The Japanese

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Previously published in Great Britain as INSIDE JAPAN, this book has a noticeably British slant insofar as Japan is compared here most frequently to the United Kingdom, whether the topic is pasture land, weather conditions, populations, or prices of commodities. Furthermore, the editors at E.P. Dutton have made no attempts to modify the book for its American audience, having chosen to leave in spelling and punctuation according to the Queen’s English. While this is not like serving bloodpudding to lovers of Jello, it may bother some Americans--just as may Tasker’s obvious dislike for the United States. The American government, for example, has become “a money junkie, relying on regular fixes of Japanese capital to fund its gargantuan internal deficit,” Tasker asserts.

In 1985 Japan, a debtor nation since World War II, became the world’s largest creditor nation, a distinction the United States lost while becoming the world’s largest debtor. By 1995, moreover, Japan’s overseas assets will have quintupled to $500 billion, making it the largest provider of capital ever. Yet the country and its people remain enigmatic to most of the world. What beliefs and practices, ancient and modern, make Japan so successful in business? How is it that their society--individuals, groups, and classes--seem to function so peacefully well? Tasker does an admirable job in attempting to answer these and many other questions, as he discusses--among other things--the Japanese as ambitious but insecure people, their lockstep educational system, their government bureaucracies, their love of pornography, their one-party politicians, their polite gangsters, and their unimaginably overcrowded living conditions.

Pithy, provocative, and enjoyable, this book is valuable to a world doing business with Japan.