VALLEY OF DARKNESS: The Japanese People and Worm War Two by Thomas R. H. Havens

VALLEY OF DARKNESS: The Japanese People and Worm War Two

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Inside wartime Japan, the ordinary energetic, conscientious citizen went about his business bemuse 1) the government respected social traditions; 2) he didn't want to be out of step; 3) he had no practical choice. Havens' account of home-front life--the first, remarkably, of its kind--springs no surprises and draws few hard-and-fast conclusions. To anyone familiar with Japan, however, it underlines the people's renowned cohesiveness, reaffirms continuity as the key to stability-under-fire--and demonstrates the limits of government influence, even among the conformist Japanese. Critical to their commitment were the neighborhood associations which--as Havens spells out--""eventually drew nearly every civilian into the day-to-day administration of the home front."" Without pay, they undertook everything from collecting tax payments to distributing food and clothing rations to repairing pots and pans. Custom also dictated, however, that women not be fully mobilized--though economic pressure forced many to work and, in the absence of men, routine neighborhood duties fell to them, necessarily broadening their outlook. It was the beginning, too, of today's Sanchan farm system, with mother, grandmother, and grandfather working the land and father employed in a factory. But the campaign to raise the birth rate failed--times were too difficult--and the forced evacuation of children, indulged and cherished, was highly unpopular. At no time, however, was protest overt, and the Japanese--bombed out, relocated, eating ersatz food and going barefoot--toiled on beyond hope of victory. They have passed along to their children, Havens suggests, a lesson in perseverance. His description, based on contemporary sources and interviews, tends overall to diminish his claims of significant change, apart from the immeasurable effect of war and defeat. But he has made humanly intelligible the Japan that, to new arrivals, seemed reborn under American occupation and economic advance.

Pub Date: Feb. 27th, 1978
Publisher: Norton