Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sato-san as book critic

I always loved this fellow.** Now I have found yet another reason to admire him:

I have read neither Dower's introductory essay nor Bix's tome [Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan], but I'd like to comment on the latter...

...I think Bix is wrong if his premises include, as Akita says they do, that Hirohito possessed immense powers and, because of his kami ("someone above") status, assumed his commands or demands would be obeyed. The suggestion is that he should have been on top of the list of Japanese war criminals...

Akita does not say whether Bix cites Honjo on the event that changed the course of prewar Japan. But, if Bix does,...Japan Times

I seem to recall Sato-sama criticizing Bix's book years ago in his Japan Times column when he had not read it. My recollection of the book leads me to think that the above overstates what Bix wrote---maybe I'll have to review. And maybe someday Sato will actually read the book and then he would know what Bix wrote and be able to give some valid criticism---something that readers might possibly expect from a person writing a newspaper column.

Akita's book sounds interesting if one ignores Sato:

...Akita relates how and why he decided to adopt a positivist approach and explains what he means by the term as it applies to humanistic studies. He enumerates the difficulties linked with reading primary sources in Japanese by looking at a variety of unpublished and published materials and identifying a major problem in reading published primary sources: the intervention of editors and compilers. He illustrates the pitfalls of such intervention by comparing the recently published seventeen-volume diary of Prime Minister Hara Takashi (1856-1921), a photo reproduction of the diary in Hara's own hand, and an earlier published version. Using documents related to Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922), a figure of central importance in Japan's post-Restoration political history, he demonstrates the use of published and transcribed primary sources to sustain, question, or strengthen some of the themes and approaches adopted by non-Japanese scholars working on modern Japanese history. He ends his inquiry with two "case studies," examining closely the methods of the highly acclaimed American historians John W. Dower and Herbert P. Bix. From the Publisher

Unlike our esteemed Japan Times columnist, we can actually read a book although at the ¥6000 price, nowadays it might be best to hope against hope for a soft-cover.

1:36PM: A little googling results in more information . The impartial Asiatic Society of Japan hosted Professor Akita in November 2003 and provides a very professional write-up of the event here. The Society provided its most devastating insight into the motives of Professor Bix:

On the question of Bix's ideological affiliations, Prof. Akita said that Bix was a disciple of E.H. Norman, and was a member of the Committee of Concerned Scholars who praised Mao's revolution and supported revolution in Asia.

Eeewww!! If that doesn't prove Bix wrong, nothing does. Bix has associated with lefties, and may even be tainted with the stench of Marxists! Friggin' Commie!*

Using that "logic" I wonder if I should buy Akita's book or not? After all, he has proven connections to the Imperial Family through the Asiatic Society of Japan (Prince and Princess Takamado were patrons of the Society. After the Prince's death, the Princess continues in that role). Doesn't that prove something?

*Note that Dower is considered by some to have a somewhat liberal/leftist point of view. Are two examples enough to imagine a bit of a pattern emerging? Could we assume that without reading Akita's book?

ASJ's new site is here.

**April 11: I am referring to Hiroaki Sato who writes the column The View from New York for the Japan Times as well as the occasional Book Review of books he may or may not have read. According to the Japan Times, he is a translator and essayist who lives in New York.

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