The Shortest History of Japan

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Everyone who has ever visited Japan says it feels 'different'. It is a small island nation with few natural resources, limited space and a history of swinging between isolation and openness to the outside world. This past has produced an extraordinary aesthetic culture that has inspired artists, architects, writers and thinkers worldwide.

This brilliantly distilled and entertaining history takes the reader from Japan's prehistoric beginnings right up to the present day. It offers a captivating introduction for readers who know nothing about Japan while being full of insights for the Japan specialist, with an aha! moment on every page.

Lesley Downer takes the reader through the great sweep of Japanese history, focusing on the dramatic stories of the colourful characters who populate it. She traces the flowering of Buddhism, the country's complex relationship with the rest of the world, and the extraordinary creativity that produced the world's first novel and the art of Hokusai, among much else. She brings in issues of contemporary interest, such as how Japan managed to avoid colonisation. Along the way, she explains the history and significance of Japan's unique traditions, from samurai and geisha to kabuki and the tea ceremony. She ends by considering where the future might take Japan, as it navigates new challenges and takes on a new role as the world's capital of cool, home of manga and anime, street fashion, Nintendo and Pokemon.