Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Supernova in the East I Description: The Asia-Pacific War of 1937-1945 has deep roots. It also involves a Japanese society that’s been called one of the most distinctive on Earth. If there were a Japanese version of Captain America, this would be his origin story.

In “Hardcore History” journalist and broadcaster Dan Carlin takes his “Martian”, unorthodox way of thinking and applies it to the past. Was Alexander the Great as bad a person as Adolf Hitler? What would Apaches with modern weapons be like? Will our modern civilization ever fall like civilizations from past eras? This isn’t academic history (and Carlin isn’t a historian) but the podcast’s unique blend of high drama, masterful narration and Twilight Zone-style twists has entertained millions of listeners. You can find the books mentioned in Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Supernova in the East Part 1 episode on the Asia-Pacific War of 1937-1945 below.

Books Mentioned in Hardcore History Show 62 - Supernova in the East I:

Book Title: No Surrender – My Thirty-Year War

Author: Hiroo Onoda

Book Title: Japan and the Shackles of the Past

Author: R. Taggart Murphy

Book Title: Implacable Foes – War in the Pacific 1944-1945

Author: Waldo Heinrichs, Marc Gallicchio

Book Title: Japan and China From War to Peace, 1894-1972

Author: Jansen, Marius B.

Book Title: The Pacific War, 1931 – 1945

Author: Saburo Ienaga

Book Title: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Author: Herbert P. Bix

Book Title: Japan, A Modern History

Author: James L. McClain

Book Title: The Manchurian Crisis and Japanese Society, 1931-33

Author: Sandra Wilson

Book Title: Shanghai 1937, Stalingrad on the Yangtze

Author: Peter Harmsen

Book Title: The Battle for China

Author: Mark Peattie, Edward Drea, Hans van de Ven 

Hardcore History Show 62 – Supernova in the East I: A Compelling Look into Japan's Explosive Past

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Show 62 – Supernova in the East I is a captivating exploration of Japan’s complex and often violent history, with a focus on the events that led to the country’s involvement in World War II. In this episode, Carlin delves deep into Japanese history, culture, and military tactics, painting a vivid picture of a nation on the brink of monumental change. The podcast is the first installment in a series examining the Empire of Japan’s rise and fall, making it a must-listen for history enthusiasts and anyone interested in understanding the factors that shaped modern Japan.

Setting the Stage for Japan's Meteoric Rise

Carlin begins the podcast by providing context for the events that would ultimately transform Japan into a formidable empire. He explains how Japan’s geographic isolation allowed it to develop a unique culture and society, with strong influences from both indigenous and foreign traditions. The country’s feudal system, led by the samurai warrior class, created an environment in which honor, loyalty, and martial prowess were highly valued.

The Meiji Restoration and Japan's Rapid Modernization

The Meiji Restoration in 1868 marked a turning point in Japanese history, as the country embarked on a rapid process of modernization and industrialization. Carlin details how the Japanese government, eager to avoid falling under the control of Western powers, sought to learn from the successes and failures of other nations. By adopting elements of Western technology, education, and military strategy, Japan quickly became a formidable force on the global stage.

The Russo-Japanese War and Japan's Growing Ambitions

Carlin goes on to discuss the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), which saw Japan emerge victorious against a major European power, further solidifying its status as an emerging global player. The war demonstrated Japan’s advanced military capabilities and newfound confidence, sparking the country’s ambitions for expansion and empire-building.

Japanese Expansionism and the Road to World War II

As Japan’s economy grew, so did its need for resources, leading the country to pursue a policy of aggressive expansionism. Carlin explains how Japan’s leaders believed that, to ensure the nation’s survival and prosperity, they needed to secure access to the raw materials and markets of nearby territories. This mindset led to the invasion of Korea and the annexation of Taiwan, setting the stage for further expansion and conflict in the region.

The Role of Bushido and the Samurai Spirit in Japan's Military Culture

Central to Japan’s military culture was the concept of bushido, or the way of the warrior. Carlin describes how the samurai spirit was deeply ingrained in Japanese society, shaping the nation’s approach to warfare and diplomacy. The code of bushido emphasized honor, loyalty, and sacrifice, with a focus on martial skill and a willingness to die for one’s cause. This mindset contributed to Japan’s aggressive military tactics and the uncompromising nature of its soldiers.

The First Sino-Japanese War and Japan's Ascendance in East Asia

Carlin delves into the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), a conflict that pitted Japan against China over control of Korea. This war marked Japan’s first major victory over a regional power, demonstrating its growing military prowess and signaling its ascendance in East Asia. The Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the conflict, granted Japan control over Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands, and the Liaodong Peninsula, further expanding its territorial reach and establishing it as a dominant player in the region.

The Rise of Japanese Nationalism and Militarism

As Japan continued to grow in power and influence, a sense of nationalism and militarism gripped the country. Carlin explains how the nation’s leaders, driven by a belief in Japan’s divine destiny, sought to create a vast empire that would rival those of the Western powers. This belief fueled a sense of national pride and an aggressive foreign policy, ultimately leading Japan down a path toward war and conflict with its neighbors.

The Washington Naval Conference and Japan's Reaction

In an effort to prevent an arms race and maintain a balance of power in the Pacific, the Washington Naval Conference was held in 1921-1922. The resulting treaties placed limitations on naval armaments and shipbuilding, particularly affecting Japan. Carlin discusses how the Japanese government, feeling constrained and humiliated by these restrictions, reacted by intensifying its military buildup and expansionist policies, further straining relations with other nations.

The Mukden Incident and the Invasion of Manchuria

The Mukden Incident in 1931 marked a turning point in Japanese aggression, as the nation launched a full-scale invasion of Manchuria. Carlin recounts the events leading up to the invasion, detailing how the Japanese military staged a false-flag attack on a railway as a pretext for war. The occupation of Manchuria gave Japan access to valuable resources and territory, setting the stage for further expansion and conflict in Asia.

Conclusion: Supernova in the East I and Japan's Path to World War II

In Supernova in the East I, Dan Carlin masterfully weaves together a compelling narrative of Japan’s rise as a global power, exploring the complex and often brutal events that shaped the nation’s history. From the Meiji Restoration to the invasion of Manchuria, Carlin highlights the key factors that led Japan down a path of militarism, expansionism, and ultimately, war. This podcast serves as an essential primer for understanding Japan’s role in World War II and offers a fascinating glimpse into the forces that shaped one of the most significant conflicts of the 20th century.