Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival, by David Pilling

By looking at the turning points that shaped modern Japan, Bending Adversity is full of valuable insights into the future of Japan’s place in the world.


UK Edition Cover

Is Japan a unique nation? Are Japanese people and its culture unique in the sense that non-Japanese would never be able to fully understand? If you ever wanted to understand Japan and its relationship with the rest of the world ー both by how Japanese perceive themselves and by foreigners’ attempts at interpreting it ー you have to read this inspiring book by former Financial Times’ Tokyo bureau chief (2001-08) David Pilling (@davidpilling).

The book starts by looking at Japanese people’s formidable resilience in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. It continues to reveal the essence of a country so deeply influenced by its archipelago island status, which shaped the origins of many uniquely Japanese beliefs and the prevalent Japan-centric perspectives.

“If you had time only for one book on Japan, you should start and finish with Pilling’s” – Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods

What surprised me as I read along is the depth of analysis and the breadth the topics this book covered. Through rare interviews conducted with Japanese university professors to current and retired government officials, the entire history of Japan vividly unfolds before the readers: from Japan’s isolationist foreign policies in the Edo period (1603–1867) to its imperialist past during the second world war, to the mindset of ordinary Japanese people after the economic bubble burst in the early 90s’

Whether you are in the “Japan-admiring-camp” or the “Japan-bashing-camp”, you will find deeply satisfying narratives inside this book.

👉Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival
Throughout the book, the author poses a recurring question that whether Japan is able to reinvent itself for the third time after the devastation it experienced in March 2011’s earthquake. We learn the previous two reinventions of Japan happened in the pivotal moments in history: 1) the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) when Japan opened up its ports after more than two hundred years of self-inflicted isolation from the world, and 2) Japan’s export industry’s catch-up efforts which fueled Japan’s post-war economic miracle growth years. Whether you are in the “Japan-admiring-camp” or the “Japan-bashing-camp”, you will find deeply satisfying narratives inside this book.

In this island nation, through the eyes of a foreign journalist and via accounts from first-hand interviews, Pilling explores what defines the Japanese people’s characters and culture that will spill insights into the future of its place in the world. You will find Japan so much more enjoyable even if you just come here as a tourist after you read this book.

You can find the US Edition on US Amazon

Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival, David Pilling
Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival, David Pilling

👉UK Edition on Japan Amazon

I host the podcast series "Culture Eats Japanese For Breakfast". Now available on Spotify or your favorite podcast apps.


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