Looking to the past, uncertain about the future: Japan's politics in an era of disaster and stagnation



The Japanese state and society face major challenges due to more than 20 years of economic stagnation and steady political transformation. The books reviewed here dissect a nation in the midst of change: its politics, political economy, and response to the triple disaster of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear incident (commonly referred to by the Japanese as 3.11) in 2011. John Dower considers Japanese difficulty in confronting its wartime past, while Frances Rosenbluth and Michael Thies lay out the broad sweep of Japan's political history. Ellis Krauss and Robert Pekkanen focus an institutional lens on the evolution of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from hegemonic to merely dominant party, while Leonard Schoppa and colleagues examine the emergence of a two-party system since the political shakeup of 1993–1994. Robin LeBlanc employs a gender approach to parse the nature of male values and show how they shape the actions of political candidates and activists. Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill provide an on-the-ground view of individuals reacting to the 3.11 calamity. The McKinsey & Co. collection includes varied articles, from optimistic pieces urging Japan towards a quick rebound to more sober assessments of long-term national decline. Together, these books provide an excellent snapshot of Japan at a metaphorical turning point.