Reinventing Japan
New Directions in Global Leadership
by Martin Fackler and Yoichi Funabashi, Editors
March 2018, 269pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6286-1
$48, £36, 42€, A65
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6287-8
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Japan has quietly reinvented itself into a global leader in innovation and creativity, one whose “soft power” extends from postmodern architecture to pluripotent stem cells.

Highly readable yet deeply researched, this book serves as an essential guide to the many ways in which Japan has risen to become one of the world's most creative and innovative societies.

During its so-called Lost Decades, Japan has quietly reinvented itself from a nation with an economy playing catch-up into a global leader in innovation and creativity, one whose “soft power” extends from postmodern architecture to pluripotent stem cells.

Written by a dozen experts in their fields, including architect Kengo Kuma, designer of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic stadium, this book describes Japan’s contributions to the world in fields ranging from fashion and pop culture to development aid and historical reconciliation. In addition, it demonstrates how Japan has led efforts to contend with several social and economic challenges facing the entire developed world, including demographic aging, rising healthcare costs, and wasteful consumption. Using these accomplishments as evidence, it argues that, in an era of questions surrounding the capability of American leadership, the time has come for Japan to step into a new role as a purveyor of models and values better suited to today’s multipolar and diverse world.


  • Challenges conventional views of Japan as mired in two unproductive "lost decades" by documenting the myriad ways in which the nation has embraced creativity and innovation
  • Describes the ways in which Japan has transformed our lives and explains the guiding principles of one of the world's least understood, most vibrantly creative societies
  • Explains how Japan, as the world's first non-Western developed nation, can inspire other nations at a time when America's economic and social models are being challenged as never before
  • Argues that, in a world that seems to have lost its direction in the face of threats ranging from terrorism to angry populism, Japan can assume greater leadership in preserving global peace and prosperity
Martin Fackler is Assistant Asia Editor for The New York Times in Asia. He was Journalist-in-Residence and Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Initiative from 2015 to 2017 and Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times from 2009 to 2015. He is author (in Japanese) of the bestseller Credibility Lost: The Crisis in Japanese Newspaper Journalism after Fukushima and has worked in Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai for The Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg News.

Yoichi Funabashi is an award-winning Japanese journalist, columnist, and author. He is cofounder and chairman of the Asia Pacific Initiative and was editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun from 2007 to 2010. He has written extensively on foreign affairs, the United States–Japan Alliance, economics, and historical issues in the Asia Pacific. He served as correspondent for the Asahi in Beijing and in Washington, DC, and as American General Bureau Chief. His latest book in English is Meltdown: Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis.


"A theme is that Japan has been a sort of Galapagos, somewhat isolated from the world, with advantages and problems stemming from this. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."—Choice, September 1, 2018

“In Reinventing Japan, Martin Fackler, Yoichi Funabashi, and a dozen distinguished specialists have tackled the pernicious stereotype that Japan is stagnant, isolated, and inward looking. In essays ranging across architecture, popular culture, scientific achievement, aging and social welfare, the ecology of start-ups, Asian tourism, disaster recovery, and Northeast Asian geopolitics, Reinventing Japan places contemporary Japanese society, culture, politics, and economy squarely in the middle of dynamic issues of globalism, innovation, and creativity. This is an important book for everyone concerned with Japan’s place in the world today.”—Theodore C. Bestor, Director, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Reinventing Japan describes the Japan of today and its likely future. Unlike those who suppose Japan is still in a ‘lost decade,’ the authors prove with striking examples that Japan is already generating new ideas in all directions that affect the whole world.”—Donald Keene, University Professor Emeritus and Shincho Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature, Columbia University

Reinventing Japan re-orients our attention to Japan's recent past and its future prospects. It challenges the narrative of the so-called lost decades by identifying important realms of innovation, and points to important lessons which others might yet learn from Japan’s experience.”—Andrew Gordon, Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History, Harvard University

“In the 1980s, Japan was respected for its industrial and technological prowess yet mocked as chronically ‘uncool.’ How things have changed: 21st-century Japan is a cultural leader, attracting global tourists in droves and setting quality and design standards across the consumer sector. Reinventing Japan is one of the first books to explore the roots of this critical change in the country’s international reputation, providing implications for how Japan’s politicians and industrial sectors can also ride the culture wave to new successes.”—W. David Marx, Author of Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style

“Martin Fackler, Yoichi Funabashi, and their colleagues lead us through a searching exploration of Japan’s many strengths and accomplishments—often unrecognized—and its lurking potential for future greatness. From basic science to anime and popular culture, together with innovations in human security, sustainable development, and social resiliency, Japan is on the cutting edge. Reinventing Japan provides the most compelling and eloquent statement yet about what Japan has to offer the world—and why, now more than ever, the world needs Japan.”—G. John Ikenberry, Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
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