The 10 Best Japanese History Books

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This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Whether you have a particular interest in Asian cultures, or you're a student or teacher starting a class in the field, the Japanese history books on our list have a lot to offer. Only some of them endeavor to cover the entirety of the country's existence, while many others take a close look at one period or cultural phenomenon in the nation's storied timeline. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. The Making Of Modern Japan

2. Shinsengumi: The Shogun's Last Samurai Corps

3. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Editor's Notes

October 25, 2019:

Japanese history books are as varied and engaging as the country's history. Whether you are looking for a tome that covers a very specific period in great detail, or one that gives a broad overview of nearly every major event and cultural phenomenon in this fascinating county, you can find it on this list.

During our most recent update, we replaced the fourth edition of Modern History: From Tokugawa Times To Present with the fourth edition, to ensure we are recommending the most current textbook to students. We also eliminated A Hundred Years Of Japanese Film because we felt that, in its effort to cover as many films as possible, it didn't delve far enough into each one. Its History And Culture 4th Edition was also removed due to the fact that many readers were finding it too dull, and if you are willing to deal with that kind of dry writing, we believe you will gain more from the extremely comprehensive A History of the Japanese People.

If you want a book that covers nearly as broad a range of topics and time periods as A History of the Japanese People, but in a more abridged and engaging format, we recommend A Concise History of Japan.

The Making Of Modern Japan maintains its position as one of our favorite choices. Encompassing the last 400 or so years, it covers three periods of social and institutional changes in the country and is written in a somewhat academic, yet still engaging, manner. We think most readers will appreciate its unbiased approach to presenting the information, too.

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan is a new addition to the list that covers a period of Japanese history when country underwent some of the most rapid and jarring changes, 1926 to 1989. It places a heavy focus on the lead up to and aftermath of WWII and debunks many of the common myths surround the country's 124th emperor, such as that of him being a powerless constitutional monarch. It would make a great addition to any Pacific war buff's collection of World War II books.

4. Bending Adversity

5. Modern History: From Tokugawa Times To The Present

6. Samurai: An Illustrated History

7. A Concise History of Japan

8. Embracing Defeat

9. "A History of the Japanese People

10. A History of Japan: Revised Edition

Brett Dvoretz
Last updated by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously at the keyboard or, perhaps, enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

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