EMBRACING DEFEAT by John W. Dower

EMBRACING DEFEAT

Japan in the Wake of World War II

KIRKUS REVIEW

An NBCC award winner and expert in the modern history of Japan, Dower (Massachusetts Inst. of Technology; Japan in War and Peace, 1994; War Without Mercy, 1986) absorbingly explains how American forces imposed a revolution from above in six years of occupation that transformed imperial Japan into a democracy. As WWII ended, Japan had lost three million dead, with many more wounded, starving, homeless, and demoralized. Dower has drawn effectively on Japanese academic, archival, and popular sources to capture the atmosphere of flux and uncertainty that followed surrender, including suicidal despair, gratitude toward generous GIs, black-market entrepreneurship, prostitution, and the unleashing of creative energy. The most important change, of course, occurred in politics. In a root-and-branch attempt to destroy Japan’s militaristic culture, the Americans created a constitution that limited the emperor to a symbolic head of state, renounced war as an instrument of settling international disputes, and established such reforms as sexual equality, greater freedom of speech and press, an end to the Shinto state religion, and a free labor movement. Written in six days, the constitution set the stage for unprecedented Japanese freedom, equality, and prosperity. For all their idealism, however, the American forces also acted with little knowledge of Japanese history, censored criticism of the occupation, and treated the losers with condescension. In the Far East counterpart to the Nuremberg trials, American prosecutors excluded testimony about Emperor Hirohito’s responsibility for war crimes and fed the nation’s sense of its victimization without forcing a realization of its culpability for atrocities committed against other Asians. In the greatest irony, by promoting such bureaucratic structures as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, MacArthur merely replaced his own mandarinate with a Japanese version. A turning point in Japanese history, illuminated through diligent research and piercing insight. (80 b&w photos)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04686-9
Page count: 688pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999




MORE BY JOHN W. DOWER

NonfictionWAYS OF FORGETTING, WAYS OF REMEMBERING by John W. Dower
by John W. Dower
NonfictionCULTURES OF WAR by John W. Dower
by John W. Dower
NonfictionJAPAN IN WAR AND PEACE by John W. Dower
by John W. Dower

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionYEAR ZERO by Ian Buruma
by Ian Buruma