Shutting Out the Sun

Shutting Out the Sun

How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation

Book - 2006
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The world's second-wealthiest country, Japan once seemed poised to overtake America. But its failure to recover from the economic collapse of the early 1990s was unprecedented, and today it confronts an array of disturbing social trends. Japan has the highest suicide rate and lowest birthrate of all industrialized countries, and a rising incidence of untreated cases of depression. Equally as troubling are the more than one million young men who shut themselves in their rooms, withdrawing from society, and the growing numbers of "parasite singles," the name given to single women who refuse to leave home, marry, or bear children. InShutting Out the Sun, Michael Zielenziger argues that Japan's rigid, tradition-steeped society, its aversion to change, and its distrust of individuality and the expression of self are stifling economic revival, political reform, and social evolution. Giving a human face to the country's malaise, Zielenziger explains how these constraints have driven intelligent, creative young men to become modern-day hermits. At the same time, young women, better educated than their mothers and earning high salaries, are rejecting the traditional path to marriage and motherhood, preferring to spend their money on luxury goods and travel. Smart, unconventional, and politically controversial,Shutting Out the Sunis a bold explanation of Japan's stagnation and its implications for the rest of the world.
Publisher: New York : Nan A. Talese, c2006.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780385513036
0385513038
Branch Call Number: 305.800952
Characteristics: x, 340 p. ; 25 cm.

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c
colony13
Mar 18, 2017

Keep in mind that this was written in 2007, before the 2008 financial meltdown in the US, so there is hubris in his opinions of the Japanese financial systems.

The book starts out with a troubling social phenomenon, but that only lasts for a few chapters. It then veers off into a criticism of Japanese society as a whole. While the information is interesting, the fact that the author is neither an anthropologist or historian should caution the reader to take his conclusions with a large grain of salt. An opportunity to compare how Japan treats people who don't conform to their society with how the Amish treat those who elect to leave their community (i.e. shunning) was not explored. Claiming that Japanese Americans turned their backs on Japan when they left the country totally overlooks the racism and WWII internment experience that forced these people to make a choice they would not have ordinarily made.

I still found the majority of the book interesting, in spite of the bias shown by the author.

c
ClaireM_W
Mar 20, 2013

Hertz is right. The author seems to really disapprove of everything Japanese, and uses both the U.S. economy and South Korea's acceptance of western christian culture as icons of perfection. He gives so little attention to the hikikomori that I pretty much felt baited and switched,

h
hertz
Feb 15, 2012

Overall a worthy read, though the author does seem to take a curious stance toward his subject: Japanese society. In the all-too-short focus on the actual Hikikomori as individual cases, he is able to identify and sympathize with their condition, along with a perfunctory discussion of lone would-be rehabilitation providers and their methods.
The rest of this book adopts a more clinical approach, with scathing overviews of the ongoing faults within the structure of society. Corporate life, family life, lack of self identity in favor of the group.
Uses South Korea as a convenient tool to bash Japan's current situation and national state of denial.

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