“Japanese historian upends the familiar narrative of WW 2 by taking a bottom up approach, focusing on fascism from the grassroots” | History News Network

We’re used to viewing the rise of Japanese fascism/imperialism in the 1930s from the perspective of the leaders who took Japan down this path.  But this is a limited perspective. If we really want to understand why Japan turned towards fascism, we need to understand the role that ordinary Japanese played as well. This much needed perspective is found in Yoshimi Yoshiaki’s Grassroots Fascism, which has recently been translated into English.

grassroots fascism Japan

Another Conspiracy Theory Bites the Dust: “Attack on Pearl Harbor”

Brian Dunning respectfully examines the merits of the Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory that the American government knew about the attack and did nothing. In conclusion he states, “Even if this presumed conspiracy to allow the attack did exist, it failed to have any effect where the rubber meets the road. No orders from Washington altered the state of readiness at Pearl Harbor. Obviously the attack ultimately did play into the hands of anyone who wanted war with Japan; every tragedy somehow benefits somebody. That doesn’t make every tragedy a conspiracy.”

Read the entire article here:  Attack on Pearl Harbor.


“Five Myths About Emperor Hirohito” | History News Network

Emperor Hirohito, as the infamous leader of Japan during WWII, is a fascinating figure, and therefore one would assume that an article discussing five myths about him would be very interesting. At least that’s what I thought when I saw this post at the HNN. It turns out that the brief article is interesting, but not for its enlightening exposé of the former emperor. Instead, it turned out to be a puzzling commentary that didn’t live up to the hype. The last three “myths” seem irrelevant given the fact that very few people know about or believe in them. What’s the point of debunking myths that no one believes? There may be some Japanese that believe them, but I’m not aware that these are myths of any note in the English-speaking world.

The first two myths are interesting and relevant to the debate over the dropping of the atomic bomb, however, the author of this piece, Francis Pike, doesn’t really achieve his goal of debunking them. Instead his own essay actually confirms the first myth (Emperor Hirohito was a God), unless he’s actually claiming that people believe that he actually was a god. But that is clearly not what he means. He is referring to the fact that during the war many Japanese believed that he was a god. His own essay confirms that this “myth” is actually not a myth: “Japan’s new regime re-emphasized the role of the Emperor as a living God, making it the heart of an ideological indoctrination taught in the new state school education system,” and “the Meiji Constitution granted him absolute power – he was after all enshrined as a God.” So much for debunking the first myth!

His attempted take down of his second so-called myth (Hirohito was simply a constitutional monarch forced into war by his generals) is also unconvincing. He uses several incidences where Hirohito “demonstrated his absolute powers” (which in itself doesn’t actually address the myth), including, most famously, his intervention to end the war in August 1945 as evidence debunking this myth. But all Pike has demonstrated is that Hirohito occasionally stepped beyond the boundaries of his assigned role as a figurehead of the state.

Emperor Hirohito

The Cost of Revenge: “The Horrific Unintended Consequence of Doolittle’s Courageous Raid on Tokyo” | History News Network

Today is the anniversary of the famous Doolittle raid on Japan. But before we celebrate we should remember the cost paid by innocent Chinese civilians for this act of revenge. James M. Scott explains that, “that success came at a horrible—and until now—largely unknown price paid by the Chinese, who were victims of a retaliatory campaign by the Japanese Army that claimed an estimated 250,000 lives and saw families drowned in wells, entire towns burned, and communities devastated by bacteriological warfare.” This story should remind us that revenge has caused more human suffering than any other human motivation and that it has done so with little or no benefit other than the joy some get from it.

Scott also raises the subject of Japanese attempts to deny their own history: “Unlike Germany, whose leaders have for decades attempted to atone for the Holocaust, the Japanese have increasingly tried to disavow their nation’s legacy of cruelty, from the use Korean comfort women to the Rape of Nanking.” So, in conclusion he implores us: “As we celebrate the rightful heroism of Jimmy Doolittle and the 79 volunteer airmen who flew with him on one of the most celebrated raids of the war, it is important that we take time to honor the sacrifice paid by a quarter million Chinese. It is equally imperative that we as a nation refuse to allow Japanese leaders to disown their nation’s role in this and other wartime horrors.” Read the entire article here:

History News Network | The Horrific Unintended Consequence of Doolittle’s Courageous Raid on Tokyo.


History News Network | More than 80,000 People Died and Hardly Anyone Paid Attention?

On March 10, 1945 the Japanese in Tokyo awoke to what would become a nightmare. It was the beginning of what was the single deadliest non-nuclear bombing campaign during World War II (between 80,000 to 100,000 civilians were killed).  It was part of a larger firebombing campaign undertaken by the U.S. in which 66 Japanese cities were targeted in an effort to break the morale of Japanese civilians in the hopes that they would press their leadership to surrender unconditionally. This strategy had been largely rejected by the US leadership on the European front in contrast to their British allies. But under the leadership of Curtis LeMay the morale bombing strategy was pursued in Japan despite its failure in Germany. These firebombing campaigns never broke the morale of the Japanese people.

The firebombing of Tokyo has been overshadowed by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the enormity of the suffering that occurred during World War II across the globe. But Saotome Katsumoto, director of the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damages, is trying to preserve and memorialize this event: “Through the living testimonies of these ordinary people I have strived to present a clear picture of that night of indiscriminate firebombing. The recounting of these experiences was painful for both the speakers and the listener, but for the sake of those who bore this pain and for all those who lost their lives, I have attempted to faithfully record the events of March 10, 1945.” This is a worthy goal. We should all  remember and reflect on this tragic event.

History News Network | More than 80,000 People Died and Hardly Anyone Paid Attention?

Tokyo Air Raid (March 10, 1945)

Tokyo Air Raid (March 10, 1945)