anime, manga, film, video games . . . Japanese culture has long enriched our Western way of life. Yet from a Western perspective, Japan remains a remote island country that has long had a complicated relationship with the outside world.


Even at the nearest point, Japan—an archipelago strung like a necklace around the Asian mainland—is considerably farther from Asia than Britain is from Europe. The sea provides an effective barrier against invasion and has enabled the culture to develop in unique and distinctive ways. During the Edo period, the Tokugawa shoguns successfully closed the country to the West. After Japan opened, it swung in the opposite direction, adopting Western culture wholesale. Both these strategies enabled it to avoid colonization, one of the very few non-Western countries to do so, and to retain its traditions and way of life.


This delightfully readable history will be of interest to people who know nothing about Japan, but also full of insights for those who do, with an aha moment on every page. With a novelist’s eye for color and character, Lesley Downer takes the reader through the great sweep of Japanese history, focusing on the dramatic stories of larger-than-life individuals—from emperors descended from the Sun Goddess to warlords, samurai, merchants, court ladies, women warriors, geisha, and businessmen who shaped this extraordinary modern society.



Lesley Downer is a Japan expert, author, journalist, and historian. She has written four novels, The Shogun Quartet, and several works of nonfiction, including the immersive work of journalism Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha and The Brothers: The Hidden World of Japan’s Richest Family, which was chosen as a New York Times Book of the Year. She has traveled widely and given lectures at the Japan Society New York, at Asia and Japan Societies across the United States, at the Royal Geographic Society and the British Museum in London, and many other venues. She was the historical consultant for Northern Ballet’s spectacular 2020 ballet Geisha and she appears on Age of the Samurai: Battle for Japan (Netflix). She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller.
Product Details ISBN: 9781891011665
ISBN-10: 1891011669
Publisher: The Experiment
Publication Date: July 30th, 2024
Pages: 256
Language: English
Series: Shortest History