I am studying Japanese History!

Or at least, I will soon!

I have been telling myself for a long time now that I should read about Japanese History in English or French. I have finally got down to looking at History books available in English and selected the one I wanted to read. The book I ordered turned out to be two books and I hope that I can receive them soon!

Selecting a book

I didn’t know what book I should buy, so I started by looking at recommendations on the Internet. I am mostly interested in the 20th Century but also wanted to know what happened before. I was, therefore, looking for a general History from Edo to the present.

It was very difficult to select a book because looking at the different lists of “best books on Japanese History” made me realise that I was in fact interested in all aspects and periods of it and that I needed to read all the books listed.

I finally chose The Making of Modern Japan by Marius B. Jansen, which seems to one of the best introductions to Japanese History.

I could not resist ordering Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix because it covers the period I am the most interested in.

There are other books that I really want to read but that I keep for later, here is my wish list in order:

  • Embracing Defeat, Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower
  • The Rising Sun, The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945 by John Toland
  • Bending Adversity, Japan and the Art of Survival by David Pilling
  • Japan’s Longest Day by the Pacific War Research Society
  • The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang

If you have any recommendations of books or films/drama on Japanese History, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!

Shall I focus on language or culture?

Obviously, reading the +900 pages of The Making of Modern Japan will take me time. This means that I will spend less time learning Japanese. It will certainly slow down my progress, but on the other hand, reading about History is the thing that I want to do the most now. I know that I am forgetting all the things I learned for N2, that I should revise my grammar, write in Japanese every day, do more listening practice and so on. But I must admit that I am more interested in learning about Japanese culture and History now, than doing grammar exercises. As I am, after all, learning Japanese for pleasure, I will not restrain myself.

Learning about Japanese History will also feed my motivation and make me want to progress in Japanese to be able to read History books in Japanese too. Lack of motivation or a sudden loss of interest can affect any language learner, I think, especially when you are learning on your own. This is why it is important to welcome any new interest we might have relative to our target language/country/culture. While it will slow down my progress now, because I will devote less time to Japanese itself, it will also strengthen my motivation to learn Japanese further and make the extra effort to reach a good reading level (good enough to read History books in Japanese).

But I will not totally stop learning Japanese of course, I will still be doing Anki and read novels, and I will continue to set myself small weekly focus. However, I am giving up the idea to try N1 in 2019!

I’m learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese to read detective novels in these languages. I post about my reading progress and language study here. Best way to get in touch is on Mastodon 🙂

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