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Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II Hardcover – 8 Mar 1999

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (8 Mar. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393046869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393046861
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 977,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Embracing Defeat tells the story of the transformation of Japan under American occupation after World War II. When Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Forces in August 1945 it was exhausted; while America's Pacific combat lasted less than four years Japan had been fighting for 15. 60 percent of its urban area lay in ruins. Through the collapse of the authoritarian state and America's six-year occupation Japan was able to set off in entirely new directions. Because the victors had no linguistic or cultural access to the losers' society they were obliged to govern indirectly. General Douglas MacArthur decided at the outset to maintain the civil bureaucracy and the institution of the emperor: democracy would be imposed from above in what the author terms "Neocolonial Revolution". His description of the manipulation of public opinion as a wedge was driven between the discredited militarists and Emperor Hirohito is especially fascinating. Tojo, on trial for his life, was requested to take responsibility for the war and deflect it from the emperor; he did and was hanged. John W. Dower's analysis of popular Japanese culture of the period--songs, magazines, advertising, even jokes--is brilliant and reflected in the book's 80 well-chosen photographs. With the same masterful control of voluminous material and clear writing that he gave us in War Without Mercy the author paints a vivid picture of a society in extremis and reconstructs the extraordinary period during which America moulded a traumatised country into a freemarket democracy and bulwark against resurgent world communism. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


With Embracing Defeat, [Dower] confirms his place as this country's leading chronicler of the Pacific war. --Janice P. Nimura"

[A] superb history of Japan's occupation.... Dower brilliantly captures the louche?, squalid, but extraordinary dynamic mood of the postwar years. His interest is not just in the politics, but also in literature, the movies, and popular songs. --Ian Buruma"

Extraordinarily illuminating.... Dower has deftly mixed history from the 'bottom up' and the 'top down' to produce what is surely the most significant work to date on the postwar era in Japan.--Jacob Heilbrunn

Masterly.... A penetrating analysis of Japan in the aftermath of defeat.... A profound and moving book, the best history ever written of Japan and its relations to the United States after the Second World War.--Akira Iriye, Harvard University

Richly detailed and provocative.... For anyone who knows modern Japan, it is an endlessly fascinating explanation of why things work as they do.... A marvelous piece of reporting and analysis.--T.R. Reid

Without question, Dower is America's foremost historian of the Second World War in the Pacific.... A wonderful work of history.... I learned more than I ever would have thought possible.--Stephen Ambrose --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
Few countries have been through a set of social changes as quickly and dramatically as Japan under the US military occupation. After living there for several years in the nineties, I realised how crucial these years were: I wondered how a very militarised nation with a very subtle culture became the economically vibrant open state with a rather cutesy popular culture. In other words, how the cult of the emperor, say, was replaced with the cult of Hello Kitty. Also, the current political and business leaders of Japan went through their formative years at this time and the occupation's impact casts a long shadow over modern Japan's entire cultural life: one that is very rarely discussed, even inside the country.

Dower sets out to describe the political and social changes in a comprehensive way, rather than to answer the questions that I had. In doing so, he sets a new standard, not only in Japanese history, but for social history generally. He describes how the country's politics, high art, popular culture, economics, legal system, and social relations in the family and the workplace were altered by the occupation policy, very often in ways the occupiers neither intended nor expected. Also he describes the ways different groups in Japan subverted or altered these changes.

As a book, it was even quite moving, describing how people managed to survive a very difficult time, and how they used the opportunities offered to them to create a new society and a new national culture.

With the occupaton of Japan being put forward today in Washington as a model for a post-Saddam occupation of Iraq, this book is even more timely: not only for those interested in Japan or in social history, but also for those interested in US foreign policy and its impact on the rest of the world.
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Format: Paperback
The rapid and peaceful transformation of Japan after World War Two from a ravaged, war-torn country to a successful, propserous nation whose economy ranks number 2 in the world today is a subject, or more accurately, a phenomenon, that is often overlooked and taken for granted. Yet, this was, at that time, by no means a foregone outcome, and indeed many Japanese feared that their American occupiers would unleash revenge upon them for Japan's wartime atrocities. This in essence is what John Dower's book is about. In clear and easy-to-understand language, refraining from confusing technical and historical jargon, Dower shows how this process was undertaken by the Americans, and essentially how it was viewed and experienced by the Japanese themselves. Ranging from a vivid description of the desperate situation that Japan found herself after the war to the intriguing question of why the Emperor was allowed to keep his place on the throne and the persistant issue of Japan's war-time responsibility, this book guides the reader by the hand through a period in history that was extraordinary and unprecedented. Even if one has little interest or background in Japanese or American history, "Embracing Defeat" is a marvellous book to read as a novel, testimony to the fact that it won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction writing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Dower won the Pulitzer Prize and the 1999 National Book Award for non-fiction in America for this book so you do not need me to tell you that this is a magnificent work. Nevertheless, it may be useful to review what you will find in the book and what is not covered. This book concerns itself with the cultural and political landscape of Japan from 1945 to 1952. It does not deal with any military action or describe the devastated cities or the scenes to be found in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. 'Kyodatsu', or the state of exhaustion and despair in the country after defeat is well described and also the widespread shame, and feelings of betrayal of the people by the military government. The very rapid flowering of books, magazines and cinema under the new liberal rule of the Americans and the emergence of junk magazines as well as high quality literature and re-emergence of left-wing writers is treated in detail. The ironic slow re-imposition of censorship by the Americans as the Cold War gets under way and the growing disenchantment with occupation is fascinating. Much space is given to the reasons and methodology of saving Emperor Hirohito and his exclusion from the Tokyo War Trials.
The analysis of the opposing roles of the Americans under General MacArthur and the Japanese Government in the drafting and adoption by the government of the new 'non-belligerent' liberal constitution is most interesting and reflect upon the current world situation.
This is a dense and hugely well researched book that owes a lot to Dower's knowledge of the Japanese language and will well reward the reader's efforts.
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By A Customer on 29 Mar. 2005
Format: Paperback
The great strength of this book lies in the combination of its breadth, its scholarship and the way Dower questions the many cultural presumptions behind attitudes to Japan. While it is an academic book, it is incredibly readable - I couldn't put it down and finished it in 2 days. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Japan, WWII, or in the sociopolitical and cultural context of occupation (pertinent given the current approach in Iraq)
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