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This review is taken from PN Review 52, Volume 13 Number 2, November - December 1986.

NATIVE AND FOREIGN EYES James Melville, The Imperial Way (André Deutsch) £9.95

In the 1930s, a little more than half a century after Japan had 'opened her doors' to unlimited foreign interference, the country was divided between those who deplored the way the nation was abandoning its traditions and those who welcomed, rather stridently, all that was modern, different and un-Japanese. There was also conflict between the big business enterprises who were out to gain world markets, aided and abetted by successive governments, and the overtaxed farmers. The Army, recruited largely from the peasantry, were against both what they considered to be Western effeteness and the materialistic ideals of the industrialists, which ran counter to all the old spartan samurai spirit of frugality and dedication to the Emperor. They deeply mistrusted the trappings of the parliamentary system, modelled as it was on Western practice. Left-wing thinking imported from abroad was ipso facto suspect. So the ultra-nationalistic movement which came into power before the Second World War had its roots in contempt for democracy and capitalism as well as communism. During the 1930s there were several assassinations of key political and industrial figures and, despite the apparent unsuccess of such bloody acts of terrorism, the Japanese fascists in fact consolidated their position with each attempted coup.

James Melville has taken the most spectacular of these attempts - the mutiny during a snowstorm in the early hours of 26 February 1936, in which the Prime Minister's brother-in-law (mistaken for the P.M. himself), two former Prime Ministers and other political figures were ...


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