Peak Japan

The End of Great Ambitions

Brad Glosserman

"Glosserman’s book deserves to be widely read."
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The post-Cold War era has been difficult for Japan. A country once heralded for evolving a superior form of capitalism and seemingly ready to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy lost its way in the early 1990s. The bursting of the bubble in 1991 ushered in a period of political and economic uncertainty that has lasted for over two decades. There were hopes that the triple catastrophe of March 11, 2011—a massive earthquake, tsunami, and accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant—would break Japan out of its torpor and spur the country to embrace change that would restart the growth and optimism of the go-go years. But several years later, Japan is still waiting for needed transformation, and Brad Glosserman concludes that the fact that even disaster has not spurred radical enough reform reveals something about Japan's political system and Japanese society. Glosserman explains why Japan has not and will not change, concluding that Japanese horizons are shrinking and that the Japanese public has given up the bold ambitions of previous generations and its current leadership. This is a critical insight into contemporary Japan and one that should shape our thinking about this vital country.

Table of Contents



1: The Unhappy Country
2: The Lehman Shock
3: The Seiji Shokku
4: The Senkaku Shokku
5: Higashi Nihon Daishinsai, or the "Great East Japan Earthquake"
6: Abe Shinzo’s Triumphant Return
7: Peak Japan

About the Author


"[Glosserman] traces the present trajectory of Japan. He does so in a readable style that presents his narrative convincingly to both students of Japanese affairs and readers coming to this question with little foreknowledge."—Socialism Today

"Japan, in Brad Glosserman’s view, is currently “understudied, undervalued, and underappreciated” in international relations.... [He] draws out the lessons for us all."—Times Higher Education

"Glosserman hits the mark with this readable, insightful, and smart book about this most significant U.S. alliance partner in Asia. Writing with a gritty, real perspective given his time as a journalist in the country, and with policy acumen stemming from his work at Pacific Forum, the author provides the reader, both expert and layperson, with a unique view into Japan's search for its own identity, from Kantei, to boardrooms, to conference rooms."—Victor Cha, D.S. Song-KF Endowed Chair in International Affairs, Department of Government and School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"Are Japan’s best days behind it? In Peak Japan long time Japan-observer Brad Glosserman, weighs the complex arguments surrounding this question through an engaging mixture of behind-the-scenes details, poignant anecdotes and insightful interviews, emphasizing the handicaps faced by Japan. This is a timely analysis that will engage readers regardless of the conclusions they finally draw about Japan’s future."—TJ Pempel, Jack M. Forcey Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

"It is a timely, well researched, and grabbing analysis of contemporary Japan. Brad Glosserman has spent nearly 30 years after the end of the Cold War on Japan first living there and then observing it from the vicinity of Hawaii as executive-director of the Pacific Forum. He detected four shocks of the so-called “lost 30 years”: the Lehman, the failed Democratic Party, the Senkaku (Dyaoyutai) and finally, the Great Eastern Japan Disaster. Shinzo Abe, in the last six years, now likely to be extended for another three, has done much more than anyone thought. But are Abe, his successors, and ultimately, the people of Japan, decisive and fast enough to let Japan really overcome these “lost decades” and activate it to meet the requirement of the era? Brad’s analysis is fair, penetrating and ultimately embraced with warm feeling toward Japan."—Kazuhiko Togo, Professor and Director, Institute for World Affairs, Kyoto Sangyo University

"Brad Glosserman’s book is deeply-researched and closely-argued but winningly readable. Always fair but bracingly clear-eyed, its key conclusions are both important and hard to challenge. It is an essential guide to understanding not just Japan’s future, but Asia’s as well."—Hugh White, Professor, Australia National University

"Peak Japan is a thought-provoking book on the analysis of many challenges Japan is to face. The background of the author makes the book compelling to read for interested readers both inside and outside of Japan."—Takatoshi Kato, Senior Adviser, Japan Center for International Finance

"Brad Glosserman has produced a well-informed book on contemporary Japan."—Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

"Glosserman’s book deserves to be widely read."—The International Spectator

"Glosserman injects a welcome dose of nuance into often black-and-white debates on Japanese decline and resurgence."—Social Science Japan Journal

"Despite the proliferation of literature on Japan’s place on the world today, Peak Japan stands out from the pack for its combination of meticulous research, broad coverage, and sheer accessibility. It is thus invaluable to both the layperson and expert alike seeking to navigate the complex economic, political, security, and societal terrain of contemporary Japan."—Pacific Affairs


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About the Author

Brad Glosserman is deputy director of and visiting professor at the Tama University Center for Rule Making Strategies in Japan, and a senior advisor at Pacific Forum International, a Honolulu-based think tank; he previously served there as executive director for 16 years. He was a member of The Japan Times editorial board from 1991 to 2001 and continues to serve as a contributing editor there. He is the co-author of The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash.

263 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-62616-668-4
Apr 2019

263 pp., 6 x 9

Apr 2019

263 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-62616-670-7
Apr 2019

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