What are some good books about Japan's role in WWII?
December 17, 2005 2:31 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the most important books about Japan's role in World War II? Read on...

I'm trying to avoid Reischauer-esque pro-Emperor Hirohito propaganda... just honest story-telling from Japan's entrance to war-time atrocities to individual theatres and battles, and finally the atomic bomb, surrender, and occupation. I'd much rather read several more topic-specific books than a general history overview, but one or two overall narratives of the war might be okay too.
posted by Ekim Neems to Education (14 answers total)

Required reading when I went to high school.
posted by meta87 at 2:51 PM on December 17, 2005

search for japan studies reading lists like this one: www.smith.edu/fcceas/japan/jhist.html

this book is imo very good: hirohito and the making of modern japan by herbert p bix

(watch this movie if you have the chance: "hiroshima" (tv, 1995))
posted by suni at 3:30 PM on December 17, 2005

The Pacific War 1931-1945 by Saburo Ienaga is really excellent.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 3:44 PM on December 17, 2005

Combined Fleet Decoded is a great look at the cryptographic war, with a lot more to it than the usual stories about Midway.
posted by atchafalaya at 3:56 PM on December 17, 2005

The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 by John Toland is told from a Japanese perspective. I very much enjoyed it (I had an early edition in two volumes).

Concerning the Occupation, a good book is Embracing Defeat by John W. Dower.
posted by armage at 4:03 PM on December 17, 2005

Response by poster: Something I probably should've already mentioned is what I've already read: The Burma Road, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, Embracing Defeat, Hiroshimia Diary.

I've had a hard time finding books about war-time atrocities (besides of course The Rape of Nanjing) -- I'm specifically interested in learning about "Unit 731" but haven't been able to find any in-print books.
posted by Ekim Neems at 4:06 PM on December 17, 2005

If you want something about Unit 731, Factories Of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare is pretty comprehensive, albeit a little dry.
posted by mrcircles at 4:20 PM on December 17, 2005

Eagle Against the Sun
The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, which armage pointed out, is perhaps the best book from Japan's perspective and in general that I've read on the Pacific theater.
posted by Captaintripps at 4:21 PM on December 17, 2005

lots of good suggestions above.

for an American perspective you might do worse than read Charles A Beard's "American Foreign Policy in the Making: 1932-1940" (1946) and "President Roosevelt and the Coming of War" (1948).
posted by matteo at 5:20 PM on December 17, 2005

If you are at all interested in the analysis of Japanese and American propaganda from the war, then John W. Dower's War Without Mercy might be worth a read.
posted by hototogisu at 7:16 PM on December 17, 2005

Japan at War: An Oral History by Haruko Taya Cook & Theodore F. Cook.
posted by SPrintF at 7:41 PM on December 17, 2005

I've been wanting to read this for ages. I guess, if you have the option, go for the primary source!
posted by prentiz at 1:47 AM on December 18, 2005

I highly recommend Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy's Story by Mitsuo Fuchida et al.
posted by exogenous at 11:49 AM on December 18, 2005

There's also Laurie Barber and Ken Henshall's The Last War of Empires: Japan and the Pacific War, 1941-1945 (Auckland, NZ: David Bateman, 1999).

It's a compact little book aimed at undergrads., but good nonetheless.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:33 PM on December 18, 2005

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