Churchill's quotation on Russia is perhaps more appropriately addressed to
Japan. For those of us who love the country, and the people, you will know
that Japan presents a constant lifelong learning journey full of magical
surprises, and not without frustration, when one discovers that what one
thought one knew, suddenly seems different.

The last book, until this new offering by Alan Macfarlane, that took me on
such a journey was published in 1917, namely the observations made by the
zoologist Edward S. Morse between 1877 and 1883, post Meiji Restoration.
The Japan that he described in such detail is still recognisable today and
his detailed commentary helps one to understand the origins of much of what
may be called the essence of Japan. However his book is best appreciated by
those who already know Japan well through many visits and much interaction.

Alan Macfarlane's book importantly goes beyond observations. As a historian
and world leading anthropologist at Cambridge University he has developed a
truly unique perspective from a lifetime of studying cultures. In this book
he has touched the elusive soul of Japan and presented it in a manner that
is both intellectually provocative and penetratingly revealing. It offers
the less well informed reader a chance to understand the myriad facets of
the Japanese people from the comfort of your own sitting room. His engaging
style is learned, yet easy to understand and full of subtle nuances that
tinkle across the piano keys of the mind.

I challenge anyone to read this book and remain unfascinated by Japan and
untempted to make a visit. At the very least you will have been taken on an
unforgettable journey.

Mutual understanding between the people of different nations smooths the
effect of tectonic plate movements between civilisations that historically,
and currently, have lead to conflict on the one hand and development of
humanity on the other. At the very least this book helps us understand more
about Japan than any other book since Morse.

Alan's lasting contribution to learning and civilisation has come from many
books that he has written, available on Amazon, and this book is another
great masterpiece. Read this and be prepared to be enlightened, amused and
intrigued. Then go on and read his other books.....your perspective on life
will never be the same.

I write with particular appreciation since I deal with Japanese culture and
civilization daily in my work at Asia House. I am also married to a
Japanese wife and my children are fascinated by Japan. I have also worked
as an investment banker in Japan. So I can apply Alan Macfarlane's insights
to my various experiences.

NOTE: Examples of Alan Macfarlane's anthropological work can be found on or YouTube (under 'ayabaya').

Stefan Kosciuszko
Chief Executive
Asia House
24th August 2007