In the Shogun's Shadow: Understanding a Changing Japan

John Langone, Author, Steven Parton, Illustrator Little Brown and Company $16.95 (202p) ISBN 978-0-316-51409-5
Langone ( Spreading Poison: A Book About Racism ) combines history, facts and his own impressions of Japan in this provocative book, ``an attempt tp peer beneath what is to most Westerners a strange and incomprehensible culture.'' He begins with a list of 100 true/false questions designed to challenge a reader's preconceptions and knowledge of Japan and its people, then plants the answers in his swift, far-ranging text. From early Japanese history to current penal conditions (most prison walls are so low that inmates could vault over them, but escape attempts are rare), his informative discussion is enriched by well-chosen examples and anecdotes. Most interesting are his observations on the pressures and problems challenging young people in a changing Japanese society: he mentions a student who attends an after-school ``cram'' class from five to nine each night, receives two more hours of private guidance, then goes home to do his homework; he quotes Ian Buruma's description of such apparent rebels as teenage rock 'n' rollers as ``outrageous conformists'' who pursue their interests with Japanese thoroughness. Throughout the book, Langone stresses respect for and understanding of the culture, and his balanced tone encourages readers to appreciate a country and a people with different customs and attitudes. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
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