While I am grateful to The Japan Times for reviewing my book, “International Relations and the Origins of the Pacific War” in the Feb. 5 edition, I take exception to some of the criticisms leveled against my book by the reviewer, particularly toward the unequivocal comment that my chronological narrative on Japan-U.S. history is “flawed.”
The reviewer says that I claim in my book that “Japan was an innocent utopia before 1853,” which in the reviewer’s view “stretches incredulity.” I never claimed as such or used the words “innocent utopia.” I did state, however, that as historical records attest, for over 250 years the Japanese were at peace with most of its neighbors and with the rest of the world during the Tokugawa Period (1603~1867) in contrast to the Europeans and Americans, who were turning the Chinese into opium addicts, exterminating Native Americans and conquering Mexican territory during this time. This period of peace for Japan would come to an end when Perry threatened Japan to “open” up or end up like the hapless Mexicans.
I also weave a narrative, backed by various historical sources, of how the Americans and Europeans (both with their own self-interests in mind) encouraged Japan in the late 19th century to step on to the road of imperialism and helped develop for the Japanese a strategic justification for creating an empire.
And once Japan tasted the fruits of victory from its wars with Qing China and Russia, and was admitted into the club of imperialist powers, I show how Japanese imperialism developed a momentum that needed no further encouragement from the Americans or Europeans. If my account of Japan-United States relations is “flawed” according to the reviewer, perhaps it may be due to not conforming to the reviewer’s understanding of history, whatever it may be.
The reviewer also claims that I use language that is “telling.” If the reviewer is somehow insinuating that the book is an apologia for Japanese imperialism, nothing further could be from what I wrote or my intention. The reviewer would have noted that Japan is described (as is the U.S.) within the book as an imperial power driven by realist ambitions and mention is given that going into the decade of the 1930s with Manchuria under its control it would unabashedly declare (what U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt had encouraged the Japanese to do several decades earlier) a Japanese Monroe Doctrine encompassing the aspiration of becoming the dominant power in the Western Pacific.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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