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The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 (Modern Library War) Reprint Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 182 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812968583
ISBN-10: 0812968581
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[It] is quite possibly the most readable, yet informative account of the Pacific war.” —Chicago Sun-Times

“Unbelievably rich . . . readable and exciting . . . The best parts of [Toland’s] book are not the battle scenes but the intimate view he gives of the highest reaches of Tokyo politics.” —Newsweek

“Similar in scope to William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Toland’s book is fresh and dramatic throughout. The Rising Sun is not only a blood-and-guts action story, it also presents for the first time a great deal of fresh information.” —Chicago Sun-Times

From the Inside Flap

This Pulitzer Prize-winning history of World War II chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the Japanese empire, from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Told from the Japanese perspective, "The Rising Sun is, in the author's words, "a factual saga of people caught up in the flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened--muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox."
In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading up to and culminating in the war in the Pacific, Toland crafts a riveting and unbiased narrative history. In his Foreword, Toland says that if we are to draw any conclusion from "The Rising Sun, it is "that there are no simple lessons in history, that it is human nature that repeats itself, not history."
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library War
  • Paperback: 976 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (May 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812968581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812968583
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.8 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For anyone truly interested in finding and reading one of the first definitive histories of Imperial Japan, this is the book. This work is at once carefully documented and scholarly yet is also eminently readable and entertaining. Although there is no single volume that adequately explains the mysterious story of how Japan rose to threaten the eastern half of the globe, author John Toland delivers a most informative and exhaustively researched manuscript that does help us to understand the essential elements stirred in the witches brew that poisoned most of Asia from 1933 until 1945. It has the unique and helpul tact of being written from the Japanese perspective, something Toland was able to accomplish with the help of his Japanese wife and collaborator. As with all his works, Toland spent several years researching this book with intensive interviews by surviving principals, and had access to a wide range of archival data and previously unpublished data and facts. The result is this magisterial work.
As mentioned above, this is a book that concentrates heavily on interviews with a literal torrent of people who had significant contact and knowledge of the circumstance and conditions that fostered and expedited the rise of the militant and imperialistic military class within Japanese society, and of the ways their rise and interests coalesced and matched the long-term desires of the Japanese power elite, who mistakenly believed they could manipulate and control the military in their actions. Like the German aristocracy that climbed into bed with Hitler thinking they could do the same, they made the fatal error of underestimating the Machiavellian aims and purposes of the Japanese military.
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Format: Hardcover
I am intrigued to read in several reviews that the book gets off to a "slow start" in dealing with the period before Pearl Harbor. I have a keen interest in military history and sometimes feel this way about books that take too long to get to the action, but I didn't react that way here. Rather, I found the analysis of internal Japanese politics before Pearl Harbor to be the most engrossing part of the book, in part because I knew so little of this important area coming in, but in larger part due to the author's engrossing presentation.
While the island-hopping and other military portions are extremely well done too, nothing distinguishes this work as surely as its insights to the internal functioning of the Japanese Govt. (and the minds of individual Japanese) as first war, and then the end of war, approached. I can see where the criticism of a "pro-Japanese" bias comes from, but I think it is ultimately unjustified. Toland lets his subjects' voices come through, in an informative and compelling way, and so we hear the voices of many of the key Japanese participants (or of those close to them.) Since that's a perspective we aren't normally exposed to in the U.S., I find it extremely useful and (to put it mildly) see no danger of the pro-Japanese perspective overwhelming the American understanding of the war.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an impressive work that really makes an attempt to analyze the causes of Japan's conflict with the United States during the Second World War, and the events during the war that culminate with Japan's defeat. I have read no other work that goes into comparable depth as regards the complexities of 1940s Japanese politics. This work impressively manages to at least try to explain why the Japanese side decided to go to war with the United States, a country that many of its leaders understood to be more powerful than Japan in almost every measurable category of war-making capability.

Author Toland does manage to inject a certain amount of pro-Japanese bias into the causes of the War. Essentially, Japan wanted for itself more or less what the British had in their own Empire: a group of states that were economically and militarily subservient to Japan. The Japanese "Co-Prosperity Sphere" was plainly modelled on the British and other European colonial empires. Toland spends less time dealing with the fact that the countries that Japan had decided should be part of this new Empire did not wish to be Japanese colonial subjects. Further, he touches upon the fact (but deemphasizes its importance) that this Japanese ambition involved savage mistreatment of civilians that both the American government and US public opinion could not possibly have condoned.

Further, Japanese politics in the 1930s and 1940s was dominated by militarists to a greater extent than any Western power. Even Nazi Germany was a civilian government to which the military was clearly subservient. (Of course its civilian government was more radical and fanatical than the German military, creating a different host of problems.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a monumental piece of work. The author has managed to craft hundreds of sources into one single narrative that reads like an epic novel. The book begins from Japan's involvement into China right up to the Allies' occupation after her surrender.
Since history is mainly dictated by the victors, objective works from the point of view of the defeated countries are often hard to come by. John Toland has managed to do a great job in filling this void, giving us a rare glimpse as to the whens, whys and hows of Japan's decision to get herself into an ultimately disastrous war.
If you are a WWII enthusiast, and have read mainly accounts written by American or British authors, then this book will fill in a lot of the gaps. If anything, it's enlightening to read the other side of the story to any conflict.
Very highly recommended. Find a used copy today!
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