Jean-Claude Courdy: The Japanese: Everyday Life in teh Empire of the Rising Sun; Harper & Row; New York.

Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay in 1853. President Fillmore was interested in putting an end to Japan’s isolation policy. Commodore Perry stuck around the harbor until the empire agreed to open trade negotiations. A trade agree­ment was reached. Check the current balance-of-trade deficit figure. Then think about Perry’s mission. It’s inter­esting to note that his older brother, Oliver Hazard Perry, said in another context, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” The present situation brings to mind another line: “You asked for it, you got it: Toyota.”

The Japanese–Honda plants in Ohio and Seikos on practically every wrist notwithstanding–are a curiosity to many Americans. A lion’s share of the interest in the Japanese comes from business and industry. That interest has resulted in a proliferation of books de­scribing management techniques. Since the day-to-day experiences of Jap­anese existence are rarely touched on in such texts, we might assume that a book with the title The Japanese: Everyday Life in the Empire of the Rising Sun would provide a helpful balance to the Theory Z. These expectations are not fulfilled by Courdy, who was head of the French Radio-Television Bureau in Tokyo from 1963 to 1970.

Less than a field guide to life in Japan, the book is a resume of Courdy’s personal life (dealing with traffic jams; trying to pick up women), that’s solidi­fied with a few trivial facts (e.g., one of the observations in a section improba­bly titled “Realities”: “Japanese homes are l 00 percent equipped with televi­sion sets, more than 92 percent of which are color sets”), and spiced with bland sociopolitical comments like: “The United States does not welcome being defeated on its home turf of technological superiority.” Apart from the growing interest in Japanese busi­ness, the main reason for the book’s existence is Courdy’s belief that he’s a fascinating and rather erudite guy.

While we can certainly stand to learn lessons from the Japanese–about re­spect for family and for cultural tradi­tion, for example–the source for such enlightenment is not a guide to Zen techniques for the boardroom, nor is it Japanese. (CSV)                          cc