cover image Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival

Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival

David Pilling. Penguin Press, $29.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-59420-584-2

Financial Times Asia editor Pilling draws on his own experiences, as well as interviews with novelists, academics, politicians, former prime ministers, executives, bankers, activists, and citizens young and old to provide a probing and insightful portrait of contemporary Japan. Covering the country’s history, politics, culture, economy, society, and foreign policy, he begins with the “triple disaster” of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown to explore how Japan confronts adversity and adapts to difficult circumstances. According to Pilling, Japan’s reluctance to end its isolation has long shaped its foreign policy, so that even with its former economic dominance, “it lacked geopolitical clout.” Though the country’s extraordinary economic success in the 1970s and ’80s made its collapse in 1990 harder to bear, Pilling argues that Japan has handled its economic stagnation better than expected, maintaining its social cohesion and high standard of living. As the interviewees attest, Japan is changing, particularly for the young, who have no guarantee of lifetime (or even regular) employment, and who describe themselves as socially responsible and more civic-minded than previous generations. Pilling concludes that Japan’s economic deflation, declining fertility, and rapidly aging population mirror worldwide trends in other developed countries, and the world has much to learn from Japan’s failures and successes. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta, Zoe Pagnamenta Agency. (Mar.)