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on 16 February 2003
A remarkable tour through the Japanese war in China in the 1930s, the salvage man to man combats in the Pacific islands, the horrific bombings of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the aftermath of a totally devastating war on the psyche of the Japanese people.
Haruko Taya and Theodore Cook have done a remarkable reconstruction of this story, through the testimonies of the "other" protagonists.
One cannot came out of this tour, but with another perspective about the motivations and commitment of the people who fought or endured the destruction of this war, from the Japanese side. Common people and soldiers, willing to pay the ultimate price in order to defend their patriotic and religious believes, give a different, individual, impression from the one we derive from the analysis of the motivations of the War Lords and the militaristic complex in Tokyo.
Some fascinating facts are confirmed in this book . We have the story of private Tanisuga Shizuo, gas soldier in China from 1937, candidly telling some truths about the use of poison gas in that front. Now he is seeking compensation from the Japanese Government for the injuries he suffered while making poison gas during the war........ Tominaga Shozo gives a truthful account of the training of soldiers in China. That training included the practice of the proper technique to use the sword to decapitate live prisoners. Also, the last stage of conscript training required him to bayonet a living human, in order to condition soldiers to kill without remorse or hesitation during combat. The book contains some foggy accounts about certain events, like the story told by Tanida Isamu, staff officer in the 10th Army, during the period of the rape of Nanking (self denyal?) about the appalling number of civilians killed in the incident.
But the balance is surely positive, if you consider the moving stories of sacrifice told by the people in the Homeland, and the individual mystical motivations of the soldiers engaged in Special Attacks.
A revealing book, which I consider required reading for those interested in the War in Asia.
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If you are interested, or even just curious, about Japan and their role in World War Two, then this is the book for you. Every angle is covered; from the home front, the war against China, war crimes, kamikaze attacks, cannibalisation in New Guinea, the atom bombs...basically every aspect of war is in this book. The interviewers have managed to coax some truly interesting information from the elderly citizens they have interviewed. This is a must buy.
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on 22 August 1999
As an American Nisei (2nd generation) Japanese american, my parents experienced the terror of the civilian firebombing at the end of World War II. Since they, as many, are reluctant to talk about it, this book helped me to capture some of their experiences and come to a greater understanding of an extremely difficult time. The irrefutability of oral history as the direct retelling of recollection and experience creates a context for telling these heretofore untold stories. It provides a sense of the greater story in a way that documentary and narrative historiographic contexts told from the perspective of the "winner" are unable to capture.
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on 16 June 1998
I came across this book by accident in a bookshop in Tokyo. It immediately seemed a good read, and better than all other books I'd read as it took in a broad range of people, not just concentrating on military men. While there is a little too much inclusion of people who were, or later became, prominent in some way, this book is an important addition to studies of the Second World War. It deserves to be placed alongside other works based on oral history, such as Angus Calder's The People's War, and Stud Terkel's The Good War. I found this book a valuable resource for part of my MA: indeed, the introduction to each chapter, and the broad range of experiences make it an excellent college level text, as well as a good read.
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on 1 January 2016
I bought this book while on holiday in Tokyo to spend time in the bullet train between the capital and Kyoto. What was purchased as a means to kill time turned out to be one of the most powerful books I've read in a long time. This work is based on interviews of Japanese veterans and civilians who experienced the war against China and the Second World War. These dialogues were recorded at the end of the eighties, when many interesting witnesses were still alive. All interviewes are supported by short comments and, when needed, footnotes. The book is roughly divided in chronological parts and thematic chapters.
It is a chilling read. Many veterans have little or no regret, justifying their atrocities in the name of the emperor or stating that they had no other choice. Others denounce the fascist education given by the militaristic government and the power of brainwashing. Testimonies are not entirely depressing. Some witnesses tell tales of solidarity and humanity and, ultimately, all remind us how lucky it is to live in a peaceful world.
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on 20 October 1998
For those who are interested in what life was like for the Japanese people during World War II this is the book to read. The book contains a series of interviews with locals who survived the war and also with military personnel, even those who participated in atrocities against the Americans and Chinese. The book starts out slow moving, but it then becomes hard to put down. It is an excellent baseline compilation; in fact you see parts of this book quoted in other significant commentaries of the Pacific War. Some parts of the book will enlighten you and possibly make you feel terribly empathetic and sorrowful; other parts will dismay and disturb you. But, it you are a serious student of the war, this is MUST READING and a serious and significant contribution to Pacific War literature.
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on 3 January 2016
A remarkable and necessary book, with an excellent structure and moving stories. Essential reading for anyone considering war of any form, particularly politicians. Each story is from an individual who was impacted by the war and is so moving that I could only read one per day to allow the memory and emotion of each to sink in.
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on 24 May 1999
I thought it was VERY detailed. Some books just have the basics, But this book has everything you'd ever want to know about Japan and the atomic bomb. I'm a middle school student and I had to do a report for one of my classes. On the star rating, I gave it 5 Stars!
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on 7 December 2012
For anyone who wants to get an idea of what war was like to the Japanese, then you must read this. It ranges from the perspectives of the soldiers to the wives at home. Some of the stories are incredibly sad so be prepared.
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on 3 September 2015
A fascinating account
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