this heavy, long, academic work consists of scores of interviews cross-referencing Japan's population during the war, and is a sort of legend in the field, multiply quoted and referenced in academia. it focuses on 'inherently interesting' topics, rather than a person's two years in the early war, their blow by blow account of being aerial bombed, and takes as its scope everything from Nanjing massacre perpetuators to pro-communist koreans-living-in japan to kamikaze pilots to people who did paperwork during the war. there is nothing really shocking or surprising to previous readers of japanese history, so to that degree the work reveals academic/clinical distance and covers a statistically broad range of people, yet of course it might be argued that the attempt to cover as many people as possible actually doesn't present a statistically-even coverage-- i.e., if you're looking for the rare/extreme situations, by design you're not actually covering the standard experience very heavily. if you cover the 300 'himeyuri' (the okinawa girls who committed mass suicide rather than be captured by advancing US forced) then statistically, you're not covering the hundred thousand actual Okinawans who worked as farmers or laborers. (if that purely statistical breakdown makes sense)
I read this book for some elective or as non-required reading during university days, and now understand a little better some of the adult stances or choices made by individuals. a solid and commendable piece of scholarship in the oral history tradition, and a keep for any reference library. as mentioned this is a sort of legendary work in East Asian studies. 500+ pages, so whether you're interested in 'the lives of women in taisho japan' or 'military operations in manchuria in the 1930s' you will find at least one account. and of course, the historian/writer ultimately has to find interesting material, so the one identified flaw, 'the totally boring war experience' is of course doomed to not be covered in any book.
may have been the source material for [a:David Mitchell|4565|David Mitchell|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1347623450p2/4565.jpg]'s coverage of the suicide torpedo pilots. the Cooks find both somebody who truly was committed to the mission and another team that was apparently lied to. it might be argued that is the most statistically unique coverage of the book; I believe the okinawa cave fighters who say the US used chemical weapons have been covered elsewhere, as have, of course, ordinary officers, soldiers, and laborers, but I can't quite identify any other book in English that covered the 110 kaitan / suicide torpedo pilots.
at time of writing in 1993, the Cooks were, as most academics, considered left-of-centre. with the passage of time and growing political power of the Chinese, probably the most 'dangerous' topic is the Rape of Nanking. in this 1993 work, the Cooks provide the Japanese revisionist figure of 4000 as well as the CCP and Kuomintang figure of 300,000 (although Nanking's pre war population was 250000 at the time). today in 2013, "200,000" has sort of entered the western lexicon / historical account --> see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape of Nanking. the Cooks decline to provide a figure themselves, although apparently in 1993 some sources in the west was saying 80,000 (others 150,000).
(this sub article on WP claims sources of 40-200,000)
I will note that, having been educated in american elementary, middle, and high schools-- I was of course taught 'the war began on dec 9 1941, when the evil japanese sneak attacked pearl harbor', but whatever, as the cooks themselves point out, of course americans are going to say that...
published in 1993 and recently released with new covers; selling $25 in some asia-pac bookstores, list $19, amazon $15, best internet $11. 4/5