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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

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,536 Ratings  ·  117 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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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
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
Jul 15, 2015 Chrissie rated it really liked it
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 it was amazing  ·  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
Winner of the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, this book covers the War in the Pacific from a Japanese perspective. Extensive, well researched and readable, covering the timeframe from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the Japanese invasion in Manchuria, the book starts of with the efforts of the American ambassador and the Foreign Minister of Japan to try to prevent war due to the boycot that the Western powers have established
Jun 09, 2015 Arminius rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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
Mikey B.
Jan 17, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, world-war-ii
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
Bart Thanhauser
Apr 19, 2011 Bart Thanhauser rated it really liked it
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
Jan 05, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: generals, admirals, emperors, diplomats, war criminals
This is the third big book on the Pacific War I have read recently. Ian Toll's first two books (of a planned trilogy), Pacific Crucible and The Conquering Tide, were a magnificent historical account of the war from both sides. So given that this book covers much the same ground, though it was written much earlier, I will do a lot of comparing with Toll's books, though I think Toland's book is equally good and you will not find it at all repetitive to read both authors.

As thick as this book is, i
Jul 15, 2015 Grumpus rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Grumpus by: Arminius
Shelves: history, audiobook
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.
Antonio Nunez
Dec 09, 2014 Antonio Nunez rated it it was amazing
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
David Eppenstein
I generally avoid histories of WWII. I enjoy history immensely but between Hollywood, the History Channel, and the vast array of fictions and histories this war has been done to death. I would guess the reason for this is that it is still in our living memories, it was the last war with a clear line between good and evil, and because it was readily captured by contemporary visual media and preserved for us to see everyday. Having said that I still occasionally pick-up a WWII history if it has so ...more
Adam K.
Mar 23, 2012 Adam K. rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 21, 2008 D. Wayne rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 13, 2012 Bertport rated it it was amazing
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
Written from the viewpoint of the Japanese, the book explains the Japanese thought process leading to war with the US, Britain, and the Netherlands and finishes at the US victory at Guadalcanal. John Toland uses historical interviews of Japanese Generals and politicians for this story, those that survived the war that is. I learned quite a bit from this book. I did not realize how divided the Japanese were about going to war, nor did I fully understand the Japanese political undercurrents of the ...more
Sep 11, 2015 Witek rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, military
I'm really torn judging this book. On one hand it is extremely well sourced and I was amazed by the variety of information and dialogues here. It was especially worthwhile to read about the road to war between Japan and USA and the last days before Japan's surrender. On the other hand, some of the personal stories were boring for me and kept me from following the big picture, in which I was interested. Still- a fantastic read.
Paul Kelly
Nov 03, 2011 Paul Kelly rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2015 Nilesh rated it really liked it
This epic is an encyclopedic work on the Pacific War. To be precise, on the US-Japan war.

The detailed work is balanced and almost perfectly chronological. The war is presented mostly real-time, without racing ahead to forewarn the future larger events. The work is mostly ground-up: the narration is representative of the confusion and diverse opinions on the ground. The macro trends that appear clearer to a future historian - like how Japan was hurling towards a war or the inevitability of the US
Aug 10, 2015 Rodrigo rated it it was amazing
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
May 30, 2015 judy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
Oct 16, 2014 Tom rated it it was amazing
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
Christopher Saunders
Sep 07, 2015 Christopher Saunders rated it really liked it
Mammoth history of Japan's involvement in the Second World War. Toland seeks to emulate the sweep, if not the editorial tone of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, mixing high-level cabinet deliberations and diplomacy with military strategy and the on-the-ground experience of Japanese soldiers and sailors. Toland's portrait shows a Japanese leadership eager to exploit China but agonizing over their decision to attack America and Britain, the division among Japan's military and political l ...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
Apr 15, 2011 Lee Scoresby rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 07, 2014 Chris Brimmer rated it it was amazing
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 liked it
Shelves: ww2
Pearl Harbor was the ballsiest attack of all time.
Jan 26, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing
When considering historical subjects books fall into certain categories depending on the time elapsed between the event and the time the author did his or her research. The first category is first person accounts very soon after the event which have only the point of view of the person involved. These are quite limited in that the author usually can't tell you what happened out of his or her view other than what he or she personally experienced. (For the Solomons Campaign, for example, "Joe Foss ...more
Tim Evanson
Jul 11, 2015 Tim Evanson rated it it was amazing
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
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Military mumbo jumbo 2 25 Nov 15, 2011 11:24AM  
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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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“The main barrier between East and West today is that the white man is not willing to give up his superiority and the colored man is no longer willing to endure his inferiority.… The white man is a century behind the colored man. The white man is still thinking in terms of colonies and colonial government. The colored man knows that colonies and colonial-mindedness are anachronisms. The colonial way of life is over, whether the white man knows it or not, and all that remains is to kick off the shell of the chrysalis. The man of Asia today is not a colonial and he has made up his mind he will never be a colonial again.” 0 likes
“Long ago Napoleon had sounded the warning that China was but a sleeping giant: “Let him sleep! For when he wakes he will move the world.” 0 likes
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