The Idea of Japan by Ian Littlewood
Western Images, Western Myths

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A hundred and fifty years ago Japan was a country so remote from the West that it might have existed on another planet. Today its influence touches all of us, yet in the West we know almost as little about it as we did in the days when Henry Adams, visiting Japan, called it “a toy-world.” Ian Littlewood’s Idea of Japan offers a framework for making sense of a culture that puzzles us. His book is about the Japan we encounter when we turn on the television, open a newspaper, or flip through a magazine—the Japan that has been created by the West. “What emerges as we move through a mythical world of subhumans and superhumans, of temples and cherry blossoms, of exotic women and strange fanatical men,” Mr. Littlewood writes, “is a striking picture of how closely our current images of the Japanese are tied to the clichés of the past.” Drawing from a wide range of sources—from the accounts of Jesuit missionaries to the japonisme of the nineteenth century and the images of contemporary Hollywood—he shows why we have too long seen Japan only as a projection of our own fears, dreams, and desires. The Idea of Japan is also a provocative insight into the processes by which we understand, or fail to understand, another culture.

About Ian Littlewood

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Ian Littlewood teaches English at Sussex University, England.
Published January 1, 1996 by SECKER WARBURG. 248 pages
Genres: History, Travel, Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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With the advent of WW II the views of the Allies declined to forthright racism, and today, the author says, Japan has come full circle, being viewed as an economic Yellow Peril.

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