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Book reviews for "Yoshimura,_Akira" sorted by average review score:

Build the Musashi: The Birth and Death of the World's Greatest Battleship
Published in Hardcover by Kodansha International (1992)
Authors: Akira Yoshimura and Vincent Murphy
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This book has been reprinted with the new title: Battleship Musashi, The Making and Sinking of the World's Biggest Battleship.

If I could give this book more than five stars, I would!
This is one of my favorite books on one of these behemoths. Before reading this book, I had very little information on the Musashi, except that which I could gather up from other books I have read. This is one of the best.

Outstanding insight into secret construction of a behemoth!
This is an easily readable, attention-holding account of the secret construction of one of the three largest ships ever built up to 1944. The author gives detailed insight into the naval architects, the naval commanders, shipyard workers, and ship's personnel who planned, built, commanded, and lived in the Musashi. Central to this story is the incredible extent the Japanese went to in order to hide the battleship's existence from the outside world. Monumental camoflage efforts, security procedures, and clandestine actions fill the chapters. Detailed descriptions are provided on the technical aspects of building and launching a 68,000 hunk of steel carrying the largest (18.1" dia. shells) naval guns in the world. The political infighting amongst the Japanese military factions in developing the strategies to use the Musashi and her two sisters, Yamato and Shinano (converted to an aircraft carrier) is covered quite well. Photographs and descriptions of the Musashi's combat employment and eventual sinking by an overwhelming amount of ordnance in the Sibuyan Sea in October 1944 are well done and clearly constructed. This book is a fast-reading saga which gives us a fascinating picture of a determined people and the pride they placed in creating a magnificent seagoing monument to the last of the Japanese warrior empire.

On Parole
Published in Paperback by Harvest Books (2000)
Author: Akira Yoshimura
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Clever, vision through the eyes of a Japanese man
Akira Yoshimura tells a clever and detailed tail of a man who becomes paroled from a life prision sentence and now must learn to reconnect with the outside world. Yoshimura lets the reader ponder and wait through many pages before you find out why this seemingly gentle mannered former school teacher named Kikutani obtained a life sentence in prison. I enjoyed this element of suspense and found it continued throughout the book making it not only clever but compelling. Certainly, knowing that this book is a japanese translation, you still get a distinct flavor not only for the author and his style but the japanese culture through the eyes of Kikutani. Kikutani is a character that the reader neither totally likes nor dislikes. The story unfolds through his experience reintegrating his life back into society. His fears are sometimes suprising. And, I wonder if the severe embarrassment of his crime and punishment is enhanced by the japanese culture itself and the distinct element of privacy. The attention to detail lets the reader explore this culture through Kikutani's eyes. We see his transformation in the story including the reader's almost shocking discovery that he has absolutely no remourse for his crime. All this leads to a very satisfying ending only because it fits with the story. Yoshimura is one of the premier authors in Japan, which attracted me to this book, and this is an excellent sample of his work, which is precise, detailed, clever and distinctive.

To Hell and Back
An absolutely riveting read. Once you start it, you'll find it hard to put down, the story of a man serving life in prison for killing his wife and mother-in-law in a fit of jealous rage. Paroled, he slowly begins to resume his life, first by finding a job, then by finding his own place and finally by meeting a woman. And therein lies the tragedy. It's a haunting book that stays with you months after you've read it.

Excellent study of freedom and constraints
This is a story of a man paroled from an indefinite sentence for a double murder - a man who is driven by fear and revulsion but whose only sense of guilt is in his inability to feel guilt.

The novel begins on his first night on parole; it slowly reveals his past, his slow adjustment to the freedom from prison and the burden of life-long parole, his tentative reaching out for relationships with other humans ...

The story is well-written in a slow pace that matches the adjustment to a world outside prison quite unlike the world at the time of his imprisonment. The joy of the book is in the details - the seeming heaviness of shoes after years of prison canvas shoes, the steaming miso after years of soup cooled before it reached your cell. Through these details the author provides a psychological novel exploring guilt, redemption, freedom, restriction, social ties ....

This book is well worth reading, well worth a thoughtful reading.

Published in Paperback by Harvest Books (2000)
Author: Akira Yoshimura
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A Chilling Irony Strikes the Heart of a Japanese Village
Languid, beautifully ascetic prose tells the story of a young boy's coming of age in an extremely poor fishing village on the medieval Japanese coastline. Isaku [9] is primed to take over as head of the household after his father sells himself into indentured servitude in a neighboring village. This wonderfully crafted snapshot of an ancient lifestyle tells of his slowly developing fishing techniques, his interaction with his mother and siblings, and his later attempts at wooing a village girl. Surviving always on the brink of starvation, the village has for centuries employed a technique of luring and beaching passing ships to supplement their staples. Once the ships have had their bottoms ripped by the rocks, the villagers kill the remaining crew and dismantle and disseminate the ship skeleton and its cargo [rice, wine, sugar, etc.]. One good size 'haul' of this type would last a family many years. Like the reader, Isaku is gradually introduced to the various methodologies employed in the creation of the salt fires which lure the ships during stormy nights. The novel spans the three years of the fathers servitude and presents the unvarying, but vitally important changes of the season which bring their own seafood type and technique for capture. This translation's writing matches the sparseness of the village, presenting itself with the stark beauty of a crashing Japanese reef. One certainly gets lost in the wonderful descriptions of this far-away time and place. Conflict arrives at the hind end of this novel in a whirlwind conclusion, the abrupt finality mirroring anguish and despondency in the reader as well as Isaku. A very intriguing and recommended read.

When is a Crime Not a Crime?
Shipwrecks is a tale of a town's destruction told through one resident's eyes. The witness in Yoshimura's novel is Isaku, who, at the beginning of the book is only a nine year old boy. His small fishing village is balancing precariously between a meager life and death by starvation. Family by family, the inhabitants stave off total collapse only through selling their individual kin into slavery in the town across the mountains.

After Isaku's father has been removed from the home in just such an arrangement, the boy continues to live with his mother and younger brother and sister, Isokichi and Kane. The story is, in some ways, the tale of Isaku's loss of innocence as he attempts to fulfill the duties of head of the household--fishing for saury and sardines and octopus and squid, and, most importantly, tending the salt cauldrons. For Isaku, this represents a confirmation of his own maturation, for the salt cauldrons are of prime importance to the town and its people.

A naïve boy, Isaku comes to learn that, in addition to boiling the salt out of sea water to sell, the fires on shore serve another, more sinister, purpose--that of luring unsuspecting trading ships onto the reef. The village calls it O-fune-sama and sees it--the destruction of those ships and the subsequent murder of their sailors, as a gift from the gods, no different from any other harvest, such as rice and pottery, cloth and utensils. Far from being a crime, what the villagers are now engaged in nourishes the small town and keeps it from dying.

Even as Isaku learns about the inherent risks--specifically those of luring clan ships to ruin instead of trading ships--O-fune-sama is never questioned: it is a necessity and a customary part of the yearly cycle; there is no moral question to be answered...other than the town's quiet acknowledgment that no one beyond the village must know.

In this small book, time unfolds at a leisurly, but disquieting, pace. There is a quiet passing of the seasons in which normalcy seems to prevail: couples wed, children are born, elderly persons die. As Isaku's father is not due to return for years, a routine finally settles in and it is time to fish for saury, then squid, then octopus. And, when the trade ships are running again, it is time for O-fune-sama.

One year, however, the inevitable happens and there is retribution for the town's crimes.

Shipwrecks is a horrifying and tragic book that unfolds slowly and deliberately. Because the village situation is grim and its needs are clear, Isaku's grasp of the situation is understandable; the reader can definitely sympathize...and empathize. And this is what makes the inevitable punishment so personally tragic and sad, yet so very morally justified.

A Beautiful, Simply-Written, Suspenseful Tale
I wont giveaway the story, and I'm glad I had not read the other reviews before reading this as I feel they gave away far too much of the story.
Transport yourself to a medieval Japanese fishing village, and experience the life of Isaku with his family and fellow villagers over a period of 3 years. The tale is filled with ironies - a land that sounds like paradise yet the people living here are in constant struggle with poverty and starvation; shipwrecks that bring bounty and joy to the people yet they live in fear of being discovered; and the final outcome of a blessed shipwreck that washes in to their shore....

The author does not make any judgements nor does he describe in detail the emotions of these villagers in their plight. Rather, the reader is left to imagine a riot of emotions - empathy, horror, and.. hope.

I couldn't put this book down.
I cannot wait to read Yoshimura's other works.

One Man's Justice
Published in Hardcover by Harcourt (03 August, 2001)
Authors: Akira Yoshimura and Mark Ealey
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...aka The Fugitive
PUBLISHED IN JAPAN in 1978, this is the third of Yoshimura's provocative novels to appear in translation. Set over the decade following the end of WWII (and with flashbacks to the final days of the war), the novel explores themes of patriotism and war though Kiyohara Takuya, a Japanese officer on the run from occupying American forces. He is wanted as a war criminal for his role in the execution of American POWs in the waning days of the war. The story is a fairly gripping "The Fugitive"-like story, as he tries to figure out who he can trust and what part of Japanese society he can hide himself in. As he tries to survive while staying anonymous, the hardships of postwar Japan are vividly evoked, especially the specter of starvation. All the while Takuya watches the newspapers for stories on war criminals and any former comrades.

The book is apparently based on historical incidents-a number of flashback sequences detail the ordering of executions by high-ranking officers. What American readers might find unsettling however, is the rationale for the executions, that the bomber crews were deliberately targeting civilians, and thus not subject to POW rules of treatment. Indeed, while the Allied firebombing of Dresden is well known, the firebombings of Japanese cities are relatively forgotten episodes of the war which Yoshimura plainly seeks to remind the reader of. The atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are portrayed as massive exclamation points on the indiscriminate bombings, and it becomes disturbingly easy to understand the retaliatory executions. At times the prose gets a little wooden, especially over a few pages that list the numbers of bomber sorties and subsequent casualties, but on the whole the sparse style perfectly captures Takuya's internal terror. In the end, the true subjectivity and relativity of justice are exposed.

Battleship Musashi: The Making and Sinking of the World's Biggest Battleship
Published in Paperback by Kodansha International (1999)
Authors: Akira Yoshimura and Vincent Murphy
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What is the subject of this book?
This is an awful book; after reading it I kept wondering what it is supposed to be about. It is for sure not about the building of the Musashi, nor about the fighting and sinking of the ship, nor about her design, nor about her crew, nor about anything else; the only way I can describe it is a chronological collection of random unexplained details. One even wonders why the Musashi: according to the book itself the identical Yamato was build first and better records exist. I particularly enjojed the "technical drawings": the best is 5, I am not kidding, 5 plan views of a 700 odd feet of battleship reduced to one 5x8 inch page, with legends in Japanese! (actually I am not sure, but they look to me like Japanese). Maybe the title of the book should have been "Musashi still in hiding". The consistent effort made by the Imperial Japanese Navy to hide the existence of the ship - which is the only is coherent message that comes from the book - cannot be an excuse; the technique for writing non-fiction about something that is not known is well established: one writes about similar, parallel, or otherwise related facts that are known. "Into the wild" and "The perfect storm" are examples that come to mind. One could at least speculate about the secrecy: it seems to me that the normal thing is to hide one's own weak points, and exaggerate the strong ones: so why hide the existence of the ship(s)? Was everything in pre-war Japan kept secret? only ships? why? was it good or bad in retrospect? Maybe the author is planning a sequel, "Everything you wanted to ask after reading my previous book about the Musashi".

Number Two Battleship
If you are interested in the detailed minutiae of how battleships were designed and built in the Second World War, this is not the book to buy. Actual technical description is quite sparse and that's not really what this book is about. What it does, very well indeed, is to detail the appalling human cost that went into the creation of this beautiful, useless ship. The story is one of occasional horror and frequent farce.

Musashi was built in the Mitsubishi shipyard at Nagasaki, a town which in the late 1930s had a substantial Chinese community. When it was decided to award the construction contract to the Mitsubishi yard, the Japanese secret police's paranoia was so great that they moved into Nagasaki's Chinatown and more or less destroyed it in a night. They arrested almost every inhabitant and - while they were about it, so to speak - beat several of them to death for being suspiciously Chinese.

The shipyard was overlooked by hills; Japanese secret police would hide in those hills arresting and torturing any hill-walkers or ramblers thought to be paying too much attention to the view towards the shipyard below. Anyone hillwalking around Nagasaki had to face the land at all times, or else. The police did this even though nothing could actually be seen of the shipyard - because the shipbuilders, as well as building the world's largest battleship, were doing so behind the world's largest sisal-rope curtain. This weighed 400 tons and used up almost the entire sisal-rope output of Japan, driving the price to ludicrous heights and creating another security problem in that people might start asking what the Navy needed all that sisal-rope for....

At one point in the construction, a blueprint of part of the turret ring was accidentally incinerated; assumed stolen, the builders were facing liquidation as spies by the secret police when its true fate came to light.

And so it goes on. The ship itself feels like a metaphor rather than a real entity; one has little impression of her other than as a vast, brooding presence, doomed by our foreknowledge of her fate. The ship is oddly anonymous, not least because the builders were not allowed even to know her name. Farcically, when she was launched, the dignitary involved mumbled it inaudibly into his hand so the people building her would not find out the real name of "Number Two Battleship"! Nor were they allowed to pool experience with the builders of Number One or Number Three Battleship, although they did learn the ominous news that the latter was to be completed as an aircraft carrier.

No such useful fate for Musashi. The launch itself was a fraught operation; never having launched anything so huge before, there was concern that she might go careering uncontrollably across the channel and beach herself catastrophically on the opposite shore, so a raft had to be specially built and moored opposite the slipway. This way, Number Two Battleship would have something softer than the shore to crash into if such a thing happened.

It didn't, of course, and off went Musashi to battle - or rather to war, to idle at Truk, to Lingga Roads, and other anchorages, for she only ever saw one battle. And even that was a battle against aircraft, to be sunk with contemptuous ease. She absorbed tremendous damage, but her anti-aircraft armament - 251 weapons, according to Januscz Skulski (in "The Battleship Yamato") - proved pitifully ineffective.

Japan was always, after all, going to run out of battleships before America ran out of torpedoes. This book tells the story of perhaps the only unequivocally successful aspect of Musashi's career - the effort to keep her secret. The Americans never suspected Musashi's existence until they sank her; the point of her existence, arguably, remains a mystery to this day.


OK by me
Since I am not interested in technical engineering details of the construction of ships, I did not mind that almost all the information on this subject was confined to a few diagrams. I enjoyed the discussion of the secrecy aspects of the construction. The only negatives for me were the rather brief summary of the sinking, and the failure to put the Musashi's mission at that time into a broader strategic framework.

Zero Fighter
Published in Hardcover by Praeger Publishers (1996)
Author: Akira Yoshimura
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Some accurate detailed history,some hype,not well translated
I have to admit to reading this entire treatise. This book reviews the history of the development of the WWII military aviation technology of Japan. There is much detailed credit and history of this sort recanted. When it comes to the exploits of the Zero, the author appears to go by the hyped up press releases of the Japanese of the time, and the usual reference to the allies attaches adjectives of "terrified", and "horrified", to the degree that it is obvious and insulting. Frequently, the translation is so course that it reads like a cheap VCR manual, but often it is clear that the writing was just poorly organized and disjointed.

Lighting the Way
The book Zero Fighter is about the hard work it took to build the Type 96 land-based torpedo bomber and the Zero fighter and the impact they made on the world. The book starts off telling the reader how the fighter planes were transported by oxcart from the construction yard to the airfield. This book made me realize the amount of researching and planning that goes into the creation of a plane. This book explains the steps Japan went through to try to take over the Pacific. I've learned things about World War II and some of the things that Japan had gone through to fight the U.S. It was hard to get into some parts of the book but, overall, I think it was a pretty good book. You should get it.

a book with many flaws, but still interesting
The first 5 pages of the book are the best. The contrast of a sophisticated new fighter plane being transported to the airfield for its maiden flight on two oxcarts is beautifully described. Unfortunately, the book goes downhill from there. The author seems too emotional about the A5M and A6M fighters. He describes them as the best and fastest fighters in the world. "Best" is arguable, but "fastest" is not. For instance, in 1939 the Messerschmitt Bf109E and Spitfire I were clearly faster than the A6M2 Zero was in 1940. The translation is awful. It seems to have been carried out in two stages by a Japanese and by a native English speaker. The latter was obviously unfamiliar with standard technical terms. For instance, he refers to "7.7 millimeter aperture" instead of "7.7 caliber" machine guns. A particularly funny error was the statement that the "German" F3F was the standard fighter in the U.S. Navy at some point; it was actually the Grumman F3F. On the political/historical side, I found it interesting that the author correctly pointed out that Japan was forced into an impossible situation in 1941 by the embargo of raw materials by Great Britain, the Netherlands and the United States, and that this led to Japan's attacks on Pearl Harbor, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. However, the author glosses over the fact that the reason for the embargo was Japan's brutal aggression against China, a war that according to the author just ... "happened". He paints the Japanese government as eager to stop the war against China, and complains that no agreement could be reached with the Chinese because the Western powers were supplying weapons to them. I don't know if views such as these are common in Japan today. If they are, this would contribute to explain why so many Asian countries are unhappy with Japan's lack of acknowledgement of responsibilities in regard to WW2.

Bajo Palabra
Published in Paperback by Emece Editores (2002)
Author: Akira Yoshimura
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Mamiya Rinzo
Published in Unknown Binding by Kåodansha, Shåowa 57 [1982] ()
Author: Akira Yoshimura
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