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

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  4,206 ratings  ·  249 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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Matt Davis Yes, but in an overview kind of way. If you're looking for the detailed strategies of each campaign along with an in-depth study of the critical battl…moreYes, but in an overview kind of way. If you're looking for the detailed strategies of each campaign along with an in-depth study of the critical battles, this hits at about 80%. There is a one-volume "War in the Pacific" history that is more in-depth on the campaigns, but if you're searching for a comprehensive study of the inner workings of the Imperial Japanese government along with a fantastic set of insights into the Imperial Japanese psyche and decision-making process, this is the book for you. It is a fantastic read. (less)

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May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“[Shigenori] Togo had just arrived at the Palace grounds. Stars shone brilliantly. It was going to be a fine day. The Foreign Minister was immediately ushered into the Emperor’s presence. It was almost at the exact moment that [Ambassador Kichisaburo] Nomura…[was] supposed to see [Secretary of State Cordell] Hull. Togo read [President] Roosevelt’s message and the proposed draft of the Emperor’s reply. The Emperor approved the reply, and his countenance, Togo thought, reflected a ‘noble feeling o ...more
Stefania Dzhanamova
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwii
Despite its title, John Toland's work is not a history of the Japanese Empire's fall, but rather a step-by-step account of the war as seen from the Japanese point of view. It is a long story of muddled negotiations (for which America was also to be blamed) and a disgraceful, frustrating, paradoxical war.
"America's greatest mistake in World War II," Toland argues," was in failing to recognize that she was fighting two different kinds of war simultaneously: one in Europe against another Western po
Erik Graff
Mar 05, 2012 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
Jun 12, 2015 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
Tim Mercer
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 Stars. This is probably one of the best one volume history of the Pacific war that I have read. It doesn't make the mistake of beginning with Japan's war with the West but starts with the positioning before the Marco Polo bridge incident. It mixes the military campaigns and battles with the politics at home. This includes detailed accounts of the political and military manoeuvring of the Japanese leaders with the Prime Minister and the Emperor. There is a lot of depth here which continues wove ...more
Aug 31, 2015 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, 2011 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
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
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
Mikey B.
Jan 17, 2013 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
Christopher Saunders
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
Ahmed Chowdhry
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is one of the best books on Pacific War especially from a Japanese point of view that I have read. A detailed description of the Japanese aggression (in short form) and collapse (in long form) in World War Ii, told from the perspective of "inside the Japanese governmental and military command structures. I will not forget the build up to the Pearl Harbor attack and the strategy that was employed. The Japanese high command, both the Army as well as the Navy knew that they were waking up a sl ...more
Ming Wei
One of the most impressive books that I have read based upon the 2nd World War within the Asian zone. contains lots of details and information that I had not read about before, the author as put in allot of time and effort towards producing this book. The author must have spent hours upon hours conducting research before putting pen to paper. The book covers hov the Japanese moved towards war, the reasons behind this, and their path, route throughout the war years. Very well written, very well p ...more
Bart Thanhauser
Mar 14, 2011 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
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love John Toland. He may be one of the most prolific historians during my lifetime. Possibly a precursor to the popular historians such as McCullough or Ambrose. I read his well received, but not academically praised biography of Hitler, and the controversial Day of Infamy and I thought that those books were both well done and convincing; however, I have shied away from The Rising Sun, more from its intimidating length than its content. It is immense - running nearly a thousand pages with ampl ...more
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Bryan Alkire
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting book on the Pacific segment of WWII. It’s told from the perspective of both the Allies and Japan. The book moves along though occasionally the chapters on major engagements becomes far too detailed and bogs down. That said, the writing is readable and once in a while, compelling. The main virtue of the work is the narrative and the balance. Both sides made mistakes, both diplomatically and militarily and the author shows this in a balanced neutral fashion. To be honest, this book sho ...more
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hookah, cheshire
a fine and classic work. Japan's war history from her engagement in China to the surrender in Tokyo Bay. flows well, seems meticulously researched. engaging.
Aditya Pareek
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a lost epoch, the historical details are now out of date and inaccurate owing to the scholarship of recent years.

Coming to the narrative this book is about Gekkukujo
Samurai Insubordination that is.
Kwantung Army to the many coups during the war So many Prime Ministers cut down by junior officers.
Imperial Japanese homefront politics was bloody too.

Its a ride, it's an indulgence.

Hana wa Sakuragi Hito wa Bushi
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: military
I found this to be two books in one. The first half covers the diplomatic, military, and economic reasons that led to World War II. It does so by weaving accounts of Japanese officers and government officials with the historical record all while appearing to avoid the narrative fallacy. The second half of this book covers the war in the Pacific. Unfortunately, it does so at a more tactical level filled with anecdotes and human interest stories as opposed to the macro level approach that made the ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, war, 2019
The Rising Sun is a deserved classic, one of the first popular accounts of Japan's side of the Second World War. Toland takes us from the highest levels of Toyko policy-making to the frontlines of the deadly island battles of the Pacific campaign, humanizing an enemy that was derided in racist terms during the war.

Japan in the run-up to the war was beset with problems. As an island nation, they imported almost everything and were vulnerable to blockades and sanctions. They were stuck in a grindi
Daniel LeFevre
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-2
There are thousands of WW2 books out there and it’s hard to choose which ones to read. If you need to choose 1 that covers the Pacific war, this should be it. Beautifully written with the perfect amount of detail.
Dave Hoff
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Old, reread after O'Reily's book, Toland has more from the Japanese side. Can see O'Reily used it as a reference. Especially the Russian-Manchuria part at end of WW2. Good history book, required reading for this generation.
May 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dropped, 2020
I dropped this book about three chapters in.

This isn't really an overview of the Decline of the Japanese Empire per se, so much as it is the Pacific Theater of the Second World War from the Japanese perspective. And yes, there is a difference. The annexation of Korea and brutality of the colonization is barely even mentioned. I was very disappointed that this book skimmed over the Japanese invasion of China, failing to even mention battles like "the Stalingrad of the Yangtze", the Battle of Sha
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
On the plus side, it is easy to see why it is a classic, being written in a very engaging style that draws you in nicely.

Of course it also suffers from the defects any 'classic' work will with long outdated information, such as the 3rd Wave at Pearl Harbor.

But more deep-seated of a problem is that it utterly fails to deliver on the premise. This is not a history of the Japanese Empire. This is a history of the war between Japan and America. Britain and the Commonwealth is a barely mentioned sid
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: military
This book is huge, and I'm thankful to have found a manageable, one volume paperback, looking something like a very thick novel, but very easy to carry around. No one will deny that there's an enormous amount of information here detailing every major battle of the Pacific War from Pearl Harbor to the end and then some, but its also important to note how that information is organized.

The book finds its beginning with the 1936 coup attempt in Japan and then moves quickly into the lead up to Pearl
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I suppose it's perhaps unfair for me to give this magisterial work only three stars. I have done so because I did not learn all that much new about the war but this is likely because I have read so much about it already. I've read numerous first person combat memoirs, histories of most of the major battles, at least those in which the United States was a participant, and biographies of many of the commanders. Hoping to round out my knowledge of the war from the Japanese perspective and to come t ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a very strong book, and for its time probably deserves the acclaim and awards. It was precisely what I was looking for as a history of the war looking particularly at the Japanese experience and not simply a history of the Pacific theatre of war.
My only complaint is that it is too short.
Just kidding! This is 1,000 pages of material. And yet I enjoy Toland's histories, having first encountered his Last 100 Days book.
I did not keep a list of things I thought were missing or concerning in
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and educational. I would've liked more information on the trials of Japanese war criminals, but I'll have to find something else for that.

This account was written without bias showing all the ugliness of Imperial Japanese conquests, but also describing the often unknown internal struggle between the ultranationalist/militarists and the many who sued for peace from the beginning until the end. Even until the surrender factions within the military attempted to thwart plans for pe
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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

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