It’s often said, “history is written by the victors,” and this only half true. While the narrative of World War II is definitely constructed from the Allied lens, this does not mean that the vanquished were unable to tell their stories. German officers and soldiers pumped out volumes of memoirs during the postwar years, many of which were consumed voraciously by readers in America and Britain. Japanese memoirs were more sparse, at least regarding translations that made it to the West. One notable exception was Masanobu Tsuji’s memoir Japan’s Greatest Victory, Britain’s Worst Defeat.
Tokyo Vice is a crime thriller series currently on HBO Max and based on the memoirs by Jake Adelstein. Set in 1999 Japan, it follows an American reporter working for a Japanese newspaper as he delves deep into Tokyo’s seedy underworld and the criminal kingdom of the yakuza.
Japanese Destroyer Captain is the postwar memoir of Tameichi Hara, a Japanese Navy officer who earned the nickname the “Miracle Captain.” He is one of the only Japanese captains to have survived the entire Pacific War from its beginning in 1941 to its end in 1945. Of the 175 destroyers the Imperial Navy possessed during World War II, 129 were sunk.
All She Was Worth is a 1992 noir mystery written by Miyuki Miyabe, one of Japan’s most famous genre writers, including crime fiction. Taking place in the early 1990s, the novel captures the zeitgeist of the Bubble Economy of the 80s/early 90s, which would soon pop and led to the infamous “Lost Decade.”
Film noir is a tricky thing to define, and some still question whether it’s just a style relying on distinct lighting and shadow play or if it’s a genre unto its own. The term derived from French critic Nino Frank who, in 1946, saw many American crime movies like The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Double Indemnity (1944) for the first time, and dubbed them film noir – black films, both for their heavy use of shadows and dark subject matter.
Since it’s spooky season, I wanted to highlight one of Japan’s most famous horror manga artists/writers – Junji Ito. For those not in the know, manga are Japanese comics, and Ito’s realistic and hyper-detailed artwork, combined with his macabre and haunting plots, are a perfect nightmare cocktail. Here are ten recommendations to start you off, from his longer-form works to short stories. Also, to existing Junji Ito fans, yes, there are plenty of well-known recommendations here, but if I didn’t list your personal favorite, well, there’s always next Halloween…
World War II has been cemented of the national consciousness as a “good war” in the Allied nations – America, Britain, Russia – for decades now. However, the fourth major partner of the Allies – China – has only recently embraced this narrative and until fairly recently, even downplayed its importance. This shift is the crux of Rana Mitter’s new book China Good War. [Read more…] about China’s Good War by Rana Mitter Review
The years of 1931-32 were a turning point in Japanese history, typified by military coups, invasions, and political assassinations. Although this era only gets a few sentences in English language history books, the specific details of three events – the October Incident, the Blood Brotherhood Incident, and the 5-15 Incident – are fascinating in their own right and read like a thriller novel. I’ve taken information from various sources to create a thoroughly researched and detailed account of these events that changed the course of Japan.