Rediscovering America: Japanese Perspectives on the American Century

Rediscovering America: Japanese Perspectives on the American Century

Rediscovering America: Japanese Perspectives on the American Century

Rediscovering America: Japanese Perspectives on the American Century

Synopsis

In this extraordinary collection of writings, covering the period from 1878 to 1989, a wide range of Japanese visitors to the United States offer their vivid, and sometimes surprising perspectives on Americans and American society. Peter Duus and Kenji Hasegawa have selected essays and articles by Japanese from many walks of life: writers and academics, bureaucrats and priests, politicians and journalists, businessmen, philanthropists, artists. Their views often reflect power relations between America and Japan, particularly during the wartime and postwar periods, but all of them dealt with common themes--America's origins, its ethnic diversity, its social conformity, its peculiar gender relations, its vast wealth, and its cultural arrogance--making clear that while Japanese observers often regarded the U.S. as a mentor, they rarely saw it as a role model.

Excerpt

Ever since the Frenchman Michel-Guillaume Crèvecoeur wrote his famous Letters from an American Farmer (1782), foreign visitors and sojourners in the United States have been alternately attracted and repelled, dazzled and distressed, inspired and irritated, awed and angered by their encounters with America. For Crèvecoeur, the country was full of promise. It welcomed all comers to its shores, and it offered them opportunities they could not find at home. “Here,” he wrote, “individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great change in the world.” Unlike most visitors, Crèvecoeur chose to become part of that “new race” and spent much of his adult life on his farm in New York.

For other outsiders, however, America was a country rife with flaws and contradictions. Even if impressed by American freedom, openness, and energy, visitors were also appalled by American vulgarity, materialism, and racism. “What can be said about America, which simultaneously horrifies, delights, calls forth pity, and sets examples worthy of emulation, about a land which is rich, poor, talented and ungifted?” wrote two visitors from the Soviet Union in the 1930s. “It is interesting to observe this country, but one does not care to live in it.” Perhaps Crèvecoeur himself might have benefited from their perspective. When he returned to his farm in 1783 after a three-year absence in France, he found his house . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.