Most Americans are chiefly concerned with Germany when discussing World War II, and it was partially for this reason that I chose to read a book about the Japanese war crimes trials. It was also because I’m interested in better understanding why the Chinese hate the Japanese so much. The first thing about the trials that struck me was how convoluted they were; the process of charging, trying, and sentencing was, according to Maga, unnecessarily difficult. Because of this, the trials are commonly thought of as the revenge of racist Americans for Japan’s early war victories. Maga argues that the trials did their best to be just and fair, though I have to say that his argument was not especially convincing to me.
I had the book on my to-read list for more than two years before picking it up at the library. The book is rather dry, and as I already have trouble getting through books about history (because of my issues remembering names and dates, not because I don’t find them interesting), it was difficult at times to concentrate on what I was reading. Honestly, the fact that the book had been sitting on my local library’s shelves for so long, and therefore smelled great, was what got me through it. Never underestimate the value of a book’s smell. Also, the book is only 150 pages long, so I was able to finish it in just over 24 hours.
Because it’s a quick read, I consider Judgment at Tokyo to be a reasonable introduction to the Japanese war crime trials, though I’d advise the potential reader to make sure they know something about Japan’s role in WWII before picking it up.
Judgment at Tokyo: The Japanese War Crimes Trials by Tim Maga