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One Man's Justice

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  256 ratings  ·  35 reviews
"Japan is in ruins after the second World War. Takuya, a demobilized officer returns to his native village only to learn that the Occupation authorities are intensifying their efforts to apprehend suspected war criminals. Will they learn of his involvement in the execution of American prisoners during the last days of the war? To avoid prosecution, Takuya becomes a fugitiv ...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published 2004 by Canongate (first published 1978)
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  256 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Jul 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-red-circle

Takuya was a steely young man with a hard stare and a dashing uniform. While the ground was cracking and reverberating from the shock of the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and when the legendary twilight of the submerged racial soul of Japan must have been dark and sagging under the weight of the wings of dragons coming home to roost, Takuya didn't tremble or waver: in a grove he took his sword and executed an American airman.


The Americans arrive with some questions about missing PO
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are large parts of this novel which actually read more like a war documentary. Still, I found it quite engaging overall. The author attempts, through this work, to offer a Japanese perspective on the cold-blooded execution of captured US pilots who carried out devastating fire bombing raids on civilian Japanese populations during the final stages of WWII. These raids resulted in catastrophic death tolls, even before culminating in the atomic of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Given widespread knowl
Lark Benobi
A jarring and personal look at the definition of "war crime" that in some ways did for Japan what Slaughterhouse-Five did for Germany. This novel, like Vonnegut's, highlights the sufferings of civilians by Allied fire bombing during WWII. It was a time when the aerial bombing of civilian targets by Allies was so routine that no one questioned the morality of killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. The fire bombing campaigns leveled city after city just as thoroughly, through repetitive air r ...more
Smiley (aka umberto)
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan
This is another novel by Akira Yoshimura I enjoyed reading and found it surprisingly readable (except the ruthless detailed air attacks on Japan by US B-29s); the first being his Shipwrecks (Harcourt, 2000). Acclaimed by various news agencies and periodicals, namely, Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News, Christian Science Monitor, Booklist, What's on in London, LA Times, Kirkus Reviews, and San Diego Union-Tribune (pp. i-ii), this book seemingly symbolizing a World War II legacy has thus assu ...more
Gertrude & Victoria
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: japanese-library
One Man's Justice by Yoshimura Akira is about the end of the war and the confusion that follows. It is one of the best anti-war novels to come out of Japan from that era. Absolutely gripping!

Takuya, the main character and a (ex-)lieutenant in the army, realizes that he will not get a "Hero's Welcome," or, any welcome, upon discharge and return home. Furthermore, he begins to sense that things all around him are going terribly wrong. A recurring premonition that he will be hunted down like some w
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Takuya mused that his involvement in the executions was essentially the same in nature as the actions of the man he had killed, in that both were merely carrying out their duties as military men. The difference was that whereas the killing committed by the American had been by bombing, which precluded witnessing the bloodshed, Takuya’s act had involved wielding the sword with his own hands as he beheaded the airman. The fact that the American had killed countless people as opposed to Takuya’s o ...more
Stephen Douglas Rowland
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful novel, but one I feel will never develop much of a readership in the United States, given that we are asked to sympathize with a Japanese protagonist who has beheaded an American POW at the end of WWII. There is nothing in Takuya's rationalizations that I can really find fault with. War is not black and white. Japan's atrocities in no way make the Allies' actions completely innocent. After studying the Pacific War at length, I have come away with few definite answers. It is ju ...more
Eric Farr
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the closing moments of World War II, Takuya Kiyohara volunteers to be part of an execution squad. He kills one of the American pilots responsible for bombing runs on civilian targets. After the war, he is informed that those who executed the pilots are now sought by the government and American military to be charged with war crimes themselves. Takuya flees, spending much of the novel on the run, assuming a new identity.

This is a complex novel. Takuya's prejudices, his belief in Japanese super
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One Man's Justice is one of those books that will haunt you for a long time. While you read a compelling narrative of one man's plight following WWII, you are brilliantly led to ponder much bigger issues related to war. One Man's Justice is one of those great reads where some of the content is disturbing, and yet the journey it takes you on somehow transcends the unsettling parts. This one really made me think and challenge some of my viewpoints.
Review coming soon :)
Enjoyed reading this book. It brought to life an aspect of World War 2 in Japan which we don't speak of very often.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-good-shit
more fodder for the notion of heroes!

our hero/war criminal, takuya, beheads an american POW not long before the end of WWII. after the war, he is hunted as a war criminal for this crime.

but is it a crime? when he did it, it was a lawful act, done under orders by his superiors.

now, in a hollywood version, he would resist the order (good guy) or undertake it gleefully (evil guy). (side note: does hollywood even have room for bad guys any more? i think they've all slid to pure evil. which is proba
William Kirkland
Sep 26, 2018 rated it liked it
One Man's Justice a 1978 Japanese novel by Akira Yoshimura, in its English translation by New Zealander Mark Healey (2002) is an interesting addition to my query about how authors reflect on and contribute to our understanding of war, in part because the attitude of the main character, and author, towards the war, are not easily obvious as in, say, All Quiet on the Western Front or Catch-22. A popular novel in Japan when it was published, it deserves a place in war fiction, of any era, but espec ...more
Jul 15, 2008 rated it liked it
In the years following World War II, the American forces are rounding up suspected Japanese war criminals and trying them for their actions. Nowadays, we think of war criminals as pretty much limited to the worst of the worst, the political and military leaders who order the wholesale slaughter of innocents. At this time, however, the term applies to pretty much anyone who mistreated or killed an American soldier during the war. Even in its premise, the book forces you to confront your own notio ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
All three of the Yoshimura novels I've read (which I think are the only three to have been translated into English) deal with people intensely preoccupied with just surviving, and suck you into their head by accumulating small details. In this case the protagonist is a former officer in the Japanese military who is on the run, wanted for a war crime committed during WW2.

Particular routines or sequences of events will be described in minute and pedantic detail. This works terrifically well in the
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
A clear quiet intensely thoughtful book. Takuya, a highly disciplined mature man of strong character and an ex-officer of the Imperial Army, spends most of the book living under an assumed name, moving from place to place in decimated starving post-war occupied Japan, trying to avoid capture and likely execution at the hands of the American military. In flashbacks, you see his experience of the final days of WWII in Japan and how his responses during wartime and after the war evolve over a few y ...more
Alisha Tentativglori
Great historical fiction from the perspective of Takuya, an officer in Japan's Imperial army. In war, civilians suffer the most and in the end the victor often determines how to define justice. After Japan's defeat, war criminals are rounded up and given harsh sentences. When his part in the execution of American POWs is discovered, Takuya becomes a wanted man. He is a sympathetic character and through him we learn about the the everyday suffering of normal people during the war. There is a lot ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was the first of two books I read that had to do with life during the war (in this case, also post-war). It was translated from Japanese, which brings a certain precision and honesty in the writing which I immediately liked. Though I have no particular interest in WWII, Japanese history, or even history in general, but this was such a good read. We often think of movies and books as ‘escapes’ — well this was more like a big ol’ lesson. On what others’ lives were (are) like: as those involve ...more
John Caulfield
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The protagonist, a junior officer in the Japanese army towards the end of WW2 volunteers to take part in the execution of a number of American prisoners of war shot down during bombing raids on Japanese cities. The protagonist's conscience is clear: these men deliberately targeted civilians, en masse, turning densely populated cities into infernos, in violation of international Law. Not only that, but while flying back after their missions, they listened to jazz and pop music, looked at pornogra ...more
Jun 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
Well, it must be said that I am not entirely fond of war novels. That said, I know nothing whatsoever about post-war Japan, or even at-war Japan, so I am very glad I read this. It was fraught with guilt and moral ambiguity, and the descriptions of a Japan just emerging from the horrors of war felt very authentic. My one qualm about this book is that I felt the translator must be a bit heavy-handed. The text contained a number of English clichés that seemed out of place, and the language used was ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Compelling exploration of the ambiguities of wartime morality. Not sure if the tone was as spare in the original Japanese but it seemed well matched to the main character, who is unable to reconcile himself to the terrible irony of his situation --that his wartime actions under orders could be condemned as war crimes by the American victors, themselves having targeted civilian populations with incendiaries and atomic bombs.
Mar 10, 2012 marked it as to-read
From David Mitchell:

A morally probing novel about a Japanese officer who is delegated to execute a captured American airmen near the end of the war in the pacific. Whatever one's nationality, the reader's sympathies gravitate toward Office Takuya during his own attempts to evade caputre during the Allied occupation. Thoughtful about war and compassionate about guilt, this book is a light-shedder.
Aug 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful novel. Morally complex, no easy solutions, no easy moral choices. Of course I read it in translation but the prose style has a Tolstoyan directness. It never draws attention to itself but everything is there, before the reader's eyes. 4Subtly, it becomes a devastating indictment of war and draws attention to how notions of justice shift depending on political necessity.
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
brilliant book. dives into the thought process of a japanese and shows what honor is. the end of the war was tough but here in north america little gave thought to what the USA did to the japanese who were already devastated by atomic bombs.
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
a disillusioned 'war criminal' maneuvers around japan observing the poverty and moral ambiguity of the american pigdog occupation. felt like a convincing portrait of the times with tension strung throughout by means of the fugitive aspect.
Feb 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The perspective of this book was facinating. The story is about a Japanese soldier on the run from the US for war crimes committed during WW2. This short book envokes sympathy, fear, sadness, honor, and hope, in a way that left me thinking long after I finished reading. Loved it! Read it!
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very intense book during a very interesting time
Leroy Seat
Aug 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
I found this to be a fascinating book, partly because it told things about the firebombing of Fukuoka, Japan, and the subsequent execution of American pilots that I had never read before.

San Jamous
Feb 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Very fine book. The story was nice but what I really enjoyed is the few details that were described during the war. That was the most enjoyable part of the book.
Aleksandra Sander
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Powerful image of vanished time and place. I really enjoy reading Japanese authors.
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Prize winning Japanese writer. Akira Yoshimura was the president of the Japanese writers union and a PEN member. He published over 20 novels, of which in particular On Parole and Shipwrecks are internationally known and have been translated into several languages. In 1984 he received the Yomiuri Prize for his novel Hagoku (破獄,engl. prison break) based on the true story of Yoshie Shiratori.