By Peaks Journal

I'm a self-proclaimed aesthete, an amateur literary critic and a history buff with a BA in Political Science and History from Wesleyan College.

Japan in World History – a Solid Book for Your Collection

Japan in World History Book

Japan in World History, written by James L. Huffman, is one book in a series of Oxford University histories that focus on cultural and social history.

PJ Review Score: 5

James Huffman engages his audience by giving the ‘common’ people a voice. He manages a balance between political, military and social history. Through this balance the reader gains a wider perspective on the progression of history in Japan and the complexity of its society. While the book is rather slim and skimps on some details, the book is a valuable resource.

Huffman breaks down Japanese History into several periods, usually by capital name or by ruler.  The Nara period, Heian period, Kamakura period, Tokugawa period, and the Meiji era.

Summation

In the Kofun era, (645-794), we see the emergence of a semi-centralized government, and legal codes called ‘ritsuryo,’ whose purpose was to regulate both political and social elements of life. This period saw a more stabilized capital, Nara, and also Japan’s desire to exert itself over-seas.

The Heian period, (794-1100), is best known for its peace and the arts. During this period literature and art flourished and a unique system of writing, which blended Chinese characters, called kana emerged. The creation of the writing system, probably due to Japan’s isolation from the continent during this period, further helped create an independent, Japanese identity.

The Kamakura period, (1160-1330), was a time of political unrest and military violence, with the “devolution of the ritsuryo system.” During this time, the terms shogun and bakufu were used as a way to both undermine traditional governance and create a source of legitimacy.

The major problem in the Tokugawa period, (1600-1868), was the policy that the government employed in reaction to western nations. In the eyes of many, the Tokugawa policy was weak and it spread discontent throughout the country, which destabilized the government.

The Meiji Era, (1868-1912) was proactive in its response to the western threat. While, there was still discontent, the Meiji era was largely successful in coping with the threat.

Huffman focuses on a few notable events in each period. The reader is able to see the events as if they are there in the Meiji era, when a decree was sent out that ordered all samurai to give up their swords in an attempt to dissolve the warrior class in 1876.

I can easily picture Yamagata Aritomo, after squashing the samurai rebellion, saying, “Now I am at peace.” Or in the summer of 1281, when the fierce Mongol empire was defeated with the help of the kamikaze. Huffman’s history of Japan is thus engaging and enlightening.

Scholarly Response

John Sagers, a professor of history at Linfield College – the book is concise, and offers a wider perspective of Japanese history will multi-faceted view points and arguments. It also offers a solid foundation for studying Japanese history.

Michael S. Laver, in his review from the Middle Ground Journal – it does not outline the complexities in Japanese history. It also has no details about the history of the ainu or the history of the Okinawa kingdom.  

Huffman does mention the Emishi and other indigenous groups but very briefly and the reader is left uncertain about the impact that these groups have had on Japanese society.

Robert Eskildsen, a history professor at International Christian University in Japan – was quite critical of Huffman for his brevity on the subject of Japanese history. He argues that it is meant for readers who have some sort of foundation in Japanese history due to his lack of detail concerning events. He goes on to argue that it lacks content to deepen understanding, and that it is a “typical college survey.”

In addition to those things, it also has a limited impact because of the lack of explanation of events. Overall though, he claims that the book offers a “concise and illuminating explanation of the major themes of incidents in post-war Japanese History.”


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II: Gabriel, The Civil Rights Lawyer’s Tale

by Mark Kodama

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew Chapter 5:10

The time is always right to do what is right.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kingdom of Heaven

I. The Arrest

It was Nineteen Hundred ought Six.
Old Chattanooga seemed transfixed,
By a sudden New Year crime wave
Amidst an election campaign.
The city, ‘neath clouds of silver,
Astride the great Tennessee River.
Beneath its slow surface waters,
Turbulent undertows did stir.

Ed Johnson, a black handyman,
Was lynched for raping a white woman.
In the Old South, a crime more vile,
Than mob killings without fair trials.
Due process and fairness were lost.
A scapegoat must be found at all costs,
Those in charge decreed a sacrifice
On the altar of political expedience.

On January Twenty-Third at the switchback,
Nevada Taylor was attacked.
A young black man followed her home,
Shadowed her as she walked alone.
Around her soft neck this man did wrap
A tightened darkened leather strap.
In this lonely vicinity,
This thug stole the girl’s virginity.

Sheriff Shipp and the doctor were called,
Blacks and whites alike were appalled,
The newspapers demanded retribution.

Passion took the place of reason
For this was the political season
A handsome reward was offered
For information that was proffered,
For arrest of the guilty man.

A man claimed to be a witness,
A man of questionable fitness
The witness placed Ed Johnson there.
Claiming to know him by his stare.
He said he saw Johnson with the strap,
An innocent man had to take the rap.
While a guilty psychopath ranged free
In the terrorized river city.

An angry lynch mob jeered and railed,
Outside the Hamilton County jail,
Judge Samuel D. McReynolds did coerce,
The lawless vigilantes to disperse.
Judge McReynolds understood,
The lynch mob wanted blood
The judge knew the crowd wanted it

So he was ready to deliver it.
Sheriff Shipp did interrogate,
Tried to force Ed to self-incriminate.
Sheriff Shipp bragged to reporters,
He would break Johnson in short order.
Johnson was starved, struck, kicked and hit,
But the man refused to admit.
Nevada Taylor was brought to jail,
Her identification could not fail.

The Constitution they overthrew
Johnson was picked from the lineup of two.
“Johnson Is a Fiend,” screamed the headlines.
“He is surely guilty,” a newspaper opined.
The District Attorney did argue,
To the Grand Jury for its review,
The Grand Jury issued its indictment,
At the height of public excitement.

It was a tyranny of the majority,
The weakness of a democracy.

II. The Trial

Trial was set for Sixth of February,
Amid the irrational fury,
Twelve days after his arrest,
Ed Johnson’s show trial began
To pin the crime on an innocent man
To satisfy the public’s blood lust.
Ed Johnson’s guilt was a must.
Three lawyers were quickly selected.
Ed‘s due process rights went unprotected.

Neighbors ostracized the lawyers,
Threatened harm to their families.
The Mayor, Judge and D.A. met alone,
With Ed’s lawyers who wished to postpone.
They requested another venue, another date,
Judge McReynolds ruled the trial could not wait.

The courtroom, packed with an angry crowd,
Eager to fit Ed in his death shroud,
The D.A.’s r witness lied under oath,
Claiming Ed was near the outgrowth.
Miss Taylor’s own story was unclear,
For Johnson’s identity was in doubt.
Miss Taylor passed out during the attack,
The assailant assaulted her from the back.

Many witnesses did testified,
Ed Johnson was sweeping inside,
The Last Chance Saloon at the time,
Of the wanton and vicious crime.
“If I could get at him,” a juror said, “I would,
Tear his heart out now,” he said as he stood.
By morning all agreed on the verdict,
All twelve jurors voted to convict.

The Judge said Johnson did the crime,
Then praised the jurors for their time.
The Judge then sentenced Ed Johnson,
To hang until his life had run.
Ed Johnson said he was going to die
For a crime of another because of lies.
“May God have mercy on your soul,”
The judge said, playing his scripted role.

Two of Ed’s lawyers voted to appeal.
The third lawyer said his fate was sealed.
So the judge appointed three more lawyers.
To change the vote and to defer
So the three new attorneys
Voted against an appeal.
But from the dark pit of despair,
In a desolate place where

When all hope appeared to be lost,
Two men emerged to pay the cost.
Noah Parden and Styles Hutchins
Stepped into the history books,
With great dangers they undertook.
To represent Ed in his appeal
Offering a glimmer of hope
To the desperate, friendless man.


Gabriel, The Civil Rights Lawyer’s Tale

by Mark Kodama


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from the Birmingham Jail

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw

Prologue:

The Advocate

Gabriel, a civil rights lawyer, gazed out the window. His brown face wore an easy confident smile. His black leather suitcase carried his file for a case he had in Las Vegas. A gold cross pendant hung from his neck and lay against his black turtleneck sweater. His black mirrored sunglasses hid his eyes. He wore a gray flannel suit without a tie.

Bus Driver: Let us listen to stories of heroes,
And their solitary quests for justice.
Of moral men of law courageous.
Their fights against their racist foes,
And the bitter harvest bigotry sows.

Nelson Mandela and Thurgood Marshall,
Lincoln and Cicero, great lawyers all,
Gandhi and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP
Lawyers are central to our being free.
Oh, fair voiced Calliope,
Favor us with epic poetry.”

Gabriel: Because of their high positions
But not their competence,
They made wrong decisions,
With absolute confidence.
To acquiesce to it,
Is to accept it.

I’m a trial lawyer with little renown,
I take cases, most mundane, some profound.
I do well but I am not a fount of gold
The meaning of my work is of most import I’m told.
I cannot win every case I must confess;

But I’m clever, work hard and do my best.
My enemies are smart and work hard too.
It would be easy if they weren’t shooting at you.
I know the local judges, lawyers and rules.
I survived the intellectual hazing of law school.

If you do not know the rules of evidence,
Your client may have a dire consequence.
When trying your case, present it with style.

Be friendly but serious and wear a confident smile.
Present your opening and closing emotionally
And appeal to the jurors logically.
Ethos, pathos and logos are our tools of the trade,
The rules of rhetoric that Aristotle made.
The great Roman lawyer Cicero used to say:
Movere, docere and delectare.

Be a master of rhetoric,
An expert in courtroom politics,
Speak to jurors in words they understand
With the lofty ideas of leaders grand.
Be a student of the mind
And someone that cares,
And I think you will find
You will have a certain flair.

Laws are made and enforced by men
And it is up to them to administer them.
And it is up to men you see,
To make justice a reality.
Justice is only an idea,
That must be fought for.”


Reading The Moon Chaser by Alexa Kang

The Moon Chaser, by Alexa Kang

PJ Review Score: 4.8/5


3: 🙂
4: 😊
5: 😲 

Alexa Kang is the author of WWII and 20th Century historical fiction. Her works include the Rose of AnzioShanghai Story (of which Moon Chaser is a spin-off) and Eternal Flame. To learn more about Alexa Kang and her works, visit her website.

Overview

The Moon Chaser is a historical novella within The Darkest Hour anthology about a woman named Yuan Wen-Ying during the Japanese invasion of China. The story is both lighthearted and intense, switching masterfully between cute jokes and tear-jerking scenes.

It takes place in Shanghai from the third-person perspective of Yuan Wen-Ying. Wen-Ying comes from a wealthy and respected family. Due to the harshness of life during the war, her family loses their power. The story picks up in 1944 with Wen-Ying heavily involved in the Tian Di Hui – a rebel group that aimed to undermine Japanese occupation on the mainland.

Analysis

Yuan Wen-Ying is a strong and empathetic character. Although she lost everything in the war, it’s clear that she’s an invaluable asset to the Tian Di Hui. Throughout the story, there are moments when Wen-Ying thinks about how different life was just a decade before. The memories are vivid and add depth to Wen-Ying’s character.

As far as female leads are concerned, Wen-Ying is a refreshing character. She’s honest and true to herself and her values, which makes her quite relatable despite being a woman who lived in the 20th century. Alexa Kang didn’t feel the need to alter Wen-Ying’s personality to make her more relateable, thereby maintaining the historical integrity of Wen-Ying’s character.

Wen-Ying faces several conflicts through the story, both internal and external, involving her ultimate mission and the man she can’t seem to ignore, Masao Takeda.

Critique

It’s clear that Alexa Kang cares about historical accuracy, which is something I respect a lot. Historical fiction done right is when a captivating story is created from non-fictional elements, such as the war itself, the toll the war took on food supplies, the Tian Di Hui, and so much more. As both a fan of historical fiction and a history buff, I was pleasantly surprised by Alexa Kang’s skill and attention to detail.

The book can be purchased via Amazon.


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Book Review: Behold

Thinking about Rikke Delhi’s expressive poetry collection. Behold is both haunting and unique.

#reblog

Peaks Journal

Behold,Rikke Delhi

PJ Review Score: 4/5

PJ Review Score applies to book reviews done by Bernice only.

1 – 2: Poor; doesn’t meet basic standards of plot, character development. Extreme grammatical errors.
3: Average; includes some plot & character development; author’s intent is expressed; a few typos and/or grammatical mistakes.
4: Good; competent plot & character development; unique style stands out; author’s intent expressed; a few typos.
5: Superior; a ‘wow’ read; heavy and nuanced plot & character development; expert in own, unique style; author’s intent clear; no typos.


Overview

Rikke Dehli is a Danish author of Behold,a poetry collection filled with free verse poetry published in November of 2017. Beholdis Rikke Dehli’s first published poetry collection.

The cover art is unique and simplistic. It’s a good representation of the poems that can be found within the book itself.

Analysis

Before delving into…

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Seven Universal Truths About Relationships

You’re human, stop hiding your emotions. Seriously, what are you doing?

You got into a relationship, only to hide your emotions from the person you want to be with? Just leave it. If you don’t trust your heart to be in their hands, then you’re not ready.

Peaks Journal

Passion and romance are popular topics on social media. Everyone has their opinions on what creates a healthy relationship. Everyone also has an opinion on what people should do in relationships. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but opinions that perpetuate toxic behavior are not good.

RelationshipsNeedWork.

If you think relationships are supposed to work like magic, then you’re too young to be in a relationship. Even if you’re fifty, and you have this mindset, you should wait a few years.

Seriously, though, relationships take work and investment in money, time, and emotions (not in that order). If you don’t have the patience for that kind of investment, don’t waste your time, or others.

There’s also nothing wrong with not wanting to be in a committed relationship, as long as you let your partner know beforehand.

BeMindful.

Relationships aren’t always 50/50. We’re all human, and the one thing…

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The Pitching Plague: When Communication Becomes Inhumane

“Always be pitching.”

by Ikenna Nwachukwu

Ikenna Nwachukwu is a freelance writer currently based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Photo Credit: Geralt, pixabay


It’s now the cliché parting admonition from your average self-styled marketing guru. They lob it at you with the sort of light, graceful touch you would usually associate with the dispensing of profound wisdom by grey haired griots.

In their words, you should never tire of selling your merchandise; you should never cease to put your brand before the potential customer’s eyes. And because your would-be customer may be found anywhere, you will need to sell your stuff everywhere you go.

Pitching – the practice of presenting a structured, tailor made account of who we are and what helpful service we can offer the person with whom we’re speaking – isn’t the exclusive preserve of the bothersome salesperson.

Managers and section heads at corporate organizations pitch ideas to their CEO’s all the time; CEO’s pitch proposals to each other. Politicians pitch themselves and their ideas to the public. And (I say this with a mischievous wink) young men pitch themselves to women they’re looking to get romantically involved with.

If you are an entrepreneur trying to get your conversation partner interested in your services, you could whip out a pre-rehearsed thirty second ‘who we are and what we do’ speech from off the top of your head. If you would want to capture the attention of someone you’ve wanted to date, you might prefer to chat them up with some smooth lines you have memorized.

There’s a simple reason for this: these pre-designed statements tend to come off better in speaking than rough communication. Because most of us don’t speak impeccable Shakespearean off the cuff, we might prefer an easy remedy: come up with the words and store them in our mind’s lockers until we need to use them.

But there are problems with this.


Dishonesty in Pitching

The very idea that we have to compose our address to others beforehand seems lazy and a little inauthentic. Of course, we wouldn’t mind listening to a person read a script if we expected that it might happen (as it does at certain types of public events).

But shooting out impressive pre-memorized lines at the start or middle of a conversation with someone who genuinely thinks you’re weaving the words together on the spot strikes me as slightly dishonest. Perhaps I’m an excessively sensitive jerk, but this is what I think (and I’m aware that a lot of other people think this too).

However, the main gripe I have with pitching is that it seems to cast the person at its receiving end as less than a complete human being.

It presents them as objects to be ‘pitched’ at, as target boards to be aimed at and hit. We ready ourselves for an encounter with a prospect by filling our mind’s quiver with sharp arrows (words), and practice taking shots in front of mirrors in our rooms or offices.

When the time comes, we get out into the world to strike our prospects down. If we succeed, we ‘incapacitate’ them and drag their now submissive wills into our sphere; if we miss the mark, we go back to our closets to adjust our strategy or replace our word-arrows.

The less than genuine nature of these pitches often becomes evident only after they have taken down their targets.

The politician who gets into public office via the votes harvested from people she convinced soon becomes oblivious of their plight, and fails to serve them as she had pledged in her pitches.

A man treats with contempt the lady whose heart he had captured with sweet memorized words. These things happen even with relationships founded upon real convictions. It’s easy to see why there could be more prevalent outcomes with connections initiated by a pitch, given that it makes it easier to be insincere, and allows wider room for skin deep commitments to be made.

What’s the alternative then? And how do we wean ourselves off this façade-building, truth-obscuring way of communicating with each other?

As an advocate of plainness and authenticity, I would suggest that we let go of our preference for ‘canned’ ready-made speeches.

Maybe your conversation partners may not be patient enough to wade through your garbled, fumbling words with you. If that’s your fear, you can deal with it by learning to be a better communicator.

Note that this is quite different from stuffing your head with lines of flow-chart-like language meant to be regurgitated as occasion demands. Instead of memorizing eloquent speech, work on becoming an eloquent speaker. Train yourself to convey your thoughts coherently.

When you have made a fair amount of progress on this, your communication will be much better. You won’t have to sound robotic at one moment (as you rattle out your predetermined words), and stumble through mannerisms in the next. Even more importantly, you will be treating your audience like the humans they are.