A Japanese historian examines why Japan went to war. Alfred A. Knopf, , pages When Japan attacked the United States in Japan Countdown to Infamy. By Eri Hotta. pp. Alfred A. Knopf, $ Why did Japan start a war its top leaders knew it had. In Japan Countdown to Infamy, Japanese author Eri Hotta attempted to discuss this question via use of newly revealed information from.

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Hotta proves without a shadow of a doubt that the Japanese leadership suffered from self-delusion as they constantly came up with arguments to buttress themselves against the sound reasoning that a war against the United States was futile. We see a dysfunctional political system in which military leaders reported to both the civilian government and the emperor, creating a structure that facilitated intrigues and stoked a jingoistic rivalry between Japan’s army and navy.

We see a ruling cadre rich in regional ambition and hubris: Eri Hotta’s Japan attempts to find answers as to why a nation’s political and military leadership decided to embark on a mission which infqmy virtually impossible to attain victory in countdoqn to an Axis alliance whose benefit to Japan was based on speculation and wishful thinking.

Unfortunately I think I was spoilt by her earlier book and coundtown hoped that she would repeat that feat. Reads like a thriller.

No matter how many 19441 and alliances a diplomat might achieve, a single shift in government policy could wash them all away. All the while, fanatical junior officers maneuver their supposed superiors via rose-colored projections and staff work that channel discussions toward ever more bellicose military and diplomatic options. The Admiral said that the Emperor—who also was against the war—should simply reject the attack plans of laid before him.

The multi-part message declaring an end to talks between the two nations was to have been delivered to Secretary of State Cordell Hull by 1 p.

Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

Aug 24, Philip Kuhn rated it really liked it. Hotta was born in Tokyo. Japan’s leaders were taking on the war quite irresponsibly, like gambling.

Read the book to learn more — among other things I learned how bad a position Japan had put itself through the military quagmire it created for its This book is, oddly enough, is a strong argument for well-formulated constitutional law. They did not understand U. You can’t help but get the feeling that these men simply had no tangible plan, but felt an incredible urge to do something.


The Japanese economy did not “suddenly” feel pressured after the US oil embargo in August In this environment, what happened was a tragic farce of high ranking officials saying one thing in public meetings while expressing the opposite opinion in private.

In simple terms, the opposite of “calling a spade a spade”. The lessons of nationalism were absorbed in Asia, and Japan became an excellent pupil of western industrialization and expansion. There are references to the Meiji Restoration that are significant to the behavior of some of the main players; further elaboration would have been helpful for those of us without much knowledge of the Meiji Restoration.

Politicians walking knowingly into a disaster just because no one had the courage to publicly say what everyone knew. After the national celebration after the successful Pearl Harbor attack, many in Japan shook their heads in disbelief, even Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

Book review: ‘Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy,’ by Eri Hotta

Hotta does not shy away from according blame to certain figures, and at times resorts to countdowb ad hominem attacks. Nonetheless, it was also a tough read. He saw no contradiction in signing the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy and yet trying to convince the U. Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic.

Book Review: Japan Countdown to Infamy , by Eri Hotta – Inverarity is not a Scottish village

Hotta provides several reasons. He was involved in many high-level meetings at which his role was expected to be merely ceremonial, and yet he sometimes broke tradition and interrogated or scolded his generals and admirals and cabinet ministers.

Historians, diplomats, WWII gamers. The mechanism that led them towards the critical point was a deeply dysfunctional form of government decision making that induced people to show outward conformity with decisions that they internally disapproved of, combined with formal mechanisms to absolve people from any personal responsibility for their decisions.


Since that was the U. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. The west has long been obsessed with Nazi Germany and its lessons.

Book review: ‘Japan Countdown to Infamy,’ by Eri Hotta | Books | Dallas News

Most importantly, the author, born in Tokyo and educated in Japan and the U. And we will go out of the meeting whispering to each other that the decision taken in the meeting was a wrong one. Even though everyone was in theory a servant of the Emperor, whose own powers were theoretically limited by the Japanese Constitution which gave him nominal but little actual legal authorityno one was really “in charge” of everything. Even though there were some unique circumstances that led Japan to this decision, there were also numerous circumstances that can be found in some current nations and that lend credence to the saying “Those who do not learn The book is a thorough, exhaustive analysis of Japan’s political, military, and social conditions leading up to the Pearl Harbor attack.

At a time when the long drawn out war in China was reaching a stalemate, why would Japan contemplate a war against the United States? Japan actually had fought against Germany in World War I, but hoped an alliance with the racist Nazis would tilt the balance of power with the United States and improve its negotiating position. As bizarre as it is reading about it over seventy years later, it is also a phenomenon uncomfortably familiar to those of us who have sat on management committees.

But for the Japanese leaders, there was no contradictions, they have to keep up the appearance while trying to avert war – Honne to Tatemae. Japan continued its program of making Asia safe for Asians and projecting themselves as a power on par with the west. Drawing on material little known to Western readers, and barely explored in depth in Japan itself, Hotta poses an essential question: