[Some photographic and film impressions of Japan taken by Alan Macfarlane and Sarah Harrison, 1993-2006, with additional films taken by Windfall Films]

It is impossible to convey the richness and complexity of Japanese history and culture in words alone. The book was derived as much from these experiences as from reading and conversations. Here are a few of our encounters with Japan during our visits. You can see video clips on all sorts of subjects, which have been uploaded to 'Youtube', by clicking the selections below:

Visiting Japan we saw a miscellany of sights: goldfish and graveyards, restaurants and manga bars, homeless people and houses, topiary and ice creams....   

The cities, shops, night life, travel on the bullet train (shinkansen) give the impression of a very rich, urban and consumer conscious society.   

But Japan is not just a huge city and there are some pretty villages and islands as well... 

We were deeply impressed by the wonderful temples, shrines, large houses and gardens which are famous around the world, especially in Kyoto and Nara.   

These shrines and temples, and the streets around them, come alive at certain times with rituals,  processions, dances, and presentations of children.   

The rituals blend into the arts and performances (koto music, bunraku puppets, dancing and plays) for which Japan is famous.              

These in turn merge into ritualized sports and leisure activities such as sumo wrestling, kendo fencing, tea ceremonies and hot baths.     

The objects used in all of these ceremonies and pursuits are crafted with enormous care. We saw paper making, pottery, sword-making, basket work, lacquer and other crafts. An assembly of objects in the Kyoto craft museum, and the Edo museum of nineteenth century Tokyo life illustrates many of the artefacts.    

Not only do the Japanese shape inanimate objects, but also faces and bodies, most famously in the painting and dressing and performances of the maiko and geisha.     

And they also carefully shape their children in an intensive education system which we glimpsed.

Finally, how Japanese history has evolved over the last thousand years, and some thoughts on how Japan is similar and different from China and England led to a number of reflections by Alan Macfarlane in connection with the Channel Four series on a visit in 1999.