America and the Four Japans was published in 1994 by Stone Bridge Press. I wrote it on the
encouragement of my good friend and editor, Peter Goodman, who thought there
was room for yet another book on Japan. The idea was to present Americans, in particular, with a
concise, unbiased primer on U.S.-Japan relations. The introduction to America and the Four Japans
best describes its purpose. I've reproduced it below in its entirety:
"No one ever tried harder than the American writer Lafcadio Hearn to
understand Japan. Yet in 1891, a year after going to Japan to live
there permanently, he wrote, "I am beginning to think I was a fool
to write a book about Japan at all. My best consolation is that
every year other people write books about Japan on the strength of a
trip only;--and that excuse is very bad."
For over a hundred and fifty years Americans, like Hearn, have been
fascinated, even obsessed, with Japan. And in that time the Japan we
have known has changed dramatically. First it was a quaint feudal
nation. Then it became a small but rapidly modernizing Asian state,
which quickly mushroomed into an empire and a mortal enemy. Then,
almost overnight, it was transformed into a faithful ally and a
source of shoddy but inexpensive products. Now Japan is an economic
and technological juggernaut, increasingly said to hold the key to
our future. Not surprisingly, Americans have written hundreds, if
not thousands of books about Japan in an attempt to understand it.
But Japan remains shrouded in fog.
I believe it is as important to understand the different roles Japan
plays in the American mind as it is to understand Japan itself. It
is, after all, these roles--our perceptions--of Japan that define
our relationship. They determine not only how we deal with Japan,
but even how Japan behaves toward us. They create the reality. This
book was therefore written as a guide to, and a commentary on, four
of these roles--on Japan as a friend, foe, model, and mirror.
The first half of the book is about how close Japan and America have
become, and how far apart we remain; about the sources of our
friendship and our conflicts. It is also an attempt to go back to
the basics--to "square one"--and as such it includes some history as
well as personal observations. To old "Japan hands" much here may be
familiar, but I believe it is important to periodically review how
we got where we are today.
The second half of this book is about the rewards, problems, and
pitfalls of trying to emulate Japan, as well as some of the ways
Americans can use Japan to better understand themselves. It contains
more personal opinion, and speculation. Throughout the book,
however, the goal is the same, and that is to explore the larger
question of what Japan means to America.
As Hearn might have asked, What's my excuse for writing a book on
Japan? I first went to Japan in 1965 at the age of fifteen and have
been deeply involved with it ever since. Today I live in the United
States and proudly consider it my home in the true sense of the
word, but I have an equal number of friends in both nations. For
nearly twenty years I have been working with Japanese and American
people not only as a writer, but as a professional translator and
interpreter, trying to communicate thoughts across the cultural
divide. As an interpreter, I have seen horrendous cultural
misunderstandings, arguments, and near fist-fights erupt over
matters both trivial and vital, and I have seen people who were
convinced they did not like each other form fast friendships. As a
translator, I have been able to peer into slower written worlds
where radically different logic and assumptions are employed, and to
delight in the differences. The opinions in this book, then, are not
those of someone from the world of business or academia or politics,
but from the front lines of communications between Japan and
American; from the trenches, if you will.
It was hard to write knowledgeably and well about Japan in Lafcadio
Hearn's day, and it may be even harder now. Like the United States,
Japan is a highly dynamic and complex nation, an aggregate of
millions of individuals with independent personalities and views.
Making generalizations about it, therefore, becomes like tip-toeing
through a minefield, trying to move forward in the right direction,
while trying to avoid the booby traps of irresponsibility. Writing
about Japan also involves walking down the same road so many others
have, and trying to observe the same scenery from a slightly
In recent years books on Japan have tended to be polemic in style
and to fall into one of two camps--those written by critics of
Japan, and those written by its admirers. I have never felt
comfortable with this dualism. Believing that there is need for a
concise, straightforward work that keeps to the middle of the road,
I have made a point of looking at the big picture and of focusing on
basic commonalities and differences.
It might seem odd that I concentrate almost exclusively on Japan and
America and rarely use the broader terms "East" or "West." Why, in
this age of interdependence, do I so ignore the rest of the world?
The first answer is that for both economic and political reasons the
relationship between Japan and America has become terribly important
to the health of the whole world today; simultaneously, the
Japan-U.S. connection offers the possibility of global good and
Second, use of the words "East" or "West" is a legacy of a time long
past, when most Americans lived physically in the New World but
mentally in Europe, where Japan has always been to the "East"
because that is the direction people first traveled to get there. To
Americans, however, Japan is to the "West," and it is time for us to
think on our own, to find a non Eurocentric view of our Pacific
This book is not intended to explain everything about Japan. What
book could? Instead, I have strived for brevity and simplicity, and
I hope that readers will be stimulated to explore further on their
own. The information included here is as up-to-date as I could make
it, but the discussion is designed to be more than just a snapshot
of a single moment in the U.S.-Japan relationship. I have written
this book mainly for Americans, which might include anyone in the
New World, and if it helps even one person I will be happy, for in
the process of writing I have learned a great deal myself."
America and the Four Japans was published by Stone Bridge Press in both hardback and paperback
format in 1994. It was edited by Peter Goodman.
Here's the book's
Closer and Closer
Mind Meld East
Mind Meld West
Japan Gets Tough
The Road to War
A New Type of Competition
Godzilla and the Trade Deficit
The Defense Dilemma
The Ghosts of History
The Social System
A Unique People?
Our Love Affair with Japan
Is There Nothing to Learn from Japan?
What Is the Japanese "Miracle"?
Japan's Successes Reflect America's Successes
Japan's Problems Reflect America's Problems
America through Japanese Eyes
The Racial Mirror
Japanese Admirers of America
The Analogy of the Computer
This remarkably thoughtful book is about the ever-changing relationship between Japan
and the United States, the world's two largest industrial and economic superpowers.
Drawing on history, cultural commentary, and opinion on both sides of the Pacific, it
portrays two nations in conflict yet increasingly connected. Is Japan a friend, a rival, a
role model? What does Japan really mean to America? No question is more important,
for our relationship with Japan and its technological and industrial juggernaut will determine
our place in the world of the next century.
"Here is a book that does something too often missing in the rhetoric about U.S.-Japan relations-- it promotes
--GEORGE LUCAS, FILMMAKER
"Frederik Schodt's work is well known to anyone interested in Japanese popular culture. In this book, as in his
legendary Manga! Manga!, he shows his deep command of the nuance of Japanese
life. America and the Four Japans offers fresh, subtle, and often funny insights on the interaction between
Japan and America, and provides valuable ideas about how and where the United States might apply lessons
--JAMES FALLOWS, WASHINGTON EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
"A clear and compelling look at Japan. Intelligent and entertaining, laced with wonderful snippets of history."
--STEVEN OKAZAKI, ACADEMY AWARD-WINNING DOCUMENTARY PRODUCER
"Acute, up to date, and does justice to the complexity of the subject. The range of reference is highly impressive."
--PETER TASKER, AUTHOR OF THE JAPANESE
"Solid and refreshingly nonbiased. Frederik Schodt lets us see Japan with a more objective eye."
--PHILIP KAN GOTANDA, PLAYWRIGHT, AUTHOR OF THE WASH
I'm proud to say that America and the Four Japans is being used as a text book in more and more
college classes around North America. It's inexpensive, fairly easy-to-read, and a good introductory book, if I do say so
America and the Four Japans can be ordered from my publisher, the wonderful
Stone Bridge Press, through the toll-free number of 1-800-947-7271 (Local number in California is 1-510-524-8732). The Stone Bridge Press contact info:
Stone Bridge Press
P.O. Box 8208
Berkeley, CA 94707
America and the Four Japans is also available at finer bookstores, both real and web-virtual, including
and Barnes and Noble.
Click HERE for OTHER BOOKS by Frederik L. Schodt