Books June 2011

Book Reviews

Edited by Alisa Gaunder / Routledge / ¥15,177

The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

This weighty tome, which has 32 chapters by no less than 36 contributors from around the world, is a detailed and comprehensive reference source that covers most aspects of the Japanese political sphere. The book is divided into five sections: domestic politics, civil society, social and public policy, political economy policymaking, and international relations and security. However, the length of the chapters—almost all between eight and 12 pages—makes the volume ideal for dipping into when looking for information on a particular subject.

While the emphasis is on the state of the contemporary Japanese political scene, each of the first four sections opens with a chapter giving the historical context of the subject.

The chapter on the Liberal Democratic Party by Chuo University Professor Steven R Reid stands out with an insightful look into how the party stayed in power so long, despite a lack of popularity and, sometimes, a lack of votes. Reid points out that, although the LDP managed to stay in power for most of more than half a century from 1955, it scored only three unambiguous election victories: in 1980, 1986 and 2005.

By Dean Cunningham / Prentice Hall Life (Pearson) / £10.99

Pure Wisdom—The simple things that transform everyday life

Set out in 60 short chapters with titles such as Trust, Let Go, Stretch and Forgive, the book seeks to provide simple adjustments that can be made to people’s outlook to help them navigate the everyday stresses and strains of life.

Through its succinct and straightforward language and style, the book fortunately is not laden with the psychobabble and convoluted buzzwords that pepper much of the self-help genre.

The title doesn’t deliver any groundbreaking philosophies that might lead to spiritual nirvana, but neither does it pretend to do so. Most of the advice in the book comes under the category of things we know we should do—but usually don’t.

The author is a former international karate competitor—winner of tournaments in both the fighting and forms side of the martial art—who worked and trained in Tokyo for five years, which included a year studying Japanese at Keio University.

(Full disclosure: I have known Dean Cunningham for 25 years.)

By Lucien Ellington / ABC-CLIO / £60.00

Asia in Focus: Japan

One book in a series of three volumes (that also cover China and the Koreas), this ambitious work of 450-plus pages attempts to cover almost every aspect of Japan, including history, economy, culture, language, religion and education.

The author, a professor at the University of Tennessee, has done an admirable job in distilling a vast subject into readable sections, with sidebars on many topics of particular interest. In addition, at the back of the book is a 70-page section featuring a glossary, statistics and a list of Japan-related organisations in-country and around the world. The book’s one relatively minor shortcoming concerns the photographs, which are fairly unimaginative, given the wide and rich subject matter available.

BCCJ ACUMEN has one free copy of each of these books to give readers. To apply, please send an email by 25 June to: Winners will be picked at random.