Thursday, December 24, 2009

Book Review - Who's who of Japan - 100 historical personages - reviewed by

Publisher: JTB, 1999, 8th Edition.Translated by Dick Belcher
ISBN: 4-533-00798-8
Pages: 191. 

A pocket guide to 100 historical personages of Japan

Copyright. 2007, All rights reserved.

Spread out over four distinct historical time periods, this pocket book covers ancient times, middle ages, pre-modern and the modern age. Focused on detailing the impact of one hundred figures that shaped Japan it details ninety five men and five women. Women pre-dominately played a key role in ancient times as the lives of Himiko, Sei Shonagan, Murasaki Shikibu reveal.

Each person profiled has their own page which shows an illustration, details who they were, what they did, where they lived and their legacy which makes it easy to visit a location in Japan and to visit the same locations & learn more. A rear glossary provides more information about the time periods each person lived in. A historical table also details the sequence of historical affairs and how they unfolded. An index of family names allows the reader to find a particular person quickly and a detailed index covers all parts of the book.

As you read this book you will get a brief insight into each person through their profile and the time period in which they lived. Profiles cover wives, mother’s, writers, poets, military leaders, religious leaders, academics, entrepreneurs, sportsman, politicians, fishermen, rich, poor, criminals & story tellers.

The book is easy to read, light and informative with many illustrations that help convey the main themes. Easily read in a few hours, you will find it hard to put down once you start. Moving through time periods & different locations it is easy to become absorbed and taken away. The profiles really help you to imagine and understand the historical progression of Japan over 1500 years.

What I liked best about this book was it allowed you to quickly get up to speed with key periods, people and events.

Some stand out profiles include Ono no Kamachi, a poet and beauty of the Heian period who resided in Kyoto & whose life is shrouded in mystery. Kinokuniya Bunzaemon an entrepreneur from the 17th century who made a fortune shipping mandarin oranges to Tokyo for New Years Day celebrations and investing in timber when all the houses were made of wood. Nezumi Kozo was a thief who robbed only the rich, dressed in black & eluded capture by striking at night and escaping by roof jumping.

Overall, this small book leaves a big impression and introduces Japanese historical figures in an informative way with illustrations and stories about their lives.

Illustrated - Who’s who of Japan

Rating: *****

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