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The Yamato Dynasty: The Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family [Hardcover]

Sterling Seagrave
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Oct 1999
A collective biography of the Japanese Imperial family, covering five generations from the Meiji Restoration of the nineteenth century. Reveals the true nature of the dynasty that has been shrouded in myth and legend. Includes details of the imperial family's involvement in war crimes and the details of the wartime looting operations.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; First edition edition (1 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593044827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593044827
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 778,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

There are times when the British Royal family doesn't seem quite so bad. There may have been the odd Nazi sympathiser in the past and the present bunch might be out of touch but they've along way to go before they hit the depths of their Japanese counterparts. The chances are that most Westerners will know next to nothing of the Yamato, Japan's current imperial family, whose dynasty began with Emperor Meiji in 1852. In which case, we have something in common with the Japanese. Most of Japan's modern history has been erased from the post-war text books and a whole generation has grown up knowing nothing of the Rape of Nanking, Pearl Harbor, the Second World War death camps and countless other atrocities. All that remains are Hiroshima and Nagasaki, symbols of Japan's eternal innocence.

Sterling Seagrave corrects these falsehoods and exposes the collusion and corruption that have been at the heart of the post-war Japanese economic miracle. And far from being symbolic reminders, atableau vivant (just), of an ancient past as the Japanese royal family is sometimes portrayed, Seagrave points out that it has been at the epicentre of venality and cruelty. Prince Chichibu, Emperor Hirohito's brother, turns out to have been the mastermind behind Golden Lily, the systematic looting of every country Japan occupied in the pre-war years. Prince Yasuhiko was the brains behind the Rape of Nanking. And dear old Hirohito was so hands-on during the war that he could have halted Pearl Harbor. Moreover, the royal family were so far in bed with the zaibatsu, the corporate ruling elite, that it made a fortune out of the war while the rest of the nation starved.

That none of this has come out before is only partly due to Japanese revisionism. We, too, have to share the blame. We had the evidence to try some of the Imperial Family as war criminals, but we chose not to. So, Seagrave's book makes uncomfortable reading for all concerned. --John Crace


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THE FUTURE MEIJI EMPEROR WAS ONLY EIGHT MONTHS OLD IN July 1853 when four large, black-hulled American Navy ships appeared off the entrance to what is now called Tokyo Bay. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Well... what a fascinating book. I was hooked all the way through by the extremly readable style and obviously well researched content. My one criticism is the use of subjective comments by the author. For example, when it is stated that Hitler & Stalin would have been proud of the way that Japanese powermongers married the government, gangsters and corporations together. And I'm afraid the overuse of the 'frog in a well' metaphore.. (perhaps it's because I'm British!!) Despite these criticisms, I found that this book was fascinating for 2 reasons: Firstly, from a historical point of view - the hereto uncharted history of the Japanese royal family's involvement in the second world war, it's atrocities and the rape of nations wealth. Secondly, because it helps to explain modern Japan and it's people. I have often wondered how sociologically, the Japanese people can sometimes think that they won the war and how little they actually know about WWII. The 'invisible men' of Japan have really had a massive impact on the Japanese psyche and know I have an inkling of why and how. The book will be excellent reading for people interested in either aspect of Japan. It would be interesting to know if this book has been translated into Japanese... and if so, how it was recieved by the Japanese people. One last comment. I would love to read more about the Yakuza's history and their involvement in Japanese corporation and government.... I think Sterling Seagrave is the person to do it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling look at an Imperial subject. . . 27 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Seagrave, in his introduction, claims to exploit new sources to present a fresh viewpoint on a controvercial issue - how responsible Hirohito was for WWII. This book tackles that issue, as well as many more; examining the role of the Imperial Dynasty in Japan, the extent of their power, and the secretive oligarchy that surrounds them. Seagrave follows the public and private lives of Japanese emperors from the Meiji restoration to the present, including information on their wives, children, and the people that surrounded them. Seagrave is always accessible, easy to read, and litters his text with interesting and humourous anecdotes, which make him one of the most readable historians on Asian history. I loved this book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminates modern Japan 16 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover
If you want to understand modern-day Japan, start with this book. It is un-put-downable, as gripping as any novel, yet it is non-fiction. It charts the history of Japan from the Meiji Restoration (1868) to the Second World War and explains the psychology of the Japanese after the forced opening of the country by the US. They picked and mixed around the world to modernize Japan, taking their school uniforms and medical system from Germany, their parliamentary system from the UK, and much more. It explains why they wanted to emulate the Western powers and create their own empire, and how the same corporations that ruled Japan before WWII still rule today, and exactly which great power enabled that. It also sheds light on the way the education system was manipulated up to WWII for the war effort, and after WWII for the economic effort. Absolutely fascinating. Although I read if 15 years ago, it still stays with me as one of the best books about Japan I have ever read. The other essential book to read is Dogs and Demons, by Alex Kerr, which he was begged to write by his prominent Japanese friends, who said that as Japanese they could not write a book critical of their own country. He wrote it first in English and later in Japanese. Again, if you want to understand how Japan works and what really goes on behind the - superficially beneficent - scenes, read Dogs and Demons.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.1 out of 5 stars  43 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely sensational but don't read it as history 23 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Yamato Dynasty", Sterling & Peggy Seagrave's expose on the role of the Imperial Family in Japanese society since the Meiji Restoration is written in a style more resembling a political thriller than history. Sure, the mafia-like grip of Japan's all-powerful financial and business oligarchy over the nation's wealth and economy and the Imperial Family's collusion in willingly playing the part of a stooge in return for a lifetime of comfort and wealth with America's secret backing is a shocking eye opener for readers who know little of Japan's history. Reading the book helps us understand why the Japanese economy remains moribund and in a state of paralysis since the bubble burst in the early 90s. Genuine reform cannot take place because the oligarchs and political leaders pulling the strings will never act against their own interests. Neither will the bureaucracy which feeds from it. A truly damning appraisal of the state of Japan as a nation. Yet, I had difficulty accepting all of the Seagraves' account of it as history because of their highly controversial if not downright sensational style in telling it. If history were written and taught this way in school, you'd have no problems filling up the class. Don't get me wrong. The book makes for rivetting reading. It is absolutely unputdownable. Nevertheless, historians might react with horror at some of the gross oversimplication of the truth as told by the Seagraves. It is not difficult to imagine that that they might call into question the source and accuracy of some of the information used in the book. The Seagraves' monochrome/black and white portrayal of the wide cast of characters also turns history into faction, if not soap opera. I enjoyed 'The Yamato Dynasty" tremendously and would recommend it without hesitation to others. But I would be cautious in reading it as history. Better to judge it as a dramatised story of the Japanese imperial family in the post-Meiji era.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars about that dust jacket photo :) 31 Dec 2000
By Daniel Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There was a quarrel in these reviews about the gentleman shown on the dust jacket of Yamato Dynasty, with one reviewer claiming it was not Hirohito but the former "boy emperor," later Emperor Pu Yi of Manchukuo (best known as the hero of the film The Last Emperor).
Well, I just now picked up a copy of Kempeitai by the British author Ramond Lamont-Brown, and the identical photograph (in black & white) appears on page 59, and captioned "His Imperial Majesty, Pu Yi, Emperor of China, 1908-12"
Of course, Lamont-Brown could be mistaken, but I am inclined to think that it was the publishers of Yamato Dynasty who made the howler. After all, the photo doesn't even look like Hirohito as an adult.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Truth or fiction? 13 Jun 2000
By Potholer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am a bit puzzled by this book. As the bibliography shows, most of it is not new and has been documented by other writers, but the Seagraves should be commended for writing this history in a very compelling and interesting way. They document most of their facts well and relate them to an extensive bibliography. What disturbs me is that the parts of the story that are new are not nearly so well sourced. For example, on page 295 the Seagraves write: 'Documents also show that one of the big gold-bullion accounts set up by Santa Romana was in the name of General Douglas MacArthur. Other documents indicate that gold bullion worth $100 million was placed in the account of Herbert Hoover.E This is astonishing news. So I looked in the book notes to find out where it came from, but there was no reference. The documents are not reproduced and there is no further explanation of them. What are they? Where are they? What do they say? Also puzzling is the lack of a single named Japanese source, either verbal or written. The only exception is where the Seagraves reproduce quotes from someone else's research, such as Ian Neary (p.358) The Seagraves say they did their research in California, Virginia, Washington, France and England (p. xvii) but they do not mention that they ever went to Japan (which could explain some elemental mistakes in the book.) So just how did they interview these numerous Japanese eye-witnesses to operation Golden Lily? Since they clearly do not speak Japanese (again, obvious from the book) where is the acknowledgement to their Japanese interpreter and translator? All this made it difficult to trust the book. Some 'facts' were patently absurd and show a poor knowledge of Japan. Just a couple of examples: 'No young Japanese woman can refuse to become Empress' (p. 301) -- In fact, many women did turn the Crown Prince down, which is why Naruhito had such a hard time finding a bride. Yamaguchi prefecture . . .is famous as the home base of one of Japan's biggest underworld organizations, the Yamaguchi Gumi (sic)' (p.219) -- This is laughable. Nearly everyone in Japan knows that the Yamaguchi-gumi's home base is Kobe. If the Seagraves really wanted this book to make a splash they would have stopped peppering their story with 'documents show . . .Eand provided us with copies of the documents so we could judge for ourselves. Still, a well-written yarn if you don't take it too literally.
36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read for conspiracy buffs 4 Sep 2000
By Daniel Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Washington Post called this book "laughably ignorant," but it's a delightful read. Conspiracy buffs will love it, especially those who believe in a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy of Republicans bent on twisting history to their own money-grubbing advantage.
The history of the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa emperors up to 1945 isn't bad, as opposed what follows. The Seagraves have a knack for making individuals and situations come alive. They also have a knack for getting things wrong: MacArthur escaped from Corregidor by PT boat, not submarine; Japan had army and navy air forces, not a distinct "Japanese Air Force"; the great fire raid on Tokyo featured incendiary bombs, not napalm, and it killed about half the 200,000 cited by the Seagraves; in 1948 Edward Lansdale was a major, not a general....
More ominously, for a book that purports to give the inside scoop on the Emperor System, the Seagraves don't read Japanese and rarely if ever had translations made. For the first half of the book, I read the copious notes along with the text, and found no instance in which the Seagraves refer to a Japanese text. I can't be sure of this because I gave up this practice when I realized that the really interesting stuff was never supported by a source I knew and trusted.
Golden Lily, for example: as the Seagraves tell the story, Japan looted the nations it conquered, hid the treasure in caves in caves and sunken ships, and used it to enrich the emperor, bribe MacArthur and Herbert Hoover, finance the country's postwar expansion, and fund the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Evidently the Seagraves came across some (uncited) informant, then spun a book around this germ of a story, using whatever English-language sources they could find.
Read it by all means, but don't take it too seriously.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gold... did someone say GOLD? 13 Mar 2001
By "asianhistorybuff" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Well now, I've heard many stories about Japan before, during, and after WWII, but this is the first one claiming GOLD (and tons of it... yes, tons) were shipped to first Japan, and then later stockpiled in the Phillipines due to US Submarines blockading off any shipping to Japan.
General MacArthur, Herbert Hoover, the OSS (later CIA), President Marcos, and the US Republican Party were all hauling off their share of the gold bars too? Is this why MacArthur did not say anything more about becoming the Republican Party nominee for the 1948 Presidential Election?
Maybe there are tons of Gold Bars in Japan, the Phillipines, and MacArthur's personal bank account, but I think we need to reserve making a decision until more evidence is forthcoming.
And by the way, Bergamini ("JAPAN'S IMPERIAL CONSPIRACY") reported that MacArthur left the Phillipines by PT Boat... NOT submarine. So that contradiction needs to be straightened out too.
The one area I most enjoyed reading were the sections covering Japan's "INVISIBLE MEN". Who were (are) they, and how they fit into this puzzle makes for even more interesting reading.
In spite of some questionable issues, I still think this book is worth reading. Make your list of events to get to the bottom of, and hopefully, one day, the truth shall finally emerge...
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