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Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy
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A groundbreaking history that considers the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective and is certain to revolutionize how we think of the war in the Pacific. When Japan launched hostilities against the United States in 1941, argues Eri Hotta, its leaders, in large part, understood they were entering a war they were almost certain to lose. Drawing on material little known to Western readers, and barely explored in depth in Japan itself, Hotta poses an essential question: Why did these men--military men, civilian politicians, diplomats, the emperor--put their country and its citizens so unnecessarily in harm's way? 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.In an intimate account of the increasingly heated debates and doomed diplomatic overtures preceding Pearl Harbor, Hotta reveals just how divided Japan's leaders were, right up to (and, in fact, beyond) their eleventh-hour decision to attack. We see a ruling cadre rich in regional ambition and hubris: many of the same leaders seeking to avoid war with the United States continued to adamantly advocate Asian expansionism, hoping to advance, or at least maintain, the occupation of China that began in 1931, unable to end the second Sino-Japanese War and unwilling to acknowledge Washington's hardening disapproval of their continental incursions. Even as Japanese diplomats continued to negotiate with the Roosevelt administration, Matsuoka Yosuke, the egomaniacal foreign minister who relished paying court to both Stalin and Hitler, and his facile supporters cemented Japan's place in the fascist alliance with Germany and Italy--unaware (or unconcerned) that in so doing they destroyed the nation's bona fides with the West. We see a dysfunctional political system in which military leaders reported to both the civilian government and the emperor, creating a structure that facilitated intrigues and stoked a jingoistic rivalry between Japan's army and navy. Roles are recast and blame reexamined as Hotta analyzes the actions and motivations of the hawks and skeptics among Japan's elite. Emperor Hirohito and General Hideki Tojo are newly appraised as we discover how the two men fumbled for a way to avoid war before finally acceding to it. Hotta peels back seventy years of historical mythologizing--both Japanese and Western--to expose all-too-human Japanese leaders torn by doubt in the months preceding the attack, more concerned with saving face than saving lives, finally drawn into war as much by incompetence and lack of political will as by bellicosity. An essential book for any student of the Second World War, this compelling reassessment will forever change the way we remember those days of infamy.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Street Date:
10/29/2013
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780385350518
ASIN:
B00CNQ7M6O
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APA Citation (style guide)

Eri Hotta. (2013). Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Eri Hotta. 2013. Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Eri Hotta, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013.

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Eri Hotta. Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        ERI HOTTA, born in Tokyo and educated in Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, has taught at Oxford and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in international relations. She was also a research fellow at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. Ms. Hotta lives in New York.



      • name: Eri Hotta
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publishDate
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title
Japan 1941
fullDescription

A groundbreaking history that considers the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective and is certain to revolutionize how we think of the war in the Pacific.

When Japan launched hostilities against the United States in 1941, argues Eri Hotta, its leaders, in large part, understood they were entering a war they were almost certain to lose. Drawing on material little known to Western readers, and barely explored in depth in Japan itself, Hotta poses an essential question: Why did these men--military men, civilian politicians, diplomats, the emperor--put their country and its citizens so unnecessarily in harm's way? 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.

In an intimate account of the increasingly heated debates and doomed diplomatic overtures preceding Pearl Harbor, Hotta reveals just how divided Japan's leaders were, right up to (and, in fact, beyond) their eleventh-hour decision to attack. We see a ruling cadre rich in regional ambition and hubris: many of the same leaders seeking to avoid war with the United States continued to adamantly advocate Asian expansionism, hoping to advance, or at least maintain, the occupation of China that began in 1931, unable to end the second Sino-Japanese War and unwilling to acknowledge Washington's hardening disapproval of their continental incursions. Even as Japanese diplomats continued to negotiate with the Roosevelt administration, Matsuoka Yosuke, the egomaniacal foreign minister who relished paying court to both Stalin and Hitler, and his facile supporters cemented Japan's place in the fascist alliance with Germany and Italy--unaware (or unconcerned) that in so doing they destroyed the nation's bona fides with the West.

We see a dysfunctional political system in which military leaders reported to both the civilian government and the emperor, creating a structure that facilitated intrigues and stoked a jingoistic rivalry between Japan's army and navy. Roles are recast and blame reexamined as Hotta analyzes the actions and motivations of the hawks and skeptics among Japan's elite. Emperor Hirohito and General Hideki Tojo are newly appraised as we discover how the two men fumbled for a way to avoid war before finally acceding to it.

Hotta peels back seventy years of historical mythologizing--both Japanese and Western--to expose all-too-human Japanese leaders torn by doubt in the months preceding the attack, more concerned with saving face than saving lives, finally drawn into war as much by incompetence and lack of political will as by bellicosity. An essential book for any student of the Second World War, this compelling reassessment will forever change the way we remember those days of infamy.



From the Hardcover edition.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The New Yorker
      • content: "Hotta illuminates the extraordinary ideological and military predicament in which Japan found itself in the months before the attack on Pearl Harbor...[She] brings to life the key figures of a deeply divided Japanese leadership...[and] scrupulously details [their] negotiations and squabbles...against a backdrop of dauntingly complex domestic and international maneuverings."
      • premium: False
      • source: Rana Mitter, The New York Review of Books
      • content: "Outstanding...In lucid prose, Hotta...persuasively sketches the very distinct personalities shaping the decisions that drove Japan toward war....She makes it clear that there are two versions of the Asia-Pacific War in China and Japan that hardly meet at all...[and] concludes that after 1945, Japan's actual 'past, with its improbable story of how the war came to pass, became another country.' It is a country that policymakers in Tokyo, Beijing, and Washington should seek to understand, not least through this humane and fair-minded book."
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times Book Review
      • content: "Chilling...Constitutes a warning of the literally earth-shattering dangers that can emerge when the political system of a powerful nation fails to work."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Dallas Morning News
      • content: "Hotta's groundbreaking work is both a fascinating history and a cautionary tale for those who wield power today."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Seattle Times
      • content: "[Hotta's] account is a warning to any country that would talk itself into a foolish war."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "In this focused, informed and persuasive book...Hotta effortlessly returns us to the moment just before the dice were so disastrously rolled. From a perspective little known to Americans, a masterful account of how and why World War II began."
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content: "A fascinating read for anyone interested in Japan's involvement in World War II...While scholarly and thoroughly researched, it's also a highly enjoyable read...A real page turner."
      • premium: False
      • source: Akira Iriye, author of Pearl Harbor and the Coming of the Pacific War
      • content: "In this fast-moving, persuasive account of Japan's road to Pearl Harbor, Eri Hotta describes the pathetic leadership of a country who argue among themselves endlessly when the crisis across the Pacific requires decisive action to preserve the peace. It is a story of self-delusion, irresponsibility, and ignorance from which Japan is not entirely free even today."
      • premium: False
      • source: Everyday eBook
      • content: "This ambitious, groundbreaking history builds new layers atop a story that we thought we knew."
      • premium: False
      • source: Choice
      • content: "Riveting...This important book should be in every major library. It will interest anyone attempting to make sense of Pearl Harbor, the Pacific War, or bureaucratic dysfunction and its possibly tragic consequences."
      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from October 1, 2013
        An Asian specialist examines the reasons behind the riskiest military venture in Japan's history. Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor and begin a war it had virtually no chance of winning? In this focused, informed and persuasive book, Hotta (Pan-Asianism and Japan's War, 1931-45, 2007) explains the cultural forces at work and the political, economic, diplomatic and military issues that occupied the government in the years, and especially the months, preceding December 7, 1941. Without in any way excusing or justifying the officials who made the momentous decision to begin an entirely "preventable and unwinnable" war, she sympathetically tells the story of leaders maneuvered into a strategic box, albeit one largely of their own making, from which war appeared the only escape. Among Hotta's many sensitive portraits: the young Emperor Hirohito; Prime Minister Tojo (not the bloodthirsty dictator of American propaganda) and the fatally indecisive Prince Konoe who preceded him; Adm. Yamamoto, architect of the Pearl Harbor attack; Matsuoka, the longtime foreign minister; and Nomura, ambassador to the United States. Lending depth to her narrative, the author includes sketches of lesser figures like the novelist Kafu, author of an incisive diary about public events, and the brilliant and eccentric Kuroshima, Yamamoto's premier strategist. Already weary from a long war with China, with rice rationed and the public kept largely clueless about the government's machinations, the nation's leaders paused. Nevertheless, with the cultural imperative of consensus masking intraservice rivalries and deep divisions among the military and political classes, with the racism and imperialism of Western powers painfully rankling, with the desire for national greatness fueling a reckless expansionism, Japan gambled on a war where success depended almost entirely on forces outside its control. The impressively credentialed Hotta effortlessly returns us to the moment just before the dice were so disastrously rolled. From a perspective little known to Americans, a masterful account of how and why World War II began.

        COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from October 15, 2013

        In 1941, Japan was a resource-strapped country bogged down in a costly war with China. So why did it decide to initiate a war with the United States? Hotta (Pan-Asianism and Japan's War, 1931-45) explores every aspect of this question. She reveals that many high-ranking Japanese officials had real doubts about launching an attack on America. However, a combination of weak civilian leadership, outsize military involvement in government, extreme nationalism, and bureaucratic inertia forced Japan down a path of certain destruction. Her book gives colorful descriptions of the various characters involved, from the common Japanese soldier on the frontlines all the way up to the emperor himself. VERDICT This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in Japan's involvement in World War II generally or its motivations for attacking the United States specifically. While scholarly and thoroughly researched, it's also a highly enjoyable read. Hotta writes the story with a novel's narrative drive, making it a real page-turner. Readers seeking a more concise exploration of this topic should consider Jeffrey Record's A War It Was Always Going To Lose: Why Japan Attacked America in 1941.--Joshua Wallace, South Texas Coll. Lib., McAllen

        Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        September 15, 2013
        This is an interesting, sometimes admirable, but frustratingly flawed effort to examine the lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbor from a Japanese perspective. Hotta, born in Tokyo and educated in Japan and the U.S., portrays the dilemma faced by the Japanese government and military in 1941. The war with China had no end in sight and drained Japan of men and limited resources. The political class was divided over the wisdom of territorial expansion, and even the military had its share of doubters, including some who feared the Soviet Union more than the U.S. Even among the military hawks there was concern that war with the U.S. was doomed to fail. Unfortunately, Hotta comes close to blaming the victim when she indicts American policy makers for their failure to understand Japan's views. For example, she condemns U.S. demands that Japan withdraw from China as high-handed, as if Japan's wanton, savage behavior there was acceptable. This is a useful look at the other side of the story, but the fact remains that Japan bears the full responsibility for launching a self-destructive war.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription

A groundbreaking history that considers the attack on Pearl Harbor from the Japanese perspective and is certain to revolutionize how we think of the war in the Pacific.
When Japan launched hostilities against the United States in 1941, argues Eri Hotta, its leaders, in large part, understood they were entering a war they were almost certain to lose. Drawing on material little known to Western readers, and barely explored in depth in Japan itself, Hotta poses an essential question: Why did these men—military men, civilian politicians, diplomats, the emperor—put their country and its citizens so unnecessarily in harm's way? 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...

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