The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II assesses the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also called the Tokyo Trial. Author Yuma Totani calls the trials a “victors’ Justice” and mainly accuses and charges the Japanese with the “planning and execution of aggressive war in the Asia-Pacific region.”1 Throughout the book, Totani reveals the historical intricacies surrounding the trials by splitting the book into three main topics: Hirohito, the Emperor of Japan; analysis of the trial; and IMTFE justice Radhabinod Pal’s dissenting opinion. However Totani uses a great amount of detailed evidence throughout the book to support these three main ideas. Totani also displays her point of view, a completely different perspective of the Tokyo trials, and also shows how they contributed to today’s international humanitarian laws. Although Totani is not without bias, she does a first-rate job in keeping her writing relatively objective. Totani goes into great detail and has in depth analysis and explanations throughout the book, which greatly helps the reader follow along and understand an otherwise complicated subject. Through her book Totani is able to tap into under examined sources and misunderstandings of the Tokyo war crimes trial that have persisted until the present day. In the introduction, Totani explains why she brings up the subject of the Tokyo Trials now. Totani “regards the Tokyo trials as a focal point of the remembrance of World War II.”2 Totani also explains and informs the reader about the trials and how they were actually run contrary to popular belief. There is a great amount of detail regarding the underlying structures and intricacies of the trials. Totani takes the time to introduce the important and key figures of the Tokyo trials and their role in it. An example would be in General Douglas Macarthur’s decision of whether or not Emperor Hirohito would stand trial. There's also background information given on the topic of how the trials became to be after the surrender of Japanese in World War II. She also explains that the work taken to create the Supreme Court for the trials, the translators for the trials, and to start the trials were major cornerstones for the two and a half year trials which makes the Tokyo war crimes trial was one of the longest trials to date. After locating the site of where the trials were to be held, the whole area was renovated to accommodate the trials including fifty separate special war crimes courts. The Tokyo trial featured a multinational panel from “eleven countries [that] sent judges and prosecutors to the Tokyo trial,”3 including Australia, Britain, Canada, China (the Republic of China), France, India, Netherlands, Philippines, Soviet Union, and the United States of America. Totani states that the presence of all these countries gave the trials a feel of fairness. However, there were still mishandlings by some of the lawyers present at the trials. Prosecutors and defense attorneys often got in squabbles with each other. In chapter three, Tojo and Other Suspects, Totani goes into great detail regarding Emperor Hirohito and the fortieth prime minister of Japan and General of the imperial Japanese army, Hideki Tojo. Totani brings up how the decision of whether or not Emperor Hirohito should stand trial was made. Contrary to popular belief, she argues that it was not MacArthur who made the decision, nor was it the Australians. Totani states that MacArthur was obeying the government and not making his own decisions; he “personally gave his government recommendations regarding the trial of Hirohito.”4 Many historians argue on whether it was in fact MacArthur’s own decision but Totani “believes that MacArthur made the decision to grant Hirohito immunity. Yet his own words... show that he deferred the issue of Hirohito's culpability to a higher authority.”5 Totani emphasizes and strongly relays her idea over to the reader throughout this book. In chapter four, Narrative of the War, Totani analyses the other nations who are involved in the Tokyo trials. However, even with the involvement of other nations the trials continued to revolve around Japan and USA. With intensity rising during the trials, lawyers, defendants, and prosecutors were screaming at each other in their native language causing burst of chaos. “Japanese defense lawyers, remembered... Fihelly... saying Keenan you fool (in Japanese).”6 Keenan was the chief prosecutor of the Tokyo trials and was the one who cross examined Tojo Hideki with Fihelly. After passing the halfway mark of the book Totani changes the subject once again to the analysis of the Tokyo trials. Totani goes into a deep and thorough analysis of the Tokyo war crimes trial to get into all the details and expose everything. She is doing this because her purpose in writing the book is to uncover any misunderstandings or new and revealing intricacies regarding the Tokyo war crimes trial. Totani also continues to talk about the role that the other countries played in the trial and how important they were to the Tokyo war crimes trial. The tribunal faced another problem about whether or not it could prove that Japan committed a crime against peace. These types of legal opinions also happened to pop up in the Nuremberg trials. “Could the entry of Japanese troops in the French territory be proof of a crime against peace even though they did not launch armed attacks?”7 was the question that the IMT at Nuremberg and the IMTFE both faced. The Japanese were also facing charges for their “crimes against humanity”8. Totani also brings up the Rape of Nanking and other atrocities by the Japanese, such as the Burma-Siam Death Railway. Because of these horrendous, actions the Chinese prosecution team was driven by a desire for revenge and made those atrocities the centerpiece of their presentation on war crimes. In the last few chapters of the book Totani Mainly talks about Justice Radhabinod Pal’s dissenting opinion which is considered by some the downfall of the book because of its lack of supporting detail and evidence. Justice Pal, the Indian member of the Tokyo Tribunal’s Supreme Court is cited for his dissenting opinion. “Pal was unique in that he disagreed with virtually all of the finding made by the majority judges.”9 Pal’s final verdict was the acquittal of each and every defendant on all charges, and this was the highly unusual opinion that the caught the public’s attention. This became known as Pal’s dissenting opinion. He was the only justice that believed the every defendant was not guilty of any of the crimes. Pal was always not on the same page with the other justices, and “for war crimes, Pal again disagreed with the majority judges.”10 The Japanese were “both fascinated and puzzled by the Indian judge’s dissenting opinion”11 Totani continues to endlessly talk about Pal and also about his personal life. She has been criticized for this part of the book for continuing endlessly about Pal without giving us insight on why he made his decisions. However, she tries to assess Pals decision by researching his personal life and trying to see what made him make his decision. The author of this novel, Yuma Totani, talked mainly about how there aren’t any set laws on how to settle war crimes and this being a “victors’ justice. “The law criminalizing any type of war, they argued, did not exist before, during, or after World War II... [a] new law could only be deemed victors’ justice.”12 Through this point Totani argues that the Tokyo Trials were not run as smoothly as they could have been, and that there have been little misunderstanding surrounding the trials. Totani also argues that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was shown to have false power that never really existed. He took orders from the government, despite popular belief that he was the one who decided whether or not Emperor Hirohito would stand trial. Totani later splits the book into three main parts, talking about the Emperor, an analysis of the trials, and Pal’s dissenting opinion. Totani does not limit herself to only these subjects, but these are the main ideas of her book. Totani talks about other things in depth so that she can use them to support her main ideas and thesis. Totani is able to constantly remind the reader of her thesis and continuously relate back to it throughout the entire book. Yuma Totani was born and raised in Japan and received her B.A. in History of Art from International Christian University (Tokyo, Japan) in 1995 and later went on to receive her M.S. in Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1997. Totani continued to pursue her education out of her home country, Japan, and received her Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. After finishing school and studying she became a postdoctoral fellow at the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University from 2005-2006. Her research mainly focuses on the World War II Pacific-area war crimes trials. With her research she wrote her first book, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II in 2008. Her book assesses the historical significance of the Tokyo trials, the eastern counterpart to the Nuremberg trials, through analyzing the trial records. She continued to publish many articles pertaining to the Southeast Asia and pacific-area. Totani also received the Postdoctoral and Abe fellowship awards for her work on the World War II Pacific-area. She was also influenced by her Japanese heritage but did well to hide her bias. Yuma Totani wrote The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II to reveal how and to what degree the Tokyo Trials influenced us. This is also Totani’s first book, so she mainly wrote about her area of expertise, and was able to make it an enjoyable and informative read. Totani’s ability to write entertainingly and informatively is a gift that not all writers have. She has not stated a specific reason for why she wrote the book; however, she states that she is doing extensive research on under examined archives to find out the misunderstanding surrounding the Tokyo war crimes trial. Her background in the WWII pacific-area has greatly helped her research information to help write this book. Totani also wants to dispute the popular notion of “victors’ Justice,”13 in which a legal process is compromised for political, social, and ideological gain. Rowena Ward of Wollongong University in Australia wrote positively of the book in a review just a year after the book was published in 2009. Ward stated the Australian’s and General Macarthur were conflicted over the decision of whether or not the Emperor would stand trial. Ward stated that “Totani argues that General Macarthur made no such decision”14 because he did not have the power to do so in the first place. Ward also analyzes how the earlier analysts in the 1940s and 1950s influenced future analysts which had brought us to look at the trials in the way we do today. Ward believes that the weakest point of the otherwise entertaining book is in the third section of the book, about Pal’s dissenting opinion. Ward states that “she fails to explain the satisfactorily the decisions themselves or how Pal came to these decisions.”15 In another review by James J. Orr of Bucknell University, Totani’s book is compared to Richard H. Minear’s book about the trials. Orr states that Minear “approaches his subject in the context of disillusionment” and “Yuma Totani views it in the context of the evolution.”16 Although Orr writes that Totani and Minear disagree on Pal’s decision, he believes that both books will become required reading in graduate seminars. The Tokyo trials and the time after WWII cover a vast subject area. This particularly new book has very few. The book was unique in that the author has its own unique views and differed with historians on popular topics. Reviews on the book showed a lot of great positive feedback on the book and also had many different yet similar ideas about the book. What was most intriguing about the entire book was Pal’s dissenting opinion. Pal was a justice from another country, serving on the IMTFE’s Supreme Court. Pal’s opinion was has garnered much more attention than it deserved in the world of history. The decision garnered so much controversy for reasons unknown today of because Justice Pal did not give any insight on his decision to the public. Totani assesses the power of General Macarthur and how it was used, and Totani was correct in what she thought of him. MacArthur was unable to make the major decisions because he had no real power to do so in the first place. The confusing aspect regarding MacArthur is that although it seemed as if he had absolute authority, he was actually taking orders from back in Washington. Totani also goes into great detail when discussing emperor saying that the lawyers were “unable to conduct purposeful and sustained cross-examination.”17 This showed how the Emperor was harder to catch than earlier predicted. During the 1940s, WW II was raging and it ended in 1945 when Japan surrendered. Japan’s unconditional surrender in the Potsdam conference later led to army officers being charged in the Tokyo trials. This was a watershed in American history, and Totani was able to reflect this in her writing. Totani is able to show that after the Tokyo Trials and after the use of a “victors’ Justice” they developed the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL). The IHL are able to regulate events that have not been regulated by any rules in the past like the. The Tokyo war crimes trial would not be run by the victors of that war but instead would adhere to rules set by the IHL. “The Tokyo trial, in this respect marked the starting point of Japan’s confrontation with its past” 18 Watershed was a term describing the critical point or turning point of an event and this event led to the change of Japan’s view of themselves. It also brought about change in future trials with the international humanitarian laws. The Tokyo trials brought about a lasting change that changed future trials and before this the Nuremberg helped shape the Tokyo trials. The world keeps learning how to change and adapt for the better especially after the Tokyo war crimes trial. Yuma Totani’s book The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II details the time and the war trials in Japan post-WWII. It also assesses the historical significance of the Tokyo Trials and the effect that they have on us today. Totani was able to uncover and show us the real truth surrounding the Tokyo Trials and the interesting facts about it. This book is a perfect read that provides a different perspective on the Trials and encourages new examination of it from a legal and political perspective.
Endnotes 1. Totani, Yuma. The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II. Harvard East Asian monographs. 1 2. Totani, Yuma. 1 3. Totani, Yuma. 10 4. Totani, Yuma. 57 5. Totani, Yuma. 57 6. Totani, Yuma. 39 7. Totani, Yuma. 94 8. Totani, Yuma. 101 9. Totani, Yuma. 218 10. Totani, Yuma. 219 11. Totani, Yuma. 222 12. Totani, Yuma. 2 13. Totani, Yuma. 1 14. Ward, Rowena Review of The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II 2008 digital. 1 15. Ward, Rowena. 2 16. Orr, J. James, Review of The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II 2008 digital. 1 17. Totani, Yuma. 39 18. Totani, Yuma. 2
Author’s Bio Yuma Totani, born in Japan, received her B.A. in History of Art from International Christian University of Tokyo, Japan, in 1995 and later went on to receive her M.S. in Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1997. Totani continued to pursue her education out of her home country, Japan, and received her Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005. Currently The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II is her only book so far.