Tommy Lee Jones does MacArthur in movie about Japanese emperor’s post WWII fate

Well, this is intriguing:

A gripping tale of love and honor forged between fierce enemies of war, Emperor unfolds the story, inspired by true events, of the bold and secret moves that won the peace in the shadows of post-war Japan. Matthew Fox joins Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones and newcomer Eriko Hatsune to bring to life the American occupation of Japan in the perilous and unpredictable days just after Emperor Hirohito’s World War II surrender. As General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) suddenly finds himself the de facto ruler of a foreign nation, he assigns an expert in Japanese culture – General Bonner Fellers (Fox), to covertly investigate the looming question hanging over the country: should the Japanese Emperor, worshiped by his people but accused of war crimes, be punished or saved? Caught between the high-wire political intrigue of his urgent mission and his own impassioned search for the mysterious school teacher (Hatsune) who first drew him to Japan, Fellers can be certain only that the tricky subterfuge about to play out will forever change the history of two nations and his heart.

And here’s the trailer:

  • cm

    The same Japanese apparatus responsible for the war was left fully intact. This same Japanese apparatus did their best to white washed their record. The result is East Asia of today.

  • gumiho

    That looks like it will be a good one!

  • R. Elgin

    Yes but, my, more sword fight scenes!

  • Sperwer

    The same Japanese apparatus responsible for the war was left fully intact. This same Japanese apparatus did their best to white washed their record. The result is East Asia of today

    Oh, you mean 67 years of peace (except for Korea, where the NORKS, Russians and Chicoms tried to reinvent the wheel) and steadily increasing liberty and prosperity (again w/ the exception of North Korea).

  • wangkon936

    I think cm meant the East Asia of the 21st century where some of that is destabilizing.

  • wangkon936

    Tommy Lee Jones seems to have an interest in Japan. He does a lot of commercials in Japan, but not the kind where Hollywood stars just parachute in and do one or two just to make a lot of money. His commercials seem to have a more cultural depth. They are all posted on

  • wangkon936

    Anyways, here is the problem in a nutshell. Because in 1946 there was rising communism in China and Japan (and Indonesia has rumblings as well) the U.S. favored stability in Japan vs. full democratization. MacArthur tried it and it was a bit messy. Thus, the U.S. favored a right leaning, conservative government with a lot of former people who had a hand in the Imperial government. This created peace and stability while the Cold War was in effect and while Russia and the U.S. were the main players. Now Russia is not a main player anymore, America’s power and commitment is waning, and China is getting stronger. They have an ax to grind against Japan. What complicates things is a Japan that apparently has amnesia for all the nasty things they did to the Chinese people, thus it does nothing to help the Chinese forget all those crappy memories. 70 some odd years is not a long time in history. Sometimes things done to make the immediate term convenient makes the longer term more complicated. The fact of the matter is that Asia is entering a more “powder keg” type of environment that someday may be similar to 1915 Europe. This is not good. This is also avoidable, but fat chances Japan will help diffuse the situation any time soon. If they just did nothing then it probably wouldn’t be a problem, however, the current administration wants to roll back apologies and historical memories of the past. That’s what’s been causing the main friction. IMHO, America’s sins in Asia are not sins of commission, but omission. They can take an active role in helping to diffuse the rising tide that will make up for their sins of omission, however. I guess we’ll see if that happens.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    So, does the book paint the emperor in a sympathetic light and, if so, was that translated to the movie?

  • Sperwer

    No, really?

    Meanwhile, the point is that it is awfully simplistic to try to explain what is going on today, let alone assign blame, on the basis of (the misapplication of) such a tinker toy model of causation – assuming that causation even is a theoretically justifiable method of historical explanation.

  • Sperwer

    You have neglected to mention the very serious challenge mounted by the Communists in Japan itself.

    So you are suggesting that the US is guilty of sins of omission because in 1947 it failed to anticipiate that the Cold War, which was only then beginning to be recognized a such, would end 50 years later, and that a whole host of other things would and would not happen. That must be a mighty comfortable armchair you’re sitting in.

  • wangkon936

    Yes. Even though there was an even GREATER Communist threat in Europe, the U.S. put the concerns of Europeans ahead of expediency and made sure to put together a West German government that was inoffensive.

    However, to be completely fair, the U.S. had help from the U.K. and France to build post war Western Europe. After WWII in Europe the French and the English were too busy trying to preserve their crumbling colonial empire. French mishandling of their situation in Indochina got us into a little police action called the Vietnam War. Any ways, different story for a different time.

    American foreign policy short sightedness in East Asia is almost excusable if they help Korea, (and to a more limited extent) China med fences with Japan. They can not, however, compound their mistakes after WWII by doing nothing.

    To America’s credit, LBJ strong armed the Japanese to give in so Korea and Japan could finally normalize relations 20 years after WWII. America may need to strong arm Japan yet again.

  • Sperwer

    Your understanding of the European situation at the time is deficient. Having foolishly adopted a policy of unconditional surrender (and the accompanying universalist fantasy about international politics), the expedient thing to do WAS to denazify Germany; that is what both the Allies (Russia hoping thereby to have the Allies themselves eliminate a lot of potential right-wing opponents to Communist designs) and the domestic electorate expected. Moreover, while denazification arguably went further in Germany than the political purging of Japan, there also was a mid-course correction, similar to what took place in Japan, once the military High commissioners were replaced by the civilians, eg., my first boss, John J. McCloy, et al., though it always had to work uphill against the inertial force of the wartime ideology. In the end the West German govt was less-compromised (from a moral absolute perspective) than Japan but only marginally so.

    The interesting thing about LBJ is that he had to strong-arm BOTH Japan and Korea (wich actually extorted him vis-a-vis the Vietnamese involvement). Look how well that worked. Uncle Sam shouldn’t be trying to leverage either Korea or Japan today, but simply offering them the opportunity to be on the right side because each determines it’s in its respective interests to be so.

    Your entire perspective also strikes me as misguided. The US has nothing (on a strategic or even tactical level – though specific implementation on occasion left something to be desired) for which to apologize, make up for or beg for excuse. If Koreans want to go down that road (given their experience with Japan), they’re simply nuts and should be nominated for a collective Darwin Award.

  • bumfromkorea

    Holy shit, I actually kinda agree with Sperwer on this one. I definitely see the cause and effect (Cold War mentality –> America keeps Imperials –> modern tension in Far East Asia), but I definitely don’t agree that any guilt or fault can be applied to America’s decision at the time without going into a discussion about some significant hindsight advantages. America was operating in a world where the assumptions towards the Soviets eventually went to MAD – and while we can’t say it’s good that America kept the Imperials to keep the Communists at bay, we definitely can’t say it’s America’s fault that there’s a gigantic political tension in FE Asia either.

  • wangkon936

    Your first paragraph, we don’t appear to be disagreeing all that much. A couple of things you forgot to mention (not that you didn’t know, just forgot to mention and are important to the conversation at hand) is that Germany was in fact divided into zones, with the Americans, Soviets, Brits and French getting pieces of the country. So, my original comment of, “… the U.S. had help from the U.K. and France to build post war Western Europe…” I don’t see how you could get that I have a deficient understanding of the Europe of the time from what I wrote. It is entirely possible that we are complimenting each other rather than conflicting each other. We are seeing the same things, but from different angles.

    Yes, it is true that LBJ had to strong arm BOTH the Koreans and the Japanese to normalize relations in the 60’s. The U.S. still has considerable influence in the region and a Korea and Japan that can cooperate more with each other can be a better buffer against China and North Korea, hence saving the U.S. both time and expense. America’s two main allies in East Asia are in a ineffective relationship to provide a political bulwark against the PRC and North Korea. It is in America’s best interests to get South Korea and Japan pointing in the right direction. Thus, it is our business to get involved. Perhaps not as much as LBJ (given we don’t have a Vietnamese sized commitment in the region), however the Obama administration did say he wanted to “pivot” to Asia. Getting the region’s 2nd and 3rd largest economies to get on the right page would be a start.

    My perspective is not misguided. It is in the best interests for America, Japan and South Korea for everyone to share their time and resources efficiently. If they could do so then America may not necessarily need to have as many resources tied up in Asia. There is, however, a lot of historical baggage between America’s two main Asian allies. There is an impasse because many Koreans want more meaningful (i.e. words followed by actions) apologies from Japan and many Japanese want to roll back apologies given in the past and even roll back past admittals of guilt and responsibility. We tried to resolve some of it in 1965, but the results were less than satisfactory probably because Korea was represented by a dictatorship that didn’t necessarily have its pulse on the public’s attitude. This attempt in 1967 was also probably too focused on “shut-up” money rather than real attempts at genuine reconciliation. Thus, when Korea became more of a democracy in 1987, some more nuanced aspects of the Japanese imperial rule of Korea surfaced.

    Lastly, is it really in America’s best interest that the attitude in Japan appears to be shifting not so much on the status quo but to something more right leaning? These are a group of leaders that want to resolve Japan of any responsibility for starting the wars in China, Indochina, the British Asian colonies and Pearl Harbor. They believe these are self-defensive measures against Western imperialism and a way to help fellow Asians unshackle themselves from white oppression. They think Japan was a victim to unlawful fire bombing of there cities. They want America to apologize for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To not help Korea as they battle these elements within Japanese society and politics is to help these rightist Japanese elements. Do you really want to do that? Is it in America’s best interests? I don’t think so. Thus, I don’t think I’m the one that’s being misguided.