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Modern Japan

A History in Documents

Second Edition

James L. Huffman

Publication Date - July 2010

ISBN: 9780195392531

232 pages
8 x 10 inches

In Stock

The documents provide a truly diverse look at Japan's past, including peasants, women, colonialists, students, artists, and the like, right along with the usual array of elites. This represents the latest approach to the teaching of history. The work blends narrative and documents together in a lively way designed for provocative, accessible use in teaching.


Employing a wide range of primary source materials, Modern Japan: A History in Documents, Second Edition, provides a colorful narrative of Japan's development since 1600. A variety of diary entries, letters, legal documents, and poems brings to life the early modern years, when Japan largely shut itself off from the outside world. A picture essay highlights the tumultuous decade and a half following the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and the U.S. Navy in 1853, which led to unprecedented changes and a new government. The dramatic rush to modernity in the late 1800s and early 1900s--accompanied by Japan's entry into the imperialist rivalry--is seen through travel accounts, novelists' recollections, and imperial rescripts, while editorial cartoons and prison memoirs recount the early twentieth-century rush, first toward pluralism, then toward war. Japan's recovery after defeat in World War II and its emergence as a vibrant democracy with the second largest economy in the world is chronicled through records as diverse as a funeral eulogy, a comic book description of Adam Smith's economic theories, and an e-journal interview. The documents are woven together in a scintillating narrative that brings to life one of the world's most remarkable national stories.

The second edition includes an updated introduction with a note on sources and interpretation and twenty-five new documents including new evidence of Japanese imperialism, especially its expansion into Korea; the role of minorities in modern society; and events since the mid-1990s. There are additional editorial cartoons from the Meiji and Taisho eras, rare photos, archival maps, as well as excerpts from fiction and other literature, and updated further reading and website lists.


  • A mixture of textual and visual documents, including literature, diaries, art, and pop culture, build a textured history of modern Japan
  • Lucid narrative ties the documents together
  • Documents are ideal length for classroom discussion
  • Inviting to visually-oriented students
  • Picture essay "The Old Order Topples: 1853-68"

About the Author(s)

James L. Huffman is H. Orth Hirt Professor of History Emeritus at Wittenberg University. He is the author of several books, including Japan in World History (OUP, 2009), and A Yankee in Meiji Japan: The Crusading Journalist Edward H. House (2003), and the editor of Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism (1997).

Previous Publication Date(s)

December 2004

Table of Contents

    What is a Document?
    How to Read a Document
    Note on Sources and Interpretation

    Chapter One: The Land of Shogun and Daimyo
    A New Order
    Reordering the World
    Life Under the Tokugawa
    The Shogunate Under Challenge

    Chapter Two: Picture Essay: The Old Order Topples: 1853-68
    Japan's Sense of the World
    Perry's Arrival
    A Land in Transition
    Symbols of Change
    Tumultuous Times
    Demise of a Domain Lord

    Chapter Three: Confronting the Modern World: 1868-89
    Envisioning a New World
    Creating a New World
    A New Society

    Chapter Four: Turning Outward: 1890-1912
    Rising Nationalism
    An Expansionist Turn
    A Modern, Urban Society

    Chapter Five: Imperial Democracy, 1912-30
    Modern Times
    Reining in Diversity

    Chapter Six: The Dark Era: 1930-45
    The Militarist Turn

    Chapter Seven: The Reemergence: 1945-70
    An Occupied Land
    The Return to Normal Life
    The Reemergence

    Chapter Eight: Japan as a World Power after 1970
    Surmounting Crises
    Awash in Capital
    Toward a New Century

    Further Reading
    Text Credits
    Picture Credits