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  • The Rising Sun

  • The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945
  • By: John Toland
  • Narrated by: Tom Weiner
  • Length: 41 hrs and 9 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (164 ratings)

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The Rising Sun

By: John Toland
Narrated by: Tom Weiner
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Summary

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, told as it happened - muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox."

In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading up to and culminating in the war in the Pacific, Toland crafts a riveting and unbiased narrative history.

©1970 John Toland (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Rising Sun

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • R
  • 26-06-15

The stupidity of war

Where does The Rising Sun rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

As a historic piece of work it has plenty of detail. It opens up the political system that shows there was no democracy and the military were the real power and not the Emperor. It shows a different perspective than what we were led to believe.

What did you like best about this story?

The poor quality of leadership. It exposes the fundamental failures of the willingness to waste life for no gain other than that of saving face. The pre Pearl Harbour events especially that took place in the parliament were a real eye opener. It appears no one wanted war with the USA and the European powers but didn't know how to stop it happening.

Which character – as performed by Tom Weiner – was your favourite?

Admirable Yamamoto is an obvious choice as he was the man who took them to war but did warn that he could not give them victory - Tom put Yamamoto into the character of not just the tactician but also the political military man

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

The Sun that rises, also sets

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent Miltary history reference.

Very detailed and accurate. particularly liked the eye witness accounts of Iwo Jima and the atomic bombs. Well narated and an in depth insight from both sides.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 17-12-18

A classic work of history, exellently told.

It's not hard to see why Toland won a Pulitzer for this book. He is a particularly gifted story-teller, and the book often reads more like a well told novel than a traditional history. I found myself getting so absorbed in the twists and turns of the tale he was telling, I sometimes had to remind myself that I knew how the story ended. I was willing the diplomats trying to avert the war to succeed, though I knew they didn't. And willing the British to hold out at Singapore, knowing that they did not.

The book is divided into two parallel narratives, the first an overview of the broad political and military situation told from the POV of the major figures in the Japanese and American governments, and the other a series of personal accounts of ordinary soldiers and civilians caught up in the nightmare of the war. Both are well researched, and told with compassion and eloquence.

Toland also does an excellent job of explaining to a western audience the very different cultural norms that affected Japanese society and government in the lead up to the war. How that culture led to a nation obsessed with honour to behave with a stunning lack of honour - and how the west's failure to understand Japanese culture led to one diplomatic debacle after another.

My only criticisms are that for some reason 1943 seems to be glossed over much more briefly than other years, and that perhaps one comes away feeling a little too much sympathy for the Japanese actors in this drama, who were responsible for so much needless suffering.

The narrator is notably good, I really felt I was listening to the author.

1 person found this helpful

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Long but worthy bit of military history

Slightly hard to follow the characters with a lot of similar but different names but I enjoyed catching a chunk of history I never studied . Well narrated book and a gripping story with more humanity than i had expected. After some time it moves from the character of the Japanese to be a catalogue of the various military engements and that was its only disappointment , I dint really get to know more about what was hapeining or being said by the average man in japan in this period . Not sure ill ever understand the Japanese culture for the glorification of death at the time and I hope the people of modern Japan don't understand it either . General Macarther doesn't come out to favourably either . Good book though and would recommend if you want a broad sweep of this period of Japanese military history

1 person found this helpful

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Essential reading

Exceptional quality and depth. Good as a thorough recap of a near-forgotten story. Almost forgotten in today's world that is so preoccupied with China's rise.

1 person found this helpful

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Needs more Burma

This book doesn’t lack for depth, and knowledge. At first I found the narrator a bit boring but I got into it eventually. It’s very American-Pacific-specific and I would’ve liked more information about the Chinese battles and especially the Burma campaign.

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a very detailed look into wartime Japan

if you are interested in war time Japan this book is the best look into the subject I have ever read. I have a great interest in the Pacific war and I always wanted more of an understanding of the Japanese view/outlook on the war and this book delivered and then some. from the beginning of the Japanese invasion of China to its surrender this book gives fantastic detail of the battle's, people and political on goings. a simply fantastic read and I enjoyed every second

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Overall good.

This audiobook is *Extremely* detailed, but if you want to know about Japan during WWII, it should be your first port of call.

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Balanced, detailed and moving

A rare thing- details the motives, actions, mistakes of each side without entering into judgment or apologetics.
Also very well read.
A memorable, rewarding book.

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Excellent Account of Historical Events

Before listening to this book, I was unaware how much responsibility the United States had in the dismantling of the British Empire. Roosevelt, in particular, seemed to have a great dislike of colonialism, to the extent that he deemed it necessary to stick his, and therefore by definition the United States nose, into every aspect of Aisian politics. This came back to haunt the United States in the 1960's in the shape of the Vietnam War.
Much of what we have gone through and what we have today, both good and bad, can be traced, broadly, back to US foreign policy since 1941. Could the war against Japan been won without the atomic bomb? Yes it could if a deep understanding of Japanese culture and history had been recognised. Saving face, as we now understand it, was what the Japanese wanted, but the Potsdam declaration treated Japan in the same manner as Germany. In this light, inevitably, the war in the east would have ground on and on. It was American blood, mainly, that won the Pacific war and in this light, I for one would never denigrate those people but thank those men and women who sacrificed everything to buy that victory.

John Toland was an extraordinary historical writer. I have listened to three of his audio books now and they are required reading/listening for anyone who likes to understand the world we live in today. His comments in the Epilogue ring true, in my mind at least, wars can be avoided if we as nations decide to sort out our differences in more peaceful ways. Do we ignore evil? No, but we don't have to butcher millions of people in the process.

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  • Mike From Mesa
  • 30-07-15

A political as well as military history

I have read a great many books concerning World War II involving both the European as well as Pacific theaters of war and was not very interested in reading another book centered on the Pacific theater. What drew me to the decision to buy this book is that it offered what was rare in the other books I read, the political background of the Japanese involvement in the war.

The Pacific Theater of the war is a sort of neglected step-child of the history books. While there are many very fine books concerning the war in the Pacific, the number is much smaller than those books on the European Theater and those books that do exist mostly concentrate on the battles and the difficulty in fighting a war on such a broad front. What has almost always been missing is the political background explaining how Japan found itself being inexorably drawn into a war with the US when many of its political and military leaders believed Japan could not win such a war, Yamamoto perhaps foremost among them.

I have always believed that the reason for the lack of extensive material covering the Japanese decisions leading to the war was the general lack of familiarity among most readers, myself included, concerning how the Japanese political system worked and the daunting task facing a writer in explaining the intricate and unfamiliar process to the general reader. However Mr Toland, who has written much about World War II, has successfully provided the political background very well in this book. This was not a new task as this book is quite old (first published in 1970) but nonetheless feels fresh and new. While some of the material may have been superseded by more recent scholarship this book is still very worthwhile for anyone interested not only in how the war progressed, but in why the Japanese government took the decisions it did.

The only problem I found with this book is that some of the Japanese names are very similar and it is easy in the Audible version of this book to mistake one for another. One example is mistaking Tojo for Togo and thus failing to grasp the competing war and peace factions in the government.

Tom Weiner does an excellent job in narrating this book and I found it to be both easy to listen to and well worth the time. I recommend this book for those interested in knowing the background of the war, but for those interested only in the tactical and strategic decisions and the battles, there are probably better books about the war in the Pacific.

67 people found this helpful

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  • Philip
  • 24-09-14

First rate history

Wow. You come away from this book feeling like you actually understand what would posses the Japanese to launch into a war they knew that they would lose if it went on very long and why they fought so hard right to the end. If all history books were this good why would you ever read fiction?

47 people found this helpful

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  • Scott
  • 10-08-14

The pacific war from inside the Japanese empire

Any additional comments?

Comprehensive and compelling history of the war in the pacific from the Japanese empire point of view. This is gripping military as well as political history which seeks to shed light on the motivations of Japanese society and the military clique which led Japan into and through its disastrous policies of aggressive expansionism. It is reminiscent of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and I would say is a must read for those with an interest in WWII. Toland intersperses the narrative with many first person accounts as well as analysis. Pulls no punches while at the same time offers a nuanced take of events. My only criticism is that the primary focus here is the pacific war against the United States with far lesser detail given to the India, Burma, and China. Nevertheless, I found this a monumental work of history. The narration is very capable and keeps things moving along.

32 people found this helpful

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  • Gillian
  • 21-12-17

As Exasperating As It Is Tragic

I'm a military history buff with a focus on Vietnam and World War II, so when I finished Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, I was horrified, conflicted, and drawn back to revisit books on Japan, the Pacific War, the major players of the Pacific theater. Naturally that led me back to The Rising Sun.
It's a work that's awesome in its scope, painstaking in military, political, even social detail. And as it went on, I became more and more, exasperated is a kind word for it.
It fully explains the Japanese rationale for entering the war, but after the good, there's the tragic. The endlessly tragic. There's the defeat after defeat, and that just made the Japanese entrench themselves more in their dogma and in their drive to take ten Americans for everyone one man sacrificed. Even after horrific and atrocious bombings of Japanese cities (which are a tad rationalized by the fact that Japanese industry wasn't centered around a military complex as in Germany but was instead centered in home-factories), even after the destruction and devastation of two, TWO! atomic bombs, what did they do? They had a failed coup to continue the war, they offered up Twenty Million Suicides to take out as many Americans on the way out as possible, and after surrender, they had the executions of many POWs.
It was so aggravating to re listen to, but if you're in the mood for a truly brilliantly researched work, dive right in. Just don't expect to come out smelling like a rose...

30 people found this helpful

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  • Matt
  • 02-09-14

Phenomenal account

Would you listen to The Rising Sun again? Why?

No. It was long, and detailed. Something that I'll remember, but not want to revisit.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Surprisingly, I did. I was moved at the end of the book by the Emperor in the final days of the war.

Any additional comments?

This is a fantastic account of WWII Japan. Spanning the time period from, roughly, the Marco-Polo bridge incident to the occupation of Japan, the narrative is delivered from the Japanese perspective. The book gives accounts, biography and personal antidotes about the major players of Japan in this time period - the Emperor, the Prime Minister, Ambassadors, generals, etc - but is also does the same for common soldiers, civilians, seamen and pilots. The book explores the human, cultural, economic and religious cost of the war and does a good job of explaining thoughts, concepts and motivations that were and are wholly foreign to the western belligerents.

This book is a great read for anyone interested in the eastern pacific as the events relayed in this book cast a long shadow over the future of pacific Asia.

24 people found this helpful

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  • Cassandra
  • 07-09-14

Long, but never boring

If you could sum up The Rising Sun in three words, what would they be?

Compelling, informative, objective

What did you like best about this story?

It was told from the perspective of many individuals from many sides.

Any additional comments?

Had I been reading this book (rather than listening to it), no doubt I would have skimmed over much of the battle passages. As I listened, I never felt the urge to skip or fast forward, for the story as told from many different perspectives was so compelling and offered so much insight into the Japanese culture.
The narration, by John Weiner, was excellent. The book is 42 hours long and I never tired of his voice. He was so convincing that it felt as if he were the author.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Reader
  • 11-05-15

Too sympathetic to the Japanese Empire.

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, but with caveats. This book engages in commentary on the relative blame for war with the US while glossing over Japanese duplicity. The author seems astounded that the US would be skeptical of Japanese peace overtures prior to Pearl Harbor, regardless of the Japanese well-documented dishonorable record in world affairs. After the Japanese behavior with the Russians first, and then with the Chinese, prior to 1941, it seems like taking the Japanese at face value would be the extreme in naivete.

The author also focuses on the suffering of the Japanese people from fire bombing and later the atom bomb while glossing over events like the rape of Nanjing and the rape of Manila, or even more egregiously totally ignoring events like the response to the Doolittle Raid where they murdered 250,000 Chinese, the Bataan Death March and biological and chemical warfare experiments carried out on Chinese and allied prisoners in a way which people who know about Mengele would find familiar.

Would you recommend The Rising Sun to your friends? Why or why not?

The book was well-researched, regardless of my comments above, and very interesting to see a little-known Japanese perspective. The author swallows the "honorable Japanese" bait, hook, line, and sinker, while disregarding the clear, historical evidence to the contrary.

Any additional comments?

"Honor" to the Japanese did not mean honor in the western sense, but rather "face" in the Asiatic sense. "Face" has far more to do with the appearance and social standing of a person than it does with "doing the right thing" in the European, Judeo-Christian concept of honor. This is a point which I believe the author would do well to learn.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Walter Pearson
  • 28-08-14

Surprising History

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. This book gives a fascinating insight to the War in the Pacific from the Japanese perspective.

What other book might you compare The Rising Sun to and why?

Perhaps "Brothers, Rivals, Victors: Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley, and the Partnership That Drove the Allied Conquest in Europe".

Which character – as performed by Tom Weiner – was your favorite?

None.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No this is a long detailed history and requires one to concentrate to get most out of it.

Any additional comments?

This is a great history because it does show just how divided Japan was over war in the Pacific. It also shows the nuances of the social changes that were driving Japan prior to 1939.

16 people found this helpful

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  • The Louligan
  • 08-08-14

AN AMAZING & COMPLETE ACCOUNT!

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 better understand the concept of seppuku or hara-kiri - an act that made absolutely no sense to me before, but my people were robbed of the Asians intense sense of country and honor to one's family and heritage.

As a black American, I was a bit disappointed that the only mention of our military men was when some inconsequential Japanese woman who had never seen a black person before was horrified by the sight of the "monsters", fainted, and was told later that her life had been saved by those black G.I.'s. But since most of our heroic battles were fought in the German theater against the Nazis, I will give John Toland a pass this time and still rate this amazing account a full 5-stars. Narrator Tom Weiner does a masterful job with a book that gets a bit dry at some points with its blow-by-blow reading of boring documents and military communiqueés. Well worth 40 hours of your life!

16 people found this helpful

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  • David
  • 06-01-16

Great comprehensive history of the Pacific War

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 can't help comparing it 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, it's only one volume, whereas Ian Toll is writing three whole volumes on the entire war in the Pacific. Thus, while Toll devotes a great deal of attention to the politics and individual political and military leaders on both sides of the conflict, The Rising Sun, as its title indicates, focuses mostly on Japan. Naturally the planning and personalities on the American and British (and later Chinese and Soviet) sides are mentioned, but mostly only inasmuch as they were pitted against their Japanese counterparts.

The bulk of the book covers the war itself, including all the familiar names like Guam, Guadalcanal, Wake Island, Corregidor, Saipan, Okinawa, Iwo Jima. Toland does not neglect the British defense of India, the tragic fate of Force Z, which blundered on ahead to its doom despite lack of air cover and thus heralded in the new reality that air power ruled above all, and the multi-sided war in China in which communists and nationalists were alternately fighting each other and the Japanese, with both sides being courted by the Allies. Any military history will cover the battles, but Toland describes them vividly, especially the first-hand accounts from the men in them - the misery and terror, and also the atrocities, like the Bataan Death March, and the miserable conditions of POWs taken back to Japan

Toland spends only a little time, in the last few chapters, talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the decision leading up to the use of the atomic bomb on Japan. This is another very loaded historical question in which there are people with strong opinions on both sides. Some have argued that the US didn't need to use the bomb - Japan was already negotiating surrender - and that we did for reasons ranging from racism to a desire to demonstrate them as a deterrent to the Soviet Union. Others claim that Japan was fully willing to fight to the last spear-carrying civilian, and that the atomic bombs saved millions of lives on both sides by preventing the need for an invasion.

Entire books have been written about this subject, and Toland, as I said, does not try to dig into it too deeply, but he does represent much of what the Americans and Japanese were thinking and saying at the time. The case he presents would suggest that the truth, unsurprisingly, is somewhere in between.

If you want one volume that covers the entire span of the war against Japan, I think this monumental work by John Toland leaves very little out, and I highly recommend it to WWII historians. However, I also encourage interested readers to then seek out the more recent works by Ian Toll, who devotes more pages to the American commanders as well, and talks about some of the political issues among the Allies that Toland treats more briefly, as well as going into even more detail about individual battles.

10 people found this helpful