Tag Archives: Japan

How a seafaring raid on the coast of South America met with disaster and how, against all odds, one ship was eventually brought to the shores of Japan by the English pilot Will Adams, the hero of Shogun.

Pars Japonica : the first Dutch expedition to reach the shores of Japan William de Lange Warren, CT : Floating World Editions, 2006 Hardcover. 1st ed. xx, 268 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 223-256) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG lange001

This is the harrowing account of arguably the most ill-fated expedition in the long maritime history of the Low Countries. At the end of the 16th century five heavily armed ships sailed from the port of Rotterdam under the command of men who had never set foot on a seagoing ship. Their plan was to sail through the treacherous Strait of Magellan and raid the western coast of Latin America as had the Englishmen Drake and Cavendish. Storms, disease, and general inexperience were to upset those ambitious plans in unexpected ways.

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The terrible hardships suffered in the course of the subsequent two years became an almost biblical trial of the officers and crew — a trial the outcome of which seemed to scorn the ships’ talismanic names: Faith, Hope, Love, Fidelity, and The Gospel. Instead, treachery, betrayal, mutiny, and mayhem were the grim rewards of this fateful journey. Out of the five hundred men who sailed, only a hundred survived and only a handful of those were ever to return home.

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One ship did pass the test, but not in the way its owners had foreseen. It was through the offices of an English pilot that the ship called Love reached the as yet largely unknown islands of Japan and that the outcome of an otherwise disastrous expedition was miraculously reversed. The pilot’s name was William Adams, the near mythical yet real-life figure who became the hero of James Clavell’s best-selling novel Shogun.

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The planning, the strategy, the sacrifices and heroics illuminating the greatest naval war in history.

Pacific crucible : war at sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 Ian W. Toll New York : W.W. Norton, c 2012 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxxvi, 597 p., [24] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss, a blow that destroyed the offensive power of their fleet. Pacific Crucible tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.

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This dramatic narrative, relying predominantly on eyewitness accounts and primary sources, is laced with riveting details of heroism and sacrifice on the stricken ships and planes of both navies. At the war’s outset, Japan’s pilots and planes enjoyed a clear-cut superiority to their American counterparts, but there was a price to be paid. Japanese pilots endured a lengthy and grueling training in which they were disciplined with baseball bats, often suffering broken bones; and the production line of the Zero — Japan’s superbly maneuverable fighter plane — ended not at a highway or railhead but at a rice paddy, through which the planes were then hauled on ox carts. Combat losses, of either pilots or planes, could not be replaced in time to match the fully mobilized American war machine.

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He who would search for pearls must dive below… John Dryden

Tears of mermaids : the secret story of pearls  Stephen G. Bloom  New York : St. Martin’s Press, c 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing.      x, 382 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [357]-366) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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For Tears of Mermaids, Stephen G. Bloom traveled 30,000 miles to trace a single pearl — from the moment a diver off the coast of Australia scoops from the ocean floor an oyster containing a single luminescent pearl to the instant a woman on the other side of the world fastens the clasp of a strand containing the same orb.

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Bloom chronicles the never-before-told saga of the global pearl trade by gaining access to clandestine outposts in Japan, China, the Philippines, French Polynesia and Australia.  Bloom infiltrates high-tech pearl farms and processing facilities guarded by gun-toting sentries, and insinuates himself into the lives of powerful international pearl lords.

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Bloom farms for pearls in rural China, goes behind scenes at million-dollar auctions in Hong Kong, trails pearl brokers and Internet entrepreneurs in Asia, hires himself out as a deckhand on an Australian pearling vessel, and goes backstage at Christie’s for a fast and furious auction of the most expensive pearl ever sold.  Teeming with rogue humor and uncanny intelligence, Tears of Mermaids weaves a nonstop detective story of the world’s most enduring gem.

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It was what we Japanese called the onion life, peeling away a layer at a time and crying all the while…

Sword and blossom : a British officer’s enduring love for a Japanese woman  Peter Pagnamenta and Momoko Williams  New York : Penguin Press, 2006  Hardcover. 1st American ed. and printing. ix, 318 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps, ports. ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG   

In 1904, when thirty-four-year-old British Army captain Arthur Hart-Synnot was sent to Japan to learn the language of his country’s new ally, romance was the furthest thing from his mind. At least five generations of the Hart family had served in the British Army – his father, grandfather, and uncle had risen to the rank of general, and the ambitious young officer expected to keep up the tradition. Arriving in Tokyo on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War,  Arthur met Masa Suzuki at the Officers’ Club and tested out his first few words of Japanese on her.

Masa had grown up in the working-class section of Tokyo, amid small-shop keepers and craftsmen. The sixth in a family of seven, she had left school at age fourteen to work in a shop. She was a dutiful Japanese daughter – when she helped her mother serve meals, she would kneel at a respectful distance while her father and brothers ate. Arthur and Masa fell in love quickly and powerfully. Throwing convention to the wind, they lived together in Tokyo until orders came for Arthur to return to England.

For the next decade and a half, the two unlikely soul mates attempted to make a life together, testing the limits of racial and cultural tolerance in their countries and in themselves. Separated for years at a time, they stayed in touch through long, deeply affectionate letters they wrote to each other in Japanese. The great love affair sustained Arthur through some of the most horrific battles of the First World War, and even when the relationship came to an end, in a way that neither could have foreseen, they continued their correspondence.

They wrote to each other through the troubled interwar period, as Arthur’s family estate was caught up in a civil war in Ireland, as the great earthquake of 1923 ravaged Tokyo, as the militarists seized control of Japan and took the country into a brutal invasion of China, and finally, in a bitter twist of fate, as the once-allied Britain and Japan faced off against each other in the Second World War. Her letters to him were lost, but she saved every one of his, more than eight hundred in total. The authors use this treasure trove of letters to describe a story of great love and great loss and of destinies etched amid the conflicts of the first half of the twentieth century.

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Мы вас похороним! Nikita Khrushchev 1956

WE WILL BURY YOU – actually more of a threat about Marxist inevitability than a threat about nuclear war. When he made the threat Eisenhower was president. It took 30 years and a good many steps backwards to make a few forward but by 1986 Ronald Reagan had pretty well buried them. When Khrushchev died of a heart attack on September 11, 1971,  he was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, having been denied a state funeral and interment in the Kremlin Wall. Pravda ran a one-sentence announcement of the former premier’s death. So much for inevitability. Ironically enough it is the new Russia that is more like to bury us.

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Red cloud at dawn : Truman, Stalin, and the end of the atomic monopoly  Michael D. Gordin  New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xii, 402 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [377]-379) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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On August 29, 1949, the first Soviet test bomb, dubbed First Lightning, exploded in the deserts of Kazakhstan. The startling event was not simply a technical experiment that confirmed the ability of the Soviet Union to build nuclear bombs during a period when the United States held a steadfast monopoly; it was also an international event that marked the beginning of an arms race that would ultimately lead to nuclear proliferation beyond the two superpowers.

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Most Americans believe that the Second World War ended because the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan forced it to surrender. Red Cloud at Dawn presents a different interpretation: that the military did not clearly understand the atomic bomb’s revolutionary strategic potential, that the Allies were almost as stunned by the surrender as the Japanese were by the attack, and that not only had experts planned and fully anticipated the need for a third bomb, they were skeptical about whether the atomic bomb would work at all. With these ideas, Michael Gordin reorients the historical and contemporary conversation about the A-bomb and World War II.

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Gordin posits that although the bomb clearly brought with it a new level of destructive power, strategically it was regarded by decision-makers simply as a new conventional weapon, a bigger firebomb. To lend greater understanding to the thinking behind its deployment, Gordin takes the reader to the island of Tinian, near Guam, the home base for the bombing campaign, and the location from which the anticipated third atomic bomb was to be delivered. He also details how Americans generated a new story about the origins of the bomb after surrender: that the United States knew in advance that the bomb would end the war and that its destructive power was so awesome no one could resist it.

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Following a trail of espionage, secrecy, deception, political brinksmanship, and technical innovation, Gordin challenges conventional technology-centered nuclear histories by looking at the prominent roles that atomic intelligence and other forms of information play in the uncertainties of nuclear arms development and political decision-making. With the use of newly opened archives, Red Cloud at Dawn focuses on the extraordinary story of First Lightning to provide a fresh understanding of the origins of the nuclear arms race, as well as the problem of proliferation.

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