This is not a book on Japan or on some aspects of Japanese culture and society. It is a book on the representation of Japan in Western society, and therefore it deals with our thoughts. The topic of this book is the construction of phenomena labeled Japanese culture, Japanese society or the Japanese by means of a corpus of theoretical and methodological proceedings called "social science" or "humanities". Everyone familiar with the results of Japan-related scholarship is aware of the multitude of approaches developed since the Meiji Restoration, when the opening of the country to foreigners made systematic studies of the culture and society possible.
The editors view the approaches presented in this volume as part of the wider field of the representation of Japan in Western society, a representation which, even at the risk of oversimplification, it seems fair to characterize as shaped by stereotypes from its very beginnings. Therefore, one of the most important tasks in reviewing the efforts of Japanese studies seems to be the identification of external influences on the academic approach to Japanese culture and society. Once this is done, a revision of the Western image of Japan might be undertaken in order to break down stereotypes and clichés.