Kowner has apparently read everything that Europeans wrote about Japanese people between 1300 and 1735. From White to Yellow seeks nothing less than “to examine the evolution of racial thought in premodern and early modern Europe,” focusing on the Japanese in particular and East Asians in general (3). Kowner seeks to shed light not only on European discourses about the “yellow race” but also on racial thought in general.

The inclusion of Genghis Khan, Marco Polo, and Christopher Columbus in his survey may sate the author’s aspiration to be comprehensive, but it does not serve his larger aim of elucidating the emergence of the European discourse about the Japanese or the yellow race. It is not clear how influential these pioneering accounts of Japan by those who never visited the archipelago were. The same question lingers about the earliest European visitors to Japan, such as García de Escalante Alvarado or...

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