THE MIKADO’S EMPIRE: A History of Japan from the Mythological Age to the Meiji Era, by William Elliot Griffis. A facsimile printing of the 1895 edition. New York, Tokyo, Osaka & London: ICG Muse, Inc. 2000, 462 pp., 1,300 yen.

William Elliot Griffis, educator and clergyman, first came to Japan in 1870. Like Lafcadio Hearn, he was originally sent to the provinces (Fukui), but after less than a year had made his way back to Tokyo Imperial University, where he gathered materials for what would become his major work, his history of the “Mikado’s” empire. It was published in 1876 and is thus among the first outside books on the country. It was quite popular: By 1912, it had gone through 12 editions. The volume under review is a facsimile of the 1895 eighth edition — minus the illustrations. Long out of print, it is as instructive as it ever was.

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