Morton White, one of America's most distinguished and intellectual historians, was among the first Western academics invited to Japan after the Pacific War. With his wife and co- author Lucia, he first went there in 1952 and subsequently made four more trips, the last one in 1979. During these visits the Whites became friendly with many Japanese intellectuals and their families and were able to observe Japan and Japanese life during a crucial part of this century.
Through personal reminiscences based on their journals and correspondence, the Whites introduce the reader to the great intellectual, social, and economic changes that took place in Japan during the nearly thirty-year span of their visits. They provide penetrating sketches of the personalities and attitudes of an important group of Japanese academics -- leaders who acted against the prevailing opinion to introduce well-known intellectuals from the United States to help break down the stereotypes created by World War II. Reflecting on the changing trends and practices of the Japanese philosophers, the Whites note the gradual shift in orientation from the European to the American tradition in philosophy and comment on how this produced tensions in the Japanese philosophers who lived through it -- issues of great interest both for students of the history of philosophy and for anyone interested in the spread of American influence.
Outside the precincts of the universities, the Whites are keen observers of a culture they have come to respect and admire. The delicacy of Japanese social arrangements, the importance of 'face,' the self-consciously problematic position of women in Japanese society, as well as the intricate web of courtesy are given life through many insightful examples.
In the book's final chapter, the Whites ponder upon things Japanese they have yet to understand and how their visits have made them more conscious of their own cultural tradition and what they perceive as its deficiencies.
Journeys to the Japanese both entertains and informs about an important period and significant individuals in Japanese history. It is an affecting account of how lasting international sympathy and understanding can be nourished by encouraging cultural exchange and personal friendship.
About the authors
Morton White is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is one of America's most distinguished philosophers and intellectual historians. His books include Social Thought in America and Science and Sentiment in America. Lucia White is an author and research assistant.