My published work mainly explores the intersections of ideology and culture in US-Japan relations between the first and second world wars.  I’ve also aimed, in various newspaper commentary, to provide historical context and clarity on the meaning of the Confederate flag and postwar monuments.

Prelude to Pearl Harbor: Ideology and Culture in US-Japan Relations, 1919-1941 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021).

Prelude to Pearl Harbor reconsiders the origins of WWII in Asia and the Pacific through the lens of competing ideologies of world order; in particular, the rift between a rules-based liberal order and Japan's regionalism. Amplifying as well as challenging accepted interpretations, the book also explores the Japanese government's attempt to reduce U.S.-Japan tensions through a vigorous cultural diplomacy.

Praise for Prelude to Pearl Harbor

“…possibly the best account to date of the 1930s divide between the United States and Japan as reflected in both sides’ official diplomacy…. gripping in its telling.”

“…a masterful work… one of the most highly researched and documented accounts of the Pacific War.”

“…an invaluable addition to the historiography of US-Japan relations.”


“Scholars should be grateful to have it.”

—Michael Barnhart, emeritus, Stony Brook University

“…an important work on a major topic in the international history of the interwar era.... A fascinating narrative in lucid prose that brings to life key figures in U.S.-Japan relations and casts new light on the relationship between hard and soft power, official and cultural diplomacy, and ideology and strategic calculations.”

—Pacific Historical Review

“...reminds us that we still have much to learn about the onset of the Pacific War. Coverage of Japan’s Kokusai Bunka Shinkōkai [Society for International Cultural Relations] alone, which the author does better than anyone, is reason enough to read this work.  Prelude to Pearl Harbor will surely move even the most skeptical reader to appreciate the mammoth ideological divide separating the two combatants….and… the remarkably different world that each side fought to create.” 

—American Historical Review

 “…a cogent and timely study of how the United States and Japan came to blows in the Pacific.”

Japan Times

"Is another book detailing the 'road to Pearl Harbor' really necessary? This volume proves that indeed it is.... a compelling story that adds much to what was previously known..... Well-written and succinctly argued...thoughtful readers may draw analogies to competing conceptions of world order in modern international relations.  Highly recommended.”


“A welcome addition to the literature on the origins of the Pacific War and a provocative reassessment of the legacy of liberal internationalism.”

Diplomatic History

“ expanded and energized understanding of a troubled period of international history. Recurring themes are treated in fascinating depth.  By astute use of archival documents, diaries, press materials, and reliable published accounts of the period, Gripentrog brings to life key historical personalities.  Graced with lucid, quality prose, the book is a captivating read.”

—Thomas W. Burkman, emeritus, State University of New York at Buffalo

“ important contribution to understanding the ideological dimension of the crisis that led to the Pacific War.”

Akira Iriye, emeritus, Harvard University

“ original contribution to the scholarship on the 1930s.... evenly balanced in explaining Japanese and American policy making and describing the people responsible for those policies. A synthesis in the best sense of the word.”

—Marc Gallicchio, Villanova University

“In this excellent book, John Gripentrog traces the complex ways in which ideology, cultural relations, and policy were knotted together in US-Japan relations between the world wars. The reward for readers is a deepened understanding of the bumpy road that led to World War II and beyond.”

—Frank Ninkovich, emeritus, St. John’s University

"…a brisk and insightful book on U.S.-Japanese relations in the interwar period…punctuated by colorful characters like the diplomat and University of Oregon law school graduate Matsuoka Yōsuke, and scenes such as baseball icon Babe Ruth’s 1934 visit to Japan."

Journal of Military History

“High Culture to the Rescue: Japan’s Nation Branding in the United States, 1934-1940,” in Nation Branding in Modern History, eds. Carolin Viktorin, Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht, Annika Estner, and Marcel K. Will (London: Berghahn Books, 2018).

Other Publications

"From Sept. 11 to Jan. 6, an attack on America's core values," Asheville Citizen-Times (2021).

Distortions of Heritage, History, Hinder Progress,” Asheville Citizen-Times (2017).

“Power and Culture: Japan’s Cultural Diplomacy in the United States, 1934-1940,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 84, No. 4 (2015).

Facing up to hard truths of the Civil War,” Asheville Citizen-Times (2015).

“In Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the Central Role of Slavery Must Not Be Forgotten,” History News Service (2011).

“The Trans-National Pastime: Baseball and American Perceptions of Japan, 1931-1941,” Diplomatic History, vol. 34, No. 2 (2010).