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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2000

National Book Award, Nonfiction, 1999

In this illuminating study, Dower explores the ways in which the shattering defeat of the Japanese in World War II, followed by over six years of American military occupation, affected every level of Japanese society. He describes the countless ways in which the Japanese met the challenge of "starting over", from top-level manipulations concerning the fate of Emperor Hirohito to the hopes, fears, and activities of ordinary men and women in every walk of life. He shows us the intense and turbulent interplay of conqueror and conquered, West and East, in a way no Western historian has done before.

This is a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary moment in history, when new values warred with the old, and early ideals of demilitarization and radical reform were soon challenged by the United States' decision to incorporate Japan into the Cold War Pax Americana.

©1999 John W. Dower; (P)1999 Blackstone Audio Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Non-Fiction

"A magisterial and beautifully written book....A pleasure to read." (New York Times)
"An extraordinarily illuminating book....Surely the most significant work to date on the postwar era in Japan." (Wall Street Journal)
"The writing of history doesn't get much better than this....[Dower] deftly situates the political story within a rich cultural context....The book is most remarkable, however, for the way Dower judiciously explores the complex moral and political issues....Dazzling." (Publishers Weekly)

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A long, scholarly work

When I purchased this book I was expecting to read a rather light tale of how the US and its deadly enemy Japan had come to know and like each other over the long US occupation. I thought that I would read how the US had generously provided food to the decimated country while working with the Japanese to rebuild it. Soldiers handing out candy to children, the Japanese falling in love with the baseball that we introduced there.

Well, I was 100% wrong. This is a long, dry, scholarly work that doesn't show that the US was so generous to Japan. Chapters devoted to the formation of brothels by the Japanese to serve the Americans when they arrived, wide starvation in the country through the first three or so years of occupation, the flourishing of the black market where all the necessities of living could be found at five to ten times what they were worth, the writing of the new constituion....

Only get this book if you are a scholar interested in this slice of history. Entertaining it is not.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Way too much like a Japanese language lesson rather than a story

0 of 8 people found this review helpful