Three Tigers, One Mountain: A Journey Through the Bitter History and Current Conflicts of China, Korea, and Japan

Michael Booth. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-11406-8
Journalist Booth (Super Sushi Ramen Express) explores East Asian power dynamics in this entertaining yet glib account. While the region’s three strongest democracies (South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan) “ought to be the firmest of allies” aligned against China’s superpower aspirations, according to Booth, wars, colonialism, and deep-seated ethnic distrust add up to a “noxious pan-regional family feud” that shows no sign of abating. He explains how the 1937 Rape of Nanjing, visits by conservative Japanese politicians to a Tokyo shrine that includes war criminals, and Korea’s postcolonial agonies contribute to regional discord; describes the opening of Japan to the West by 19th-century U.S. naval captain Commodore Perry; and touches on lighter subjects such as Taiwan’s profound influence on fashion, design, and food trends in mainland China. Though Booth does a credible job getting expert opinions—often from British expatriates who’ve taught in the region for decades—his mix of witty travelogue and adept historical recaps doesn’t allow any single facet to be explored in great detail. Cheerfully digressive and intellectually undisciplined, this enthusiastic account will whet readers’ appetites for a more in-depth treatment of the political, cultural, and historical forces at play in the region. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/24/2020
Release date: 04/14/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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