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The Bellinghman

#255 George Mikes: The Land of the Rising Yen

George Mikes: The Land of the Rising Yen

Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; (19 Mar 1970)
ISBN-10: 0140036792
ISBN-13: 978-0140036794
Category(ies): Ethnography

Mikes is rightly well known for his portraits of different cultures. Here he addresses Japan for the second time.

It's more serious than some. He's examining a society that, a mere fourteen years before the time of writing, was still in the throes of the Second World War. One of the most alien societies that the Western World had ever come up against. And yet, in not much more than a decade, it had transformed itself, renouncing war, and turning into the economic powerhouse of East Asia.

As a book, it's somewhat dated, because a lot of what he shows has moved on. It's now four decades further on, and much has changed again. But at the same time, this book a valuable depiction of a point on Japan's journey from de facto military dictatorship (although supposedly democratic before the war, the Minister for War was always supplied by the army, and could not be dismissed - and it was the army that kept wanting to go to war) to an actual democracy. Being Mikes, he does draw his usual charming sketches. It's obvious that he admires the Japanese people enormously, and he does a sympathetic job.

It would be interesting to see another writer's opinions from the same period, but this remains a snapshot of a country in the middle of enormous change.
Tags: books, reviews

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