Was there ever a time when a civilization, technically sophisticated, and in full possession of its senses, reverted to an earlier, less advanced technology? You bet: Japan, 1543-1879. During this period Japan effectively prohibited all manufacture of firearms and gunpowder, and isolated itself from the rest of the world with a blockade that remained successful until Commodore Perry’s celebrated “opening of Japan” in 1854. An altogether fascinating book — because Perrin is a consistently good storyteller, because even his footnotes are a delight to read, and because this is a story that really has few parallels in modern history.
This is a significant story, and Perrin tells it marvelously well, with rich detail, captivating quotations from observers of the time, both Japanese and Western, and a wealth of revealing comparisons with contemporary technology, warfare, and life in Europe. This little book is both thought-provoking and a delight to read. — Edwin O. Reischauer, Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan
Praise for Giving Up the Gun
Professor Noel Perrin has written an elegant monograph, magnificently illustrated with a wealth of Japanese prints.
—New York Times Book Review
Through his description of one historical event in Japan’s national experience, Noel Perrin has written a book as tight and elegant as haiku. The story is a fascinating one: Japan’s introduction to, mastery of, and subsequent abandonment of, the gun.… Perrin’s work is so crisp and interesting, and so loaded with background information and revealing anecdotes, that the whole peculiar episode it describes jumps to life from its pages.
—The New Republic
[Perrin] has set down a fascinating story, one which has long been inaccessible to the West. Giving Up the Gun, written for general readership, is thoroughly enjoyable — filled with marvelous anecdotes and illustrations.
—Washington Post Book World