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Yokohama Burning: The Deadly 1923 Earthquake…

Yokohama Burning: The Deadly 1923 Earthquake and Fire that Helped Forge…

by Joshua Hammer

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Nothing annoys me more than an overstated title. I will not dispute that the Great Kano Earthquake of 1923 "helped forge the path to World War II" just that this book does not make that case. Less than ten pages are devoted to the effect the earthquake had on the creeping fascism of 1920s Japan. The book supports how the militarists and xenophobes exploited the calamity, but the title seems a reach.

To be fair to the author it may be impossible to do much research about the Japanese victims of the disaster, but the book almost exclusively follows how the Europeans and Americans present were effected. The middle of the book, the descriptions of the quake and fire, are compelling and horrible. This is a solid, well written book, but lacks the narrative cohesion and momentum of the best nonfiction. ( )
  yeremenko | Sep 5, 2016 |
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The story of the worst natural disaster of the twentieth century: the earthquakes, fires, and tsunamis of September 1923 that destroyed Yokohama and most of Tokyo and killed 140,000 people during two days of horror. Piecing together a minute-by-minute account, journalist Hammer re-creates harrowing scenes of death, escape, and rescue. He also places the tumultuous events in the context of history and demonstrates how they set Japan on a path to even greater tragedy: the massive, American-led relief effort seemed to promise a bright new era in U.S.-Japanese relations, but, Hammer asserts, the calamity led in fact to a hardening of racist attitudes in both Japan and the United States, and drove Japan into the hands of radical militarists with imperial ambitions.--From publisher description.… (more)

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