The long road to Tokyo: Japanese aggression in China, Southeast Asia, and the South Pacific, with special attention to books about the Rape of Nanking, Japanese fighter planes and pilots, the Burma campaign, and the Hiroshima bomb

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JAPAN AT WAR, 1931-1945

The run-up to Pearl Harbor

An excellent book! I haven't finished it, so perhaps I'll find some flaws that I don't yet see, but altogether it is an impressive piece of work. Eri Hotta was born and raised in Tokyo but educated at Princeton and Oxford, so she has mastered both languages and uses them well. How often have you picked up a book whose author can say offhand that all the translations are hers?

To be sure, the title is somewhat deceptive: Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. Don't imagine that you are getting one of those "year" books (1491 being just the most recent example) that purports to squeeze a whole civilization into the events of a single year. Hotta often delves into the recent past, and sometimes even to events at the turn of the century and earlier, notably the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.

The book has the usual difficulty that Japanese names, to an American reader, are both unfamiliar and difficult. I have read my share of books and documents about the run-up to the Pacific War, and I freely confess my occasional bewilderment at the revolving-door politicians and generals who guided (or misguided!) Japan in 1940 and 1941. Familiar figures like Kido, Konoe, Yamamoto, and Hirohito himself gain depth from the author's easy knowledge of their careers, but too many other names go by in a blur. This is, I suppose, inevitable. To leave them out would have been even worse.

Hotta has been criticized for letting Japan off too easily, and for stressing American responsibility for the run-up to war. I haven't noticed that myself; if I do so, I'll amend this review. For now, I can only advise: read it.

The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is an animated feature of the life of Horikoshi Jiro, designer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero of the Second World War. Says the publicity for the American release: "Not only will [director Hayao] Miyazaki's love of flight be the center of a film for the first time since Porco Rosso, but his extraordinary ability to find the human stories within larger dramas will, we're sure, make this an animation event."

Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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