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The Imperial Japanese Conspiracy

The Imperial Japanese Conspiracy

A work in 2 volumes.

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Growing up, my Bible for understanding World War II Japan was John Toland’s Rising Sun. It is a highly detailed history chronicling why Japan was the nation it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. When you are done reading it, you feel as if the insanity that was WWII in the Pacific becomes a bit more understandable. It makes a little more sense.

Toland lays out the historical underpinnings that predate what we see as the main events. He talks about Hirohito’s father and grandfather. He walks us through Japan’s China adventures and abuses through the war and past the dropping of the Bomb.

Featured are the Rape of Nanking and the military mutinies and political strife that predate the West’s military involvement. Despite what I will say in the next few minutes, I still call The Rising Sun a good read. And I’ll leave links for you.

If the book has a short-coming, it would be not seeing the old man behind the curtain projecting the image of the Wizard. It’s forgivable. The Wizard in this case doesn’t show himself as a giant roaring head, surrounded by fire and smoke. The Wizard is the Emperor and most of his court, using the smoke and mirrors of Japanese subtlety and symbolism, oftentimes even with each other. The level of childish pretense between adults is astounding.

Much of the duplicity employed by these people had nothing to do with Japanese culture. It was the kind of dirty-dealing, under-handed politics that is as old and universal as mankind itself.

I spent 3 years in Pearl Harbor in the late 1970’s. Every day I could see the memorial from the fantial of my ship. One day I finally drove over to the landing with the idea of visiting the memorial. When I arrived there was a crowd of people waiting. They were mostly Japanese, mostly middle-aged or older men with thier wives. They were chatting away, snapping pictures. I left and never set foot on the memorial.

Back then, the veterans of the war were not the old men we see slowly dying off today. The fathers and grandfathers I grew up around had fought in the war. What stories you could wrangle from them were sad and ugly.


I regret never taking the launch to the Arizona. I harbor no ill will for the Japanese people or even the Japanese government as we know it today. They are brilliant and resilient. And all my dealings with anyone from Asia have been pleasant. But I was a different person then. And I don’t think my instincts about what the government of Japan was in 1941 were too far off the mark. I just had to work it all out.

About 25 years ago I stumbled over a 2-volume work first published in 1971. The book is titled Japan’s imperial Conspiracy, Volumes 1 and 2 by David Bergamini. It took my understanding of Imperial Japan in the 20th century to a new level. And it changed my opinion about Hirohito.

Like a couple of other books I’ve discussed on this Substack, this is a work for SERIOUS readers. If you are looking for a basic understanding of the war and the players therein - a conversation piece - you might find this book a bit too hefty. Stick with Toland or even easier works. There are many books out there which provide easy, and somewhat detailed summaries of events that are quite enjoyable to read.

What you’ll find in Imperial Conspiracy is the thinking behind the thinking, the history no one wanted you to see. I will give you one tidbit that won’t be much of a spoiler, you’ll see it develop. But it may be something you didn’t know: For all the hand-wringing and protestations of “not knowing” until it was too late, the Rape of Nanking, for one example is far from what you have been routinely told it was; far from what say, MacArthur thought it was.

MacArthur was possessed with a romantic view of Asia. He wanted to believe the best about the religious and traditional stage props surrounding Japan’s throne. I doubt he realized that the key figures, who specifically ordered the insanity that was Nanking, remained powerful allies, even close friends of Emperor Hirohito until death, long after the war. And the Emperor was not in the dark about any of it.

To go further would start to spoil things for you. But I will say that to speak of the people surrounding the man-god, and Hirohito himself, as being barbarically cynical would be an embarrassing understatement.

While lengthy and detailed, the true historian will find this a very engaging read. I give Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy four stars ****. It will be an excellent addition to any serious library.

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I had to do a lot of research to make sure I was directing you to a good copy of the book. Some people sell one or the other volume, not knowing what they have. If you find both volumes in good condition for under $100, buy them. But at this link (unpaid), you won’t spend much at all. Just hit the button.

Japan's Imperial Conspiracy

The Rising Sun. By John Toland - Just as interesting a read, from a slightly different perspective. Every bit as detailed.

The Rising Sun, Toland

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