"Gripping history, offering both drama and suspense." —Wall Street Journal
A riveting, behind-the-scenes account of the personalities and contending forces in Tokyo during the volatile decade that led to World War II, as seen through the eyes of the American ambassador who attempted to stop the slide to war.
In 1932, Japan was in crisis. Naval officers had assassinated the prime minister and conspiracies flourished. The military had a stranglehold on the government. War with Russia loomed, and propaganda campaigns swept the country, urging schoolchildren to give money to procure planes and tanks.
Into this maelstrom stepped Joseph C. Grew, America’s most experienced and talented diplomat. When Grew was appointed ambassador to Japan, not only was the country in turmoil, its relationship with America was rapidly deteriorating. For the next decade, Grew attempted to warn American leaders about the risks of Japan’s raging nationalism and rising militarism, while also trying to stabilize Tokyo’s increasingly erratic and volatile foreign policy. From domestic terrorism by Japanese extremists to the global rise of Hitler and the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor, the events that unfolded during Grew’s tenure proved to be pivotal for Japan, and for the world. His dispatches from the darkening heart of the Japanese empire would prove prescient—for his time, and for our own.
Drawing on Grew’s diary of his time in Tokyo as well as U.S. embassy correspondence, diplomatic dispatches, and firsthand Japanese accounts, Our Man in Tokyo brings to life a man who risked everything to avert another world war, the country where he staked it all—and the abyss that swallowed it.
About the Author
Steve Kemper is a journalist and the author of A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa, A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham, and Code Name Ginger. He has written for Smithsonian, National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Wall Street Journal, Yankee, National Wildlife, The Ecologist, Plenty, BBC Wildlife, and many other magazines and newspapers. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.
"Our Man in Tokyo is meticulously researched, and Mr. Kemper mines Grew's diaries and other primary sources to great effect. . . . It is gripping history, offering both drama and suspense, even when we all know how the story will end."
— Wall Street Journal
"Expertly marshaled from Grew’s diaries and reports, this is a poignant and profound look at diplomacy in action." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“As the US ambassador to Putin’s Russia in the run-up to their first invasion of Ukraine, I found Our Man in Tokyo eerily familiar. Kemper’s book is the essential history of an ambassador’s efforts to preserve peace prior to World War II—a must-read if we’re to learn from history and avoid repeating it.” — Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia and New York Times bestselling author of From Cold War to Hot Peace
“Richly detailed narrative . . . . compelling . . . . A fine account of an American diplomat who did his best to contain Japanese ambitions in the run-up to World War II.” — Kirkus Reviews
"Steve Kemper’s splendid portrait of the American ambassador to Japan during the lead-up to World War II will be of interest to a wide range of history lovers." — BookPage (starred review)
"An insightful and highly readable account of the lead up to Pearl Harbor. ... Excellent. ... Has a relevance to contemporary times that is most intriguing and gives the book an added value.” — Roman Popadiuk, president of the Diplomacy Center Foundation and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in The Cipher Brief (rated 4 out of 4 "trench coats")
"An enthralling, meticulous account of the events leading up to Pearl Harbor. Ambassador Joseph Grew, my grandfather, dedicated ten years to searching for diplomatic solutions in Japan. Steve Kemper’s book honors this extraordinary man, with intriguing parallels to current events at home and abroad. It moved me deeply." — Lilla Lyon, granddaughter of Ambassador Joseph Grew
"Engaging." — Japan Times
"Great biographies are about more than the subject, they are about the subject's times. And even about our times. On this, Kemper succeeds unequivocally." — Wendell Jamieson, Book & Film Globe