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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 December 2007
I'm a third of the way through this, and it's already clear that this is one of those historical works that manages to tell its epic story with an electrifying intensity and vividness. I cannot put this book down. It paints a vast panorama out of an intricate web of tiny details, giving the reader the illusion of a God's eye view, that simultaneously embraces all levels of scale, from the global down to the individual. The depth of research is hugely impressive. At times you are inclined to suspect that Toland must know the name and background of everyone that was in the Pacific theatre at the time. Strategic, political, economic, and convincingly, cultural aspects, are all woven together in a format that is almost cinematic. Diplomacy, espionage, intrigues and major military encounters, by land, air and sea, all give the narrative a terrific pace.

As history, I think it needs to be taken rather cautiously as it is clearly pro-Japanese. It does however also try to convey the mindset of the ordinary Japanese and their justifications for their part in these events. It depicts the very curious relationship between the Emperor and his household and the cabal of militant warlords who governed on his apparent behalf. Issues of taboo, honour and obligation, having no parallel in Western political structures led to a complex situation whereby the militarist elite could claim to be operating in the service of the Emperor's divine will and with his blessing. Meanwhile the same conventions rendered the Emperor and the moderates around him impotent to materially influence the course of affairs. Indeed, Hirohito was only able to insist upon the final surrender in the face of the atomic threat by breaking the taboos that had defined his role for centuries, and effectively abandoning his divinity by intervening in earthly affairs. The book is at particular pains to portray Hirohito as a man of peace who was frustrated by the arrogance of Hull and Roosevelt, and their failure to understand the subtleties of his position.

As a source of facts and a description of events it is an excellent book, but I would want to read alternative accounts before fully accepting its judgements on the characters portrayed and their motives. This was written in 1972. It's about 900 pages long, so it's a big tome. Also, one must keep track of a lot of unfamiliar Japanese names. If that is acceptable then this will appeal to anyone interested in 20th Century history, or even just a darn fine read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2008
Rising Sun by John Toland is a very good account of the Pacific War (from the mid 1930s onwards) told mainly from the Japanese viewpoint. It is increadibly in-depth but at the same time immensely readable. If it does have any major flaws it is that it is perhaps too symapathetic towards the Japanese (for example it is the only book on this subject I have ever read that suggests the Japanese were at least partly motivated to fight to emancipate their fellow Asians) and although it states it is about the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire in World War II it should really just claim to be about the Pacific War with the USA because the conflicts in China and Burma/India are only briefly mentioned. All in all a very good book and well worth the time it takes to read.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2010
This is a mammoth undertaking of a book, but even then can hardly scratch the surface of a very complicated subject. It's main value lies in explaining the decisions and actions that led up to Japanese involvement in WW2, but there is the feeling that a lot has been left out. Once Pearl Harbor is attacked then the book becomes less about the rise and fall of Japan and more about how Japan lost the war to the USA. If it doesn't involve the US then it's not worth more than a couple of lines; the conquest of Malaya, Burma and the Dutch East Indies? Pfft, nothing to see here, move along. Yet the loss of the Phillipines is there in every last detail. The battle for Guadalcanal goes on for ever too.
No, I'm afraid that this book isn't even pro-Japanese as some reviewers have said. Yes, it's ten years of Japanese history with a lot of the nasty bits left out, hardly a mention of the massacres of POWs and civilians for example, but this book is really about how the Japanese were inferior to the might of the Americans. The point of the book seems to be to tell them that they should have stayed at home.
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on 22 April 2015
I would give this book 10 stars if I could. I first read it way back in the 1970s. And am glad it is on kindle. John Toland did a great job in writing the history of the Pacific War during WW 2. My only wish is that he spent more time talking about what the civilians went through on the Japanese islands before, during and after the war. What were their thoughts as their leaders led them into war? How did they really dealt with the bombings and attacks they went through? Was there any thoughts of what their country was doing was wrong? But, also what did the leaders of Japan really tell their people what was going on. I was truly amazed at all the study and research Mr. Toland did to produce this book. May it never go out on print on paper or on e-print.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2010
I found it to be the most gripping history book that I have ever read. It was a phenomenally good read. Since reading Rising Sun I have bought more books by John Toland.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2009
I must say that after reading this book, I am more confused than ever as to the origins of the war between Japan and the US.
The book starts in 1936, although most knowledgable people know that the march to war really began with the Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1932. The author continually repeats the refrain that "Americans don't understand the Japanese mentality and culture", and it was this "misunderstanding" that led to the war.
It is true that Toland defines the Japanese term "gekokujo" as being some sort of "insubordination" that led to the Kwantung Army to feel it could move, presumably without orders from Tokyo, into Manchuria. However, Toland does not explain how this could happen. There is little description of the power structure in Japan, we do know that there was some attempt to create parliamentary democracy, but there were also the giant oligarchs who had much power, plus the military hierarchy. Somehow, the military took control in the 1930's, but Toland doesn't really say how. He describes in detail the "2/26" Uprising of young officers in 1936, and how they were willing to kill without compunction, and how fanatical they were, yet we are then told that they OPPOSED expansion into China, and that the repression of this coup attempt would lead to an expanded war in China. I must say I don't understand this at all...Toland potrays them as militaristic fanatics, yet they seem to be "the good guys". Weren't those who supported expansion into China also militaristic fanatics? This is left totally unexplained.
Toland then goes on to describe the fatal "Incident at the Marco Polo Bridge" in 1937 near Peking (Beijing) which led to the full-scale invasion of China. Toland says the government in Tokyo, again, had nothing to do with it, in fact both the Chinese and Japanese commanders on the spot tried to calm things down, but some undefined "hotheads" (possibly Chinese Communists) kept inflaming the situation. Somehow (without Toland telling us how), a decision is made by someone (not necessarily the "peace-loving" Japanese Prime Minister Prince Konoye) to mount a full-scale invasion of China. An impression is left by Toland that the Chinese, particulary, the Koumintang government of Chiang Kai-shek was provocative and unreasonable. All I know is that
that Marco Polo Bridge is within China, and it is understandable
that the Chinese would resent the Japanese military presence there.
After this, we move on to the atrocities of the "Rape of Nanking", which again, according to Toland, "somehow" happens, (Toland does admit that there were atrocities and between 200,000 and 300,000 Chinese were butchered by their "brother Asians" who claimed to be liberating them(?)). Toland says the Japanese commander at Nanking did not order any such behavior, nor again, did the government in Tokyo. How then do thousands
of supposedly disciplined Japanese troops suddenly get it into their heads to do such things? Toland doesn't give us a clue, other than his general statement that "westerners don't understand the Japanese". Toland also, in a way, tries to claim that Western opposition to Japanese expansion into China was "hypocritical" because of Western Colonialism in East Asia
(US in the Philippines; Britain in Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, India; Dutch in East Indies; French in Indochina), however, by the 1930's the US had already agreed to give the Philippines
independence and the British were beginning to wind down the Raj in India was setting up an autonomous Indian government, so it was
apparent that Colonialism was already on its way out before the war.
All this makes me wonder about the various things he says in the book, and I would look for a better source on the tragic history of this period. I have read his books on the end of both World War I and World War II which are much better, so that adds to my disappointment.
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on 28 September 2014
A fantastic, highly readable telling of the story. Toland has a gift for telling a great story and this book gives insights into this part of our history that have given me a far greater understanding of it than I had previously. It's not just about the war and the battles, but about the culture and ways of thinking of Japan-USA that lead to the war and how it was conducted.
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on 23 June 2015
Extremely easy to read compared to a lot of MilHist litterature. Brung home some points I haven't heard before, such as the many valorous japanese commanders who misplaced and disobeyed orders to commit atrocities, but also the sticky diplomacy between Japan and other nations, and the rabid conspiracies amid the army and navy in Japan.
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on 24 April 2015
Toland can't do any wrong another excellent book by this serious author.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is one of the most impressive and most readable books I have come across about the second world war. It combines a huge amount of detailed and painstaking research spread over 929 pages but it is told in a way that make enthralling and exciting reading and for a history book this is very unusual.

To research this book which was published in 1970, John Toland and his Japanese wife spent firteen months travelling through the far east interviewing almost five hundred people to build up an account of mainly the Japanese perspective of the war in the Pacific covering their invasion of Manchuria and China in February 1936 to their surrender in August 1945. In Toland's own words it is a "factual saga of people caught up in a flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened - muddled, enobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of contradiction and paradox."

The book tries to answer the question of why and how Japan sought to expand its influence in Asia and the Pacific and took upon itself to initiate a war with the mighty United States which in the long run could only but lead to the defeat of the Japanese empire or as Toland puts it "why did a country the size of California launch the suicidal attack on Pearl Harbour which involved it in a death strugle with an enemy ten times stronger?

I recommend that everyone who has an interest in the war in the Pacific should read this magnificent work and immerse themselves in the titanic strugle that took place across the vast Pacific Ocean and a large part of China and south east Asia between 1936 and 1945.
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