The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945

by John Toland

Hardcover, 1970




Random House (1970)


"[The Rising Sun] is quite possibly the most readable, yet informative account of the Pacific war."--Chicago Sun-Times 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." "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… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member 4bonasa
Excellent read, though John Toland tends to soften Japan's the atrocities committed. Could be because his wife is Japanese?
LibraryThing member nandadevi
This book is a political history of Japan between 1936 and 1945, played out in scenes in Tokyo, Washington and in the battles in China, the Pacific, and South East Asia. The particular strength of the book is its use of personal recollections and accounts of key figures in the Japanese Government and Imperial Councils. What comes across are the deeply divided factions within Japan, and the surprisingly sophisticated and nuanced views they held towards the capability and intentions of the United States of America. The author's thesis (and he argues that this represents the views held in Japan at the time) was that the US and Japan went to war over the Japan's desire to bring China within its sphere of influence, and the US determination to block that outcome. Toland argues that the Japanese were genuine in their desire to reach some compromise with the US in relation to China in the period leading up to Pearl Harbour - admittedly under considerable pressure from the US. It is ironic that the US success in cracking Japanese codes meant that the US Secretary of State became aware that the Japanese were preparing a military fall back position if the talks on China failed, and from this knowledge concluded that the Japanese attempts at compromise were simply a smoke screen rather than a legitimate diplomatic option. This is no apology for Japan, but adds a deeper understanding to how wrong-headed their decision to go to war was. It also gives the lie to statements that the Emperor's instruction to lay down arms and 'bear the unbearable' defeat was universally complied with. Simply a classic history.… (more)
LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
I find this a useful adjunct to WWII research on the level of Shirer's rise and Fall of Nazis. The prose is lucid, and I believe Toland has laid out a believable narrative of the Japanese actions that led to the war. I think Bergami's Imperial Japanese Conspiracy is a more difficult read.
LibraryThing member marshapetry
Loved it. Excellent book, great narrator. Highly recommend for the subset of history buffs who enjoy WWII history in extreme detail. It's an incredibly long book, with tremendously in depth chapters on just about everything having to do with Japan... but if you like that kind of detail, this is a great book. I found the extreme detail excellent in most chapters - just a couple of chapters seemed to drag on with detail that seemed a bit over the top. But, wow, the research needed to write a book like this is staggering.

Several chapters I had to reread because spacing out for a line or 2 made it impossible to follow - so if you want to dig in to this book I suggest setting aside your reading list for a while and just read this book for a while. I think overall I'll have spent 2 months on this book but it's well worth it.
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LibraryThing member charbonn
How time flies. It is difficult to remember that this book (or these books, since this is a two-volume work) is almost 50 year old. Written, as the title suggests, mostly from the Japanese point of view, it covers the period from the 2/26 Incident down through the surrender. It is based mostly on interviews with hundred of participants, nearly all of whom must by now be dead — along with the author, who died in 2004. Despite the vast length of the book, it doesn’t cover everything equally; some important incidents are covered only incidentally, while a few are covered in excruciating detail. It is not entirely devoid of mistakes. For example, it describes the Casablanca Conference as being held with “the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean as a background” — Casablanca is on the Atlantic, not the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, it is very well written, and highly recommended to anyone with an interested in the Pacific War.… (more)
LibraryThing member charlie68
An interesting look at the Pacific War through the eyes of the Japanese. The personal stories are the most gripping.
LibraryThing member damcg63
Excellent book - very long but very readable and keeps you wanting to hear the next part.


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