Chameleon Country

Forget about i-mode, the walkman or even karaoke. Japan's real genius, Ian Buruma explains in Inventing Japan: 1853-1964, has been inventing—and reinventing—itself with a speed that has astonished, amused and terrified the world. For example, he writes, just a generation after topknotted samurai pleaded with U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry to take his "black ships of evil" back where they came from, Japanese statesmen in tailcoats were cheerfully entertaining Western diplomats with rounds of whisky and whist.

As much psychology as history, Inventing Japan is a brisk, penetrating look at the rise and fall and rise of a nation...

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