Japan's Longest Day
 The Pacific War Research Society
Language: English Release: 1968
Publisher: Kodansha International
Pages: 356
Genre: Non-fiction ISBN: 9784770028873

Andrew Nguyen (submission)

Originally published in 1965 by Bungeishunju Ltd. under the name "Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi" and brought to the US by Kodansha in 1968. Titled Japan's Longest Day, the publication deals with the 24 hours that lead up to the broadcast of Hirohito's speech. A speech that would signal Japan's surrender during World War II. In those 24 hours, the fate of Japan would be decided between those that wanted to surrender and save their home and those that were willing to sacrifice the country to save her honor. In researching for this book, the Pacific War Research Society, a panel of distinguished Japanese scholars and journalists, interviewed many of the participants of the event. A great deal of work also went into scouring all published material available about that day. It proved to be a difficult process as twenty years had passed. For some that were interviewed, memories had faded. Other participants had taken a vow of silence, not divulging about the 24 hours. Meanwhile, others mentioned contradictory information about the matter. Such contradictory statements or the unwillingness by the participants to talk can be seen as a form of Japan's overall inability to look at itself in the mirror about the war.

In relation to this site, this book would go on to serve as the basis of Toho's movie of the same name. Staring many of Japan's famous actors of the day, Japan's Longest Day appeared in Japanese theaters in 1967. At the time, the production christened the 35 anniversary of Toho's founding. It mostly follows the format of the book with a small section leading up to the 24 hours before the surrender, which takes up most of the film. The movie achieved great success critically, and the film even airs on Japanese television annually. More recently, the concept underwent a remake and appeared in Japanese theaters in August 2015 from Shochiku under the title The Emperor.

As for the contents of the book: the events that surround Japan's surrender to the allies during World War II are common knowledge. In an attempt to force Japan to face the inevitable, the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Furthermore, on the same day Nagasaki disappeared from the face of the Earth, the Soviet Union finally entered the war against Japan. The Soviets did so with a stunning attack on the Kwantung Army.

Despite this, Japan's government was still in a deadlock. Eventually those that wished for peace implored onto the Emperor to intervene, which he did on August 14th, 1945. In convincing his subjects to accept the Potsdam declaration, Hirohito told them "to bear the unbearable." Even a majority of the hardliners eventually and reluctantly accepted the order.

What is not completely known, however, was fact that there were those that did not desire this outcome. Those that would do everything they could to prevent the surrender from taking place. Those that preferred annihilation to surrender. Those that feared the consequences for Japan falling under foreign control meant the loss of their entire culture. As a result, several groups within the army resorted to military coups, taking out potential targets to stop the surrender. The main coup took place at the Imperial Palace as army rebels led by Major Kenji Hatanaka started an uprising that seized control of the Imperial Palace. Interrogating the prisoners that they managed to acquire, the rebels would search for the recordings of Hirohito's speech. Their goal was to destroy them and then prepare another speech, proclaiming Japan's intent to fight to the death. If the coup plotters had succeeded, then, the bloody fighting could have continued and perhaps resulted in the utter destruction of the Japanese home islands. Fortunately, they did not succeed. Japan was finally able to end the nightmarish war that it had foolishly plunged itself and the Pacific into for four long hellish years. With the overall events taking place in the 24 hours between August 14 and 15, thus came the title to describe the series of events as Japan's Longest Day.

The book tells its story in two parts. The first part is the lead up in one large chapter from July 26 to August 14 and then the second part deals with the 24 hours of the incident, which ends with the emperor's broadcast playing on Japanese radio at 12:00pm on August 15. The content in the second part of the book has chapter titles that do not look out of place on the Fox series 24. Throughout the book, there are pictures of the large cast, the locations and several artifacts from the period.

After the story concludes, there is a section of notes to the overall story and a long list of characters that were involved in the event with the key members having their last name bolded. Some names had asterisks right next to them to indicate that the authors interviewed them for the book.

Overall, this is a very interesting book. It serves as a cultural look as well as examining some elements that still remain despite the changes after the occupation.