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Last Updated on January 28, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 369

Saburo Ienaga's nonfiction work The Pacific War portrays different figures whose actions or writings were germane to the Japanese wars that began in 1931.

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Shidehara Kijur

Shidehara Kijur was the Japanese foreign minister in the years leading up to the invasion of China. Japanese policies toward China in particular became known as Shidehara diplomacy during this period. Although Shidehara advocated for international cooperation and disarmament, Ienaga cites him as an example of how even the most pacifistic voices of the time were expansionists with respect to China. He writes that Shidehara "tried to hold the Chinese people responsible for the imperialism that had made China a semi-colony." He is an example of how contempt for China and Korea had become widespread in Japan.

Tojo Hideki

Tojo Hideki was an army general who rose to become army minister and prime minister during the world war. In the face of American demands, he insisted that Japan not withdraw its troops from China. This obstinance led directly to hostilities with the United States and its allies. Hideki was merely continuing a tradition whereby the Japanese military were a state within the state and unanswerable to civilian authority. He himself had overseen the transfer of officers who had attacked French forces in Indochina in direct defiance of orders. The commanders soon reemerged as holders of other high positions. Hideki was eventually removed from power in 1944 as Japan suffered one military setback after another.

The Emperor

The figure of the Japanese emperor hovers behind Ienaga's narrative. Imperial rule had been reestablished in 1868, replacing the shoguns who had ruled the country since the seventeenth century. Ienaga barely mentions the emperor by name but provides a multitude of examples of the office's supreme authority. He characterizes the reforms after the fall of the shogunate as the establishment of "an absolutist emperor-centered state." Ienaga also relates how schoolchildren were indoctrinated with "an awed obedience to the emperor" as he describes how the educational system was instrumental in preparing the country for war. He details how all commands to the military, in theory, had to emanate from the Imperial Palace. He also relates how the officials who acceded to the final surrender only did so to preserve the institution of imperial rule.

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