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Japan at War: An Oral History Paperback – October 1, 1993

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Japan at War: An Oral History + Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; Reprint edition (October 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565840399
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565840393
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"One of the essential books about World War II." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The stories recorded in Japan at War provide insight into the confounding complexity of extreme human behavior during the war." —San Francisco Chronicle

"Hereafter no one will be able to think, write, or teach about the Pacific War without reference to [the Cooks’] work." —Marius B. Jansen, Princeton University

"Oral history of a compellingly high order." —Kirkus Reviews

"Informed, nuanced, manysided, vivid—an impressive achievement." —Ezra F. Vogel, Harvard University

About the Author

Haruko Taya Cook is Fordham Marymount Professor Emerita in history at Marymount College of Fordham University. She lives in New York City.

Theodore F. Cook is a professor of Japanese history at William Paterson University. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 49 customer reviews
This was a very good well written book!
Joseph R. Calamia
If you like to know the story behind the "story" then this book is perfect.
Andrea Wallace
One of the most interesting history books I have ever read.
Joseph Bisesi

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By John Robinson on July 30, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
...if you are interested in history in general, or this war or nation in particular, then you must have this book. It is the definitive oral history from the perspective of the Japanese people.
Most of the interviews are with "common folks", only a few in positions of war-time influence are here. This is natural, given that these interviews were conducted long after the war ended. Also, similar to Studs Terkel's work, these are "worm's eye" views, very personal, very moving, with necessarily limited fields of view.
Regarding "david"'s comments in the preceding review: the issue of blame is not squarely addressed by most of the people being interviewed. Unlike david, however, I do not find this disturbing. These are common people. Like the interviewees in Terkel's work, they were caught up in a conflagration, moving from one private experience to another, motivated by needs of family and friends and simple survival. After the defeat, they were then caught up in the re-building. They buried their private pain, with these interviews, in many cases, being the first time they shared their experiences with anyone. This INCREASES the value of the oral history, it does not decrease it. Also, the authors clearly address this issue of "blame avoidance" and provide speculative, but very sensible, reasons for it. Not justification, quite the opposite, just reasons. Finally, some of the more well-educated interviewees DO address the issue.
I have had this book for years and have re-read it many times, always with a little greater understanding and appreciation for its value.
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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Luciano Lupini on December 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
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?
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By James Hercules Sutton on October 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Until I read this book, I had no real appreciation of suffering and cruelty in the Pacific War. The format of this book, oral histories in the first person, so personalizes suffering and cruelty that I had to interrupt reading many times in order to go on. There is so much pain here that I soon understood why many Japanese refuse to revisit such memories, even after sixty years. The book is a record of what happens when those in command plug their eyes, minds and hearts with mud. As such, it reminds us that we should not be silent about what happened, if we truly wish that it might never happen again.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Randy Keehn VINE VOICE on June 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have sought, over the years, to try to understand the nature of our enemies in war. Some wars, like WWI, were essentially fought over the issue of power and control. Some wars, like the US Civil War, get redefined periodically and often to the advantage of who's redefining it. Today, July 4, is a good day to reflect on our Revolutionary War and, although I don't do it annually like I feel I should, reading the Declaration of Independance is an excellent way to understand the grievances that led to war. It is WWII that had been my biggest challenge to comprehend and it was the Japanese side of this conflict that I understood the least. I can't say that one book clarified everything I didn't understand but "Japan at War: An Oral History" put me on the fast track to getting there.

This is an amazing book in many ways. First, the scope of the book covers the many different facets of the Japanese experiance in WWII. For example, the war begins for them with the invasion of China and the conquest of Manchuria; aspects we generally know little about. It has a chapter on the kamikazi's and the similar sailers who volunteered to man suicide torpedos. It looks to the glory of the height of conquest and to the chaos and destruction of the waning days. It takes a look at the little mentioned Soviet invasion of Manchuria (that began after The Bomb). It takes a brief look at post-war Japan as well. It does all of this through the interviews the authors conducted with a number of soldiers, sailers, officers, civilians, and conscripts. To their credit, the husband and wife team of Haruko Taya and Theodore Cook constructed their book by publishing the reminiscences of their subjects. We read the words they heard supplemented briefly by overviews provided by the authors.
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