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The Yamato Dynasty


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About the Author

Sterling Seagrave grew up on the China-Burma border. For many years an investigative reporter in Asia, he is the author of Yellow Rain, The Marcos Dynasty, Dragon Lady, The Soong Dynasty, and Lords of the Rim. Peggy Seagrave is Sterling's wife and longtime collaborator. They live in Europe.


This popular history of Japan from the mid-19th century to the present weaves together an iconoclastic historical narrative with a mostly caustic view of Japan's imperial family. The Seagraves (The Soong Dynasty) depict modern Japan as a country consistently dominated by a closed financial oligarchy in league with politicians, bureaucrats, the imperial family, and underworld bosses. Democracy is no more than a fa‡ade. They portray Emperor Hirohito (who reigned from 1926 to 1989) as an active supporter of militarism in the 1930s and 1940s whose postwar image was whitewashed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the American occupation authorities, who wished to restore the hegemony of the prewar elite. Specialists will no doubt object to the oversimplification and intermittent sensationalism of the account, but it is solidly based on the secondary historical literature. This fast-paced tale of oligarchic manipulation, imperial intrigue, chicanery, wartime plunder, and cover-up does manage to raise some profound questions about Japan's polity and society. For larger public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/99.]--Steven I. Levine, Univ. of Montana, Missoula Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Drawing on recently discovered sources, including imperial diaries, longtime Asian expert Sterling Seagrave (The Soong Dynasty) and his wife and collaborator, Peggy, connect, in this penetrating yet remorselessly bleak account, the personal histories of Japan's emperors, their wives and other members of the imperial family through five generations (from 1868--the year of the Meiji Restoration--to the present) to Japan's political and economic culture. The authors contend that the imperial system, with all its isolation and mystification, was a veil behind which plutocrats and militarists have always exerted unobtrusive control over Japanese society. Even today, they argue, Japan is "a one-class dictatorship by a financial elite evolved from the clan lords of previous centuries" who "rule by manipulation, intimidation and corruption." The Seagraves extensively study the long reign of Emperor Hirohito (who ruled from 1926 to 1989), assigning him and other members of the imperial family a measure of guilt for Japan's military aggression, wartime atrocities and looting of stupendous wealth from all corners of Asia. They criticize U.S. officials, especially MacArthur, for orchestrating a postwar exorcism by which only a handful of Japanese war criminals were punished, while Hirohito and his family were restored to power without having to account for their wartime depredations. The Seagraves see Japan's present as replicating its past, with an economy in ruins, the current imperials marginalized and behind-the-scenes manipulators still resisting reform. This book dramatically brings the imperial family--and those behind it--to life, offering readers an intriguing glimpse behind the long-maintained veil of secrecy. B&w photos, maps. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"The Seagraves have uncovered one of the biggest secrets of the twentieth century"
--Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking

"[The Yamato Dynasty] dramatically brings the imperial family-and those behind it-to life, offering readers an intriguing glimpse behind the long-maintained veil of secrecy."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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