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A Boy Called H: A Childhood in Wartime Japan (Kan Yamaguchi Series) [Paperback]

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Item description for A Boy Called H: A Childhood in Wartime Japan (Kan Yamaguchi Series) by John Bester Kappa Senoh...

This is the fascinating true story of a Japanese boy's growing disillusionment with the conduct of a patriotic war.

Boy H's father was a tailor, his mother a tambourine-banging Christian in a country of very few Christians. His childhood unfolded in the 1930s, when militarism was steadily strengthening its grip on Japan; it ended when the nation lay in ruins. What set H apart from other kids, despite the shared preoccupation with schoolmates, movies, and sex, was an unusually sharp eye and a precociously skeptical attitude that made him a bit of a loner in a conformist society.

Though at times dark, his anecdotes are arranged with the lightest of touches and a sharp sense of humor. The total effect is of a rich, varied, and intensely readable novel, but one that involves real lives, actual events.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   536
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.92" Width: 6.06" Height: 1.72"
Weight:   2.12 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 14, 2003
Publisher   Kodansha International
ISBN  4770029357  
ISBN13  9784770029355  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Authors
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Family & Childhood
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > General
5Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Memoirs
6Books > Subjects > History > Asia > Japan
7Books > Subjects > History > Military > World War II > General

Reviews - What do customers think about A Boy Called H: A Childhood in Wartime Japan (Kan Yamaguchi Series)?

Fictionalized, but educational  Jun 3, 2007
"A Boy Called H" may just be fiction based on author Senoh's life, but it carries a revealing look at what was going on in Japan during WWII. It is an engaging story of an adventurous, curious and intelligent young boy doing his best to survive, and it is much more enjoyable to read than a dry scholarly publication. It is best read knowingly, understanding that there are truths within the fiction - truths that I would venture many people are unaware of. Even today it is important for all of us to understand how a government can take its people into a war that they never voted for and persuade them to believe it is for a just cause.
Yes, this book was proven a sort of forgery in Japan  Feb 2, 2004
I warrant the quality of Hitoshi Noguchi,MD's Review. It is also good summary of the criticisms in Japan.
In Japan, this book was proven a forgery  Jun 1, 2003
I am very sorry to rain on the parade, but this book, a one time best seller in Japan, was almost immediately proven to be a forgery. A young boy comments on Japanese wartime policy and deplomatic decisions that were not known to the public at the time. The events were taken out of an almanac in chronological order and fictionalised without any consideration as to when the Japanese public learned about it or what information they had at the time to base their opinions on. In reality, a boy like H could not have existed simply because he could not have known, and consequently could not have felt, the things he did. This is a beautified account by a leftist who would like to believe - and would like the reader to believe - that he had been a pacifist from the very begining.
Even if you've never been to Kobe, Japan...  Aug 31, 2001
you should still read this book. John Bester did a fantastic job of preserving the nuances of the original story and translating the Japanese into easily-readable English.

The story is of H, the son of a tailor of Western-style suits and his bible-thumping, God-loving wife. Right away you know, that this isn't the story of an ordinary 1940's Japanese family. The author weaves some marvelous threads in creating this story so that we see the many sides of H. We find a character who is aloof but entirely likeable. The reader can immediately relate to his individuality. This story is not meant to be an historical account of the atrocities of war. It is merely an exploration into the life of a young boy during an extremely difficult time. Enjoy it for what it is. The author speaks very kindly of the Americans and the anecdotes are hilarious.

The quality of the storytelling is so good, that you forget that this is the debut novel of a 65 year old man who paints screens plays. The book reads as if a ten-year old H is standing there reading it aloud next to you. Senoh has an amazing memory to be able to recall all of the anecdotes.

I hope other foreign residents of Japan enjoy this as much as I did.

A beautiful insight into life in wartime Japan  Dec 21, 2000
I enjoyed this book so much that after reading a public library copy I ordered a copy for my personal library. (Although the book is self-described as autobiographical fiction, the library had it housed in the biography section.) The 50 chapters are very short, perfect for pre-bedtime reading, and the writing is simply enough that I would imagine that many young teens could enjoy it as well. H is not always a likeable character - he can be obnoxious and quite selfish at times. But he is also bright, perceptive, and frequently winds up doing the right thing in spite of himself.

Written from the viewpoint of a young boy growing up in wartime Japan, criticism that the book doesn't address the atrocities committed by the Japanese military throughout Asia doesn't make much sense as the Japanese government hid these events (as well as its military defeats and appalling casualty rates) from its people even more than it tried to hide them from the world. The book is obviously critical of the leadership that persisted in pursuing a war that could have resulted in the virtual annihilation of the Japanese people and amazingly forgiving of an enemy that intentionally killed, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians through strafings, fire-bombings and, of course, the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"A Boy Called H" is an entertaining companion piece to Kiyoshi Kiyosawa's "A Diary of Darkness" and Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook's "Japan At War: An Oral History." (I would also recommend Yukio Mishima's classic "Confessions of a Mask" - a superb novel about a schoolage boy in wartime Japan.) Books like these help us to remember to put a human face on our enemies, past and present. When we bomb civilian centers we are not killing a faceless entity called "the enemy" - we are killing men, women and children, most of whom are just going about their daily lives trying to survive.


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