Faculty member goes encyclopedic on postwar Japan

October 27, 2011 | Features, UToday
By Cynthia Nowak


You might blame it on the manga.

Dr. William D. Hoover, professor emeritus of history, noticed over the years that many students taking his courses on Japanese history might display limited interest in political, military and economic topics, but would perk up immediately when current cultural history was discussed.

“For example, all you have to do to turn a lot of students on is to mention anime or manga or certain social patterns,” he said. “Or filmmaker Akira Kurosawa or Japanese films in general, or Japanese architecture, and on and on.”

A course on all aspects of life in postwar Japan seemed ripe for development, he decided. He worked on it while living in Japan for two years, then returned to UT and began teaching what quickly became a very popular addition to the curriculum.

“Two or three years later,” he said, “I received a letter asking if I’d like to write a book on the subject.”

Historical Dictionary of Postwar Japan, published earlier this year by Scarecrow Press, a subsidiary of the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, is the result of 10 years of research by Hoover, who has taught Asian history at UT since 1968 and who chaired the History Department for 15 years.

As he explained, “It may be called a dictionary, but it’s really an encyclopedia.” In addition to the alphabetical entries, the book includes a month-by-month chronology of events in postwar Japan, charts that trace various national trends, and an extensive bibliography.

Hoover revealed that he and his editor differed on what to include: “I told him that I thought most people are interested in social relations, in what makes a nation’s culture: the role of religion, of labor unions, the most important people in fashion.

“We finally compromised. Instead of 20 baseball players, he told me, you can have only 10, but make mention of the others in the article on baseball.

“It’s likely to be very helpful to a general reader, but a specialist who may know the economics but not the politics, say, or the cultural side, will also find much to use,” said Hoover, who in addition to his UT teaching serves as chair of the local Toledo-Toyohashi Sister City Committee.

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