Mini-Review: Japan's Longest Day

I was up till 2:30 last night watching "Japan's Longest Day," a 158-minute drama released in 1967 by Toho Films. I associate Toho with Godzilla movies and Samurai films, so this was a startling surprise -- a film that was not made with American viewers in mind. It covers the last 24 hours before Japan surrendered at the end of World War II. The isolated Emperor, absolute ruler -- the custom-bound bureaucrats and cabinet ministers -- and a group of crazed military officers who attempt a palace takeover to stop the Emperor from making a radio speech announcing the surrender. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are mentioned with some bleak wide-angle photos of the devastation and some horrific close-ups of charred corpses. But the government officials seem numb to the scale of the carnage, and the honor-crazed military men want to hold out for a land battle in Japan. To watch this in the present moment is signficant. We who lost a couple of buildings in 2001 and thousands of troops we send off like rent-a-cops to overseas war that have no purpose, do not know defeat, have not suffered the deaths of millions.
There is a lot to think about in this film as some leaders talk about what the future can be for the future innocent, and what it would be like to live in a country that vowed not to make war again -- against the madness of ideology and blind patriotism. Intriguingly, the power of the media is also at the center of the film, as all realize that the Emperor's radio address would make the surrender irrevocable. The most telling moment in the film is a crazed soldier holding a revolver to the head of a radio broadcaster, who sits defiantly with the threat of a bullet inches from his head. This will be a hard film to forget.

See Wikipedia Page on Japan's Longest Day


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