> Skip to content
  • Published: 2 January 2014
  • ISBN: 9781846145476
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

Bending Adversity

Japan and the Art of Survival

A both definitive and highly enjoyable book on how modern Japan works

Despite years of stagnation, Japan remains one of the world's largest economies and a country which exerts a remarkable cultural fascination. David Pilling's new book is an entertaining, deeply knowledgeable and surprising analysis of a group of islands which have shown great resilience, both in the face of financial distress and when confronted with the overwhelming disaster of the 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Bending Adversity is a superb work of reportage and the essential book even for those who already feel they know the country well.

  • Published: 2 January 2014
  • ISBN: 9781846145476
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

Praise for Bending Adversity

Bending Adversity is a superb reappraisal of the so-called 'lost decade(s)' of contemporary Japan. David Pilling combines a historian's breadth of vision, an anthropologist's clearheadedness, an investigator's knack of knowing what questions to ask, an economist's grasp of the circuitry of money and a top-notch journalist's curiosity about the human effects of political causes. The result is a probing, nourishing and independent-minded book for any reader seeking to understand modern Japan and its unsure place in the world

David Mitchell

Fascinating and well-researched ... Pilling's experience as a journalist lends Bending Adversity a welcome veracity it might otherwise have lacked ... the six sections are written lucidly and contain a wealth of useful information ... Pilling went to the area where the tsunami struck on several occasions and his reportage from those experiences is the best writing here - poignant, insightful, understated, heart breaking but also often uplifting ... This book does an excellent job of demonstrating just how resilient the Japanese people have been in the face of recent environmental, social, and economic disaster


Bending Adversity does an excellent job of reappraising [Japan's] lost years of economic deflation and social and political stagnation ... There has to be a way, says Pilling, that we can live without growth. This fascinating and timely book shows us where to look for it


Pilling, like many writers who come to love Japan and enjoy its many eccentricities, wants to rescue it from the standard one-dimensional images of the country as some sort of model or cautionary tale ... we need to read this book and find that Japan is a much more interesting and engaging place, for all its flaws and frustrations, than the drama theorists would have us believe

Bill Emmott, Literary Review

A superb book on contemporary Japan that, better than any other I have read, manages to get the reader inside the skin of Japanese society ... astutely observed ... a great read brimming with insights and ... crafting a colourful and rounded analysis, one that doesn't shy from criticism, but also veers away from shrill harangue. It is evident that Pilling is keen on Japan, but it is not a naive embrace. I admire his knack for finding the fault-line in most any debate about Japan and fairly summarizing both sides... delivering a balanced assessment that sidesteps what he terms the 'sneering bitterness' that animates much analysis of contemporary Japan. Along the way, readers encounter a diversity of perspectives that subvert tropes of uniformity and conformity

Japan Times

Pilling draws on his own experiences, as well as interviews with novelists, academics, politicians, former prime ministers, executives, bankers, activists, and citizens young and old to provide a probing and insightful portrait of contemporary Japan

Publishers Weekly

Breaking Adversity is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in economics and politics eager to know more about how a significant world power got to the top tables of international diplomacy. However, it has more to offer than just this. Pilling is every bit as interesting when he tells the stories of the everyday Japanese behind the headlines, and how their self-image as a nation has been forced to change several times during the course of the country's transition into the modern world

Sunday Business Post

Eloquent and ambitious ... as a financial journalist, [Pilling makes] coherent and interesting arguments about the real nature of Japanese economic decline and explaining that its huge government debt is not necessarily a portent of doom ... powerful

Sunday Times

David Pilling is an Anglo expert on Japan ... authoritative and entertaining ... [Pilling] deftly manages the trick of illustrating grand sweep with small anecdote


Not the least of the merits of Pilling's hugely enjoyable and perceptive book on Japan is that he places the denunciations of two allegedly 'lost decades' in the context of what the country is really like and its actual achievements

Financial Times

The first major book on Japan for many years, and an entertaining, knowledgeable and surprising analysis of the country and its culture


Pilling, the Asia editor of the Financial Times, is perfectly placed to be our guide, and his insights are a real rarity when very few Western journalists communicate the essence of the world's third largest economy in anything but the most superficial ways. Here, there is a terrific selection of interview subjects mixed with great reportage and fact selection ... Exhilarating

Daily Telegraph

Related titles