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Lincoln Allison, emeritus reader in politics, University of Warwick, is reading Mikiso Hane’s Japan, A Short History (Oneworld, 2017 printing).

When in Tokyo . . . I am one of many who must read the history of the country they are in and Hane’s version is the leading contender for Japan. He was a Californian of Japanese extraction who lived from 1922 to 2003. The book does the business if you want to know how a Shogunate became an empire or how the world’s friendliest and politest people have sometimes seemed to be the world’s cruelest, then Hane’s balanced account of the religious and military strains in Japanese culture will help. It is, however, a bald, if convincing, narrative. It is not well written and there is no sense of the author having any kind of grand and clear vision of Japanese history. To use a word I have rarely used in book reviews it is functional; it serves its purpose.

(Lincoln Allison for “What I’m Reading” in Tim,es Higher Education.)