The Portrait of a Nation’s Character – Fourth Edition
Frank Gibney

Introduction to the Fourth Edition by Frank Gibney

This classic account (1952) of the makers of “New Japan” tells the life stories of a journalist, an ex-Navy vice-admiral, a steel worker, a farmer, and Emperor Hirohito. Frank Gibney was a wartime intelligence officer who became Time magazine correspondent during the American Occupation of Japan. He went on to be a major interpreter of Japan to Americans and America to Japanese, known as a knowledgeable, genial presence in the PBS series Pacific Century.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Japan was a poor, broken, and troubled society. Many in both Japan and the West assumed that it would always be so. But Gibney reported on Japan in such telling and readable detail that we can see in this book both the now forgotten atmosphere of that time and the basis for the “Japanese miracle” to follow. As the writer Timothy Garton Ash observes, “the scholar will not know, and therefore will find it more difficult to recreate, what it was really like at the time, how places looked and smelled, how people felt, and what they didn’t know. . . . There is nothing to compare with being there.”

“Here is a thoughtful, charmingly written, well-balanced interpretation of Japan, with special emphasis upon the recent years. It seeks to understand and explain the contradictions in the Japanese character of which we heard much during the recent war. On the one hand, the Japanese are courteous, honest, sensitive, lovers of beauty, and loyal in their friendships and their family relations. Moreover, they accommodated themselves smilingly to the Occupation, although it was an experience unprecedented in their history. On the other hand, during their years of war with China and then with the United Nations, they were callously cruel, brutal, ruthless, and fanatically courageous. How is this paradox explained? . . . If the busy American can find time to read only one book on Japan, this is the one it should be.”
- Kenneth Scott Latourette, Saturday Review

“Mr. Gibney is well qualified to write this book. During the war the Navy sent him to language school and then put him to interviewing Japanese prisoners. Since the war, except for eighteen months in Europe, he has been continuously in Japan, first in with the occupation and then as the head of the Tokyo bureau of Time magazine. More than this, he brings to his task understanding, objectivity, warmth and humor.”. . .
- Elizabeth Gray Vining: New York Times Book Review

Frank Gibney, a veteran journalist and writer, is President of the Pacific Basin Institute at Pomona College. He is the author of twelve books, including The Pacific Century, Japan: The Fragile Superpower, and Korea’s Quiet Revolution; his edited books include SENSO: The Japanese Remember the Pacific War — Letters to the Editor of Asahi Shimbun, and The Nanjing Massacre: A Japanese Journalist Confronts Japan’s National Shame, by Honda Katsuichi.

EastBridge D’Asia Vu Reprint Library · 2003 · 386 pp

ISBN 1-891936-09-3 (pb) $29.95