BY: JOHN DOWER
NEW YORK, W.W. NORTON, 1999
HARDCOVER, 1ST EDITION, 676 PAGES
For those who teach about Japan, or any country other than their own, the issue of how to reach students is a constant challenge. Teachers are always striving to go beyond the textbook and construct activities which actively engage students in their own learning. Do you use a “hook” to “lure the students in” and then get around to the required material, or cover the required material hoping that, through the interesting nature of history itself, students will learn something? Often, from my experience, the problem with the hook approach is that its focus is something odd or weird about another society. Because the hook is not substantive, it reinforces the simplistic view that it is easier to understand other peoples and nations by examining how they are different from ourselves. With recent publications and popularity of such topics as the yakuza and geisha, one might assume that these topics are more essential for the understanding of Japanese society than they really are.