Embracing Defeat

The ease with which the great majority of Japanese were able to throw off a decade and a half of the most intense militaristic indoctrination, for instance, offers lessons in the limits of socialization and the fragility of ideology that we have seen elsewhere in this century in the collapse of totalitarian regimes. (That Japan’s monarchy was propped up while so many other imperial houses were toppled offers, in itself, a suggestive comparative story in politics and ideology.) Or again, American veterans of the Vietnam War will surely experience a shock of recognition on learning how the emperor’s soldiers and sailors struggled to come to terms with the contempt with which they were commonly greeted upon returning from their lost war. Similarly, the preoccupation with their own misery that led most Japanese to ignore the suffering they had inflicted on others helps illuminate the ways in which victim consciousness colors the identities that all groups and peoples construct for themselves. Historical amnesia concerning war crimes has naturally taken particular forms in Japan, but the patterns of remembering and forgetting are most meaningful when seen in the broader context of public memory and myth-making generally, issues that have deservedly come to attract great attention in recent years. “Responsibility,” addressed in many contexts in the cauldron of defeat and reconstruction, is hardly an insular concern.

3 thoughts on “Embracing Defeat

  1. shinichi Post author

    Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

    by John W. Dower

    Drawing on a vast range of Japanese sources and illustrated with dozens of astonishing documentary photographs, Embracing Defeat is the fullest and most important history of the more than six years of American occupation, which affected every level of Japanese society, often in ways neither side could anticipate. Dower, whom Stephen E. Ambrose has called “America’s foremost historian of the Second World War in the Pacific,” gives us the rich and turbulent interplay between West and East, the victor and the vanquished, in a way never before attempted, from top-level manipulations concerning the fate of Emperor Hirohito to the hopes and fears of men and women in every walk of life. Already regarded as the benchmark in its field, Embracing Defeat is a work of colossal scholarship and history of the very first order. John W. Dower is the Elting E. Morison Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for War Without Mercy.

  2. shinichi Post author

    There was no historical precedent for this sort of relationship, nor any thing truly comparable elsewhere in the wake of the war. Responsibility for occupied Germany, Japan’s former Axis partner, divided as it was among the United States, England, France and the Soviet Union, lacked the focused intensity that came with America’s unilateral control over Japan. Germany also escaped the messianic fervor of General Douglas MacArthur, the postsurrender potentate in Tokyo. For the victors, occupying defeated Germany had none of the exoticism of what took place in Japan: the total control over a pagan, ‘Oriental’ society by white men who were (unequivocally, in General MacArthur’s view) engaged in a Christian mission. The occupation of Japan was the last immodest exercise in the colonial conceit known as “the white man’s burden.”
    It would be difficult to find another cross-cultural moment more intense, unpredictable, ambiguous, confusing, and electric than this one. The Americans arrived anticipating, many of them, a traumatic confrontation with fanatical emperor worshippers. They were accosted instead by women who called ‘yoo hoo’ to the first troops landing on the beaches in full battle gear, and men who bowed and asked what it was the conquerors wished. They found themselves seduced (far more than they realized) by polite manners as well as by elegant presents and entertainments. Most of all, they encountered a populace sick of war, contemptuous of the militarists who had led them to disaster, and all but overwhelmed by the difficulties of their present circumstances in a ruined land. More than anything else, it turned out, the losers wished both to forget the past and to transcend it.

  3. shinichi Post author


    by ジョン ダワー



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