History of Japan

The Most Important People, Places and Events in Japanese History. From Japanese Art to Modern Manga. From Asian Wars to Modern Superpower.
By: Rui Kanda
Narrated by: William Bahl
Length: 2 hrs and 9 mins
Categories: History, Asia
4.0 out of 5 stars (41 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Now tell us - did you ever like Japan? Do you know anything about its history, or just what you learned from television and anime, in general? That's a good starting point, anyway. If you want to delve deeper into Japanese history, in chronological order, and see the main events that transformed Japan into what it is today, you've just hit the jackpot.

What will you learn from this book? Among others:

  • The main stages in Japanese history, from the most ancient, the Jomon period to Imperial Japan. Each of them will be explained so that everybody can understand them, without technical terms that harden the absorption of information.
  • Japan during the Middle Ages
  • Everything about shoguns, shogunates and all other forms of governance
  • The situation in Japan during World War II and after that
  • The most important battles between Japan and the United States of America
  • The fall of the Empire of Japan
  • Japanese politics
  • The catastrophic Japanese deflation that ruined the economy for decades on end
  • Japanese culture and what makes it so unique in the world
  • Valuable information on anime and manga as distinct avatars of Japanese culture
  • Tourism in Japan and why it is so important for the economic growth of the state

This book is for you, no matter if you are a student or a professor, or you just want to learn more about Japanese culture and history.

©2017 Lean Stone Publishing (P)2017 Lean Stone Publishing

What listeners say about History of Japan

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Everybody knew, and everybody was wrong.

Yes, I think It will be a good match. I sense that I will match with the instructor's acculturation of Japanese. I am a southerner but have been exposed to Japanese language and Japanese culture for over 30 years. The instructor uses english with a Japanese grammatical construct, and hand expressions that seem Japanese to me based on my experience with my Japanese instructor in my chef career. I have similar physical expression that is Japanese when talking english with my Japanese business associates. I hope to learn fluency in Japanese I so I can express verbally the culture the I am already introduced to.

20 people found this helpful

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The definitive work

The “Civil War of Wa,” as it came to be known in Japanese history, was indeed real, as proven by The Record of the Three Kingdoms. This bloody conflict was perhaps necessary in giving Japan the boost it needed in order to evolve. It is quite odd that no archaeological evidence of this war was found in Japan, but that does not mean it did not take place. The most important aspect about Japan during this time is that it became the future of what we see today. The people shifted from a mentality of hunters and gatherers and grew “domestically,” in the sense that they became increasingly more sedentary. If the two documents mentioned above are genuine, then this paradigm shift also initiated a long civil war between the multitudes of clans on the peninsula. There was a clear-cut distinction between social ranks now. Common people, for instance, were buried separately, not with the social elite (the various leaders of the different clans). The Japanese started to live in proper houses and subsequently formed several communities/villages. Moreover, these communities led to the formation of particular clans. These clans waged war against each other more than in one occasion, most of the times spurring conflicts that lasted for hundreds of years. In 250 AD, the Yaoyi period reached its end, ushering in the Kofun period, which belongs to a cluster of groups known as the Yamato.

16 people found this helpful

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Culture and history intertwined

A very entertaining course. I have always been fascinated with the westernization and modernization of Japan. I love how Bahl has taken the whole theme of globalization and incorporated that into the narrative of Japanese civilization and culture. Prof is clear about a constructive humanly-possible plan...

11 people found this helpful

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Good to understand how American see Japan

In the 21st century, we can talk retrospectively about superpowers, kingdoms, and empires. We can immediately recognize the greatest countries in the world. With all these, the vast majority of people do not have a clue why a particular state was once an empire. How did it came to be a gigantic landmark not only in the context of its own history but in the history of humankind as a whole? Today, the mere sound of the word “Japan” summons images of samurais, the anime that have taken the entire world by storm, the Japanese writing that seems alien language to an outsider, geishas and the rather modest Japanese traditional houses, with their frugal furnishings. But there is so much more to this country than anyone could ever imagine. For starters, traces of human inhabitance in Japan go as far as the Paleolithic period, so approximately 40,000 years ago. At some point during history, Japan was completely isolated from the rest of the world. The Japanese did not appear any less peculiar to Europeans than the Amerindian peoples found in South America by the Spanish. It was clear that they possessed a culture so different and rich in comparison with anything the Europeans had seen until then.

8 people found this helpful

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A thorough walk through Japan

The Yaoyi period can be best described by a surge in metallurgy and a continuous social development. It is during this time that the Japanese people starts living in communities (in the modern sense) and builds houses with wood and rocks. The cultivation of rice was in bloom and ensured a quite impressive livestock to the tens of thousands of people that co-existed on the peninsula. Of all the stages of ancient Japanese history, none has been as controversial as the Yaoyi. Researchers are still at a loss in respect with reaching a consensus on when exactly this period began and when it ended, as well as on who were the Yaoyi people, because their physiognomy was relatively different than that of the Jomon people. The Yaoyi culture was considerably more varied than that of the Jomon. They had tools made out of iron, ceramics, a more developed pottery and rice, which accounts for the demographic growth from thousands to millions. The fact that the population was introduced to iron tools (especially agrarian ones) led to a better management of food, as well as of the community. The population, as we’ve seen, continued to grow to incredible numbers towards the late period of the Jomon period. Agriculture played a crucial role in making this possible.

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Great context for a visit

Fantastic! Incredibly engaging overview of Japan which uses history and culture to explain where Japan came from and what it looks like today. I downloaded this course as soon as my company moved me to Japan and have had a much better appreciation for this country since understanding the nuances explained in this course. Thanks Professor Rui Kanda for making this foreign culture understandable and accessible!

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Great all around

I got this course expecting it to be largely a history (which is what I was looking for) but there was much additional information on various cultural aspects spread across Japanese history. Not what I was expecting, but an excellent series regardless.

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Very informative with great voice

The author/narrator is a professor whose expertise on Japan is simply and coherently communicated to the listener.

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Good way to learn about Japan.

Gives a breadth of background across the long sweep of known history in Japan. Particularly helpful as preparation for visiting the major historical sites. Especially notable is an interesting coverage of the very different varieties of Buddhism practiced through Japanese history.

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An unconventional, yet impressive history telling

I really appreciated the selection of topics discussed throughout the course. The narrative is extremely well detailed and the course as a whole is a great way to summarize more than 2000 years of history of a great nation

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  • Jesse Cordeiro
  • 09-14-20

this complex and mesmerizing culture, beautifully

Brilliant insight of this complex and mesmerizing culture, beautifully narrated. This course is a delight to listen to with a lot of information and a great narrator. My only complaint is that there is no PDF booklet to accompany the course like the other Great Courses. Hope it shows up soon!!!

22 people found this helpful

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  • Jesse Lee
  • 09-15-20

Not Just the Bare Bones

The mystery surrounding them was further enhanced by their incredibly developed politics, their steadfastness and efficiency in maneuvering swords and their eerie religion. Throughout the ages, Japan went through six stages: ancient, classical, medieval, early modern, modern and contemporary. Each of these has endured for hundreds of years. Multiple dynasties have been in charge, and uncountable emperors have reigned over this surreal realm. If you are interested in finding out more about Japan, and not the Japan we all know today, but the one that is still enveloped in the fog of the ages, you will be able to acquire that knowledge by reading this book. We will study each of the six stages in Japanese history, with an emphasis on the most important events in them. We will see how Japan was shaped to become what it is nowadays. Even though we could start with Japan during the Paleolithic age, we will jump directly to ancient Japan. And that is not because the Paleolithic Japan would not matter – you should be familiar with the fact that the first man-made tools were found on Japanese territory – but because not many things are known about it. And that is the case with pretty much every other country one would study from a historical point of view. Let us then proceed on this long journey, from ancient Japan to that of the 21st century.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Barbara
  • 09-18-20

Development and analysis of Japan

This is my first listen to the series and it was overwhelming in its depth and detail in various subjects surrounding Japan. There is so much information and it's presented in easy 2 hrs and 9 mins lectures to digest slowly and reflect on the notes. The presentation was excellent and the narration was perfect. I enjoyed the pacing and found the content engaging throughout thanks to the lecturer's sincere interest in Japanese culture and the intonation was spot on with how I remember college lectures, which should be appropriately a no-brainer considering that's what this is. I recommend this course for anyone with an interest in Japanese history. I learned so much and I'm definitely going to listen again to individual lectures.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Micheal Pickering
  • 09-20-20

Very good set of lectures

I thought I knew Japan really well already before I listened to this book. But the author takes it to another level where things can be entertaining while they are also very informative. It was great, both the tone of the narrator and the story of Japan in this lecture. This is an intelligently oriented rapid fire look at japan that touches on basically every cornerstone of its history and culture from the first emperor to today. The professor has a good voice and a lot of inflection that keeps the vocals from getting stale. I was sometimes left wanting more from certain lectures or more depth in certain areas, but that is just the nature of such an overarching history. Worth every minute in my opinion! This narrator is someone I'll certainly look for in the future. He's got an excellent cadence, great pacing and and he is very easy to listen to. The content itself is great as well, I learned a lot in easily digestible bites. I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in Japan's history & culture and an overall idea how it was shaped.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Dorothea
  • 09-22-20

My favorite of The Great Courses presentations

Although this wasn't what I expected, I ended up loving it. It was a mix of history and culture - I see some reviewers have expected one or the other, and been disappointed. One thing I thought was particularly interesting here was that he addressed the historical topics chronologically but used each of them as a jumping off point to discuss some aspects of Japanese culture. This would be especially good listening for someone planning a visit to Japan.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jessica
  • 09-24-20

An absolutely fantastic survey course

The rupture of the archipelago from the continental shore, led to an explosion in population. As one may expect, this occurrence would have had catastrophic outcomes were it not for such an abundance of food. Luckily, the odds were not against the Jomon people. Soon enough, the inhabitants started to develop their inchoate architecture. Subsequently, they began constructing pit-houses, shelters dug in the ground and covered with roofs. Although such a construction does not really inspire trust, pit-houses were actually very efficient in keeping the people safe from rain. The contact with Korea, much later in the Jomon period, towards the end of it, was beneficial for two primary reasons: the Jomon people learned how to cultivate rice (a ground-breaking change at the time) and how to work with metal. Needless to say, the expertise on metalworking automatically facilitated the manufacturing of better tools and improved weaponry. In 300 BCE, the Jomon transitioned to the period in ancient Japanese history known as the Yaoyi.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anderson
  • 09-24-20

Covers Everything

Fantastic Lecture! You can hear the professor's passion he has for the subject matter when he speaks!

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  • Lindsay
  • 09-24-20

Great Knowledge

After 28 years in Japan, there was still much for me to learn from this course. Professor Rui Kanda did an excellent job presenting a very wide topic in clear, understandable lessons. His explanation of the Japanese language, I felt, was second to none.

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  • Timothy
  • 09-22-20

Entertaining yet profoundly informative

Not only does this course provide insights into Japanese culture, it engages the listeners with enchanting stories and a sense of love for Japan. Even people knowledgeable of Japan will learn something new. The course is not a dry lecture but a engaging story that makes it hard not binge listen the whole course in a couple of days.

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  • Kenneth Jones
  • 09-22-20

Good overview, very academic

Great overview of a culture that has been a blindspot in my knowledge of history.