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TRANSLATING THE WEST: Language and Political Reason in Nineteenth-Century Japan, by Douglas R. Howland. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001, 312 pp., $27.95 (paper)

It is commonly assumed that Western ideas somehow wafted to Japan and there landed and took root. A moment’s reflection, however, reveals this as unlikely. Ideas do not float from one country to another. They are packed, however carelessly, then exported, or imported. The packing material is language.

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