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Japan at War: An Oral History

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This "deeply moving book" (Studs Terkel) portrays the Japanese experience of WWII. This oral history is the first book to capture - in either Japanese or English - the experience of ordinary Japanese during the war. In a sweeping panorama, Haruko Taya Cook & Theodore F. Cook go from the Japanese attacks on China in the '30s to the Japanese home front during the inhuman rai This "deeply moving book" (Studs Terkel) portrays the Japanese experience of WWII. This oral history is the first book to capture - in either Japanese or English - the experience of ordinary Japanese during the war. In a sweeping panorama, Haruko Taya Cook & Theodore F. Cook go from the Japanese attacks on China in the '30s to the Japanese home front during the inhuman raids on Tokyo, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, offering the first glimpses of how the 20th century's most deadly conflict affected the lives of the population. The book "seeks out the true feelings of the wartime generation & illuminates the contradictions between the official views of the war & living testimony" (Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan). Acknowledgments Introduction to a lost war 1 An undeclared war: Battle lines in China: A village boy goes to war/ Nohara Teishin. Pictures of an expedition/ Tanida Isamu. Qualifying as a leader/ Tominaga Shōzō. Gas soldier/ Tanisuga Shizuo; Toward a new order: "War means jobs for machinists"/ Kumagaya Tokuichi. "I wanted to build a greater East Asia"/ Nogi Harumichi. Manchurian days/ Fukushima Yoshie. Dancing into the night/ Hara Kiyoshi. Bringing the liberals to heel/ Hatanaka Shigeo 2 Have "faith in victory": 12/8/41: "My blood boiled at the news"/ Itabashi Kōshū. "I heard it on the radio"/ Yoshia Toshio. On Admiral Yamamoto's flagship/ Noda Mitsuharu. In a fighter cockpit on the Soviet border/ Mogami Sadao. Sailing south/ Masuda Reiji. A failure of diplomacy/ Kase Toshikazu; Greater East Asia: Cartoons for the war/ Yokoyama Ryūichi. Building the Burma-Siam Railroad/ Abe Hiroshi. Keeping order in the Indies/ Nogi Harumichi. "Korean guard"/ Kasayama Yoshikichi; The Emperor's warriors: Maker of soldiers/ Debun Shigenobu. "As long as I don't fight, I'll make it home"/ Suzuki Murio. Zero ace/ Sakai Saburō; "Demons from the East": Army doctor/ Yuasa Ken. Spies & bandits/ Uno Shintarō. Unit 731/ Tamura Yoshio 3 Homeland: Life goes on: The end of a bake shop/ Arakawa Hiroyo. Burdens of a village bride/ Tanaka Toki. Dressmaker/ Koshino Ayako; War work: Making balloon bombs/ Tanaka Tetsuko. Forced labor/ Ahn Juretsu. Poison-gas island/ Nakajima Yoshimi; Wielding pen & camera: Filming the news/ Asai Tatsuzō. War correspondent/ Hata Shōryū. Reporting from Imperial General Headquarters/ Kawachi Uichirō; Against the tide: Thought criminal/ Hatanaka Shigeo. "Isn't my brother one of the 'war dead'?"/ Kiga Sumi; Childhood: Playing at war/ Satō Hideo; Art & entertainment: "I loved American movies"/ Hirosawa Ei. Star at the Moulin Rouge/ Sugai Toshiko. "We wouldn't paint war art"/ Maruki Iri & Maruki Toshi 4 Lost battles: The slaughter of an army: The "green desert" of New Guinea/ Ogawa Masatsugu. Soldiers' deaths/ Ogawa Tamotsu. "Honorable death" on Saipan/ Yamauchi Takeo; Sunken fleet/ Lifeboat/ Matsunaga Ichirō. Transport war/ Masuda Reiji; "Special attack": Volunteer/ Yokota Yutaka. Human torpedo/ Kōzu Naoji. Bride of a kamikaze/ Araki Shigeko. Requiem/ Nishihara Wakana 5 "One hundred million die together": The burning skies/ "Hiroko died because of me"/ Funato Kazuyo. At the telephone exchange/ Tomizawa Kimi & Kobayashi Hiroyasu; The war comes home to Okinawa: Student nurses of the Lily Corps/ Miyagi Kikuko. "Now they call it "group suicide"/ Kinjō Shigeaki. Straggler/ Ōta Masahide; In the enemy's hands: White flag/ Kojima Kiyofumi; "A new terrible weapon": 800 meters from the hypocenter/ Yamaoka Michiko. A Korean in Hiroshima/ Shin Bok Su. 5 photographs of Aug. 6/ Matsushige Yoshito. "Forgetting is a blessing"/ Kimura Yasuko 6 The unresolved war: Reversals of fortune: Flight/ Fukushima Yoshi. From Bandung to Starvation Island/ Iitoyo Shōgo. "The army's been a good life"/ Tanida Isamu; Crimes & punishments: death row at Changi Prison/ Abe Hiroshi. "The didn't tell me"/ Fujii Shizue; The long shadow of death: The Emperor's retreat/ Yamane Masako. "My boy never came home"/ Imai Shike; Reflections: Teaching war/ Ienaga Saburō. Meeting at Yasukuni Shrine/ Kiyama Terumichi. Lessons/ Mogami Sadao. A quest for meaning/ Ōta Masahide; Endings: Homecoming/ Tominaga Shōzo. The face of the enemy/ Sasaki Naokata. Imperial gifts for the war dead/ Kawashima Eiko. Royalties/ Yokoyama Ryūichi. "I learned about the war from Grandma"/ Miyagi Harumi. The occupiers/ Kawachi Uichirō. Back to the beginning/ Hayashi Shigeo


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This "deeply moving book" (Studs Terkel) portrays the Japanese experience of WWII. This oral history is the first book to capture - in either Japanese or English - the experience of ordinary Japanese during the war. In a sweeping panorama, Haruko Taya Cook & Theodore F. Cook go from the Japanese attacks on China in the '30s to the Japanese home front during the inhuman rai This "deeply moving book" (Studs Terkel) portrays the Japanese experience of WWII. This oral history is the first book to capture - in either Japanese or English - the experience of ordinary Japanese during the war. In a sweeping panorama, Haruko Taya Cook & Theodore F. Cook go from the Japanese attacks on China in the '30s to the Japanese home front during the inhuman raids on Tokyo, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, offering the first glimpses of how the 20th century's most deadly conflict affected the lives of the population. The book "seeks out the true feelings of the wartime generation & illuminates the contradictions between the official views of the war & living testimony" (Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan). Acknowledgments Introduction to a lost war 1 An undeclared war: Battle lines in China: A village boy goes to war/ Nohara Teishin. Pictures of an expedition/ Tanida Isamu. Qualifying as a leader/ Tominaga Shōzō. Gas soldier/ Tanisuga Shizuo; Toward a new order: "War means jobs for machinists"/ Kumagaya Tokuichi. "I wanted to build a greater East Asia"/ Nogi Harumichi. Manchurian days/ Fukushima Yoshie. Dancing into the night/ Hara Kiyoshi. Bringing the liberals to heel/ Hatanaka Shigeo 2 Have "faith in victory": 12/8/41: "My blood boiled at the news"/ Itabashi Kōshū. "I heard it on the radio"/ Yoshia Toshio. On Admiral Yamamoto's flagship/ Noda Mitsuharu. In a fighter cockpit on the Soviet border/ Mogami Sadao. Sailing south/ Masuda Reiji. A failure of diplomacy/ Kase Toshikazu; Greater East Asia: Cartoons for the war/ Yokoyama Ryūichi. Building the Burma-Siam Railroad/ Abe Hiroshi. Keeping order in the Indies/ Nogi Harumichi. "Korean guard"/ Kasayama Yoshikichi; The Emperor's warriors: Maker of soldiers/ Debun Shigenobu. "As long as I don't fight, I'll make it home"/ Suzuki Murio. Zero ace/ Sakai Saburō; "Demons from the East": Army doctor/ Yuasa Ken. Spies & bandits/ Uno Shintarō. Unit 731/ Tamura Yoshio 3 Homeland: Life goes on: The end of a bake shop/ Arakawa Hiroyo. Burdens of a village bride/ Tanaka Toki. Dressmaker/ Koshino Ayako; War work: Making balloon bombs/ Tanaka Tetsuko. Forced labor/ Ahn Juretsu. Poison-gas island/ Nakajima Yoshimi; Wielding pen & camera: Filming the news/ Asai Tatsuzō. War correspondent/ Hata Shōryū. Reporting from Imperial General Headquarters/ Kawachi Uichirō; Against the tide: Thought criminal/ Hatanaka Shigeo. "Isn't my brother one of the 'war dead'?"/ Kiga Sumi; Childhood: Playing at war/ Satō Hideo; Art & entertainment: "I loved American movies"/ Hirosawa Ei. Star at the Moulin Rouge/ Sugai Toshiko. "We wouldn't paint war art"/ Maruki Iri & Maruki Toshi 4 Lost battles: The slaughter of an army: The "green desert" of New Guinea/ Ogawa Masatsugu. Soldiers' deaths/ Ogawa Tamotsu. "Honorable death" on Saipan/ Yamauchi Takeo; Sunken fleet/ Lifeboat/ Matsunaga Ichirō. Transport war/ Masuda Reiji; "Special attack": Volunteer/ Yokota Yutaka. Human torpedo/ Kōzu Naoji. Bride of a kamikaze/ Araki Shigeko. Requiem/ Nishihara Wakana 5 "One hundred million die together": The burning skies/ "Hiroko died because of me"/ Funato Kazuyo. At the telephone exchange/ Tomizawa Kimi & Kobayashi Hiroyasu; The war comes home to Okinawa: Student nurses of the Lily Corps/ Miyagi Kikuko. "Now they call it "group suicide"/ Kinjō Shigeaki. Straggler/ Ōta Masahide; In the enemy's hands: White flag/ Kojima Kiyofumi; "A new terrible weapon": 800 meters from the hypocenter/ Yamaoka Michiko. A Korean in Hiroshima/ Shin Bok Su. 5 photographs of Aug. 6/ Matsushige Yoshito. "Forgetting is a blessing"/ Kimura Yasuko 6 The unresolved war: Reversals of fortune: Flight/ Fukushima Yoshi. From Bandung to Starvation Island/ Iitoyo Shōgo. "The army's been a good life"/ Tanida Isamu; Crimes & punishments: death row at Changi Prison/ Abe Hiroshi. "The didn't tell me"/ Fujii Shizue; The long shadow of death: The Emperor's retreat/ Yamane Masako. "My boy never came home"/ Imai Shike; Reflections: Teaching war/ Ienaga Saburō. Meeting at Yasukuni Shrine/ Kiyama Terumichi. Lessons/ Mogami Sadao. A quest for meaning/ Ōta Masahide; Endings: Homecoming/ Tominaga Shōzo. The face of the enemy/ Sasaki Naokata. Imperial gifts for the war dead/ Kawashima Eiko. Royalties/ Yokoyama Ryūichi. "I learned about the war from Grandma"/ Miyagi Harumi. The occupiers/ Kawachi Uichirō. Back to the beginning/ Hayashi Shigeo

30 review for Japan at War: An Oral History

  1. 5 out of 5

    P.E.

    A Contentious Legacy Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo This work is a collection of accounts from Japanese (and Korean) witnesses of the events of the war waged by Japan in between 1931 and 1945. Testimonies are supplemented with critical introduction (historical landmarks, context, a few footnotes, yet all are highly informative). Some of the key topics broached in this work: 〜Japanese nationalism and totalitarian militarianism (with both Western and endemic roots). The indoctrination of the population, a A Contentious Legacy Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo This work is a collection of accounts from Japanese (and Korean) witnesses of the events of the war waged by Japan in between 1931 and 1945. Testimonies are supplemented with critical introduction (historical landmarks, context, a few footnotes, yet all are highly informative). Some of the key topics broached in this work: 〜Japanese nationalism and totalitarian militarianism (with both Western and endemic roots). The indoctrination of the population, arrests of objectors, the sacrifice of 'expandable' Okinawans (Battle of Okinawa) and Koreans (e.g. building of Matsushiro Underground Imperial Headquarters)... 〜Propaganda, censorship, ban on Western culture at large (exceptions for Italian and German art visibly...), shortages, blackouts, forced labour in Japan during the Pacific War. 〜The glaring inequalities in the Japanese imperial army between soldiers and officers, brutal beatings, thrashings, the avowed merits and iniquities of the former and the latter towards the populations of occupied territories. Distorsion of facts within the Army. 〜The underlying motives for obedience to the imperial authorities in Japan. See 14-18, penser le patriotisme to grasp some common mechanisms behind conscription and draft in both early 20th Europe and Japan). 〜The life of the Chinese civilians, Japanese colonists and military personnel in occupied Manchuria ("Manchukuo"). Some parallels are brought up between Western colonization and Japanese colonization in the Far East. 〜Prisoners of war and how they were dealt with by the Japanese imperial army. 〜How Japanese were frowned upon for allowing themselves to be taken as prisoners by the enemy. 〜... Resulting in the notion of gyokusai (glorious, honorable death) 'Okha' suicide plane Not to mention suicide motorboats (theoretically not a suicide weapon), suicide diving suits, suicide torpedos... Kaiten suicide torpedo 〜How Japanese soldiers, officers, civilians were dealt with by their different victors. 〜Japanese administration in Burma, Indonesia, Singapore. 〜The nuclear bombs and their aftereffects. https://marukigallery.jp/en/hiroshima... 〜Responsibility of the Shōwa emperor Hirohito regarding the opening (1931 in China or 1941 in Hawaii depending on the pov) and the lasting of the conflict. Also see Le Japon on this subject. 〜 How the Japanese commemorate the war, how is it remembered and its causes and events passed down to younger generations. ALSO SEE: Books: 〜A general history of Japan: Le Japon 〜On Japanese aesthetics: The Book of Tea 〜On patriotism and nationalism: 14-18, penser le patriotisme La création des identités nationales. Europe, XVIIIe-XXe siècle 〜Another testimony: Something Like an Autobiography 〜Regarding militarianism in Japan: Runaway Horses The Temple of Dawn Battle Royale 〜Propaganda under the Pacific War: An Artist of the Floating World 〜A brief note on the Kaiten suicide torpedoes: Les Sous-marins : Fantômes des profondeurs 〜On totalitarianism: The Rebel Psychologie Des Foules Propaganda 〜East Indian Companies, Western trade and colonization of the Far East: Histoire de la décolonisation au XXème siècle Capital and Ideology The Theft of History Musée de la Compagnie des Indes, Musée d'art et d'histoire de la ville de Lorient Le goût de l'Inde Films: An American propaganda documentary: Know Your Enemy: Japan - Frank Capra A war widow investigating about the actual circumstances of her husband's death. A sergeant in the Japanese Imperial Army, he has been executed as a deserter: Under the Flag of the Rising Sun - Kinji Fukasaku An animated movie loosely inspired from the life of Jirō Horikoshi, the designer of the Mitsubishi Zero fighter/bomber: The Wind Rises - Hayao Miyazaki Inspired from Imperial Japanese Army General Kuribayashi's work Picture Letters from the Commander-in-Chief: Letters From Iwo Jima - Clint Eastwood An animated movie about two war orphans and their struggle for survival in bombed and post WW2 Kōbe: The Grave of the Fireflies - Isao Takahata https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vPeT... A series of shorts by Akira Kurosawa about his dreams. I personally link 'The Tunnel' to the events told by Japanese veterans in the collection of oral testimonies: Dreams - Akira Kurosawa, esp. 'The Tunnel'

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eli

    This was a phenomenal book. It is not the first compilation of interviews I have read about World War II, but it was by far the most comprehensive. Haruko and Theodore Cook did an excellent job in presenting the vastly different experiences of WWII Japanese and Japanese-occupied peoples. This is a must-read for any historian interested in Japanese history, Asian history, WWII, or the twentieth century.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I only began this oral history collection because a close friend gave it to me. Normally I avoid the genre as being too anecdotal, too prone to give false impressions. Starting with the Manchurian incident of 1931, the going was slow at the outset because I know too little about Sino-Nipponese relations before the Pacific war. But once I got to the late thirties and events with which I've acquired some knowledge, it became riveting and coming to its conclusion with the occupation of Japan was a I only began this oral history collection because a close friend gave it to me. Normally I avoid the genre as being too anecdotal, too prone to give false impressions. Starting with the Manchurian incident of 1931, the going was slow at the outset because I know too little about Sino-Nipponese relations before the Pacific war. But once I got to the late thirties and events with which I've acquired some knowledge, it became riveting and coming to its conclusion with the occupation of Japan was a sadness. The book is objectively significant for two reasons. First, the authors, an Anglo-Japanese couple, provide good historical essays surveying the period and the particular events discussed. One will know enough about the Manchurian Incident to proceed to the first-person accounts of it and its aftermath. Second, an oral history of the war from the perspective of ordinary Japanese has never, incredibly, been done before. What does that say about Japan and its people? What does that say about being the losers in war who renounce war rather than tooling up for another one? A disproportionate amount of space is given to the extreme, the exotic and the bizarre, to such events as our nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and to such Japanese practices as torturing and testing poisons on prisoners as well as on those men who trained for suicide aeroplane and torpedo missions. But, heavens, I must admit that I am fascinated by these extremes and the psychology of those who bring themselves to promote and justify them. And here you will get, often, both descriptions and repentant confessions. Although disproportionate in that they distort the sense one might obtain about how most Japanese experienced the war, these accounts which punctuate the broader flow of the basically chronological text make this book a page-turner.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mats Frick

    Others have written excellent reviews about this book and I'm not going to repeat the main aspects. The greatest lesson to me though is the mindnumbing emptyness of collective militarism. Nearly all of the people featured in the book struggle to find meaning from the chaos and violence of war, but the message between the lines is actually quite depressing: the horrors were completely meaningless. Stalin allegedly stated that "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statisti Others have written excellent reviews about this book and I'm not going to repeat the main aspects. The greatest lesson to me though is the mindnumbing emptyness of collective militarism. Nearly all of the people featured in the book struggle to find meaning from the chaos and violence of war, but the message between the lines is actually quite depressing: the horrors were completely meaningless. Stalin allegedly stated that "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic". Behind the strategic arrows on maps and the euphemisms used by the powers that be, there are real people that have to fulfill the grand promises of others. Anyone talking about "greatness", "manifest destiny" or "the greater good" should be made aware of this book. War is stupid.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Right up there with the best of Studs Terkel and Svetlana Alexievich, this is some damn fine oral history (God, that term sounds unfailingly filthy to me). From a society that is so often caricatured as an absolute collective -- both by Japanese and foreign commentators -- you hear a broad spectrum of voices, from "we deserved the atomic bomb!" to "Nanking never happened wut lol." People do horrible things. People are subject to horrible things, and the underlying theme is deceit, failure, atroc Right up there with the best of Studs Terkel and Svetlana Alexievich, this is some damn fine oral history (God, that term sounds unfailingly filthy to me). From a society that is so often caricatured as an absolute collective -- both by Japanese and foreign commentators -- you hear a broad spectrum of voices, from "we deserved the atomic bomb!" to "Nanking never happened wut lol." People do horrible things. People are subject to horrible things, and the underlying theme is deceit, failure, atrocity, terrible sadness, and perhaps above all else, the fundamental absurdity of the Japanese Empire's quixotic attempt at establishing dominance and "co-prosperity" in East Asia.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I think I’m not a fan of oral history; the accounts are inconsistent in quality, there’s too much readjusting to new voices, it suffers from a lack of thesis or unifying vision. So given that, I still thought this was tedious; cherry-picking resulting in a shorter work would have been better. DNFed at 100 pages.

  7. 5 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    For those that like oral history this is essential. Well presented in chronological order with everyone from the school children, the house wife, the front-line soldier and even Kamikaze failures, all are represented. For a peoples who are generally reticent to speak this is a must for those that have a thirst for Japanese wartime knowledge.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Yukio Nagato

    An exceptional account of the people, which was pretty much everyone in Japan, engulfed in this horrendous war. Most people are quite familiar with the basic parties, dates, and events of WWII in the Pacific theater but these amazing, and at times heart-wrenching, first-person narratives give much clearer glimpses and interesting perspectives by the Japanese themselves into what it really felt like to almost die, watch people die, suffer, starve, and lose loved ones. I'm not going to hesitate to An exceptional account of the people, which was pretty much everyone in Japan, engulfed in this horrendous war. Most people are quite familiar with the basic parties, dates, and events of WWII in the Pacific theater but these amazing, and at times heart-wrenching, first-person narratives give much clearer glimpses and interesting perspectives by the Japanese themselves into what it really felt like to almost die, watch people die, suffer, starve, and lose loved ones. I'm not going to hesitate to throw in the old cliche, "If you're going to read one book about the Pacific War, then make sure it's this one." Definitely worth your time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    To read or write about Japan at War: An Oral History -authors Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook without getting emotional is to suggest that the reader has either missed the content of these recollections or is in need of therapy. The authors have collected together a variety of first-person accounts by Japanese people who participated in and survived World War II. Together they provide testimony about not just what was done to them, but what they participated in doing. Along side the Japane To read or write about Japan at War: An Oral History -authors Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook without getting emotional is to suggest that the reader has either missed the content of these recollections or is in need of therapy. The authors have collected together a variety of first-person accounts by Japanese people who participated in and survived World War II. Together they provide testimony about not just what was done to them, but what they participated in doing. Along side the Japanese survivors are Korean and Okinawan whose experiences serve to emphasize the complexities of what was a total, nationalistic and race-based war. Depending on the reader Japan at War is several books. For the Japanese reader is one of the few places they can avoid the Japanese’ governments direct control over the record and the texts books about this period. A typical modern citizen of Japan is unlikely to have more than a general understanding of what was done by their families, including members still alive, nothing about how they came to believe it was right to do these things. What an Americans thinks of as a war from Dec 1941 to Aug 1945 was for the Japanese, Koreans and Chineses a war that started formally in 1931 and arguably with smaller aggressions going back before 1900. Not specifically addresses in the book was that this period saw a deliberate effort to create a militaristic, centralized image of Japan. The Bushido code was corrupted to emphasize the racial superiority of the Japanese over all people, Asian or otherwise and the righteousness of despising the defeated. By the time any of the speakers recorded in Japan at War were of age they had been taught that the Emperor was a sacred being, something not as traditional as they were being taught, and that Japan had the right and the need to subject others. Much later the term Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was invented as a sop to the west and a false flag for the displacement of white colonial powers in many of the invaded nations. It was common among the native populations to initially welcome Japanese invaders, only to realize they were crueler that the pre-existing, and unwanted colonial governments. Of the survivors the soldiers, airmen and sailors were a mix of those consciously motivated by the same patriotic feelings ascribed to people anywhere in uniform; those who joined as a means of surviving economically hard times and those unwillingly drafted. They lived in a world that only allowed expressions in favor of what the military was doing and who made a point of celebrating the death that so many were being sent to experience. This was an army who were told, and whose family were told could achieve sacred greatness, literally, godhood by dying, and who could only dishonor everyone by failing. Any other expression or attitude was suppressed. Notably suppression could be in the form of the Kenpeitai, the Japanese military police, or by social norms, carefully cultivated to promote voluntary self-suppression. From early on Japan was in a war it could not sustain. Shortages and privation were almost immediate after the War expanded to include America and Britain. Distribution of ever dwindling resources was apportioned sometimes in favor of those working for the military but ultimately privation was wide-spread, although never universal. It is here that the memories of the Koreans and Okinawans becomes important. At first it was “we are all in this together”. Ultimately it became, Japanese first all others expendable. It has to be said that this attitude even applied to the immediate and long-term survivors of the atomic bombs. This brings us to readers not citizens of Japan. Among the worst possible ways to read this book is that it justifies what happened to the people of Japan. Shrugging this off as, bad things happen to bad people, or Japan did this this to Japan, or they got what they deserved is to miss some very important warnings. Everywhere it is easy to acclaim strong men, what in American politics has been described as The Man on The White Horse. There is an attractive aspect of someone who makes huge promises based on huge lies and backed by bully boys. The Japanese military gave itself the right to invade and conquer. They used murder to suppress any effort by the civil government to limit their actions. Public opinion and discourse were supportive, indifferent or violently suppressed. All of this can happen anywhere and some of this has happened everywhere, some not so remotely in time. Beyond and above the political aspect and the warnings, is the often-horrific fact of what these people were made to endure. Those whose military ranks or assignments spared them the worst of the physical degradation, may have elaborate excuses about what they did or know was done, but they also know that Japan became a much better place after that version of itself was humiliated and destroyed The rest have their real sorrows, regrets, losses and pain. The lasting, final and most important aspect of Japan at War is that taking a nation to war, means that people, families, civilians, neighbors and the reader will be made subject to these same kinds of regrets, losses and pain. Feelings of patriotism and loyalty can be misused and the results are horrific.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Milia Mizoguchi

    Growing up in a western-style classroom, everything I learned about my own country has been westernized. I would open my history book excited to finally learn about Japan and all it would cover is the attack of Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb dropping at Hiroshima. I considered it lucky if Commodore Perry was mentioned. So when my english teacher mentioned this book I was more than excited to read it. The book covered so much, and captured so many different perspectives and experiences of the p Growing up in a western-style classroom, everything I learned about my own country has been westernized. I would open my history book excited to finally learn about Japan and all it would cover is the attack of Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb dropping at Hiroshima. I considered it lucky if Commodore Perry was mentioned. So when my english teacher mentioned this book I was more than excited to read it. The book covered so much, and captured so many different perspectives and experiences of the people who lived through WW2. The book doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and truly portrays the tragedy that came out of this war. The graphic description of both young and old becoming a casualty to this war, the repeating pattern of civilians placing so much hope in the military while the military manipulated them and the information they receive was truly tragic. This book gave me context, and it truly shows that the people of Japan didn’t want to participate in the war—they had to. Each account left me deep in thought, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to understand Japan’s history even more. Chapter 17, “War Comes to Okinawa” resonated me the most, as it covered the events that happened where I currently live. Reading about the Himeyuri students and knowing they were my age when they had to experience the Okinawan war was truly heartbreaking. This book was both moving and eye-opening for me; it truly exceeded my expectation, and I gained more knowledge about WW2 in Japan than I thought I would. I’ve never really read these type of books, but after reading this book I’m hoping to start reading more about history. I recommend it to anyone interested in History or Japan, but I highly encourage my fellow classmates, or any students attending an international school in Japan to read it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    A must-read for WW II buffs. See the Pacific theatre from the firsthand viewpoints of the Japanese. The book is basically a collection of interviews from Japanese who either promoted or suffered in the War. The overwhelming conclusion even from these Japanese was "we were wrong." A must-read for WW II buffs. See the Pacific theatre from the firsthand viewpoints of the Japanese. The book is basically a collection of interviews from Japanese who either promoted or suffered in the War. The overwhelming conclusion even from these Japanese was "we were wrong."

  12. 4 out of 5

    S.

    this heavy, long, academic work consists of scores of interviews cross-referencing Japan's population during the war, and is a sort of legend in the field, multiply quoted and referenced in academia. it focuses on 'inherently interesting' topics, rather than a person's two years in the early war, their blow by blow account of being aerial bombed, and takes as its scope everything from Nanjing massacre perpetuators to pro-communist koreans-living-in japan to kamikaze pilots to people who did pape this heavy, long, academic work consists of scores of interviews cross-referencing Japan's population during the war, and is a sort of legend in the field, multiply quoted and referenced in academia. it focuses on 'inherently interesting' topics, rather than a person's two years in the early war, their blow by blow account of being aerial bombed, and takes as its scope everything from Nanjing massacre perpetuators to pro-communist koreans-living-in japan to kamikaze pilots to people who did paperwork during the war. there is nothing really shocking or surprising to previous readers of japanese history, so to that degree the work reveals academic/clinical distance and covers a statistically broad range of people, yet of course it might be argued that the attempt to cover as many people as possible actually doesn't present a statistically-even coverage-- i.e., if you're looking for the rare/extreme situations, by design you're not actually covering the standard experience very heavily. if you cover the 300 'himeyuri' (the okinawa girls who committed mass suicide rather than be captured by advancing US forced) then statistically, you're not covering the hundred thousand actual Okinawans who worked as farmers or laborers. (if that purely statistical breakdown makes sense) I read this book for some elective or as non-required reading during university days, and now understand a little better some of the adult stances or choices made by individuals. a solid and commendable piece of scholarship in the oral history tradition, and a keep for any reference library. as mentioned this is a sort of legendary work in East Asian studies. 500+ pages, so whether you're interested in 'the lives of women in taisho japan' or 'military operations in manchuria in the 1930s' you will find at least one account. and of course, the historian/writer ultimately has to find interesting material, so the one identified flaw, 'the totally boring war experience' is of course doomed to not be covered in any book. may have been the source material for David Mitchell's coverage of the suicide torpedo pilots. (view spoiler)[the Cooks find both somebody who truly was committed to the mission and another team that was apparently lied to (hide spoiler)] . it might be argued that is the most statistically unique coverage of the book; I believe the okinawa cave fighters (view spoiler)[who say the US used chemical weapons (hide spoiler)] have been covered elsewhere, as have, of course, ordinary officers, soldiers, and laborers, but I can't quite identify any other book in English that covered the 110 kaitan / suicide torpedo pilots. at time of writing in 1993, the Cooks were, as most academics, considered left-of-centre. with the passage of time and growing political power of the Chinese, probably the most 'dangerous' topic is the Rape of Nanking. in this 1993 work, the Cooks provide the Japanese revisionist figure of 4000 as well as the CCP and Kuomintang figure of 300,000 (although Nanking's pre war population was 250000 at the time). today in 2013, "200,000" has sort of entered the western lexicon / historical account --> see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape of Nanking. the Cooks decline to provide a figure themselves, although apparently in 1993 some sources in the west was saying 80,000 (others 150,000). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimate... (this sub article on WP claims sources of 40-200,000) I will note that, having been educated in american elementary, middle, and high schools-- I was of course taught 'the war began on dec 9 1941, when the evil japanese sneak attacked pearl harbor', but whatever, as the cooks themselves point out, of course americans are going to say that... published in 1993 and recently released with new covers; selling $25 in some asia-pac bookstores, list $19, amazon $15, best internet $11. 4/5

  13. 5 out of 5

    K.N.

    I had to rate this book as a whole, trying to encompass everything in here, and that was a bit challenging as there's so much. These are personal accounts of people involved in WWII on the Japanese side. Men, women, and children in Japan, China, Korea, Burma, Thailand, the Philippines, Okinawa, etc. from the very beginning of the war to the occupation. These stories in particular really stayed with me: -"Manchurian Days" and "Flight": I had never read about a Japanese immigrant in Manchuria before I had to rate this book as a whole, trying to encompass everything in here, and that was a bit challenging as there's so much. These are personal accounts of people involved in WWII on the Japanese side. Men, women, and children in Japan, China, Korea, Burma, Thailand, the Philippines, Okinawa, etc. from the very beginning of the war to the occupation. These stories in particular really stayed with me: -"Manchurian Days" and "Flight": I had never read about a Japanese immigrant in Manchuria before. Fukushima's stories were fascinating. "Flight" was especially sad. -"As long as I don't fight, I'll make it home.": I want to read more of Suzuki's haiku. His story was surprisingly entertaining, almost comedic. -"Army Doctor": This was the story that made me sick. -"Spies and Bandits": The end of this story is chilling. -"Bride of a Kamikaze": This was probably one of the saddest stories I've ever read. Fascinating too. Chapter 17/ THE WAR COMES TO OKINAWA was all new information to me and totally shocking. I'll have to look up more. Probably some of the most horrifying civilian accounts I've ever read. I had not heard about the mass suicides before. -"Death Row at Changi Prison": It was interesting to hear the other side to the Allied POW accounts, but I don't feel that Abe was as innocent as he liked to believe himself to be. "The Emperor's Retreat": This was another new, strange, and sad topic for me. I also want to research more into this, but as Yamane stated there's not much information available, sadly. Overall, many sad and/or horrifying personal accounts of war. I recommend to anyone who wants to know more about the Japanese view on WWII.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Josh Brett

    I originally read this book for a course on memories of WW2 in America and Japan. I picked it up again to read while my car was being fixed, I soon found myself openly crying at Peet's Coffee, reading the account of the woman who married a kamikaze pilot on the night before his suicide mission. A staggering, heartbreaking panorama of the horrors committed and inflicted on Japan in the 1930s and 40s. there is some real darkness in here, such as the man who literally became addicted to beheading, I originally read this book for a course on memories of WW2 in America and Japan. I picked it up again to read while my car was being fixed, I soon found myself openly crying at Peet's Coffee, reading the account of the woman who married a kamikaze pilot on the night before his suicide mission. A staggering, heartbreaking panorama of the horrors committed and inflicted on Japan in the 1930s and 40s. there is some real darkness in here, such as the man who literally became addicted to beheading, but mainly ordinary people trying to carry on with their lives who believed what they were doing was necessary. I would give this book 6 stars if possible, and highly recommend it to all.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mar Tome

    Read this for my History of Modern Japan course. I have to admit I was really amazed by this. It's a collection of first-hand accounts of those who survived the war ...but many years later. Some of the stories are horrifying while others seemed to be barely impacted by the war (or so they say). To Japan this was the 15 years war, that began many years before World War II when they invaded China in the hopes of overtaking Asia back from the West. If you like oral histories, and enjoy reading firs Read this for my History of Modern Japan course. I have to admit I was really amazed by this. It's a collection of first-hand accounts of those who survived the war ...but many years later. Some of the stories are horrifying while others seemed to be barely impacted by the war (or so they say). To Japan this was the 15 years war, that began many years before World War II when they invaded China in the hopes of overtaking Asia back from the West. If you like oral histories, and enjoy reading first hand accounts of the experiences of those who've been through such a traumatizing event, I highly recommend this book. I have it if anyone wishes to borrow it to read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Douglas Rowland

    These candid, personal accounts of Japan's war in China and the subsequent Pacific War, from all walks of life, are alternately moving and ghastly, often brutally intense and never once not fascinating. Citizens, soldiers, war criminals, Shinto priests, artists, collaborators, and dissenters are all consulted. I put this book off for a long time, believing the knowledge I'd already amassed about the Pacific War would make it redundant, and that was a mistake. Not only did I learn a startling amo These candid, personal accounts of Japan's war in China and the subsequent Pacific War, from all walks of life, are alternately moving and ghastly, often brutally intense and never once not fascinating. Citizens, soldiers, war criminals, Shinto priests, artists, collaborators, and dissenters are all consulted. I put this book off for a long time, believing the knowledge I'd already amassed about the Pacific War would make it redundant, and that was a mistake. Not only did I learn a startling amount of new information, it turned out to be the best book on the subject I have ever read, and I have read many.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

    A gem, as far as oral history goes, as it truthfully represents daily reality of people - from those opposed to the war, to those completely in favour of it, even after it has been lost. It also confirms my hypothesis in part, that the majority of the real war criminals, those who claimed to have acted only upin orders, were never punished, and even if they were, a good part of them felt slighted for that as there was no push on the part of the international community to make them recognize thei A gem, as far as oral history goes, as it truthfully represents daily reality of people - from those opposed to the war, to those completely in favour of it, even after it has been lost. It also confirms my hypothesis in part, that the majority of the real war criminals, those who claimed to have acted only upin orders, were never punished, and even if they were, a good part of them felt slighted for that as there was no push on the part of the international community to make them recognize their crimes. Another interesting, and today - largely obscured part of history is the pervasive role the military played in the regulation of daily life and the perpetuation of the war crimes against the Japanese and ideologically allief Korean people in the mainland and on the surrounding islands. A complete surprise and a further cause for investigation for me was the degree of the involvement of the Japanese business figures in setting up the access to political power for military and basically instigating the war, in what was by a contemporary standard, a largely democratic society, comparable to the British Empire of the day. All in all this is confirming my assumption that in order to make such a war impossible in the future, mankind needs to datamine all the war archives and rejudge all the people and ideas of that time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christian Austin

    As an American, reading this book was particularly interesting. Besides having relatives who lived during World War II, our culture is saturated with John Wayne movies, World War II TV specials and the like. All of which try to present the way every-day Americans dealt with the war. This book contains dozens of short interviews with people living in Japan or Japanese-controlled areas as children, wives, soldiers, workers and forced-labor during the war. It was amazing to see both the differences As an American, reading this book was particularly interesting. Besides having relatives who lived during World War II, our culture is saturated with John Wayne movies, World War II TV specials and the like. All of which try to present the way every-day Americans dealt with the war. This book contains dozens of short interviews with people living in Japan or Japanese-controlled areas as children, wives, soldiers, workers and forced-labor during the war. It was amazing to see both the differences and the similarities between myself and the people in the book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David

    With accounts straight from the cockpit of a Zero fighter, the ruins of Nagasaki, the jungles of Southeast Asia, this left me gobsmacked. What unimaginable relationship development must've occurred between the interviewer and her subjects, to make this oral history possible. Stunning panorama of all manner of voices. Pre-war anxieties, combat memories, post-war reckonings. Together, they plunged me into the cultural, psychological, and emotional contexts for experiencing the war and its aftermath With accounts straight from the cockpit of a Zero fighter, the ruins of Nagasaki, the jungles of Southeast Asia, this left me gobsmacked. What unimaginable relationship development must've occurred between the interviewer and her subjects, to make this oral history possible. Stunning panorama of all manner of voices. Pre-war anxieties, combat memories, post-war reckonings. Together, they plunged me into the cultural, psychological, and emotional contexts for experiencing the war and its aftermath. Essential for understanding the Great Pacific War.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Disclosure: Both of the authors were my undergrad professors, so maybe I'm biased. However, this book is an excellent collection of interviews conducted by the authors with Japanese who experienced WWII. The interviews range from the interesting (Saburo Sakai) to the horrific (A man who becomes addicted to beheadings) to the heartbreaking. Even a cold historian's heart should melt during the interview with a kamikaze pilot's wife! Disclosure: Both of the authors were my undergrad professors, so maybe I'm biased. However, this book is an excellent collection of interviews conducted by the authors with Japanese who experienced WWII. The interviews range from the interesting (Saburo Sakai) to the horrific (A man who becomes addicted to beheadings) to the heartbreaking. Even a cold historian's heart should melt during the interview with a kamikaze pilot's wife!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tomi

    This was a very interesting look at WWII through the eyes of Japanese who lived through it. It was surprising how many people admitted to thinking anti-war thoughts at the time, although just as many talked of being indoctrinated into believing that the war was the right thing to do. The authors interviewed a wide variety of people, so the reader gets a lot of information about Japanese life.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    When I lived in Hiroshima Prefecture, I went one year to the Flower Festival and while I was standing in the Peace Park, an elderly Japanese man walked up to me. In mixed Japanese and English, he asked me where I was from and then drew a triangle shape with two parallel lines intersecting it on the ground and asked me if I knew what it was. When I said I did not, he said it was the island the Peace Park was on. Then he drew a circle around the island. I thought I was in for a rant about the bombin When I lived in Hiroshima Prefecture, I went one year to the Flower Festival and while I was standing in the Peace Park, an elderly Japanese man walked up to me. In mixed Japanese and English, he asked me where I was from and then drew a triangle shape with two parallel lines intersecting it on the ground and asked me if I knew what it was. When I said I did not, he said it was the island the Peace Park was on. Then he drew a circle around the island. I thought I was in for a rant about the bombing, and I was, but not in the way I expected. He told me that he had been drafted into the Imperial Military at age eight--I assume he meant as part of the student corps who cleared fire breaks and so on--and was off duty visiting his relatives north of the city on August 6, 1945, when he saw a flash light up the sky and smoke rise to the heavens. His voice growing stronger, he said that now Hiroshima had a Peace Park and played on his reputation as a peaceful city, but then it was a "military city"--he repeated this several times--run by military men. And then he said that the bombings were a tragedy, but they brought democracy to Japan. 民主主義 was the phrase he used, "democratic principles." And he thanked me, as an American, for what we had done. That story was not in this book, but it could have been. Japan at War is an oral history with dozens of stories from Japanese people about what they did during the Pacific War, or the China Incident, or Greater East Asian War, or World War II, or whatever words they use to describe it. There are draftees and officers, housewives left behind and dissidents imprisoned for sedition, members of the Special Attack Corps who were never able to go on a mission--and the widow of one who did--and convicted war criminals, people from all areas of society. People who have a variety of feelings about the war and their part in it. Sometimes the part is just having lived through the war. One woman recalls the cake stand that she ran in the lead up to the war, unil sugar became too expensive. Then they sold bread until their machines were requisitioned by the military for the metal. Another man ran a dancing studio until it closed due to wartime censorship--they were reported for dancing while the Emperor was giving an announcement. There were several newspaper reporters, who talked about how they had to report the news a certain way and how eventually it was all lies because the Emperor's Children couldn't possibly lose, or how they had to print the characters for the Emperor's name on the top of a column with spaces around it, never on the bottom of a column. One man who edited 中央公論 (chūōkōron, "central review") talked about the constant need to be more and more patriotic even though magazine's audience was mostly on the left, and how none of it mattered anyway because the entire editorial staff blacklisted for foreign sympathies in 1943 after publishing an article about how Japan needed to understand how America functioned in order to defeat it. This was interpreted as sympathizing with America. And there are several people who survived the atomic bombs. I recognized most of the places that people who had been in Hiroshima mentioned in their stories. Of course, there are plenty of soldiers' stories as well, dating from the earliest parts of the war. These range from unrepentent war criminals to those who, according the narration, repeatedly broke down crying as they told their stories. A man who says that the official figures of the Rape of Nanking are inflated to make the Japanese look bad to a man who says that the official figures don't capture the scope of the real atrocities. An officer who practiced bayonetting on captured Chinese prisoners or a man who worked as part of Unit 731. Someone who volunteered for the kaiten human torpedos and went on three missions without ever actually making an attack. A man who worked on the factory at Okunoshima. I've been to Okunoshima. Now it's a peaceful island filled with rabbits where tourists go to in the summer, but we took a walk and found an old building, almost overgrown, sealed off, and a one-room museum about the island's past as a chemical weapons manufacturing facility. It's easy to talk about "The Americans" or "The Japanese," especially about the other side. Humans have brains designed for small familial groups on the savanna, not industrial society with billions of living people. The individual gets lost, and that's why books like Japan at War are so important. They tell these stories, and in doing so, they remind of us of all the stories we never get to hear. All those who died in the war, or were killed by the war, or simply find the memories too painful. They all have their own names."Two or three million Japanese deaths in the war," "the deaths of six million Jews." We shouldn't make deaths into numbers. They were each individuals. They had names, faces. "Thirty million Asian deaths." One hundred thousand dead in the Tokyo air raid. Hiroshima, one hundred thousand dead. My brother might just be a fraction of several millions, but for me he's the only Elder Brother in the world. For my mother he was the only Eldest Son. -Nishihara Wakana

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie Woolery

    An extremely difficult read, but such a valuable collection of stories

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom Scott

    This is a moving and devastating oral history of the Pacific War gathered some 40-odd years after the war's conclusion. The stories are told chronologically starting with the early heady conquests of Manchuria and ending with a bewildered nation struggling to comprehend its collective and individual trauma, complicity, guilt, victimhood, and responsibility at war's end. The interviewees come from all strata of citizenship. Many of the stories describe day-to-day life in wartime. A pervading them This is a moving and devastating oral history of the Pacific War gathered some 40-odd years after the war's conclusion. The stories are told chronologically starting with the early heady conquests of Manchuria and ending with a bewildered nation struggling to comprehend its collective and individual trauma, complicity, guilt, victimhood, and responsibility at war's end. The interviewees come from all strata of citizenship. Many of the stories describe day-to-day life in wartime. A pervading theme is military and societal brutality (young officers were compelled to hold a ceremony in front of their battle-hardened troops where they chopped the head off Chinese prisoners with their sword to prove their ruthlessness; rural school-aged kids physically and emotionally bullying the city kids who were evacuated to the countryside to escape Allied bombing). But some stories are funny or mundane since life is often funny and mundane. The stories from the last year of the war are pretty hard to read though—the vicious Okinawa battles and mass civilian suicides, the Tokyo firebombing, the kaiten subs, and kamikaze airplanes, etc. Forty years on a mother who lost two babies in the Tokyo bombings visits each week to pour water over their graves and say, "Hiroko-chan, you must have been hot. Teruko-chan, you must have been hot."

  25. 5 out of 5

    Yakinikuman

    The book’s format is inspired by and identical to Studs Terkel’s “The Good War” – a collection of oral histories of soldiers and others involved in World War 2 – only this time we hear from the Japanese perspective. And there is absolutely no way that this collection could have shared Terkel’s title. This was one of the saddest, most depressing books I have read in a long time. There is one similarity with America’s experience as in “The Good War” – the common man in Japan felt like he was doing The book’s format is inspired by and identical to Studs Terkel’s “The Good War” – a collection of oral histories of soldiers and others involved in World War 2 – only this time we hear from the Japanese perspective. And there is absolutely no way that this collection could have shared Terkel’s title. This was one of the saddest, most depressing books I have read in a long time. There is one similarity with America’s experience as in “The Good War” – the common man in Japan felt like he was doing what must be done to save his country. Sadly, the common man was misled by the de facto military dictatorship of Japan. Questioning the Emperor’s will was a crime, and the Emperor delegated his authority to the military. The Emperor, being divine, could never be wrong, so everything had to be justified even by lying. Sometimes even military planners didn’t know the true situation on the battlefield due to all the false stories and propaganda in the newspapers and official reports. ”The closer you got to the front, the less often you found a burning and unflinching belief in victory.” The Army and Navy planners stayed mainly in Tokyo. The war against China demanded oil, and Japan needed to seize that oil from the Western colonies in the Pacific, and stop America from interfering, in order to keep up the fight in China. Japan’s industrial capacity was 1/13th the size of America’s at the outbreak of war. It never really stood a chance. As a Zero ace said, “You need altitude, speed, and firepower to win an air engagement. No amount of bushido will help.” The final oral history in the book is very fitting. Long after the war ended, a man is giving a tour of a bombed-out Mitsubishi factory in Nagasaki. He says that the torpedoes used in the attack on Pearl Harbor were manufactured there, in the same place where an atomic bomb would destroy everything several years later. ”We fought a stupid war, didn’t we?” A bit more on my blog: Quo Legatis

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fermin Quant

    Super eye opening book about war experiences of real people and their after war consequences. I learned also about a lot of events not usually mentioned but that were part of the war. Really gives you the chills to learn of how indoctrinated the Japan government had their people at that time, and how dangerous having power concentrated in a few really is. It was shocking to read through the experience of families and surviving members of the suicide missions like kamizake, and to learn they had Super eye opening book about war experiences of real people and their after war consequences. I learned also about a lot of events not usually mentioned but that were part of the war. Really gives you the chills to learn of how indoctrinated the Japan government had their people at that time, and how dangerous having power concentrated in a few really is. It was shocking to read through the experience of families and surviving members of the suicide missions like kamizake, and to learn they had human torpedoes under the same logic. More than half the stories were as shocking and heartbreaking, but interesting to learn about. Of the other half, they were still impressive, but just pointing out that for many of them I had to stop reading and digest, mentally and psychologically, what I had just read. When I say really shocking stories, I mean things like real life narrations of a man explaining how one sword over another was better or easier for decapitating humans with details of why he preferred one over the other. How Japanese employees suffered in the experimental places for chemical warfare. How men were chosen for the suicides missions, as in the list of qualifications needed. How the people were lied to and the reasoning imparted to them to believe in collective suicides, where a woman would beg her husband to kill her and their children in fear of being taken prisoners, in complete ignorance of the international treaties of how prisoners were really dealt with. These are just the ones that came to mind, but many were as impressive to find out that they happened in reality and not in fiction. A completely recommended book for anyone interested in learning more about the realities of life during the war for Japan.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I appreciated the breadth of perspectives, and how the authors allowed each interviewee to speak for himself or herself, with just a brief introduction to establish necessary background. Everyone is presented as an individual, a human with a unique perspective. No one, whether soldier or civilian, victim or war criminal, is reduced to a statistic. I don't know whether the final product is representative of the views of most Japanese WWII survivors (likely not), but regardless it is a remarkable I appreciated the breadth of perspectives, and how the authors allowed each interviewee to speak for himself or herself, with just a brief introduction to establish necessary background. Everyone is presented as an individual, a human with a unique perspective. No one, whether soldier or civilian, victim or war criminal, is reduced to a statistic. I don't know whether the final product is representative of the views of most Japanese WWII survivors (likely not), but regardless it is a remarkable collection of knowledge and testimony that would likely have been forgotten if it weren't for the authors' efforts. Through it we can see the selfless heroism and quiet sacrifice of the Japanese war effort, as well as its shocking cruelty. What comes across most clearly, though, is the senselessness and ultimate futility of war. Patriotism is a strange and dangerous thing, and it's cousin nationalism even more so.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Because I'm a foreigner living in Japan for 30 years, this is an amazing book to me. Everything I can read in English is from the Allied point of view. And no Japanese want to talk about their war experience. But here, finally, through the Cooks' interviews (plus commentary as history professors), I get to sit down with a wide variety of Japanese people and "hear" about their wartime experiences--on the home front, in Manchuria and Southeast Asia, early in the war, late in the war, ardent nation Because I'm a foreigner living in Japan for 30 years, this is an amazing book to me. Everything I can read in English is from the Allied point of view. And no Japanese want to talk about their war experience. But here, finally, through the Cooks' interviews (plus commentary as history professors), I get to sit down with a wide variety of Japanese people and "hear" about their wartime experiences--on the home front, in Manchuria and Southeast Asia, early in the war, late in the war, ardent nationalists, those more reluctant, and those who had no other information but what they knew from the government. Anyone interested in Japan should definitely read this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rudolph

    A history book as it was meant to be. Divided in sections that highlight each instance of world war II, the oral histories of soldiers, civilians, children, war criminals, government employees, factory workers, pilots, and survivors of the atomic aftermath. An infinitely important war and historical text, recommended and absolutely necessary for every military historian. A special thanks to Haruko-sensei and Ted Cook for bringing the Japanese perspective to the world's attention. I hope the pers A history book as it was meant to be. Divided in sections that highlight each instance of world war II, the oral histories of soldiers, civilians, children, war criminals, government employees, factory workers, pilots, and survivors of the atomic aftermath. An infinitely important war and historical text, recommended and absolutely necessary for every military historian. A special thanks to Haruko-sensei and Ted Cook for bringing the Japanese perspective to the world's attention. I hope the persons you interviewed found peace.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Emmel

    In the past couple of decades histories based on identity and "ground level" view of historic events have become more common. I'm glad I found this one. The authors end with the best short summation of the Pacific War I have ever read. One paragraph and really the last sentence. No, I'm not going to tell you! Read the book yourself! In the past couple of decades histories based on identity and "ground level" view of historic events have become more common. I'm glad I found this one. The authors end with the best short summation of the Pacific War I have ever read. One paragraph and really the last sentence. No, I'm not going to tell you! Read the book yourself!

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