This story of a man s frantic escape from the authorities is vividly chilling and powerful, but what makes a lasting impression is Takuya, his inner being his thoughts and feelings He is a defeated man in every way, yet, a man who possesses unfaltering strength and a formidable spirit.
He had always thought of himself as an average, decent man, called to duty, to defend family, emperor, and country from foreign invaders So why is he on the Occupation Goverment s List of war criminals He thought that he served in the Imperial Army with courage and honor the idea that he too would be a criminal fugitive never crosses his mind until it is almost too late He searches for answers, as he struggles and agonizes with his new found situation, but only confusion, frustration and paranoia envelope him So he runs he hides he runs some .
The plot, the character, and the historical background makes this novel a surprisingly quick, deeply rewarding, and downright frightening read One can not help but support this man, a hero, against the injust system of retribution.
A jarring and personal look at the definition of war crime that in some ways did for Japan what Slaughterhouse Five did for Germany This novel, like Vonnegut s, highlights the sufferings of civilians by Allied fire bombing during WWII It was a time when the aerial bombing of civilian targets by Allies was so routine that no one questioned the morality of killing hundreds of thousands of civilians The fire bombing campaigns leveled city after city just as thoroughly, through repetitive air raids, as a single bomb leveled Hiroshima at the close of the war Yoshimura creates a protagonist who executed a B 29 pilot for war crimes after his mother is incinerated by fire bombing and after whole cities are leveled he is wanted in turn for the war crime of executing the pilot, after the war is over, when his act during the war has been labeled a capital offense.
Unlike Slaughterhouse Five, One Man s Justice is delivered in a near documentary level of prose that feelslike witness bearing than fiction Partly it s the translation so many sentences are adequate, and yet thuddingly dull, where it s easy to imagine a different word choice or sentence structure would have made for a better read It s still a riveting look at postwar Japan, filled with details that only someone who lived through it could imagine.
This is another novel by Akira Yoshimura I enjoyed reading and found it surprisingly readable except the ruthless detailed air attacks on Japan by US B 29s the first being his Shipwrecks Harcourt, 2000 Acclaimed by various news agencies and periodicals, namely, Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News, Christian Science Monitor, Booklist, What s on in London, LA Times, Kirkus Reviews, and San Diego Union Tribune pp i ii , this book seemingly symbolizing a World War II legacy has thus assured the author s literary stature as one of the prestigious novelists in Japan nowadays.
The man in question named Takuya, an ex officer of the Imperial Army, is the protagonist who has returned to his native village and desperately been on the run for his life when he knows that the Occupation authorities are intensifying their hunt for suspected war criminals Surprisingly, after his narrative on the air attacks loaded with well researched factual data, I think, its readers would find its remaining two thirds a sort of page turner because it s so thrilling and exciting that we really long to know Takuya s final verdict which, due to your reading enjoyment, I won t divulge in the meantime As for the end of the story, I would like you to know that Takuya, a true former soldier, has nobly opted his own choice of settling alone somewhere he would not neither visit Terasawa, his wife nor Teruko her niece whom Terasawa had once proposed as Takuya s wife before he surrendered to the detectives One of his ultimate reasons is that Indeed, if they had adopted Teruko and she had married and started a family, she would probably feel obliged to offer littlethan a perfunctory welcome The prospect of having to make conversation with Teruko s husband hardly inspired enthusiasm p 282 In sum, this novel presumably categorized as an antiwar one would help us better understand the war aftermath in terms of the cruelty and, I read somewhere, even the futility of war, in this case, that have profoundly affected Takuya s life as a fateful fugitive whose mission has taught him who is friend or foe Finally, he could be proud to have faced and endured adversity with integrity till he is allowed to be free once again.
It s official Akira Yoshimura is one of my favourite Japanese authors no, authors, period of all time One Man s Justice might very well be my favourite book of his that I have read thus far the other two being On Parole and Shipwreck It pains me to know that he isn t popular enough to have all of his books translated into English One Man s Justice tells the story of a former Japanese lieutenant on the run after WW2, because the occupying forces the Americans are charging him and his associates with war crimes The crime being that, at the tail end of the war, Takuya s superiors ordered for the captured American airmen to be executed, and our protagonist was one of the executors After being tipped off by a friend, Takuya leaves his family behind and travels across Japan to escape capture What I love most about Yoshimura s writing, in general, is that he doesn t take the easy route with characters He often introduces a character as a certain kind of archetype, then deconstructs him her over the course of the book In this book, you are introduced to Takuya as one of the executioners of these captured American soldiers Outside of Japan, it is easy to immediately paint him and the other executioners as villains, but I think Yoshimura does a wonderful job at questioning the readers preconceived ideas of justice, what s right and what s wrong during the war, and where you draw lines in the sand Even though Takuya did swing the sword, he unlike some of his friends never volunteered for the job Even though the captured Americans were directly responsible for fire bombing innocent people in Japanese cities, they, too, were following the orders of their superiors just like Takuya So how do you figure out who s right, who s wrong, who s the villain and who s the hero Another element of the book I love is the fluid nature of justice At the beginning of the book, Takuya s sense of justice looks like it is set in stone To him, the Americans are the enemies because they fire bombed innocent people, they did so with naked women painted on bombers, they listened to jazz in the cockpit after every bombing run, they ought to be executed for their crimes Further, he performed the execution based on orders from the top, and that s just how the military works To him, or according to his sense of justice, he does not deserve the kind of punishment meted out by the occupying forces at the time Kicking or slapping prisoners during the war, apparently, was enough to earn you a death sentence, and that s what Takuya is running away from However, his sense of justice slowly wavers throughout the course of the book and spoilers from here on out You see it when he s eventually cornered by the local police, and yet he makes no effort to run you see it during the trial, when his supposed superiors grovel for lighter sentences, going as far as lying just to exonerate themselves you see it when his attitude towards the occupying Americans changing from blind hate to numb indifference When the entire PURPOSE of the escape is predicated on your sense of justice, and that sense of justice is then slowly degraded over time, what does that do to a person I just love the depth to which Yoshimura goes to explore these nuances At the end of the day, it isn t a story about whether Takuya was right to execute the prisoners It is a critic on war as a whole, and how the authorities manipulate the boundaries of justice as they see fit, and its impact on the people below.
Takuya mused that his involvement in the executions was essentially the same in nature as the actions of the man he had killed, in that both were merely carrying out their duties as military men The difference was that whereas the killing committed by the American had been by bombing, which precluded witnessing the bloodshed, Takuya s act had involved wielding the sword with his own hands as he beheaded the airman The fact that the American had killed countless people as opposed to Takuya s one victim brought him some comfort.
This is a powerful novel, but one I feel will never develop much of a readership in the United States, given that we are asked to sympathize with a Japanese protagonist who has beheaded an American POW at the end of WWII There is nothing in Takuya s rationalizations that I can really find fault with War is not black and white Japan s atrocities in no way make the Allies actions completely innocent After studying the Pacific War at length, I have come away with few definite answers It is just far too complex And it can never hurt to try to see things from the other side s perspective This may be a work of fiction, but it is based upon factual events.
This is a complex novel Takuya s prejudices, his belief in Japanese superiority and his hatred of the Americans, show how deeply ingrained the military culture is in his life, but these views are tempered over time, as he increasingly realizes the power of the post war American forces and settles into a mundane life out of the army He starts off with such vitriolic contempt towards the Americans, but as Japanese officials turn on their subordinates to avoid the death penalty and break down in tears at sentencing, the American prisoners silent resolve in the face of death becomes an obvious counterpoint At the same time, the cruelty of the Americans, of any warriors, is also presented, especially in the recounting of the firebombings and the nuclear bombings, but also in moments of individual violence afterward The narrative is so complex because there is not a single view, there is not a core Truth to the novel The reader is denied a larger vision We have Takuya s prejudices and developing viewpoint, but we also have our own as readers, and our understanding is informed both by what knowledge we have of history and by the rumors and newspaper accounts that provide the basis of Takuya s own views, coupled with his few personal experiences.
There is no easy viewpoint to adopt There is no one that is clearly in the right here There is a lot of suffering and a lot of moral ambiguity, and even when Japan s situation begins to improve in the years after the war, there is still Takuya s bitterness and despair He is antiheroic, with plenty of flaws, but his desire to survive and to stay free is something that anyone can relate to, and he at least initially believes in the full justness of his actions What a war crime truly is certainly becomes complicated by the end, it seems almost as much to be a fiction created by the victors and influenced by their current relations with the losers as it is anything else, and yet we know that war crimes are real and terrible things.
That said, I am somewhat disappointed that the narrative only frames a contrast between the treatment of American prisoners after the beginning of fire bombings with the treatment of the Japanese military after the end of the war Takuya acts as though he is completely unaware of the cruelties inflicted upon the Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, and American military prisoners in the earlier parts of the war And since we enter the novel after the war s end, and only really get an accounting of events from June 1944 onward, Japan s role as aggressor is conveniently ignored While doing this makes it easier to focus on the reality of the terrible calculus of war on all sides of the conflict, it also appears like a too deliberate avoidance of a rather large piece of the puzzle Including reference to Japan s larger role, even in passing, even from someone other than Takuya, would give a fuller picture without weakening the novel s themes Terrible acts do not justify other terrible acts, after all.
The narrative is delicately meandering and subtle, with carefully inserted injections of tension at key moments in the course of Takuya s run from the law Akira Yoshimura is an impressive writer, and I am certain that the subtlety of individual phrases is attributable to the equally impressive work of translator Mark Ealey Reading this novel is a troubling, but ultimately rewarding, experience.
There are large parts of this novel which actually readlike a war documentary Still, I found it quite engaging overall The author attempts, through this work, to offer a Japanese perspective on the cold blooded execution of captured US pilots who carried out devastating fire bombing raids on civilian Japanese populations during the final stages of WWII These raids resulted in catastrophic death tolls, even before culminating in the atomic of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Given widespread knowledge about the atrocities carried out by Japanese troops themselves during WWII throughout conquered parts of Asia, Yoshimura certainly set himself a difficult task in trying to generate empathy for the Japanese soldiers and officials involved in the executions All of them faced significant jail terms and or the death penalty before the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal The author poses an interesting moral question here, namely when hundreds of thousands of your fellow countrymen women children have been murdered, is it a crime to execute those who carried out the bombings One Man s Justice is one of those books that will haunt you for a long time While you read a compelling narrative of one man s plight following WWII, you are brilliantly led to ponder much bigger issues related to war One Man s Justice is one of those great reads where some of the content is disturbing, and yet the journey it takes you on somehow transcends the unsettling parts This one really made me think and challenge some of my viewpoints.