Ian Neary's comprehensive analysis of Japanese politics offers the student and the general reader a clear and accessible explanation of the changing policy-making structures and mechanisms that have shaped Japan from the 1860s to the present. The book is divided into four distinct sections, which make it an ideal tool for all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. It also begins with a useful glossary and biographical details of principal characters to help readers chart their way through the complex interplay of interests within Japan.
Part one provides a straightforward and detailed history from Japan's meeting with the western world in the 19th century to the present day; it is followed by an analysis in part two of the rise of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from the 1950s to electoral reform at the end of the 1990s.
The theme of reform also permeates part three on "Structures", which includes an explanation of the changing role of bureaucracy and the structures of local government. These sections locate in one work the complex networks of Japanese policy-making, but would perhaps have benefited from the attention to industrial policy and the role of foreign policy, which instead form a section of part four on "Policies".
This final part, with its disparate collection of issues, is harder to reconcile to the neat structure of the book. One chapter focuses on social welfare and connects with the major problem of a Japan having to deal with a rapidly ageing population; it is followed by another that benefits from Neary's own expertise in the field of human rights.
Coverage of issues such as energy, financial reform and the role of civil society is absent from this otherwise comprehensive treatment of contemporary Japanese politics.
Julie Gilson is lecturer in political science and international studies, University of Birmingham.
The State and Politics in Japan. First edition
Author - Ian Neary
ISBN - 0 7456 2133 3 and 2134 1
Publisher - Polity
Price - £50.00 and £15.99
Pages - 236