by Dower, John W.
Embracing Defeat tells the story of the transformation of Japan under American occupation after World War II. When Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Forces in August 1945 it was exhausted; while America's Pacific combat lasted less than four years Japan had been fighting for 15. 60 percent of its urban area lay in ruins. Through the collapse of the authoritarian state and America's six-year occupation Japan was able to set off in entirely new directions. Because the victors had no linguistic or cultural access to the losers' society they were obliged to govern indirectly. General Douglas MacArthur decided at the outset to maintain the civil bureaucracy and the institution of the emperor: democracy would be imposed from above in what the author terms "Neocolonial Revolution". His description of the manipulation of public opinion as a wedge was driven between the discredited militarists and Emperor Hirohito is especially fascinating. Tojo, on trial for his life, was requested to take responsibility for the war and deflect it from the emperor; he did and was hanged. John W. Dower's analysis of popular Japanese culture of the period--songs, magazines, advertising, even jokes--is brilliant and reflected in the book's 80 well-chosen photographs. With the same masterful control of voluminous material and clear writing that he gave us in War Without Mercy the author paints a vivid picture of a society in extremis and reconstructs the extraordinary period during which America moulded a traumatised country into a freemarket democracy and bulwark against resurgent world communism. --John Stevenson
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