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Lewis Lapham: Pearl Harbor Attack Cheered by Japanese

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Lewis Lapham
Lewis Lapham, of "Lapham's Quarterly." Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- After three years, the war with China was taking a toll -- by 1940 the Japanese people were suffering.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

“Luxury Is the Enemy” proclaimed signs in Tokyo, department stores had a one-item-per-customer policy while dance halls and jazz performances became illegal.

Citizens had to use ration coupons, and even the best restaurants in Tokyo were serving cheap imported rice, or “mouse poops” as it was known to dissatisfied diners.

Then came news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The country erupted into euphoria, with many rushing to the Imperial Palace to fall prostrate and thank the emperor for his divine guidance.

Poet Saito Mokichi confided to his diary: “The red blood of my old age is now bursting with life!”

I spoke with Eri Hotta, author of “Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy” on the following topics:

1. Unwinnable War.

2. No One Responsible.

3. Divided Government.

4. Alliances in Europe.

5. Pearl Harbor.

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg on NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on movies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lewis Lapham in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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