We spent 25 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Whether you have a particular interest in Asian cultures, or you’re a student or teacher starting a class in the field, the Japanese history books on our list have a lot to offer. Only some of them endeavor to cover the entirety of the country’s existence, while many others take a close look at one moment or cultural phenomenon in the nation’s storied timeline. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.

10. Its History And Culture 4th Edition

Its History And Culture 4th Edition grounds itself in recent years by focusing on the country’s economic stagnation after nearly two decades spent commanding the electronics and automotive industries. It then relies on other points in the nation’s past for clarity.


  • Highlights significant people
  • Reaches back to prehistoric times
  • Not enough about cultural phenomena















Brand W Scott Morton
Model pending
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. A History of the Japanese People

A History of the Japanese People From The Earliest Times To The End Of The Meiji Era is a weighty tome designed to illuminate the minds of scholars. So, while it holds a tremendous amount of detailed information, it isn’t meant for the average reader.


  • Extremely comprehensive
  • Mythological accounts are too slow
  • Really needs a glossary















Brand A History of the Japane
Model pending
Weight 2.5 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Embracing Defeat

John W. Dower follows up his seminal text “War Without Mercy” with a look at the nation in the aftermath of atomic destruction in Embracing Defeat. It’s a moving and provocative portrayal that may be hard for some to finish.


  • Reveals the horrors of occupation
  • Intertwines cultural touchstones
  • Too philosophical for history buffs















Brand W W Norton Company
Model pending
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. A Hundred Years Of Japanese Film

One of the best ways to gain an understanding of a country’s past is often through the progression of its art over time, and A Hundred Years Of Japanese Film gives readers a perspective from the nation’s cinematic point of view.


  • Includes a thorough film guide
  • Looks at all aspects of filmmaking
  • Some analogies are distasteful















Brand Donald Richie
Model pending
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

6. A History of Japan: Revised Edition

While many texts on this subject are content to begin around the establishment of the Tokugawa period, A History of Japan: Revised Edition takes readers all the way back to ancient times, looking at the development of its people’s art and religion.


  • Includes images and illustrations
  • Focuses on asia-pacific conflicts
  • Lacks depth in some sections















Brand Tuttle Publishing
Model pending
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Samurai: An Illustrated History

Anyone interested in the bygone days of the country is undoubtedly drawn to its elite warrior class, and Samurai: An Illustrated History by Mitsuo Kure gives readers an in-depth look at their lifestyle, covering a period from the 12th to the 19th century.


  • Traces their growth and decline
  • Nearly 800 color pictures
  • Some photos are reenactments















Brand Tuttle Publishin
Model pending
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Modern History: From Tokugawa Times To Present

In Modern History: From Tokugawa Times To Present, Andrew Gordon takes you through the country’s various cultural milestones, with an entertaining emphasis on its citizens’ different attempts to adopt Western styles during the Meiji Restoration.


  • Looks at anime and manga
  • Examines the lost decades
  • Great length for casual readers















Brand Oxford Universit
Model pending
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps

Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps examines the dying days of the Tokugawa Shogunate from the perspective of the Shogun’s ruthless samurai police force. It covers a time period that’s packed with drama, from violent fights in the streets to the burning of Kyoto.


  • Deeply detailed accounts
  • Based mostly on primary sources
  • Delightfully bloody















Brand Hillsborough Romulus
Model pending
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Bending Adversity

Japan has undergone incredibly challenging periods of change in the past several centuries, and Bending Adversity by David Pilling studies how the country and culture persevered through these times to create a compelling historical arc.


  • Utilizes different points of view
  • Looks closely at the 2011 earthquake
  • Feels journalistically authentic















Brand David Pilling
Model pending
Weight 12.5 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. The Making Of Modern Japan

The Making Of Modern Japan by Marius B. Jansen takes a close look at the ways in which the country’s culture has changed since the end of the Warring States Period in 1600 C.E. Its main focal points include the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate and World War II.


  • Frank about the nation’s violence
  • Handles complexities well
  • Remarkably easy to read















Brand The Making Of Modern Ja
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.9 / 5.0