When Japan attacked the United States in 1941, argues Eri Hotta, its leaders, in large part, understood they were entering a conflict they were bound to lose. Availing herself of rarely consulted material, Hotta poses essential questions overlooked by historians in the seventy years since: Why did these men - military men, civilian politicians, diplomats, the emperor - put their country and its citizens in harm's way? Why did they make a decision that was doomed from the start?
Introducing us to the doubters, bluffers, and schemers who led their nation into this conflagration, Hotta brilliantly shows us a Japan never before glimpsed - eager to avoid war but fraught with tensions with the West, blinded by traditional notions of pride and honor, nearly escaping disaster before it finally proved inevitable.
©2013 Eri Hotta (P)2013 Tantor
I am an avid eclectic reader.
Eri Hotta is an independent scholar specializing in Japan international relations. Hotta was born in Tokyo. She received her BA in history from Princeton University, master and Ph.D. from Oxford. She taught at Oxford from 2001-2005. What led me to read this book was it offered the view point of Japan leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack. Hotta makes two central points, 1). Japan’s leaders and its people were influenced by a belief that Japan was destined for international greatness---going to war was a gamble. 2). Japan’s policy making process by 1940 was not open and parliamentary but Japan was not a dictatorship. Decision involved preliminary bargaining interaction with a complex administrative structure. The Japanese constitution allowed the military to advise the Emperor independently of the rest of the government. The author pain staking guides the reader through a convoluted mesh of personalities and principles. Hotta provides a brief history of Japan so the reader can understand what is happening in the eight months leading up to Pearl Harbor. Reading the book led me to learn something about Japanese politics and how Japan’s admiration for the United States began to turn sour in the first part of the twentieth century. A Hotta point out the Japanese language tends to be vague which led to problems with negotiation with the U.S. Secretary of State. Even though Hotta explains about Japanese history, government and politics she lays the blame for the war directly on Japan. Laurel Merlington did a good job narrating the book. If you are interested WWII history this book would interest you.
The narration was first rate. The writer showed the complex politics of Japan leading up to the war. One of my few complaints was, I believe that the writer tried to show that no one in Japan wanted war and it was a massive misunderstanding and that Japan was trying to be a peaceful nation. That went in direct contrast of what really happen; example, the rape of Nanking, the blatant attack on the Gunboat Panay. The force occupation on indochina, the horrible treatment of the Chinese civilians that was only exceed by Nazis Germany and Stalin's Soviet Russia. But the biggest complaint that I found hard to swallow was that up to August 12, 1941, Japan was trying to do everything to stop the upcoming war. Fact, the Pearl Harbor attack plan was started in 1940. Fact, they Japanese Navy was gathering their combined fleet to attack Pearl Harbor and Singapore and the Phillippines. To say that Japan was only trying to keep world peace is like saying that Hilter had a bad hair day.
That being said, I did find the inter workings of the Japanese government very interesting and also showing that Emperor Hirohito knew or at least was informed of what was happening and did nothing to try to stop it. The public has been told that the Emperor was only a figure head but in reality, he was commander in chief of the military and at anytime he could have stopped it.
A very well written interesting read on the series of events that lead to WWII from the Japanese perspective. Certainly an incomplete history but I already know the American / western side so that's what made this such a good read.
The author goes out of their way to make note that when you try to explain history from a certain side of an event it can come of as being an apologist for that side. I was worried this would mean we'd get some politically correct "history" in an effort to blame the US for everything. Happily that is not the case here, while the US, like all countries, makes mistakes I felt everything was handled extremely fairly and the author did a great job of just laying out events as the Japanese seen them - which is exactly what I was looking for. In retrospect I don't think the authors note was needed as this book in no way came off as being apologetic, at least not in my opinion.
The reader does a good job, nothing fancy but is easy to listen to and didn't make any obvious mistakes - at least as far as I know.
Overall if you're interested in learning the Japanese perspective of the events leading to Pearl Harbor, this is an excellent read. I've read (listened) to well over 100 books about WWII on Audible and this is right up there with the best of them since it covered ground rarely covered and seemed to be very well researched and the story remained interesting throughout.
The different aspect of this book was its view of how the Japanese side got into the Pacific War.
Thus 36 million people--50% of WWII deaths--lost their lives.
It is also highly relevant to today. We still have stupid and delusional leaders--and followers--who continue the same disastrous militarism.
Say something about yourself!
Eri Hotta did an amazing job distilling the way in which the political leadership in Japan defused and abdicated responsibility for war. Their lack of political will, initiative and courage set the groundwork for so many innocent people to die.
This book would make a compelling read for every citizen. Although the author doesn't state it, it seems many comparisons could be made to modern political institutions. This books tragic story actually makes me grateful for the debates we have in our political institutions.
Perhaps, to refresh my memory.
John Tolland 'Rising Sun'; Max Hastings: 'Retribution'
This book provides valuable insight into the seemingly irrational way the Japanese behaved during World War II. For a non-Japanese, it is truly mind-boggling to learn how inefficient decision-making was in the Japanese government, and how this disastrous inefficiency was ingrained in Japanese culture and even language. It incidentally sheds much light on Japanese behavior today in various situations both political and personal.
Love to Bungee!!
If anyone thought they knew the history of the period leading up to World War II in the Pacific, this history will be an eye opener. Ms Hotta has opened up an all new chapter on the mind set behind Japan's decision to go to war. That Japanese decision makers could on the one-hand understand the futility and eventual consequences of going to war and yet allow circumstances to run their disastrous course is astounding. Another element of pre-war Japan that is revealed is the dismal state to which the Japanese economy had descended as a result of the war with China.
As I wrote, this history is an eye opener, a must read/listen to for anyone who is interested in WWII. The narration is excellent. It was hard to stop listening.
Engineer the Bass Player
This provides a thorough overview of Japanese politics before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The listener gets a good feel for how complicated and confused the decisions and non-decisions were leading to the Pacific War.
Informative and would be interesting to a World War II history post grad student.
The two hour, unabridged version would be all you need.
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