It is my hope that Asia in Focus: Japan will be an informative and useful introduction for American readers to one of the world’s most important countries. Currently, the rise of two other important Asian countries, the People’s Republic of China and India, seem to have diverted many Americans’ attentions from Japan. Although I would be the last to argue that Americans shouldn’t better understand both of these nations, knowledge of Japan remains crucial for American global literacy for at least three reasons.
Japan remains the world’s second-largest economy in terms of GDP, and Japan and the United States are heavily invested in each other’s well-being. Millions of Americans and Japanese earn their livelihoods from one of the world’s most extensive economic relationships.
Japan is also crucial to the United States because it has been a staunch ally since the end of World War II. In recent years, Japan has supported the United States in several ways in the global struggle against radical Islamic terrorism. Japan’s geographical location in Northeast Asia near some of the world’s most critical hot spots makes the bilateral political relationship vital for the continued peaceful existence of not only Americans and Japanese but many other peoples as well.
In a world made increasingly smaller through technology, it is also important that Americans become more knowledgeable of the significant accomplishments of such non-Western cultures as Japan. Anyone who presumes to have a basic education in the 21st century should be familiar with The Tale of Genji, haiku, Japanese gardens, Zen, and other important elements of Japan’s traditional culture. For at least a decade and a half, Japanese popular culture has been a particular favorite with young people throughout the world. Anime, manga, Hello Kitty, karaoke, and sushi are enjoyed by people everywhere.
No one work can provide in-depth understanding of another culture, but hopefully this book will be of assistance to those readers who want to begin to understand Japan. Asia in Focus: Japan is written for the widest possible audience including businesspeople, educators, high school and university students, school teachers, tourists, and virtually anyone who wants to know more about Japan. Every attempt has been made to provide readers with accurate and fair information.
The book includes chapters on Japan’s geography, history, economy, society, culture, and contemporary issues and problems. There is a resources section that contains a variety of information about Japan including lists of organizations based on the topics of earlier chapters. This compilation of Japan-related organizations features Web sites and addresses on a wide range of subjects for readers with particular interests. The resources section also includes an annotated bibliography for readers who have a special interest in topics that appear in earlier chapters. Since I believe that many of the people who read this book will either travel to Japan or interact with Japanese in the United States, I’ve tried to include practical information in the resources section.
Japanese names are usually ordered with family name first and given name second but exceptions are made in a few cases where individual Japanese use Western style name placement. Diacritics are not used with Romanized Japanese terms. I have traveled to Japan 20 times and have been interested in the country for almost 30 years. Every day, I still enjoy learning more about a culture that has meant so much to me. I hope that in addition to providing information, I have conveyed some of my enthusiasm for Japan in my prose. This book is not my creation alone although I accept responsibility for any of its weaknesses or mistakes. I thank former ABC-CLIO employee Steve Danver, who assisted with the development of the book proposal; series editor Lynn Jurgensen and submissions editor Kim Kennedy-White, who have been professional and patient in their work with me; and other dedicated ABC-CLIO employees who have assisted in this project. I have been associated with ABC-CLIO for almost a decade, and the relationship has been quite positive. I also thank Colleen Simeral of Cadmus Communications for her work. Thanks go to Katie Goss, Lauren Crump, and Peggy Pollock for their hard work in assisting me in the development of this manuscript. Last, but certainly not least, I thank my wife, Charlotte Ellington, for her patience with me while I was working on this project and for her help as well in assisting me in the development of portions of the book.