The last 120 years have seen great social change and development in Japan. In the early 1870s Japan was still a third world country - a newly unified island nation with a highly agrarian economy and an insecure and weak government. By 1914 Japan has progressed towards the beginnings of anindustrial economy, it had established a small empire for itself and the government had gained full and effective control over the entire country. Now, at the end of the twentieth century, Japan is an economic giant, with a massive export economy and considerable clout in the international worldcommunity.Ann Waswo outlines the role of the 'ordinary' Japanese citizen in this extraordinary history. One of the continuous themes in this history has been the steady relationship which the state has had with the people since the late nineteenth century, but this relationship has not been without change.Waswo focuses attention upon these developments, together with the many historical explanations for events in Japanese history - events which have too often been explained by the 'unique and enduring' quality of Japanese cultural traditions.