HEGEMONY OF HOMOGENEITY: An Anthropological Analysis of Nihonjinron, by Harumi Befu. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press, 2001, 181 pp., A$44.95 (US$29.95)

Nihonjinron, the discourse on "Japaneseness," has been with us for quite some time.

As a recurring topic of discussion it resurfaces every once in a while when the public appetite for identity needs to be satisfied, for one reason or another. There is an ebb and flow, but the stream of publications never dries up completely. Contributions to the debate about "Who are we? What is Japan? Where do we come from?" -- no matter how arcane -- are always sure to attract quite a bit of attention in Japan.

Indeed, to ponder these questions is something like a national pastime.