Imperial Eclipse

Imperial Eclipse: Japan's Strategic Thinking about Continental Asia before August 1945

Yukiko Koshiro
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt1xx598
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  • Book Info
    Imperial Eclipse
    Book Description:

    The "Pacific War" narrative of Japan's defeat that was established after 1945 started with the attack on Pearl Harbor, detailed the U.S. island-hopping campaigns across the Western Pacific, and culminated in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan's capitulation, and its recasting as the western shore of an American ocean. But in the decades leading up to World War II and over the course of the conflict, Japan's leaders and citizens were as deeply concerned about continental Asia-and the Soviet Union, in particular-as they were about the Pacific theater and the United States. In Imperial Eclipse, Yukiko Koshiro reassesses the role that Eurasia played in Japan's diplomatic and military thinking from the turn of the twentieth century to the end of the war.

    Through unprecedented archival research, Koshiro has located documents and reports expunged from the files of the Japanese Cabinet, ministries of Foreign Affairs and War, and Imperial Headquarters, allowing her to reconstruct Japan's official thinking about its plans for continental Asia. She brings to light new information on the assumptions and resulting plans that Japan's leaders made as military defeat became increasingly certain and the Soviet Union slowly moved to declare war on Japan (which it finally did on August 8, two days after Hiroshima). She also describes Japanese attitudes toward Russia in the prewar years, highlighting the attractions of communism and the treatment of Russians in the Japanese empire; and she traces imperial attitudes toward Korea and China throughout this period. Koshiro's book offers a balanced and comprehensive account of imperial Japan's global ambitions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6775-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Abbreviations for the Notes and Selected Bibliography
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction: THE WORLD OF JAPAN’S EURASIAN-PACIFIC WAR
    (pp. 1-12)

    This book is about Japanese thinking before, during, and especially at the end of World War II, based on Japanese documents, many of which have not previously been used or explored for that purpose. All history is written backward. Since the US military occupation, Japan’s defeat has been told almost entirely from the framework known as the “Pacific War” narrative, as if everyone at the end of the war knew how Japan’s military losses to the United States alone would lead to its postwar recovery and reentry into the American-centered world order. This US-fostered public memory elides Japan’s war in...

  7. Part I THE PLACE OF RUSSIA IN PREWAR JAPAN

    • 1 COMMUNIST IDEOLOGY AND ALLIANCE WITH THE SOVIET UNION
      (pp. 15-44)

      The Japanese government claims today that in “the history of the world it would be difficult to find two other nations who once engaged in war and have so rapidly established such a strong partnership as Japan and the United States.”¹ The US government agrees, saying that after World War II Japan became an anchor of US security in East Asia and also one of its most important economic partners.² So strong and self-evident do these bonds appear that other strategic configurations for postwar Japan seem implausible. This chapter recovers the plausibility, among Japanese government planners and the educated public...

    • 2 CULTURE AND RACE: Russians in the Japanese Empire
      (pp. 45-82)

      Before the war, many Japanese people had a sense of belonging to Eurasia, physically, psychologically, and culturally. Moscow and Berlin were closer to Japan than New York and Washington, DC. The intricate railway networks built across Korea and Manchuria under Japan’s colonial rule connected with trans-Siberian rail routes so Japanese could travel to Europe by train, which was three times faster than a voyage by sea. Trans-Siberian railway tickets had been sold in Japan since 1911. Starting in 1927 Japanese travelers could purchase international train tickets to European cities at major train stations within the colonial empire, including Tokyo, Yokohama,...

    • Part II THE FUTURE OF EAST ASIA AFTER THE JAPANESE EMPIRE

      • 3 MAO’S COMMUNIST REVOLUTION: Who Will Rule China?
        (pp. 85-123)

        The Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) was no local skirmish, insignificant outside East Asia. Even before the Pacific War fully erupted, Japanese leaders expected its outcome would determine global power dynamics far beyond Asia. Were Japan to lose, Japanese leaders wondered, who would emerge to dominate China? How would that control manifest itself over East Asia in the postwar? Long attendant to the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, Japanese leaders and intelligence agencies closely observed the efforts of both powers to influence China’s civil war as well as the reactions among the different Chinese factions to these...

      • 4 INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY OVER DIVIDED KOREA: Who to Replace Japan?
        (pp. 124-150)

        In reflecting on the US-Soviet rivalry in the Eurasian-Pacific War, Japanese planners attended to the interactions of the two powers with Japan’s colonies and their peoples—above all Korea. No battle, in the end, took place in Korea, yet the postwar status of the peninsular country was a central strategic focus for planners in thinking though Japan’s postwar survival as some sort of power. The study of Japan’s World War II rarely considers the Korean Peninsula, a strategic gateway to the Eurasian continent as well as a passageway to the Pacific Ocean. Japanese colonialism has never successfully been integrated in...

    • Part III ENDING THE WAR AND BEYOND

      • 5 COLD WAR RISING: Observing US-Soviet Dissonance
        (pp. 153-192)

        The MAGIC-ULTRA reports generated in early to mid-1945 from Washington’s intercepts of Japanese encrypted communications depict the Japanese government as a desperate seeker of Soviet peace mediation. Backed by the testimony of Japanese leaders at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, these reports established Japanese leaders made futile efforts to persuade the Soviet Union to remain neutral or to mediate peace with the United States. Historians have portrayed Japan’s approach to the Soviet Union as a tragic mistake. Akira Iriye argued that Japan at this point in the war should have abandoned the pan-Asian crusade and reoriented the nation back to...

      • 6 MILITARY SHOWDOWN: Ending the War without Two-Front Battles
        (pp. 193-222)

        American scholars remain divided in their assessments of the nature and degree of Japan’s defense preparedness in Kyūshū in the summer of 1945. Some claim that Japan dramatically expanded its defense forces on Kyūshū, so they were ready to meet an American invasion and could cause large US casualties in the event of land battle. Others argue that the Japanese preparations were far from complete. The inflated American evaluation of Japan’s defense preparation in Kyūshū has been a critical factor in justifying the use of the atomic bombs in place of the mainland invasion: the atomic bombs were necessary to...

      • 7 JAPAN’S SURRENDER: Views of the Nation
        (pp. 223-254)

        Colonel Tanemura Sakō, a central member of the Army War Operations Plans Division since December 1939, is sometimes understood as a military planner fanatically determined to fight the final battle against the United States. His postwar affiliation with the Japanese Communist Party after his return from a labor camp in Siberia in 1950 gave his former colleagues and observers alike an opportunity to scapegoat him for the worst in Japan’s war.¹ Contrary to such postwar slanders, his two proposals, “Kongo no tai-So shisaku ni taisuru iken” (My personal opinions on the Soviet policy) and “Tai-So gaikō Kōshō yōkō” (Outline of...

    • Part IV INVENTING JAPAN’S WAR:: EURASIAN ECLIPSE

      • 8 MEMORIES AND NARRATIVES OF JAPAN’S WAR
        (pp. 257-284)

        Once the war was over, the mythic emergence of the United States as the primary conqueror would almost entirely eclipse the role of the Soviet Union. In the months leading up to the war’s end and shortly after the war, however, Japanese people continued to speculate about the motivations behind American, Soviet, and Japanese actions and, given those parameters, debated how Japan should best position itself to survive the war. Discussion of Japan’s fate in world politics, with a strong focus on the Soviet Union and the United States, occupied the nation for some time even after the war. First...

    • Epilogue: TOWARD A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF JAPAN’S EURASIAN-PACIFIC WAR
      (pp. 285-292)

      The 1990s was a decade fraught with a number of potentially dangerous anniversaries of World War II. More than half a century after the end of World War II, the Japanese people still have not arrived at a consensus about which nations Japan fought, about which nations Japan surrendered to, or the reasons for surrender. Despite the successes of Japan’s physical reconstruction and reorientation of its diplomacy, the postwar generation lacks a clear understanding of the war, its goals, and the nature of its conclusion. The conflicting lessons offered by the US military government and diverse groups of Japanese scholars,...

    • Index
      (pp. 293-310)
    • Back Matter
      (pp. 311-312)