Zielenziger, Michael 1955-

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Zielenziger, Michael 1955-


Born 1955. Education: Princeton University, A.B.; studied at Stanford University.


E-mail—[email protected]


Journalist and academic. San Jose Mercury News, San Jose, CA, Pacific Rim correspondent; Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo bureau chief, 1996-2003; University of California Institute of East Asian Studies, Berkeley, visiting scholar, 2005—. John S. KnightFfellow, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 1991; Abe Fellow of the Social Science Research Council, 2003.


Pacific Council on International Policy.


Pulitzer Prize finalist, 1995, for international reporting.


Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation, Nan A. Talese (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Kansas City Star, Knight Ridder, and Chicago Sun Times.


Michael Zielenziger is a journalist and academic. He worked in Japan for seven years as the bureau chief for the Knight Ridder News agency. He also held posts on West Coast U.S. newspapers as well. Zielenziger published his first book, Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation, in 2006. The book warns of serious problems in Japan, both on international and domestic levels. Internationally, Zielenziger says Japan has failed to achieve a dominant standing in world affairs, despite having the second-largest economy. Domestically, he argues that the prefeminism mindset of many Japanese men acts as a serious deterrent to helping the country expand to its full potential and cause social problems like hikikomori, women who stay at home almost continuously and do not interact with society.

Janice Nimura, writing in the Washington Post Book World, noted that the book is "delivered with style," adding that it is "enlivened with sensitive first-person reporting." Nimura commented that the book "puts a human face on a nation's plight and provides an intriguing point of entry into a consideration of Japan's crisis of confidence. But not all of Japan's creative minds have locked themselves away, and the ultraconservative old guard is passing. The future is not as tidy as the metaphor makes it seem." Emily Parker, writing in the Wall Street Journal, claimed that the book "offers a glimpse at an uneasy nation suspended between two worlds." Parker explained the positive and negative aspects of the book, however, saying that "Zielenziger's work is strongest when he presents his extensive interviews. His analysis of his findings, however, isn't always so convincing. The book presents a hodgepodge of explanations for Japan's problems—with themes ranging from religion to rice cultivation—and occasionally reaches for overstated or broad-brush conclusions. His take on Japan can at times appear excessively gloomy." Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Darrell Hartman stated: "Japan may be witnessing a gender eclipse, which makes it a shame that Shutting Out the Sun is bent on making one simple point: The country is in deep, deep trouble. In this well-researched volume, Zielenziger has taken a giant subject and flattened it into a blanket argument." Hartman concluded that "in the end, he does give observers of this reticent country good reason to be concerned."

Gaylord Dold, writing in the Wichita Eagle, concluded: "Consistently engaging and written with a good reporter's eye for colorful detail, Shutting Out the Sun is both fascinating and informative." Reviewing the book on the PopMatters Web site, Michael Sandlin remarked that "the book's weak spots can't sink what ultimately stands as an authoritative, eye-opening reality check for contemporary Japan. Shutting Out the Sun ends on a disturbingly resonant note, as Zielenziger offers some frightening crystal-ball scenarios of what an increasingly powerless, passive-aggressive Japan could mean to global stability. And he quite rightly suggests that the USA may be unwittingly competing for a similar Japanese-style national Nothingness. In closing, Zielenziger offers some sound advice that the world's powers might want to consider." A contributor to the Fresh Fiction Web site stated: "Smart, unconventional, and politically controversial, Shutting Out the Sun is a bold explanation of Japan's stagnation and its implications for the rest of the world." Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley concluded by calling the book "a piercing, astute look at how [Japan's] refusal to embrace change is detrimental to its younger generation."



Booklist, September 15, 2006, Kristine Huntley, review of Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation, p. 11.

First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, June 1, 2007, "Land of the Setting Sun," p. 53.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2006, review of Shutting Out the Sun, p. 718.

Publishers Weekly, July 17, 2006, review of Shutting Out the Sun, p. 152.

San Francisco Chronicle, October 17, 2006, Darrell Hartman, review of Shutting Out the Sun, p. D3.

Wall Street Journal, September 26, 2006, Emily Parker, review of Shutting Out the Sun.

Washington Post Book World, September 19, 2006, Janice Nimura, review of Shutting Out the Sun, p. C8.

Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS), October 1, 2006, Gaylord Dold, review of Shutting Out the Sun.


Berkeley China Initiative, Center for Chinese Studies, University of California, Berkeley Web site,http://bci.berkeley.edu/ (February 5, 2008), author profile.

Fresh Fiction,http://www.freshfiction.com/ (February 5, 2008), review of Shutting Out the Sun.

Global Business Network Web site,http://www.gbn.com/ (February 5, 2008), author profile.

PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (November 12, 2006), Michael Sandlin, review of Shutting Out the Sun.

Shutting Out the Sun Web site,http://www.shuttingoutthesun.com (February 5, 2008), author profile.