This 340 page book is wonderfully concise. Covering the origins of Japan to 2004 one is introduced to the key periods of Japanese history including the Heian period, the rise of the warrior class and the Gempei war, the indirect rule by the Shogunate, the splendid isolation of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration.
Every chapter is packed with succinct observations.
There are two excellent chapters on the absorption of Chinese thought and culture by the Japanese literati and court.
The Tale of Genji and The Tale of Heike, the tea ceremony, kabuki, no, haiku and the spread of Buddhism, Zen, Confucianism and Christianity to Japan are also well covered.
A surprising lacuna is the omission of a narrative on the culture of sakura hanami and bonsai.
This 4th edition is highly recommended for the reader interested in Japanese history and culture. But a reader shd note that this book is updated to 2004 and thus if you are interested in politics post 2004 this book is not for you.