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The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45
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The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  2,140 ratings  ·  91 reviews
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, tol ...more
Paperback, 976 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1970)
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Community Reviews

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By my last count, there were one gazillion books on World War II, with more coming out every week. And it will never stop. World War II will continue to be refought between the covers – and on Kindles – long after human memory of the event is gone. It will be told for as long as there are people to tell stories.

The question, then, is which of those books to read? You can spend your entire life reading World War II books and not even scratch the surface. Besides, there are other things to do in
This book explores Japan’s involvement in World War II. It focuses upon the Pacific theater and upon battles, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and finally it explains in detail why it took so long for the Japanese to surrender. All related to the Japanese involvement is covered in detail. It is not hard to follow because it written in a narrative voice projecting the views thoughts and words of those who fought, both Americans and Japanese. What is difficult is the slaughter. Slaughter on b ...more
Erik Graff
Mar 27, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans & Japanese
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Looking for a relatively light read I picked this off the shelves where it had been sitting for years. Having read a couple of his other books, I was pretty sure that Toland would be interesting.

Indeed, he was--even more interesting than I had expected, neither expecting that this book would be so sympathetic to the Japanese perspective nor that Toland's wife was Japanese. No expert, but certainly not unread about the war in the Pacific, I was rather blown away by the presentation, the other boo
With a Nobel prize winning book, John Toland accomplishes telling the Japanese side of WWII.

The 1930’s were an interesting time in Asia. Japan had an exploding population and no natural resources. They also had a very dangerous enemy in Communist Soviet Union threatening her. Japan’s solution laid in Northern China’s Manchuria. They occupied Manchuria easily because China was too weak to defend it. Japanese business moved in and Japanese populated it. Manchuria provided a number of benefits to
Bart Thanhauser
I took far too many notes on this book trying to remember the events and people that dot these pages. But what resounds more than these pages of notes, is my belief that Tolland's greatest success is in what he didn't do: Tolland avoided the Cold War lens and the Great Man theory. In avoiding these pit falls, he has not only written a fascinating, highly readable book (especially considering it's length), but he has set a standard by which I think all history books should be held.

The Cold War le
Jul 15, 2015 Grumpus rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Grumpus by: Arminius
Shelves: audiobook, history
The definitive source regarding the view of WWII from the Japanese perspective. An amazing amount of insight and information. Cannot recommend highly enough for those interested in WWII.
Mikey B.
An epic account of the Japanese war. Toland tells the story from many different perspectives – from the Emperor and his aides to the lowly soldier trapped in Guadalcanal. It is all here – the prelude to Pearl Harbour to the finale of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Many aspects are of interest – the Japanese were continually obsessed with striking the fatal knock-out blow. At Pearl Harbour they believed they had accomplished that. They tried again at Midway, Tarawa (to be held for one th
Antonio Nunez
This exceptional, Pulitzer prize-winning book tells the story of the Japanese empire from the takeover by militarists among assassinations in early 1936 to the unprecedented visit by emperor Hirohito to Supreme Commander MacArthur in September 1945. In between it is a story of hubris in which a strong and vibrant people allow faulty leaders to guide them from a dominant role in the far East (in which they held Manchuria, Korea and other territories like the Caroline, the Marshall, the Palau or t ...more
Adam K.
Excellent narrative history of Japan's experience in World War II, examining the issues and circumstances leading to Japan's involvement, strategic battles and encounters throughout, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I must confess that I tapped out at various points in my reading of this book, but that doesn't mean that it didn't have tremendous value. Toland offers writing here that ought to please all readers of history, whether it be to gain factual or strategic knowledge or to get ...more
D. Wayne
Wow, Japan had logical reasons for attacking us. Who knew? Japan viewed its expansion in Asia as equivalent to the U.S. continental expansion and power grab in the western hemisphere.

Why would the U.S. stop another with a near identical view of national destiny. Japan adopted All-American values like crushing "lesser" people, gobbling resources for exploitation, and providing economic opportunity for a burgeoning population at home. All this was conducted under a parliamentary democracy determin
This is indeed similar in scope (but superior) to Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. In fact, I don't know why this one is titled Decline and Fall rather than Rise and Fall. Maybe that's my ignorance of Japan's expansion before 1936. In any case, Toland tells the story from Japanese documents and interviews, though I hesitate to say that an American is giving a Japanese point of view. It was interesting to me to read at the beginning that rebelling Army officers were motivated by the pov ...more
Paul Kelly
A brilliant, excellently written book. If I'd read this, I probably wouldn't have bothered going back to have a look at many of the others that I read while in search of a book like this (Though I'm glad I did). The book reads like a novel, and is just as enthralling. However, it doesn't have much to say about the darker aspects of the Japanese War Effort, and definitely takes a more pro - Japanese position on many of the events leading up to the war. Still, despite this an excellent read, thoug ...more
Drawing on hundreds of interviews and source material, John Toland has achieved the impossible, to offer a most unique take on the Pacific War: dozens of people come to life in this history book, which more often than not, ends up being more reminiscent of a novel as it takes its reader diving headlong in a journey of palace intrigues, decision making and, ultimately, the carnage of war.

The book kicks off with a brief introduction about the Manchurian adventure and the troubles that plagued Japa
I've owned this for at least 30 years so I decided it was time for a second reading. I would have told you this was a must read decades ago but now I can tell you why. This incredible book (mine is 2 vols.) tells the whole story of Japan from planning for Pearl Harbor to the surrender--but it tells it from the Japanese point of view. I suspect when I first read it, I was unable to respect how very different their culture and beliefs were from ours. Undoubtedly, I found myself irritated with cert ...more
Great book. The Eastern equivalent to the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, this book presents the Pacific War from the Japanese point of view, and the folly it reveals is truly amazing. That so many died for the "honor" (hubris, ego, vanity) of about 20 senior Japanese officers - (facepalm) - makes me happy we have passed this point in our collective history. And then I hear senior politicians talking about how we need to invade Syria and Iraq (again) because, you know, "Honor", "We can't appea ...more
Linda Lou McCall
Great book for World War II fans. It is very complete and unbiased with lots of little known facts. Much of the book is from the points of view of the Japanese - military, civilians, even the Emperor. Hirohito comes off as less of a blundering idiot here than a royalist burdened with the weight of hundreds of years of history, honor, and "face". I see now how impotent he was at the hands of his Shogun military advisors who wanted to fight until death, to the detriment of innocent civilians. I be ...more
Linda Lou McCall
Great book for World War II fans. It is very complete and unbiased with lots of little known facts. Much of the book is from the points of view of the Japanese - military, civilians, even the Emperor. Hirohito comes off as less of a blundering idiot here than a royalist burdened with the weight of hundreds of years of history, honor, and "face". I see now how impotent he was at the hands of his Shogun military advisors who wanted to fight until death, to the detriment of innocent civilians. I be ...more
Kristi Richardson
John Toland outdid him self with this history of the rise and fall of Japan. It tells World War II history from the Japanese perspective in great detail.

The chapters on the Battle of Leyte Gulf were my favorites as I knew very little of this battle and especially not from the Japanese side.

I learned that the cultures of the US and Japan are very different. For example: In the US if a politician changes his position on a program they are "waffling" and "weak", but in Japan it is a sign of growt
Lee Scoresby
A wonderful story of the Pacific side of World War II. Toland tells a story from the point of view of officers, generals, and common soldiers on both sides.
Chris Brimmer
This may well be the most complete history of the last imperial empire. Toland goes deep into the culture and economy of a country trying to catch-up to the west, its run away tendencies and a national psychology that alternated between an inferiority/superiority complex, embrace of the west and rejection, beauty and cruelty. I would only criticize his diminution of the role of Shinto in both Japan's expansion, decline and ultimate acceptance of defeat by yet another rising power. If you want to ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Matt rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ww2
Pearl Harbor was the ballsiest attack of all time.
Tim Evanson
Journalist and historian John Toland's work about World War II, told from the Japanese point of view, won the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in 1971.

This book covers the period from the February 26, 1936, attempted military coup (the "February 26 Incident") to the surrender of Japan. Working in the mid to late 1960s, Toland had access to a vast archive of military and political material in Japan which previous scholars did not and which had (at that time) only recently become available. He was al
Raza Syed
Great book. The Pacific twin to the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
This book presents the Pacific War from the Japanese point of view, and the details it reveals are truly amazing.
The Japanese National Honor, the fear of being left 'resourceless', the belief in their own greatness combined with American High handedness led to this barbaric war of never before seen magnitude.
This book filled many gaps in my knowledge of the pacific war. It made me realize how comps the entire setup was in the
Will Radie
Dec 16, 2014 Will Radie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: World War II Fans
This is a beast of a book at 976 pages, however it is essential for any fan of the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. The book offers one of the most descriptive and complete accounts of the role of the Japanese during WWII.

It starts out a bit slow, as it takes several hundred pages before the attack on Pearl Harbor is even mentioned. However, this slow start is necessary to describe the state of Japan in the years leading up to the outbreak of war. The deliberate pace allows Joh
Joe Noteboom
Not a quick read, but well worth it. The battles were well-written and detailed, but not my favorite part. There's a lot of insight and information about what was happening way high up politically in Japan at the time. Toland also shows a great deal of respect for and understanding of Japanese culture and how it affected(/effected, to a large extent) the war situation. The most gripping part for me was the sincere diplomatic attempt and failure to avoid the war in the run-up to Pearl Harbor. The ...more
I just could not connect with this book. There is an enormous mass of detail--especially about the major battles between Japan and the Allies and about diplomatic maneuvering before the war and in its final days--but much of it lay flat on the page for me, and I found myself basically skimming large sections, waiting to find something more engaging. Certainly there were portions that were more rewarding--for instance, the chapter toward the end about "stragglers," the last Japanese soldiers left ...more
Somewhat outdated and unbalanced. Outdated insofar that the publication-date (1970) coincided with the culmination of the US Vietnam experience and the commercial resurgence of Japan, unbalanced since it recounts primarily the story of the Japanese war with the US in the Pacific - and hardly touches upon the conflicts with Great Britain and especially the China Incident, which in a more contempoary perspective must be seen as the core issue - and a very significant drain of Japanese military res ...more
I'm endlessly fascinated by Japan - both its history and historic culture and what has become of the country. My fascination started with a trip to Tokyo but I had to keep digging into what made that people tick. This book certainly answered some questions about the war years and what lead to them. At times very factual and dry, I had a hard time keeping all the names straight. Ultimately I feel like I got a lot out of this book.
So shocking how Empire Japanese were educated, led to so many wrong decisions to collapse a nation, led to the greatest war in the history, decisive battle (fighting until everyone dies), committed suicide before captured by enemy, civilians also committed suicide (especially in Okinawa), and even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, military leaders were trying to continue the war until the one hundred million will die, to save kokutai (national essence). What's the value of saving national essence wh ...more
Having read many books about the European theater during World War Two, I went looking for a book about the war in the Pacific. I found this at I enjoyed it thoroughly. A very in depth book. I learned many historical facts I did not know. I highly recommend.
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John Willard Toland (June 29, 1912 in La Crosse, Wisconsin - January 4, 2004 in Danbury, Connecticut) was an American author and historian. He is best known for his biography of Adolf Hitler.[1]

Toland tried to write history as a straightforward narrative, with minimal analysis or judgment. This method may have stemmed from his original goal of becoming a playwright. In the summers between his coll
More about John Willard Toland...
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