Books: Ritual as Saving Grace

JAPAN: THE FRAGILE SUPERPOWER by FRANK GIBNEY 347 pages. Norton. $10.

Thirty years after World War II, "the greater co-prosperity sphere" in Asia—once the aim of an aggressive Japanese empire—has been achieved by Japan Inc., a vast army of devoted, disciplined businessmen. To Americans the Japanese too often appear as some sort of grotesque national parody—crowds of transistor salesmen with kamikaze pilots' scarves, legions of passionate new consumers teeming on a string of islands which are about to sink beneath their growing population and industrial swill.

The stereotype, insists Frank Gibney in this provocative...

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