The Best Books On Japanese History

The Books I Picked & Why

Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present

By Christopher Harding

Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present

Why this book?

This is a thoughtful and well-written account of Japan's history since the Meiji restoration. The book is enlivened by multiple narrative themes, from feminism to socialism, most of which run counter to the official government version of the nation's history.


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An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin's Master Agent

By Owen Matthews

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin's Master Agent

Why this book?

Sorge's biography has been written many times. Matthews' lively account draws on information from declassified Soviet archives. These offer new insight into how Sorge was able to infiltrate the highest levels of Japanese, Chinese, and German society so successfully before and during World War II.


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Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan

By Ian Buruma

Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan

Why this book?

Buruma compares how the Japanese and Germans view their World War II behaviour and actions, with particular attention given to memories of Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Nanking. While Germany was preoccupied after the war with atoning for its past sins, Japan swept them under the carpet. Buruma explains how, why and what this means for today's younger generation.


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The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific

By Alistair Urquhart

The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific

Why this book?

Many British, Australians, Canadians, Dutch, and Americans have written about their appalling treatment by the Japanese as POWs during World War II. Urquhart's account is one of the more compelling, all the more so because he waited for more than 60 years to tell this harrowing, anecdote-rich story.


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Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan's Lost Decades

By William Pesek

Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan's Lost Decades

Why this book?

Willie Pesek has had a bird's eye view of life in Japan for 20 years, most of which time it was suffering from a deep economic malaise. Japanization, subtitled 'What the world can learn from Japan's lost decades,' examines Japan's economic stagnation and offers some solutions that policymakers and others will find useful in the post-pandemic world, no matter where they live.


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