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A Japanese historian examines why Japan went to war. Alfred A. Knopf, , pages When Japan attacked the United States in Japan Countdown to Infamy. By Eri Hotta. pp. Alfred A. Knopf, $ Why did Japan start a war its top leaders knew it had. In Japan Countdown to Infamy, Japanese author Eri Hotta attempted to discuss this question via use of newly revealed information from.

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Jun 29, Richard Brown rated it really liked it. According to the records she presents, the home government had no say in the decision and was against it. Military pressures on civilian leadership did not help. Of course outside of Japan’s ckuntdown right nationalist circles, hardly anyone today 9141 to defend Japan’s imperialism in the first half of the 20th century, let alone their conduct during World War II, but much of modern Japan prefers to look away from that entire time period.

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Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

What is forgotten is how unusual the Nazis and the rise to power was. Close mobile search navigation Article navigation. These meetings included the most important senior officials, both civilian and military. The great question that students of World War II have asked is how could Japan, with the fraction of the population, resources, and manu The surprise attack by Japanese naval forces on Pearl Harbor on Dec.

The caricatures that populate more superficial histories are replaced with credible portraits of dutiful japah deeply flawed people. Hotta was born in Tokyo. Yet, Japan could not pull out of China without being dishonored, nor accept the demands of America.

These aspirations led to increasing militarization, converting Japan from a U. Introducing us to the doubters, schemers, and would-be patriots who led their nation into this conflagration, Hotta brilliantly shows us a Japan rarely glimpsed–eager to avoid war but fraught with tensions with the West, blinded by reckless militarism couched in traditional notions of pride and honor, tempted by the gambler’s dream of scoring the biggest win against impossible odds and nearly escaping disaster before it finally proved inevitable.


As Japan entered the modern world, its leaders devoted enormous resources to looking like and acting like western nations. She also advances a few long debunked ideas, such as Nagumo not sending a third wave to attack Pearl Harbor. Tojo held onto the post of Army Minister while serving as Prime Minister, so had direct control over much of the war effort.

Years of horrific warfare. Countdown to InfamyEri Hotta exposes the false assumptions, wishful thinking, political turmoil and cultural baggage that contributed to fatally flawed decision-making. However, they soon found that western and eastern racism still relegated Japan to a secondary status. Something prewar Japan sorely lacked. That it was a bad decision was not only clear in hindsight, you will see from the book that there were more people including the emperor who believed that it was a bad decision to go to war with the US than those who believed it was right, which only makes it more perplexing.

Hailed by anti-colonialists after defeating Russia inJapan then aggressively expanded across Asia. The author used the concept of Honne to Coyntdown to throw some light on these behaviours.

It also was exquisitely sensitive to coutndown from others. In the end, pride, scarce resources, blunders, and resentment with the west slowly drove Japan to war.

There are references to the Meiji Restoration that are significant to the behavior of some of the main players; further elaboration would have been helpful for those of us without much knowledge of the Meiji Restoration.

Eri Hotta. Japan Countdown to Infamy. | The American Historical Review | Oxford Academic

It seemed a series of bad decisions made by extremely fallible men who were unwilling to question each other openly and really test assumptions before making decisions that affected millions of lives. They were getting mixed signals. The main actors, prime ministers, diplomats, and military chiefs, all assured each other that they didn’t want to go, but in public, each took the most hawkish line possible to avoid being seen as insufficiently patriotic by the public and their underlings.

But it fell far short of its goal of significantly retarding the U.

Third, and very important, during the attack the U. The Japanese ambassador’s final meeting with Secretary of State Cordell Hull was thus an acrimonious one.


Drawing on material little known to Western readers, and barely explored in depth in Japan itself, Hotta poses an essential question: This book is specifically about everything that led to Pearl Harbor, and so it begins in the early 20th century with some references to the historical background of the Meiji Restoration that still informed the attitudes of many of Japan’s leaders infwmy ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the die was cast.

What one cannot do is debate the specific actions that concerned and imfamy the Western Powers and these are fully covered. Read the book to learn more — among other things I learned how infwmy a position Japan had put itself through the military quagmire it created for itself in China, with widespread rationing and food shortages long before Pearl Harbor.

Japan Countdown Infamy, Dec 5 | Video |

Want to Read saving…. In fact he publicly exhorted the continuation of the war plans as the US continued to insist that Japan exit China and the expanded Manchukuo state.

Lastly, how did the militarists convincingly sell a war to a population already wary of fighting an unsuccessful war in China? As bizarre as it is reading about it over seventy years later, it is also a phenomenon uncomfortably familiar to those of us who have sat on management committees. As long as Japan covers up its terrible transgressions against humanity, it will always be a nation afraid and insecure.

It is a very well-written and researched book. However, they did realize that if the U. Don’t miss a story. The late delivery in Washington did strengthen Roosevelt’s case, helping him rally the country around the flag, but he himself made clear that the stealth of the Pearl Harbor strategy and the accompanying use of diplomacy as its cloak were the most abominable part of Japan’s conduct.