Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia (Hardcover)

Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia By Gary J. Bass Cover Image
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NAMED ONE OF THE 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST •  ONE OF THE 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES • A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORKERTHE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE • A landmark, magisterial history of the trial of Japan’s leaders as war criminals—the largely overlooked Asian counterpart to Nuremberg

“Nothing less than a masterpiece. With epic research and mesmerizing narrative power, Judgment at Tokyo has the makings of an instant classic.”
—Evan Osnos, National Book Award–winning author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

In the weeks after Japan finally surrendered to the Allies to end World War II, the world turned to the question of how to move on from years of carnage and destruction. For Harry Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Chiang Kai-shek, and their fellow victors, the question of justice seemed clear: Japan’s militaristic leaders needed to be tried and punished for the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor; shocking atrocities against civilians in China, the Philippines, and elsewhere; and rampant abuses of prisoners of war in notorious incidents such as the Bataan death march. For the Allied powers, the trial was an opportunity to render judgment on their vanquished foes, but also to create a legal framework to prosecute war crimes and prohibit the use of aggressive war, building a more peaceful world under international law and American hegemony. For the Japanese leaders on trial, it was their chance to argue that their war had been waged to liberate Asia from Western imperialism and that the court was victors’ justice.

For more than two years, lawyers for both sides presented their cases before a panel of clashing judges from China, India, the Philippines, and Australia, as well as the United States and European powers. The testimony ran from horrific accounts of brutality and the secret plans to attack Pearl Harbor to the Japanese military’s threats to subvert the government if it sued for peace. Yet rather than clarity and unanimity, the trial brought complexity, dissents, and divisions that provoke international discord between China, Japan, and Korea to this day. Those courtroom tensions and contradictions could also be seen playing out across Asia as the trial unfolded in the crucial early years of the Cold War, from China’s descent into civil war to Japan’s successful postwar democratic elections to India’s independence and partition.

From the author of the acclaimed The Blood Telegram, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, this magnificent history is the product of a decade of research and writing. Judgment at Tokyo is a riveting story of wartime action, dramatic courtroom battles, and the epic formative years that set the stage for the Asian postwar era.

About the Author

GARY J. BASS is the author of The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction and won the Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bernard Schwartz Book Award from the Asia Society, the Cundill Prize in Historical Literature, and the Lionel Gelber Prize, among other awards. He is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. His previous books are Freedom’s Battle and Stay the Hand of Vengeance. A former reporter for The Economist, Bass writes often for The New York Timesand has written for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.

Praise For…


“Exhaustive and fascinating. . . . Placing the trial firmly in the context of colonialism, racial attitudes, the Cold War, and post-colonial Asian politics, Bass argues, quite rightly, that the trial ‘reveals some of the reasons why a liberal international order has not emerged in Asia.’ . . . Bass is right to keep returning to the question of race.”
—Ian Buruma, The New Yorker

“Comprehensive, landmark and riveting. . . . Bass employs the complexities of the trial as a fulcrum to sketch a wide canvas. . . . Fascinating.”
—Robert D. Kaplan, The Washington Post

“Magnificent. . . . Profound. . . . Judgment at Tokyo encourages a deeper understanding of the Asian experience. . . . Bass has deeply studied the intersection of human rights ideals and politics; a past life in journalism . . . brings clarity and sparkle to his text. Judgment at Tokyo is written with the gravity the topic deserves, yet with winks of wit. . . . Vivid. . . . His contribution extends far beyond Tokyo in the 1940s, shedding light on an enduring debate.”
—Jennifer Lind, Foreign Affairs

“Powerful. . . . Judgment at Tokyo is meticulously researched, and Mr. Bass tells the story in crisp and compelling fashion. . . . Mr. Bass crosscuts neatly between the tribunal and the events leading up to it. . . . The book also carries relevance for the current moment.”
—Tom Nagorski, The Wall Street Journal

“This comprehensive treatment of the prosecution of Japanese war crimes after World War II is an elegantly written and immersive account of a moment that shaped not just the politics of the region, but of the Cold War to come.”
The New York Times, 100 Notable Books of 2023

“A massive, magisterial account. . . . Bass is a marvelous writer. He has a sharp, clear eye for telling detail. . . . Readers will learn a great deal about a fascinating time that saw the collapse of Western empire in the Far East, the rise of Communist China, and the astonishing birth of a modern, peaceful, democratic Japan.”
—Evan Thomas, Air Mail

“Elegantly written and comprehensive. . . . It is written with the panache of a journalist who knows how to pace a scene. . . . Dramatic.”
The New York Times Book Review
“A riveting account of this lesser-known piece of Asian history . . . . Through his vivid storytelling, he . . . exposes the dilemma between idealism and pragmatism.”

“A meticulously researched history. . . . Mr Bass’s assertion that the tribunal’s failure played an important and largely negative role in the making of modern Asia is true.”
The Economist

“Captivating. . . . Insightful. . . . A scrupulous and comprehensive account.”
The Japan Times

“Gary Bass has written nothing less than a masterpiece. With epic research and mesmerizing narrative power, Judgment at Tokyo has the makings of an instant classic on China, Japan, and beyond. It reads as if Robert Caro unleashed his powers of historical illumination on the moral questions that drive Asia’s volatility today.”
—Evan Osnos, National Book Award–winning author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

“Gary Bass sets for himself a hugely ambitious goal: to tell the astonishing story of the Tokyo trial while placing the courtroom drama in the broader Asian and world history. He succeeds marvelously. Judgment at Tokyo is a vivid and meticulously crafted account, rich in detail, fair-minded, superbly nuanced. An indispensable book for understanding a key historical moment, one with resonances down to our present day.”
—Fredrik Logevall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam

“In this superb, beautifully written work of transnational history, Gary Bass uses the Tokyo trial to illuminate the making of the modern world. Based on a staggering amount of archival research, the book provides rich insights into the origins of the Cold War, the emergence of postcolonial China and India, the rebuilding of Japan, and the waning of European imperialism.”
—Ramachandra Guha, author of Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World 

“To understand the dynamics of post–World War II Asia, Judgment at Tokyo is fascinating, essential reading. Bass tells the story through vivid portraits of the participants—Chinese, Japanese, American, British, Indian, Filipino, among others—producing an elegantly written and deeply researched history of an underreported chapter.”
—Barbara Demick, Baillie Gifford Prize–winning author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Judgment at Tokyo is a work of singular importance—one that manages to be balanced, original, human, accessible, and riveting. It is of huge relevance to our times in the search for a decent place for ideas about justice in a world of double standards and patent hypocrisies.”
—Philippe Sands, Baillie Gifford Prize–winning author of East West Street

“A remarkable achievement from Gary Bass—smart and analytical, told at a high intellectual altitude, while narrated in gripping fashion. This is history that matters, asking big questions about justice for the crimes of World War II while presenting a cast of fascinating characters.”
—Susan Glasser, coauthor of The Divider

"Deeply researched. . . . Bass turns our focus to the negotiations in Japan after World War II. A sweeping two-year drama in and of itself, the trial also created conditions that continue to reverberate throughout Asia." 
The Washington Post

“A monumental history. . . . An authoritative account. . . . A towering work of research resurrects a pivotal moment in history.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Impressive. . . . Bass astounds with his ability to tie so many complex narratives together. This is a clear-eyed look at a pivotal period in world history."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Magisterial. . . . A massive history that captures a pivotal moment in Asian history.”
Library Journal
Product Details
ISBN: 9781101947104
ISBN-10: 1101947101
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: October 17th, 2023
Pages: 912
Language: English