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Japan's Colonial Moment in Southeast Asia 1942-1945: The Occupiers' Experience



The first-ever attempt to paint a full scale portrait of the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia during the Asia-Pacific War (1942-1945). This book draws on the huge body of available narrative - military documents, bureaucratic records and personal accounts of combatants and civilians, including diaries, memoirs and collected correspondence - most of which have previously been either unknown or unavailable to non-Japanese readers. It examines how the Japanese imperial adventure in Southeast Asia sped up the collapse of the Japanese empire as a whole, not only through its ultimate military defeat in the region, but also due to its failure as an occupier from the very beginning. Nakano explains the significance of the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia as a learning experience for the occupiers, whether soldiers on the frontlines or civilians on the home front. He uses a synthesis, overlay and juxtaposition of a selection of these narratives, to reassemble the narrative as a whole. This brings into focus the outlook of those Japanese who set out for Southeast Asia with the purpose to urge the region’s occupied people to collaborate with Japan to transform the region into an integral part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Many would eventually discover that what required change was Japan and its whole approach to colonial rule, as was realized so quickly in the postwar era. The original Japanese version was published as Tonan Ajia senryo to Nihonjin: Teikoku Nihon no kaitai [The occupation of Southeast Asia and the Japanese: The dismantling of the Japanese empire]. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2012. ISBN: 430922542X.
Routledge Contemporary Japan Series
71 Rethinking Japanese Studies
Eurocentrism and the Asia- Pacific Region
Edited by Kaori Okano and Yoshio Sugimoto
72 Japan’s Quest for Stability in Southeast Asia
Navigating the Turning Points in Postwar Asia
Taizo Miyagi
73 Gender and the Koeski in Contemporary Japan
Surname, Power, and Privilege
Linda White
74 Being Young in Super- Aging Japan
Formative Events and Cultural Reactions
Edited by Patrick Heinrich and Christian Galan
75 The Japanese Communist Party
Permanent Opposition, but Moral Compass
Peter Berton with Sam Atherton
76 Japan’s Colonial Moment in Southeast Asia 1942–1945
The Occupiers’ Experience
Nakano Satoshi
77 Animism in Contemporary Japan
Voices for the Anthropocene from Post- Fukushima Japan
Shoko Yoneyama
78 Political Sociology of Japanese Pacifism
Yukiko Nishikawa
For more information about this series, please visit:
Routledge- Contemporary-Japan- Series/book- series/SE0002
Japan’s Colonial Moment in
Southeast Asia 1942–1945
The Occupiers’ Experience
Nakano Satoshi
First published 2019
by Routledge
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Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
by Nakano Satoshi
© 2012 by Nakano Satoshi
Originally published in 2012 by Iwanami Shoten, Publishers, Tokyo.
This English edition published in 2019 by Routledge
by arrangement with Iwanami Shoten, Publishers, Tokyo
The right of Nakano Satoshi to be identified as authors of this work has
been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the
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British Library Cataloguing- in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging- in-Publication Data
Names: Nakano, Satoshi, 1959– author. | Translation of: Nakano, Satoshi,
1959– Tåonan Ajia senryåo to Nihonjin.
Title: Japan’s colonial moment in Southeast Asia, 1942–1945 :
the occupiers’ experience / Satoshi Nakano.
Other titles: Tåonan Ajia senryåo to Nihonjin. English
Description: New York : Routledge, 2019. | Series: Routledge
contemporary Japan series ; 76 | Includes bibliographical references and
Identifiers: LCCN 2018026197| ISBN 9781138541283 (hardback) |
ISBN 9781351011495 (e-book)
Subjects: LCSH: World War, 1939-1945–Southeast Asia. | World War,
1939-1945–Occupied territories. | Japan–Foreign relations–Southeast Asia.
| Southeast Asia–Foreign relations–Japan. | Japan–History–20th century. |
Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.
Classification: LCC D767.2 .N323513 2019 | DDC 327.52059/0904–dc23
LC record available at
ISBN: 978-1-138-54128-3 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-1-351-01149-5 (ebk)
Typeset in Galliard
by Wearset Ltd, Boldon, Tyne and Wear
Acknowledgments vii
List of policy documents ix
Introduction: the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia as
a historical experience 1
Conscripting the Southern Army’s civilian corps 1
The soldier’s experience 5
Deployment and the opening of hostilities 7
A brief outline of the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia 13
The occupation of Southeast Asia as a key moment in dismantling the
Japanese Empire 17
The narrators of the history: a note on methodology 20
1 The “Southern question” and the Imperial General
Headquarters Army General Sta 26
1 The South as an exit from the war in China 26
2 “Seize the moment” vs “circumspect” views of Japan’s advance into
Southeast Asia 30
3 The Imperial General Headquarters plan for the occupation of
Southeast Asia 40
2 The occupation of Southeast Asia: assertions and the real
world 56
1 The Southern Campaign 56
2 The start of Southern military administration: appeasement and
coercion 74
vi Contents
3 The Greater East Asia Co- Prosperity Sphere: ambition and
reality 108
1 The limits of military colonialism 108
2 The limits to oppression: Hitomi Junsuke’s Philippine
experience 132
3 An opportunity for soul searching 149
4 “Independence” under Japan 158
1 The conflict over “independence” 158
2 The rising voices of the occupied 180
5 Southeast Asia and the collapse of the empire of Japan 206
1 Nationalism in Asia as the war draws to an end 206
2 The occupation of Southeast Asia as a “learning experience” 234
Glossary 256
References 258
Index 268
20 April 1992. At a conference room in Kyoto University Hall, Yoshida Kawara
Machi, Sakyō-ku, Kyoto City, I had been conducting an interview with Mr.
Hitomi Junsuke, joined by Professor Terada Takefumi and Mr. Morita Ryōji as
co- interviewers, for more than five hours. Mr. Terada was just about to leave in
order to catch a Hikari super- express bound for Tokyo as Mr. Hitomi fumbled
in his bag for something and took out a sheaf of manuscript, which would later
be published as The 14th Army Propaganda Details Documentary Sources of
Propaganda Operations [Watari Shūdan Hōdōbu, ed. 1996]. The audio tape
of the interview recorded a buzz of amazement among us, the scholars in front
of unknown “treasures.”
When I ask myself why I wrote this treatise as an attempt to reconstruct Japa-
nese historical experiences in Southeast Asia during World War II by weaving
myriad of “narratives” left by Japanese sent there as the occupiers, the memory
of this interview comes back to me as the starting point. At that time, under
“the command” of Professor Ikehata Setsuho, the pioneer Japanese scholar of
Philippine history, a batallion of scholars including Terada Takefumi, Nagano
Yoshiko, Hayase Shinzō and Kawashima Midori among others, were fighting a
battle against time, searching historical sources and conducting interviews at
home and abroad. It was a part of a large- scale grants- in-aid project for histor-
ical studies on the Japanese occupation period in Southeast Asia, sponsored by
Toyota Foundation since the late 1980s.
I started as a scholar of U.S. history, having taught students U.S. history in
Japanese universities up to now. It would have never occurred to me to write a
book on the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia had I not been invited to
join the project. I was invited simply because I had studied Philippine- U.S.
colonial relations. Considering this, my gratitude goes to Professor Ikehata
Setsuho and colleagues of the project, interviewees, donors of historical mater-
ials and the Toyota Foundation, which made such a productive joint research
project possible. I am also grateful for those scholars of contemporary history of
Japan who made me “learn by ear” from the fruite conversation I was able to
have with them on such occasions as the Summer Seminar of Contemporary
History and Rekishigaku Kenkyukai (Historical Science Society of Japan), some-
times while drinking!
viii Acknowledgments
I am not very confident about the achievement, while I tried my best to
present the picture of Japanese occupation not only of the Philippines but of
Southeast Asia as a whole, focusing on individuals’ historical experiences. It
would exceed my hopes if the readers of this book were interested in “the
ground” of encounters between Japan and Southeast Asia at one of the most
serious moment of history and wonder if there would be any “narratives” left to
be found around them/us. We still have time.
To our surprise, Mr. Hitomi, then 76 years old, came to Kyoto University
Hall from his home in Fushimi- ku riding on the 750cc motorcycle, showing us
that he is a veteran of multiple wars. I could send the draft of this book for Mr.
Hitomi to check. Whether or not this book meets the desire for peace of Mr.
Hitomi who has asked “what that war was” throughout his postwar years to this
date, it was my pleasure that to be able to send him a copy of this book in good
For the Japanese version of this book, my gratitude goes to Mr. Yoshida
Koichi, who made it possible for me to complete the book project. For the
English version, it would never have been possible for me to finish the project
without the indispensable support of Mr. Jon Wisnom, my longtime collabora-
tor for publication in English. Last but not least, let me express my gratitude for
Routledge and its sta, for their eort in making more academic achievements,
including my small contribution, available to a global audience, thereby pro-
moting further dialogue between peoples who otherwise would not reach each
List of policy documents
Date Title (English) Title (Japanese) JACAR ID1/pages
1940/10/22 Draft of a Policy Agenda
Dealing with the China
Shina Jihen Shori Yōkōan
1940/11/13 Policy Agenda Dealing
with the China Incident
Shina Jihen Shori Yōkō
1941/01/30 Policy Agenda Towards
French Indochina and
Tai Futsuin Tai Shisaku
Yōkō 対仏印泰施策要綱
1941/03/31 Draft of a Policy Agenda
for Governing Territory
Occupied During
Southern Operations
Nanpō Sakusen ni okeru
Senryōchi Tōchi Yōkōan
1941/03/31 Proposed Measures for
Dealing with the
Philippines While at War
with the United States
Tai Bei Sakusen ni
Tomonau Hitō Shori
Hōsakuan 対米作戦に伴
1941/03/31 Guide to Proposed
Measures for Dealing
with the Philippines
While at War with the
United States
Tai Bei Sakusen ni
Tomonau Hitō Shori
Hōsakuan Setsumeisho
1941/06/06 Policy Agenda for the
Tai Nanpō Shisaku Yōkō
1941/06/25 The Matters Pertaining
to Pursuing a Southern
Nanpō Shisaku Sokushin
ni kansuru Ken 南方施策
1941/07/02 Imperial National Policy
Agenda in the Light of
Recent Development
Jōsei no Sui’i ni tomonau
Teikoku Kokusaku Yōkō
x List of policy documents
Date Title (English) Title (Japanese) JACAR ID1/pages
1941/11/05 Guidelines for
Implementing Imperial
National Policy
Teikoku Kokusaku Suikō
Yōryō 帝国国策遂行要領
2, 42
1941/11/11 Framework of a Pretext
for Opening Hostilities
with Britain and the
United States
Tai Ei Bei Kaisen
Meimoku Kosshi 対英米
1941/11/15 Idea Concerning How
to Facilitate the
Termination of
Hostilities with the
United States, Great
Britain, the Netherlands
and Chiang Kai-shek
Tai Bei Ei Ran Shō Sensō
Shūmatsu Sokushin ni
Kansuru Fukuan 対米英
1941/11/20 Guidelines for
Implementing Military
Administration in
Southern Occupied
Nanpō Senryōchi Gyōsei
Jisshi Yōryō 南方占領地
1941/12/n.d. Minami Agency Burma
Maneuver Plan
Minami Kikan Biruma
Kōsaku Keikaku 南機関
1941/12/08 Imperial Prescript on
Declaration of War
Sensen no Shōchoku
1941/12/12 Economic Policy Agenda
for the South
Nanpō Keizai Taisaku
Yōkō 南方経済対策要綱
1942/n.d. Guidelines for
Implementing Maneuver
on Huaqiao
Kakyō Kōsaku Jisshi
Yōryō 華僑工作実施要領
1942/n.d. Matters pertaining to
Foreign Policy in the
Prime Minister’s Address
at Diet
Sōri Daijin Shisei Enzetsu
Chū Taigai Shori Hōshin
no Ken 総理大臣施政演
1942/01/12 Concerning the Use of
the Phrase “White Man”
Hakujin no Jiku Shiyō ni
Kansuru Ken
1942/02/14 Policy Agenda
Regarding Huaqiao
Kakyō Taisaku Yōkō 華僑
1942/03/11 How Actual Initial
Operations Performance
Compares with Planning
Expectations in Military,
Political and Economic
Shoki Sakusen no Jisseki
wa Yotei Keikaku ni
Taihishi Gunjiteki Seijiteki
Keizaiteki ni Ikanaru Sa’i
Arishiya 初期作戦の実績
List of policy documents xi
Date Title (English) Title (Japanese) JACAR ID1/pages
1942/11/07 World Situation
Sekai Jōsei Handan 世界
1942/12/21 Basic Policy Direction
in Dealing with China
for the Purpose of
Successfully Completing
the Greater East Asia
Dai Tōa Sensō Kansui no
Tameno Tai Shi Shori
Konpon Hōshin 大東亜
1943/01/14 Matters Concerning
Burmese Independence
Policy for the Purpose of
Successfully Completing
the Greater East Asia
Dai Tōa Sensō Kansui no
Tameno Biruma
Dokuritsu Shisaku ni
Kansuru Ken 大東亜戦争
1943/01/14 Plan for the Future Title
to the Occupied
Senryōchi Kizoku Fukuan
1943/02/27 World Situation
Sekai Jōsei Handan 世界
1943/05/31 Outline of Political
Strategy Planning and
Management in Greater
East Asia
Dai Tōa Seiryaku Shidō
Taikō 大東亜政略指導大
1943/09/30 World Situation
Sekai Jōsei Handan 世界
1944/08/19 Outline for the Direction
of the War to be Taken
Kongo Torubeki Sensō
Shidō no Taikō 今後採る
211–12, 222
1944/08/19 World Situation
Sekai Jōsei Handan 世界
1945/02/15 World Situation
Sekai Jōsei Handan 世界
1945/06/08 World Situation
Sekai Jōsei Handan 世界
1945/07/17 Matters Pertaining
Recognizing East Indies
Higashi Indo Dokuritsu
Shochi ni Kansuru Ken
1 The government and military sources of Imperial Japan cited in this book have increasingly become
available at the open access cloud archives created by Japan Center for Asian Historical Records.
Each document can be retrieved by identifying its reference code, which will hereinafter be cited as
“JACAR: reference code” in this book.
The Japanese occupation of Southeast
Asia as a historical experience
Conscripting the Southern Army’s civilian corps
On Saturday, 15 November 1941.1 Kon Hidemi (b. 1903) was having one of
those days. The author and a Meiji University professor were still tired after his
lecture tour in Kyūshū, and the popular drama festival he had agreed to help
judge at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater hadn’t been worth the bother. Kon had
snuck out of the theater and went straight home, instead of stopping o for a
drink on the way as was his regular custom. When he arrived, his wife, Keiko,
was waiting for him at the door.
Visibly upset by the thought of his name no doubt being echoed around the
theater after his absence, his wife asked him to calm down and take a look at
what had just arrived, a postmarked white envelope lying on the dining room
Rushing to open it, I found a white induction notice. After reading it
several times over, it was clear that I had been drafted, but there was not a
hint of for what purpose or in what capacity I was supposed to serve the
These words of confusion and doubt upon receiving notification of his induc-
tion (chōyō) into the civilian corps come from Kon’s Embedded with the Army in
the Philippines (Hitō Jūgun) published in 1944.
Such bewilderment was only natural, for until now Kon had led a life far
removed from anything that could be called “military.” After graduating from
the Tokyo Imperial University Department of French Literature and spending
the rest of his twenties totally immersed in the study of stage drama, motion
pictures, art and literature, he was now enjoying a secure, middle- class life as a
lecturer in the literary arts department at the polytechnic college aliated with
Meiji University. Born in 1903, year before the outbreak of the Russo- Japanese
War, he belonged to a generation which had not been exposed to the kind of
military training that had been made compulsory for middle- school students in
1925; most of them didn’t even know how to salute. Kon’s first impression of
his induction was that since he could read, write and converse a little in French,
2 Introduction
he was probably needed at the Ministry of War Bureau of Information as a lan-
guage specialist, until his wife conjectured, “I wonder if a war isn’t coming
soon” [Kon 1944: 7–8].
Similar conjecture was raised by Takami Jun (b. 1907), a writer, who received
his induction notice around the same time. Reflecting upon his arrest and
imprisonment in 1933 for leftist proletarian activities in breach of the peace,
which he had since “converted (tenkō),” Takami half- jokingly suggested to his
family that he would probably be “assigned to hard labor in the coal mines”
[Takami 1972: 389]. Businessman Ono Toyoaki (b. 1912), who was working at
Ōji Paper Co., recalls that he at first mistook the induction order for a notice
from the Tax Revenue Bureau or some such oce [Ono 1994: 571].
Unbeknownst to all three men, the ball had begun rolling ten days earlier on
5 November 1941 at the highest level, a Gozen Kaigi (Imperial Council). This
was a conference specially convened in the presence of the emperor, where
leading state policy makers (cabinet ministers, Army chiefs of sta and elder
statesmen) gathered to discuss and decide matters of utmost importance.
“Guidelines for Implementing Imperial National Policy” approved by that
meeting concerned what was to be done in the event that negotiations with the
United States had not come to fruition by midnight, 1 December. “To over-
come the present crisis, ensure self- existence and self- defense and build a new
order in Greater East Asia, it is hereby decided, in that event, to take up arms
against the United States, Britain and the Netherlands” [Sanbōhonbu, ed.
1967, Volume I: 417–18; JACAR: C12120186200].
On that same day, the Navy issued Imperial General Headquarters
(Daihon’ei, hereafter IGHQ) Navy Order (Daikairei) No. 1 to Admiral
Yamamoto Isoroku, Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet, “The Empire
has decided to complete all preparations for operations in early December”
[Bōei Kenkyūjo, ed. 1985: 37; JACAR: C16120691800]. The following day,
the Army issued the order of battle (the formation of armies for a campaign)
and began to prepare its Southern Invasion Operation (Nanpō Kōryaku
Sakusen). To summarize, the armed forces would be organized into the
Southern Army under the command of General Terauchi Hisaichi and the
South Seas Detachment under the direct control of the IGHQ Army Depart-
ment. The former would consist of the existing Twenty- Fifth Army (expedition-
ary forces deployed to Malaya, whose code name was “Tomi Group,” under the
command of Lt. General Yamashita Tomoyuki), in addition to the newly formed
Fourteenth Army (expeditionary forces dispatched to the Philippines, code-
named “Watari Group,” under the command of Lt. General Honma Masaharu),
the Fifteenth Army (expeditionary forces deployed to Thailand, later Burma,
code- named “Hayashi Group,” under the command of Iida Shōjirō) and the
Sixteenth Army (expeditionary forces deployed to Java, code- named
“Osamu Group,” under the command of Lt. General Imamura Hitoshi). It was
in this manner that the largest scale and most rapid mobilization of troops in
Japanese military history unfolded under a veil of complete secrecy [JACAR:
Introduction 3
Regarding the experiences of those Japanese people who participated in this
secret mobilization, there exists a gigantic body of narrative (stories, memoirs,
etc.) written not only by military combatants, but also by civilians, mainly
professional writers and other intellectuals, who went to work en masse for the
Army and Navy under the National Mobilization Act (enacted in 1938) and the
Civilian Conscription Ordinance (enacted in 1939). These civilian (non-
uniformed) employees were called “gunzoku,”2 whose terms of service usually
lasted for one year.
On Monday, 17 November 1941, Kon Hidemi appeared at Tokyo’s Hongo
Ward Oce (present- day Yushima, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo) as indicated on his
induction order. To his surprise, there he found the likes of novelist Ibuse
Masuji, whom he had just met during his visit to Kyūshū, as well as several of
his old literary acquaintances, including best- selling author Ozaki Shirō, who
was in the midst of writing a fiction series on the exploits of Meiji Restoration
hero Takasugi Shinsaku for the Asahi Shimbun daily news, Abe Tomoji, a
former classmate from Tokyo Imperial University, novelist and student of
English literature, the above mentioned Takami Jun, and Takeda Rintarō,
another “Converted” proletarian writer, whose literary style can be described as
working class realism. Otherwise, the hall was filled with all kinds of people “I
didn’t know from Adam.”
Ozaki was the first of Kon’s acquaintances to go through the physical
examination, returning with a piece of paper that read, “To be assigned public
relations and information- related duties in country or overseas.” The document
was stamped (in Chinese characters) with either Kō, Otsu, Hei or Tei (hereafter
A, B, C, D). Kon and his friends also read with interest the instructions con-
cerning reporting for duty, the items regarding personal belongings —“Summer
wear (national civilian uniforms highly recommended); one or two summer
shirts”—sucient forewarning for the group that “we were probably heading to
some tropical climate, like the South (Nanpō)” [Kon 1944: 12–13]. Inciden-
tally, among those who did appear at the Hongo Ward Oce, some like authors
Dazai Osamu and Shimaki Kensaku did not pass the physical examination due
to past treatment for tuberculosis [Takami 1972: 391–2].
The A- B-C- D designations would eventually turn out to be the four details
into which the inductees were divided. A detail, including Kon, Ozaki and
Ishizaka Yōjirō, best known for his romantic novel A Young Man (Wakai Hito),
was assigned to the Propaganda Detail (Senden- Han)3 attached to the Watari
Group, or the Fourteenth Army, bound for the Philippines; B Detail, including
Takami, to the Hayashi Group, or Fifteenth Army, bound for Thailand; C
Detail, including Abe, Takeda and journalist Ōya Sōichi, to the Osamu Group,
or Sixteenth Army, bound for Indonesia; and D Detail, including Ibuse and
novelist Kai’onji Chōgorō to Tomi Group, or the Twenty Fifth Army, bound
for Malaya and Singapore. Of course, none of this was revealed to the inductees
yet. It is known that at least thirty of Japan’s professional literary figures were
“inducted to deploy South” in this manner before the start of the war, the
number increasing to over seventy by 1944, to serve as information specialists in
4 Introduction
the military’s Propaganda Detail, later renamed to Information Department
(Hōdō-Bu) active throughout occupied Southeast Asia [Kamiya and Kimura
1996: 7–10].
The enlistment of Ono Toyoaki was not conducted at the Ward Oce, but
rather in an interview scheduled for him in the oces of the Morinaga Confec-
tionery Building at Hongo Sanchome just up the hill from the Ward Oce,
where he was politely requested by an army major “to help us out in the South
(Nanpō).” The fact that the major was accompanied by Roman Catholic Fr.
Tsukamoto Shōji and a theology student suggested to Ono that his mission
would be “related to some religious matter.” Indeed, the planners of the
upcoming war took seriously the need for winning the hearts and minds of the
people not only by “propaganda,” but also by “religious conciliation,” i.e.,
appeasing the religious leaders as well as the locals through the mediation of the
conscripted members of all faiths active in Japan for the successful occupation of
the religiously diverse region of Southeast Asia. Ono, who had joined the Cath-
olic Church during his student days at Tokyo Imperial University, would
become one of twenty- six civilians inducted into the Watari Group Religious
Conciliation Detail (Shūkyō Senbu’han) deployed to the Philippines [Ono
1994: 571–5].
On the afternoon of that same 15 November 1941, on the floor of the
House of Representatives (Shūgi’in) of the Imperial Diet, newly appointed
Prime Minister Tōjō Hideki stood on the central podium “animated with gyrat-
ing body and hand gestures, in his unique high- pitched tone of voice, lamenting
the lack of progress in Japan- US negotiations, repeating the government’s
resolve to overcome this country’s problems through national unity and consen-
sus.” This description of the prime minister would be written by Matsumoto
Naoji (b. 1912), social aairs reporter for the Tokyo Shimbun daily news, who
while watching Tōjō’s performance from the public gallery of the House of
Representatives, was tapped on the shoulder by an assistant and handed a
message from the newspaper’s main oce. “Your induction notice finally
arrived.” Having already been judged at an induction center as “class C,” being
unfit for active combat duty, and never dreaming a “red” notice would come to
him, Matsumoto rolled his eyes in disbelief, muttering, “Get o it!” Returning
to the oces as ordered, however, his boss informed him, “It’s a ‘white’ mobil-
ization … We’ll have a farewell … oh, no, a send- o party” [Matsumoto 1993:
7–9]. Matsumoto would soon be earmarked to cover the invasion of the Malay
Peninsula and Singapore as an IGHQ- embedded reporter.
It was in this fashion that in over a two- week period in mid- November 1941,
a variety of civilians with occupations and skills that included writers and artists,
like Kon Hidemi, cartoonists, filmmakers, dramatists, newspaper members of
the Press, like Matsumoto Naoji, broadcasting and printing technicians, as well
as “men of the cloth,” were called to duty en masse by mail or at their places of
work via civilian corps “white” notices (as opposed to “red” ones for active
military duty inductees) to serve in locations yet unknown with no regard to
personal preference, as part of the rank and file in Japan’s coming occupation of
Introduction 5
Southeast Asia. Owing to the initial need at the beginning for the invasion to
accompany the troops into battle, the civilian corps was dominated by public
relations and news reporting experts, while later on, as each region was captured
and occupied by Japanese forces, its ranks expanded to include bureaucrats and
The soldier’s experience
Turning to the ocers and enlisted men mobilized for active military duty, from
the time of the announcement of the order of battle on 6 November 1941,
operations proceeded in secrecy to mobilize and organize a fighting force on a
regiment- by-regiment basis. However, concerning those who would sta the
command headquarters of each expeditionary force and military administration
department, personnel decisions were made case- by-case from among a selec-
tion of skilled and able people employed throughout Japan’s vast military
complex. In this sense, sudden changes of duty and station were met by indi-
vidual soldiers with the same surprise and confusion experienced by their civilian
corps counterparts. Even at the highest levels of command, for example, Lt.
General Imamura Hitoshi (b. 1886), appointed Commander in Chief of the
Osamu Group (Sixteenth Army), which would turn out to be the Java expedi-
tionary forces, had been given no idea of why such an army was being assem-
bled until he arrived at his first briefing in Tokyo [Imamura 1960: 73].
In the case of First Lieutenant Hitomi Junsuke (b. 1916) of the Manchurian
Independent Garrison Unit, news of the decision to transfer him to the Watari
Group (Fourteenth Army) Propaganda Detail and orders to report to Taiwan
Army Headquarters were received from his superior commander in the middle
of a freezing winter’s night on 6 November 1941 by telephone at a northeast-
ern China battle command post in the counterinsurgency campaign against
“Communist outlaws” in the region. Hitomi, who at the age of twenty had quit
his job teaching at primary and youth vocational school in Miyazu, Kyoto Pre-
fecture, to enlist in the armed services, had since 1938 been an intelligence
ocer in charge of the “punitive campaign” against the Northeastern Anti-
Japanese Coalition partisans in the wilds of Manchuria. For Hitomi, raised as a
farm boy who thought of himself as “just another warrior/soldier,” admired the
rural folks of Manchuria and was content to die for them, a transfer out of the
region was quite unsettling.
However, upon expressing how disappointed he was about his transfer,
Hitomi was assured by his commanding ocer Colonel Shimada Keinosuke
that he was “the man for the job.” This was no empty compliment, for
Shimada had already told his superiors how impressed he had been by the
reports Hitomi had filed expressing the opinion that the best way to deal with
the aggressive anti- Japanese propaganda and popular agitation activities of the
Northeastern Anti- Japanese Coalition partisans was not the “exclusive exercise
of military force,” but rather conducting a counterinsurgency that “raised our
voices” in expounding inter- ethnic ideals of the harmony among Japanese, Han
6 Introduction
Chinese, Korean, Manchu and Mongol (gozoku kyōwa) and peace and prosper-
ity under enlightened imperial leadership (ōdō rakudo) in an eort to win the
understanding of the people. “So, it must have been those damn reports that
got me transferred,” rued Hitomi. In reality, day after day fighting in the Man-
churian outback had left Hitomi out of touch with the present international
situation, himself initially interpreting the transfer as the result of some new
battlefront forming further south on the Chinese mainland [Hitomi 1980:
65–6; Hitomi 1994: 482–7].
The same was true of Maj. Saitō Shizuo (b. 1914), who had been “red
noticed” from the younger ranks of the Ministry of Foreign Aairs diplomatic
corps and was serving as an artillery platoon leader in the Sendai regimental dis-
trict infantry in Miyagi Prefecture. Saitō was summoned by his superior ocer
in the middle of a beachhead exercise o Matsushima wharf and told that he
had been attached to the Sixteenth Army’s military administration sta, and to
go straight home and prepare to report to Konoye Division General Head-
quarters in Tokyo. He recalled the whole aair as “absolutely making no sense
in every aspect.”
Hurrying o to Tokyo without even time to say farewell to his troops, he
was finally informed upon arrival that the Osamu Group (Sixteenth Army)
under the command of Lt. General Imamura was in the process of being organ-
ized into two divisions totaling 55,000 enlisted men and ocers bound for Java.
Saitō proceeded as ordered directly to the “Military Administration Department
Organizing Oce,” to join its sta in drafting the “Java Military Administration
Implementation Guidelines” based on such documents as the “Guidelines for
Implementing Military Administration in Southern Occupied Territories.” Saitō
recalled that while they had “a vague sense” of what the southern advance
policy was, they “never conceived” of occupying the whole Indonesian archi-
pelago. So, they started “discussing what to do in the case of an occupation, in
abstract theoretical terms” [Saitō 1977: 10–13; Saitō 1991: 171–2].
The Southern Army’s General Sta in charge of directing and coordinating
the operations of all four expeditionary forces was to be set up in the French
Indochina city of Saigon, where Japanese troops had been stationed since July
1941 (it was moved to Singapore in July 1942, then to Manila in June 1944,
and finally back to Saigon in November of that year). One ocer assigned to
the General Headquarters sta was Maj. Sakakibara Masaharu (b. 1911), a
member of Japan’s peerage with the title of viscount by virtue of his heritage as
the sixteenth lord of the former Takada feudal domain of Echigo Province (by
1871 all the fiefdoms had been abolished and replaced by prefectures governed
by the national government). After graduating from Tokyo Imperial University
Faculty of Law in 1937, Sakakibara joined Taiwan Development (Taiwan
Takushoku) Co., Ltd., a colonial investment monopoly, as secretary to the presi-
dent, before being inducted during August 1938 into the 1st Field Artillery
Division as a buck private. During his first year of duty, “I spent two or three
months washing horses’ hooves and hauling rags, slapped around by non-
commissioned ocers and first- class specialists for no apparent reason,
Introduction 7
wondering if this is what the army of the Empire is really about.” Nevertheless,
in retrospect, army life for this spoiled young aristocrat was, according to the 15
August 1942 entry in his diary, “a fine, precious experience … I am now confi-
dent of capturing the style and manner of a soldier more than anyone else”
[Sakakibara 1998: 7].4 It was in 1940 that Sakakibara was promoted to major in
the Eastern 13th Division stationed in Setagaya, Tokyo; and his transfer to the
sta of the Southern Army’s General Sta seemed a godsend for someone who
had staked his career in a southward advance enterprise before his induction. “It
is only natural,” wrote an elated Sakakibara on 18 November, “that someone
who has dedicated his life to Japan’s advance south up till now, continue to
strive for that goal in the future. This is a great opportunity. I’m o on an excit-
ing quest!”
Deployment and the opening of hostilities
Saturday, 22 November 1941. On a hand numbing, sleet driven day after four
days of busy preparation, bidding farewell, ordering tropical wear and being
measure for national civilian uniforms, it came time for the “white notice”
inductees of the southern civilian corps to deploy to their respective duty sta-
tions. That particular day left deep impressions on a great many people and
marked an important moment in the lead- up to the start of the war.
On the morning of that day, the A (Philippine bound) and C (Java bound)
Details of civilian corpsmen were required to report as ordered to the Eastern
District Army Command at Takebashi, Tokyo. Kon Hidemi, who had not had
time to have a national civilian uniform made, left his house wearing an ordinary
suit jacket as instructed, and shyly bowing to an intimidating group of women
gathered at the entrance to his house, donning white sashes to send the depart-
ing hero o in auspicious fashion, before boarding the automobile that would
take him to Takebashi. Although sending the troops o at Army Command was
prohibited, a fairly large crowd of well- wishers had appeared just the same.
From there the new civilian recruits were transported en masse in the beds of
delivery trucks to the grounds of Zōjōji Temple in Shiba. Not a word was
uttered during the bone jarring ride on the way to the temple [Kon 1944:
Sakakibara Masaharu was also at Zōjōji that day. Interred in the temple’s
graveyard were such figures as the second Edo Bakufu shogun Tokugawa Hide-
tada, whom his ancestors had served. He described the scene of the civilian
corps trucks rolling onto the temple grounds in the following light- hearted
As there were no sergeants, commissioned ocers had to perform the cleri-
cal duties for processing the new recruits. These are certainly extraordinary
times. Novelists Ozaki Shirō and Abe Tomoji, artists, newspaper reporters
and language interpreters. Top corporate managers among the same ranks.
What an interesting turn of events. Being able to get such a mix of people
8 Introduction
to live the life of new recruits is indeed a sign of the times. Urgent times
that transcend individual personalities. And I found them very serious and
(22 November 1941)
Although there are no exact figures on just how many men were assembled on
the temple grounds that day, Ono Toyoaki remembers over 400 present.
Despite Sakakibara’s impressions from afar, other accounts suggest the scene at
Zōjōji was fairly chaotic. Noon passed and the roll call list had still not been
squared with those actually present, and the nervous composure that had ini-
tially gripped the recruits had all but vanished. “Some were getting fed up, there
was undisciplined laughter, some had grown sullen over one bothersome matter
or another things were getting out of hand.” Then came the orders. It was
permitted to phone family members and have them bring forgotten belongings,
but “you cannot divulge your destination, time of departure, or anything else
about the mission.” Then it was ordered that C Detail’s departure would be
delayed until the next day and that it would bivouac at the Army War College
(Rikugun Daigaku) in Aoyama; since A detail would depart that evening from
Tokyo Railway Station, it would be temporarily dismissed and re- assemble at
the Station. After the order to dismiss had been given, most of A Group joyfully
left the grounds, leaving only a disheveled group of literary figures behind
[Kon 1944: 21–9]. Ono Toyoaki ran to a nearby restaurant he frequented and
called his home. His wife went to see him o at Tokyo Station, despite being
harassed by the Military Police about who had divulged such secret information
[about the evening departure]. “In fact, there were a lot of people who showed
up. Everyone must have called home!” joked Ono in an interview [Ono
1994: 572].
It was in this way that one contingent of civilian corps recruits departed
Tokyo Station late that evening behind the blinds pulled down on their third-
class coach, conversing over endless topics, no one able to sleep, everyone intent
on relating “his own surprise and reactions the moment he saw his ‘white
notice,’ recounting the busy days that followed and the excitement they were
experiencing amidst a kind of looming anxiety.” Kon interprets this outpour of
conversation as less a desire to engage in friendly dialogue than the act of regur-
gitating “this once in a lifetime experience … in order to embed it as a perma-
nent part of each one’s memory” [Kon 1944: 32–3]. Ono Toyoaki was busy
looking for Ozaki Shirō on the train. He had been approached by a middle-
aged woman at the station entrance who handed him a 1.8-liter bottle of sake,
requesting, “Would you be so kind as to give this to Ozaki Shirō?” After
receiving the bottle, Ozaki took a sip and told Ono and the others how his
serial feature, Takasugi Shinsaku, now on hold due to his induction, would turn
out [Ono 1994: 572].
The ocers of the Southern Army General Sta departed from Tokyo Station
on the following evening of 23 November, including Sakakibara Masaharu, who
got on the third- class carriage in front of a big sending- o by members of the
Introduction 9
Tokugawa and Sakakibara noble families, as well as his colleagues of the 1st
Artillery Division. Later they joined the A Detail of civilian inductees at the
overseas deployment depot located in Hiroshima’s port city of Ujina, where
they boarded the Suwa Maru, a special freighter commandeered by the Navy,
stopping at Shimonoseki (Yamaguchi Prefecture) before setting sail for Taiwan,
the staging ground for the “Southern Invasion Operations.” After reaching the
northern Taiwanese port of Keelung on 30 November, Sakakibara and the rest
of the Southern Army General Sta remained on board for the trip to Saigon,
arriving in the waters o Cape Saint Jacques (present- day Thành ph Vũng Tàu)
on 6 December. They would hear of the start of the hostilities while they were
waiting for approval to enter the Port of Saigon.
Kon Hidemi and his A Detail colleagues proceeded from Keelung to Taipei,
where the Watari Group (Fourteenth Army) forces were being formed. It was
on the playground of the primary school run by Taipei Normal Academy that
they were to first meet their Propaganda Detail commanding ocers, including
its leader Lt. Colonel Katsuya Fukushige and 1st Lieutenant Hitomi Junsuke,
just transferred from Manchuria. During the roll call of this rag- tag group of
conscripted civilians, Hitomi recalls his “utter surprise” at the names of the
celebrity authors he was calling out [Hitomi 1994: 485]. From Taipei, the
detail relocated to Kaohsiung in the south, where they spent several days await-
ing the arrival of the Teikai Maru, the flagship of the Fourteenth Army General
Sta, which joined the large fleet carrying the landing forces to the waters o
Penghu Island.
Upon reaching the upper deck on the morning of 8 December, Kon was sur-
prised to find the fleet which had surrounded the Teikai Maru just the day
before nowhere in sight. Then while everyone was wondering why they were
served with sweet bean gelatin, an unusual dish for breakfast, the breaking news
that the war had begun reached them. Just past noon, as reports of the bom-
bardment of Hong Kong and the Hawaiian Islands began coming in, everyone
crowded into the mess hall to get all the news from the “crackling wireless.”
Then that evening, the civilian corpsmen again assembled in the dining hall to
take the “oath of oce, which ocially made us members of the armed forces,”
solemnly “handed to each man for his signature and seal” [Kon 1944: 75–9].
On 22 November, while the A and C Details were mustering at Zōjōji,
Takami Jun’s B Detail (bound for Burma) and Ibuse Masuji and Matsumoto
Naoji’s D Detail (bound for Malaya/Singapore) were ordered to assemble at
the Central District Army headquarters located near the old Tenshukaku bastion
of Ōsaka Castle. They were housed in regimental barracks on a day- by-day basis
for a period totaling ten days. This uneventful period of boredom is described in
detail by the first volume of Diary of Takami Jun (Takami Jun Nikki) [Takami
1965] and Ibuse’s South Voyage Digest (Nankō Taigaiki)” published in 1943
[Ibuse 1997b], which the latter claims he wrote “being aware of possible army
censorship and during the War published an unabridged version in paper-
back” [Ibuse 2005: 20]. Those days were spent in perfunctory military training
exercises, followed by daily excursions shopping, sightseeing, meeting with
10 Introduction
family, buying books on Southeast Asia and attending lectures by people with
experience in the region’s countries. (For example, Takami himself gave a talk
on the three- month trip to Indonesia he had made during January–March
1941). Takami and his cohorts were given ample opportunity to guess their
destination, since they found among the inductees Thai and Burmese interpret-
ers, prompting Takami to purchase books on local conditions in the south,
including one on Burma.
Finally, on 2 December 1941, both B and D Details boarded the freighter
Afurika Maru moored in the port of Ōsaka and headed south, hearing of the
first strikes at 6 a.m. on the 8th while in the waters o Hong Kong. A bow of
allegiance to the emperor ceremony (kyūjō yōhai) was held on deck before lis-
tening to the declaration of war edict read over the wireless, to which “all
shouted ‘Banzai!’ The next day’s mimeographed daily, Southern Voyage News
(Nankō Nyūsu), carried a feature entitled “Individual Impressions upon Hearing
the News of Engaging the Americans and British” [Ibuse 1997b: 463–4]. The
facsimile of Southern Voyage News distributed on that day appears in the first
volume of Takami’s Diary. Everyone seemed of the opinion that “the inevitable
had finally arrived”; however, compared to strait- laced comments of the combat
troops and crew aboard, like “Let’s dedicate ourselves to the glory of the
Emperor in the spirit of camaraderie,” some of the literary writers were not as
enthusiastic or sympathetic, with remarks like “I knew it would happen this way.
We should have deployed earlier. I was down with a cold at the time and wasn’t
in any condition to feel anything, much less shock or surprise” [Ibuse] and “I
have long trained myself not to think about things not worth thinking about.
It’s the end of the year, let someone else do the thinking” [Kai’onji]. Takami
Jun can be counted among the gung- ho contingent, writing, “The inevitable
has come to test our luck.” Another “converted” writer, Satomura Kinzō, who
had already served at the China front remarked, “The inevitable has come.
Nothing more needs to be said. It’s the same as when we received our draft
notices” [Takami 1965: 257]. In his postwar memoirs, which are for the most
part colored with a bit more pessimism, Takami wrote, “Of course I wasn’t
exactly jumping for joy, but there was definitely a refreshing feeling of relief
[Takami 1972: 396]. On 18 December, the Afurika Maru arrived in Saigon,
where Takami and his B Detail disembarked and “left for who knows where”
[Ibuse 1997b: 470]. The civilian inductees thus continued not to be informed
of their destinations and marched blindly as ordered.
Abe Tomoji, Takeda Rintarō and Ōya Sōichi of C Detail (bound for Java)
were still in training at the Eastern Division’s 8th Regiment (former Third
Infantry Regiment barracks, today the site of the National Art Center) in
Aoyama, Tokyo, when they heard the news of the first strikes. Their Osamu
Group (Sixteenth Army) invasion of the Dutch East Indies had been scheduled
to take place after those attacks. Machida Keiji (b. 1896), the commanding
ocer of the Propaganda Detail attached to the group, at the beginning of the
war, recalled in his postwar memoir that, after the outbreak of the war, the unit
set about the work of “making posters, writing radio broadcasting scripts and
Introduction 11
collecting phonograph records to entertain and inspire the people.” Of special
note, was the recording on Columbia Records of “Indonesia Raya” (Great
Indonesia; W.R. Spratman, 1928) under the direction of world renowned classi-
cal composer Yamada Kosaku (Kôsçak Yamada), featuring a choir of students
from Indonesia and Ichiki Tatsuo (b. 1906), a resident of Indonesia for over
twenty years who would remain after the Japanese evacuation to fight and die in
the Indonesian Revolution [Machida 1967: 13–18]. The C Detail and Java
military administration sta members, including Saitō Shizuo, would depart
from Tokyo the following year on 2 January. Almost a month after the outbreak
of the war, their ranks would swell with such contingents as a group of petro-
leum engineers, including Tamaki Akiyoshi (b. 1908) of the Mitsubishi Oil
Corporation’s Kawasaki Refinery, who had received his “white slip” after the
opening of hostilities, and Taniguchi Gorō (b. 1902), former president of the
East Indies Nippō News Agency, branch manager class employees of the Mitsui,
Mitsubishi and Nomura groups with work experience in Java, mid- level minis-
terial bureaucrats assigned to the military administration’s core posts, and
graduates of the “Southern Development Seminar (Takunanjuku),” a technical
college set up by the government in 1940 to prepare students embracing the
“dream of spreading their wings over the South Seas” for the push into South-
east Asia. This latter group of civilian corpsmen set sail from the port of Ōsaka
the following day (3 January 1942) aboard the freighter Manira Maru [Saitō
1977: 14–16].
It was on 8 December 1941 while aboard the Toa Kai’un Line’s passenger/
freighter Kōtai Maru sailing up the Yangtze River from Nanjing to Hankou that
Murata Shōzō (b. 1878) was informed that the war had begun. Since having
joined the Ōsaka Shōsen Co. in 1900, Murata had long been engaged in devel-
oping the shipping business between China and Japan, and had taken ocean
voyages to Europe and the United States. He became the president of the
company in 1934, becoming the leading figure representing the maritime indus-
try in Japan. In 1939, Murata was appointed to a seat in the Imperial Diet’s
Upper House of Peers, and the following year began a stint as Minister of
Transportation and Communications (later concurrently appointed to Railway
Minister) in the second and third Konoye Fumimaro cabinets. When on 18
October 1941 the Konoye cabinet resigned en masse, Murata, “relieved of my
duties for the first time in a long while,” decided to find out for himself what
was going on around China in the midst of the Second Sino- Japanese War and
thus set out on a tour of the country accompanied only by a personal secretary.
It was an emotional journey for Murata, finding the “antiquated Elysian atmo-
sphere” he had experienced as a young commercial shipping clerk in the city of
Suzhou (Jiangsu Province) “now choked with artillery smoke,” gasping at “the
raw smell of a fresh battlefield” at Nanjing’s Kwanhua Gate “which the van-
guard Wakizaka Regiment had overrun.”
The Kōtai Maru had barely reached Jiujiang when “the radio began squawk-
ing about ‘Honolulu’ ‘Pearl Harbor’ or something … fellow passengers lending
all ears to the news, sensing ‘something terrible has happened.’ ” Realizing from
12 Introduction
the commotion that the fighting had begun, Murata thought, “It’s now or
never. Now that we’ve gone and attacked the Americans and British and started
a war, we must win … and I’ve got to help in some way.” Murata immediately
decided to cancel the trip and returned to Tokyo, meeting upon arrival with the
Prime Minister, Tōjō Hideki, his colleague (as War Minister) in the Konoye
Cabinet, who personally requested him to act as the Supreme Advisor for the
Expeditionary Forces to the Philippines. At that time, Tōjō “humbly” asked
Murata to accept the post, saying “in order to avoid repeating the mistakes”
committed during the Manchurian Incident “due to purely military- minded
decision- making,” he was requesting the top senior advisor to help keep the
Commander in Chief away from arbitrary decision- making as an ocial person-
ally appointed by the emperor (shin’nin-kan). Murata immediately accepted the
oer and would assume his duties in Manila during February 1942 [Ōsaka
Shōsen Co. 1959: 278–314].
While the mobilization for the southern advance continued to expand as the
war wore on, Philosopher Miki Kiyoshi (b. 1897) wrote in a letter to his friend
Sakata Norio dated 22 December 1941,
The present situation is growing serious, a time of severe trials has arrived,
and the field of philosophy also will, in my opinion, be facing important
challenges. I am determined to meet the challenge coolly and calmly, not
being deterred and confused by the vagaries of the times and turned into a
laughing stock for the next generation. It is time to make an accounting of
myself and make a new start in the coming year.
It was shortly after he wrote the above letter that he received a totally unex-
pected “white induction notice” and found himself among the second group of
civilian inductees assigned to the Philippines. In January 1942, Miki wrote in an
apology for having to cancel a previously scheduled lecture, “We could be
deploying any day now to begin serving the cause I’ll probably be gone for
about a year,” closing with the line,
No matter where they send me, I’ll always be eager to learn something.
[Miki 1968, Vol. 19: 418–19]
It was on Saturday, 28 March 1942, nearly three weeks after the Hayashi Group
(Fifteenth Army) took Rangoon, the capital of British colonial Burma (8
March), that Kuwano Fukuji (b. 1901), head of the Artificial Silk Section of
Mitsui & Co.’s Textile Department, received his “white induction notice,” after
taking the rest of the day o work to play with his children. Contrary to the
initial projections, the Southern invasion had unexpectedly penetrated all of
Burma, making the establishment of a Japanese occupation administration there
an imminent possibility, an operation that called for personnel like Kuwano,
who had experience working in the region. Although he had to “forget all the
plans” he had made regarding his work and his family, Kuwano, managed to
Introduction 13
reply to a sympathetic army major at the civilian personnel aairs oce apolo-
gizing for the inconvenience caused by his absence from home, “I’ll go knowing
that if it’s a matter of national importance, there won’t be any complications.”
To this thought, which he recorded in his postwar memoirs (1988), Kuwano
added a note to his readers,
This had to be the thinking of almost the whole nation at that time. After
all, I wasn’t the only totalitarian or right- winger around. As a result of the
one- sided information and distorted indoctrination we had been exposed
to, the entire nation was walking the path of loyalty and patriotism.
[Kuwano 1988: 14–15]
When woven together, the above odds and ends taken from the experiences of
the civilians and soldiers who were mobilized for the invasion and occupation of
Southeast Asia produce a kind of festive atmosphere, beginning with the confu-
sion and tension of suddenly being inducted or transferred into some unknown
but great endeavor, giving rise to both anxiety and expectation about its
outcome, leading to the kind of excitement caused by sudden disruptions in the
flow of daily life. These experiential bits and pieces from the “narrative,” which
these participants have left us, form a fairly consistent, uniform landscape of
imagery. Both the available published literary works and personal memos alike
tell us that for many people in Japan, the news of the outbreak of war on 8
December 1941 was a source of elation and liberation from the stagnated atmo-
sphere of the quagmire of Second Sino- Japanese War and deadlocked negoti-
ations with the United States. Those in the process of mobilization before the
war experienced a hint of such joy and freedom ahead of the rest of the nation,
as we have briefly seen.
Here we encounter the figure of a people groping amidst “a new war” for
the escape route they had been desperately looking for. What did they find upon
emerging from that escape tunnel and what were they able to learn there? In the
chapters that follow, the meaning of Japan’s occupation of Southeast Asia will
be examined as a historical experience geared toward postwar Japan and its
people via an analysis of the “narrative” that has been presented for the most
part by the Japanese participants directly involved in that occupation.
A brief outline of the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia
In order to chronologically frame the historical experience of that occupation,
let us first review the actual events in succession from beginning to end. At
dawn on 8 December 1941 (1:30 a.m. Japan time), Japan began its “Southern
invasion operation,” instigating the Asia- Pacific War, with an amphibious assault
by the Tomi Group’s (Twenty Fifth Army) Eighteenth Division capturing the
beachhead at Kota Bahru on the northwestern shoreline of the Malay Peninsula.
Then about two hours later, the Japanese Combined Fleet launched an attack
on United States territory at Pearl Harbor on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii.
14 Introduction
Almost simultaneously, the Hayashi Group (Fifteenth Army) began “stationing”
troops in Thailand prior to the troop transit agreement signed with the Thai
government in the afternoon of the 8th. The last of the initial strikes took the
form of a Japanese naval air bombardment in the waters o the Malay Peninsula,
which sank the HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales, two state- of-the- art
British battleships, and established the maritime supremacy necessary for the
Southern invasion.
These initial victories were followed by a series of military successes, which
included the occupation of the British colony of Hong Kong (25 December
1941), the city of Manila in the US autonomous colony of the Philippine
Islands (2 January 1942), Singapore, British Malaya (15 February) and
Rangoon, British Burma (8 March), as well as the unconditional surrender by
the Netherlands of the Dutch East Indies (9 March). It was on 7 May that the
especially dicult invasion of the Philippines was brought to a conclusion with
the surrender of US forces on the island of Corregidor, followed by the declara-
tion by Japan of the successful conclusion of its Southern Campaign on 18 May
with “the suppression” of all military resistance in Burma. It was only three
weeks later, however, that the direction of the war would begin to turn with the
defeat suered by the Japanese Navy fleet in the battle of Midway (4 to 7 June).
In geographical terms, what was meant at that time by “the South” (Nanpō)
was the entire region into which Japanese troops advanced on the newly opened
Asia- Pacific War front and managed to occupy and govern. Japan’s southern-
most advance extended into the central Pacific (Micronesia, Melanesia) and
onto the island of New Guinea, where between 1942 and 1944, the heaviest
encounters between the Allied (US and Australian) forces and the Japanese
Army took place. On the other hand, the almost entire region of Southeast Asia
consisting of today’s ten ASEAN countries, continental and insular, was placed
under Japanese military rule.
Japan, however, did not directly occupy the entire region we know today as
Southeast Asia. In French Indochina under the governance of Vichy France, in
East Timor, a colony of neutral Portugal, and in the sovereign state of Thailand,
Japan was technically not an occupier but an entity whose military presence was
allowed by the sovereigns of each country. The rest of the region was placed at
least temporarily under direct military occupation to be governed by various
units of the Japanese Army and Navy. In specific terms, the “main areas put
under the jurisdiction” of the army were the US autonomous colony of the
Philippines, British Burma, Malaya (present- day (West) Malaysia), Hong Kong
and the Dutch East Indies islands of Java and Sumatra, while the Navy assumed
jurisdiction over the US territory of Guam, Dutch Borneo (present- day Kali-
mantan, Indonesia), the Celebes/Moluccas and Lesser Sunda Islands (the island
chain from Bali to Timor), Dutch and Australian New Guinea and the Austral-
ian administered Bismarck Archipelago [Bōei Kenkyūjo, ed. 1985: 96–8]. The
army referred to its governing duties as “Southern military administration”
(Nanpō gunsei), while the portion of insular Southeast Asia occupied by the
Navy was governed as “civilian administration” (minsei) in deference to the
Introduction 15
possibility that the region would be annexed into Japan proper [Koike
1995: 163].
The dierences in style and internal squabbles that aicted the relationship
between the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy is a well- known and well-
researched topic that need not be reexamined here. While the previous sections
dealt exclusively with civilian conscription activities within the army, it should
be mentioned that the Navy had a similar program, recruiting, for example,
Akutagawa Prize- winning novelist Ishikawa Tatsuzō together with Un’no Jūzō,
Japan’s first science fiction author, to sta its public relations units. The area
placed under the Navy, however, was far more often the scene of maritime
battles than actual territorial occupation, while the territory placed under army
governance was overwhelmingly larger in size and population, and far more
important both politically and economically. In this respect, the emphasis placed
on the army in the following chapters better represents the “boots on the
ground” experience of the Japanese troops and civilians who were involved in
the occupation.
It was in the above manner that Japan’s occupation of Southeast Asia con-
tinued over the next three to three- and-a- half-year period, depending on the
area in question. On the Burmese and Philippine fronts, the initial military
administrations were replaced with “independent” governments on 1 August
and 14 October 1943, respectively, while they continued to be under de facto
Japanese military occupation, very much the same as other occupied territories
in Southeast Asia. It was also in the Philippines and Burma that the Allies would
stage their counter- oensive and destroy Japan’s military control over the two
countries, leading to its eventual defeat. Entering the second half of 1944, the
Allied counterattack from the central Pacific and New Guinea threatened to ruin
the whole Southern Occupation. In the Philippines, which had in July 1944
been designated the area of “Sho/victory mission No. 1” by Japan, assault land-
ings were successfully staged by US forces on Leyte on 20 October 1944 and
on Luzon on 9 January 1945, leading to the month- long bloody Battle of
Manila, the loss of which on 3 March eectively ended Japanese control of the
Islands. In Burma as well, where Japanese and Allied ground forces were
engaged from the beginning of the war, the failure of the overambitious
“Imphal Operation” (March–July 1944), aiming at the invasion of neighboring
British India, invited the launch of an Allied counter- oensive, which fomented
an anti- Japanese mutiny by the Burmese National Army (BNA) in March 1945
and led to the fall of Rangoon on 2 May.
Meanwhile, in the other occupied areas of Southeast Asia, although Japanese
control remained largely intact, the last days of the war would be marked by
budding, but significant, political change. In Thailand, the government led by
Phibun (Plaek Phibunsongkhram), which after several hours of fighting on 8
December 1941 chose to cooperate with Japan and its 150,000-troop garrison,
was forced out of oce on 1 August 1944 and replaced by a civilian govern-
ment in secret communication with the clandestine pro- Allied Free Thai Move-
ment (Seri Thai). In French Indochina, amidst the Allied liberation of France
16 Introduction
and the fall of the Vichy France government in August 1944, the Japanese Army
implemented an order on 9 March 1945 to disarm the region’s French colonial
troops, while Japan proclaimed “independence” for the polities of the Annam
Empire (Vietnam), Kingdom of Cambodia and Kingdom of Luang Prabam
(Laos). Despite these eorts, the guerilla activities of the Viê
.t Minh national
independence movement continued to escalate. In Indonesia, whose territory
had been divided into several Army and Navy jurisdictions, the final months of
the war saw heightening movements for national independence throughout the
former Dutch East Indies. It was under such conditions that Japan finally
accepted defeat on 15 August 1945.
According to the Potsdam Declaration, from that day on in the regions still
occupied by Japan, Japanese troops were ordered to keep law and order under
Allied direction until the areas could be re- occupied by Allied forces. On 17
August, however, Indonesia’s national liberation leader Sukarno (b. 1910) pro-
claimed the country’s independence, and during the month of September in
Vietnam, after a series of protest demonstrations, the Viê
.t Minh wrested power
from the Annam Empire (August Revolution). Both countries were then
plunged into wars for independence with their former suzerains, the Nether-
lands and France, attempting re- colonization.
The number of Japanese involved in the unfolding of their country’s occupa-
tion of Southeast Asia has been estimated at over 2 million, if we include
combat troops, conscripted civilian corps personnel, employees of enterprises
commissioned by the military and nationals residing in the region. For lack of
more accurate data, this figure is based on the number of people who were
evacuated from the region at the end of the war and the number of those killed
or missing in action, and does not include those who withdrew during the war
(due to regimental redeployment, dismissed civilian corpsmen and nationals
fleeing their war- ravaged homes). The Japan Ministry of Health and Welfare has
estimated that the total number of evacuees and war dead over all of the
“southern” regions came to 2.33 million (1.31 million killed in action) and sets
the number from “occupied” Southeast Asia (i.e., excluding New Guinea and
the central Pacific Islands) at 1.65 million (including 760,000 killed in action)
[Kōseishō 1997: 118]. The total population of the region encompassed by
Japan’s Southern invasion operations (excluding India) around the year 1940
comes to 140 million people, who suered casualties of mass proportions during
Japan’s military presence in their countries. In the Philippines alone, the postwar
ocial estimate claimed that over 1.1 million people lost their lives during the
war [Hartendorp 1958: 164], while as much as a million and a half Bengalis and
over 1 million Vietnamese allegedly died as the result of the rice famines of
1943 and 1944–5, respectively; and between 3 and 4 million Indonesians were
said to have succumbed to forced labor and starvation [Dower 1986: 296].
Attempting to weave together all of the innumerable and diverse life and
death experiences that occurred during the Southern Occupation would be an
endless task. This book is merely one way of piecing together what happened,
with the specific purpose of making sense out of Japan’s occupation of Southeast
Introduction 17
Asia as a historical experience that unfolded for postwar Japan and its people.
The key phase “experience that unfolded after the war” is related to the histor-
ical impact that the occupation of Southeast Asia had on Japan and its people.
The occupation of Southeast Asia as a key moment in
dismantling the Japanese Empire
Both within the historical research to date on Japan’s occupation of Southeast
Asia and within the historical perceptions about the Asia- Pacific War, the discus-
sion has been focused on the war’s relation to the “decolonization” (meaning
political independence from Western colonial rule) of the region. That is to say,
attention has been drawn to the historical impact of the Japanese occupation on
Southeast Asia.
With the exception of the constitutional monarchy of Thailand, all of the
region of Southeast Asia occupied by Japan consisted at that time of colonies,
territories and mandates of Western powers, although the Philippines was ear-
marked by a 1934 act of the US Congress for national independence in 1946.
Following Japan’s defeat and withdrawal, the region was plunged into turbulent
times marked by political movements and military action aimed at independence
from its colonial suzerains, resulting in gradual withdrawal of European empires
from the region, beginning with the Dutch and French by the late 1950s, fol-
lowed by Britain by the end of the 1960s. Even if it does not deserve to be
described in terms of “liberation,” it cannot be denied on any objective grounds
that the Japanese occupation was one of several important moments in the
decolonization of Southeast Asia.
In reviewing the research on the occupation done to date, we find that the
lead was first taken by Western based historians up through the 1970s [Benda
1958; Silverstein, ed. 1966; McCoy, ed. 1980]. Attention at that time was
focused on discovering the meaning of the Occupation in terms of the region’s
historical development and evaluating what had survived from the prewar into
the postwar era and what had not (continuity vs. discontinuity), all reflecting
the impact exerted by the loss of Southeast Asian colonies on their former Euro-
pean suzerains. In Japan by contrast, that same period was characterized by the
important historiographical accumulation of the “narrative” presented by the
occupation history makers [Yomiuri Shimbunsha 1967–76; Tokyo Daigaku, ed.
1980], while on the research front, the first full- blown studies [Nishijima and
Kishi 1959; Ōta 1967; Kobayashi 1975] were mixed in with the publication of
fragmentary treatises [Gotō 1989; Yamamoto and Morita 1999].
It would not be until the beginning of the 1980s that in- depth study of the
occupation would get underway in Japan, with the pioneering work of Iwatake
Teruhiko [1981, 1989], himself a former sta member of the Southern Army
military administration department, and a joint study of the relationship
between Japanese military administration and Asian nationalist movements
[Tanaka, ed. 1983] as well as interest in comparative occupation history on the
place to be awarded on the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia [Sodei, ed.
18 Introduction
1985]. This time was also marked by the Japan Defense Agency’s Institute of
Defense Studies publication of primary sources on the military administration of
Southeast Asia in 1985 [Bōei Kenkyūjo, ed. 1985]. Then during the latter half
of the decade, the level of research was given a tremendous boost with the start
of the Toyota Foundation- funded joint projects on the occupation in each
country and region of Southeast Asia, which began to publish their findings
during the 1990s in the form of both individual research and collections of
papers, many of which have become available in English translation. The dis-
covery of important primary sources and the publication of interview data also
continued [Gotō 1989; Kurasawa 1992; Ikehata, ed. 1996; Ikehata and Jose,
eds. 1999; Kurasawa, ed. 1997; Akashi, ed. 2001; Gotō 2003; Frei 2004;
Akashi and Yoshimura, eds. 2007; Nemoto, ed. 2007].
Those who assumed the lead in the research up through the 1990s in Japan
were historians of Southeast Asia who tended to adopt the problematic raised
by Western scholars centered on the meaning of Japan’s occupation within
Southeast Asian history. However, their contribution did not stop there; for as
Japanese scholars, they took full advantage of their familiarity with and proxim-
ity to both primary Japanese written sources and interviews given by surviving
Japanese informants to fill in both the historiographical and linguistic unknowns
theretofore existing in the research being done outside of Japan, thus providing
the field for the first time with first- person portrayals of “Japan and the Japanese
as occupiers.” Moreover, during the latter part of the 1990s, stimulated by new
developments in source material availability and the boom happening in the
publication of records and memoirs from the pens and voices of actual war parti-
cipants, historians specializing in contemporary Japan began joining in with new
approaches to the events surrounding the occupation of Southeast Asia, broad-
ening perspectives in subjects ranging from politico- diplomatic and economic to
cultural and intellectual, thus marking the opening of discourse on the meaning
of the Southern Occupation and its Japanese experience from the viewpoint of
the history of Japan [Hatano 1996; Adachi 2002; Takeshima 2003; Kawanishi
2005; 2012]. Scholarship on the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia outside
of Japan during the turn of the twenty- first century has also produced a rich
body of literature and given new insights with more attention paid to socio-
economic and cultural perspectives as well as imperial history [Goodman, ed.
1991; Reynolds 1994; Kratoska, ed. 1995; Duus, Myers, and Peattie, ed. 1996;
Kratoska 1997; Kratoska, ed. 1998; Ooi 2001; Kratoska, ed. 2002; Narangoa
and Robert, eds. 2003; Kratoska, ed. 2006; Mark 2014].
What has been emerging from all of these recent research trends is an image
of a Japanese Empire and its people as fighting a world war and engaging “the
Other” in the occupation of Southeast Asia, finding themselves in dire need of
transformation, encountering all kinds of unexpected contradictions and dead
ends, giving rise to new inquiries concerning that experience. As a matter of
fact, of the colonial empires that occupied the Asia- Pacific region throughout its
history, the first one to completely collapse was the Japanese Empire, the newest
comer to the lot. By accepting the Potsdam Declaration, Japan agreed that its
Introduction 19
“sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshū, Hōkkaidō, Kyūshū,
Shikoku and such minor islands as we [the Allies] determine.” This act, by liber-
ating occupied territory from Japanese rule, ended once and for all that nation’s
experiment with both colonialism and imperialism. That being said, the ques-
tion remains whether or not the sole cause of the breakup and collapse of the
Japanese Empire was merely the military defeat suered in an unwise, poorly
planned war of aggression in the Pacific. Is it not possible to consider that the
Japanese invasion and occupation of Southeast Asia was itself another important
historical shock shaking the foundations of the Japanese Empire?
In this sense, one of the problems to be taken up in the following chapters is
the clash over the real objectives of the war, between arguments based on the
need to procure military resources and those based on the idea of “a holy war of
liberation.” On the one hand, the Southern Campaign was certainly a military
strategy formed by opportunism and the material forces of a world at war, as an
expedition south in search of new sources of military material, the existing
stockpiles of which were dwindling due to such conditions as worsening rela-
tions with the United States. On the other hand, once full- scale hostilities had
broken out, there arose among the Japanese prosecuting the war and conduct-
ing the occupation, a “groundswell” of enthusiasm that their eorts constituted
a holy war, imagined as a racial war, for the liberation of the peoples of Asia.
Regarding this latter assessment, IGHQ and the Southern Army General Sta,
both of whom gave the highest priority to acquiring war resources, in fact feared
inciting ideas and movements in the region’s colonies directed at national inde-
pendence, and took proactive measures to suppress the sudden upsurge of “holy
war” rhetoric, thus inadvertently creating a great source of friction between
IGHQ in Tokyo, the Southern Command in Saigon and its forces on the
The focus on the emerging contradictions and dead ends encountered by the
Japanese Empire is also concerned with weighing the “myth” and the “reality”
of the so- called “Greater East Asia Co- Prosperity Sphere.” It might be generally
assumed that, contrary to the “myth” of the slogan “co- prosperity” promising
reciprocal wealth sharing and political equality, the “reality” of Japan’s military
occupation of Southeast Asia was nothing but oppression and that national
“independence” conferred on Burma and the Philippines under Japanese occu-
pation was only cosmetic and hollow. On the other hand, it is necessary to ask
whether Japan was even able to achieve the “reality” of actually occupying the
region. In other words, couldn’t it be said that the “reality” of the Japanese
Empire’s inability to form a stable social and political order in the region had
weakened that Empire at the pinnacle of its expansion and even influenced
power relations connected with the ideals of co- prosperity, national independ-
ence and the like? It is from such a viewpoint that the “narrative” presented by
those Japanese who were involved in the occupation of Southeast Asia will be
taken up in an attempt to draw the reader’s interest to the historical shock
inflicted by Japan’s Southern Occupation, as an important moment in the weak-
ening and ultimate collapse of the whole Japanese Empire.
20 Introduction
Narita Ryūichi has raised the point that since the Japanese narrative of “war
experience” has been dominated by combatants engaging the enemy on the
battlefield, reflections concerning the Japanese “colonial experience” as “a place
of encounter with the Other” have “yet to mature” [Narita 2010: 20]. The Jap-
anese “war experience” certainly seems to have been dominated by a domestic
narrative in which Japanese lived, fought and died together either on the battle-
front or home front; however, Narita’s “colonial experience” is by no means
missing from the existing narrative. It has only been overlooked. By taking
notice of the Japanese “colonial experience,” especially as it regards the occupa-
tion of Southeast Asia and its failure, what emerges is the experience of discov-
ering the fact that the ways in which the Japanese Empire dealt with “the
Other” known as Southeast Asia just didn’t work and thus exposing the real
meaning of the historical shock inflicted by that experience on Japanese particip-
ants. It is from such a viewpoint, that the chapters that follow will try to show
how the experiences of the Japanese as occupiers of Southeast Asia could
become historical experience unfolding for postwar Japan and its people.
The narrators of the history: a note on methodology
With the above objectives in mind, the following chapters will unfold focusing
on a small group of selected participants in Japan’s Southern Occupation among
a cast of millions in featured roles of narrators/informants, while paying par-
ticular attention to the styles in which they have related their experiences during
wartime and in what ways those experiences have been chewed, regurgitated
and mulled over since the end of the war.
Let us now introduce our cast of characters beginning at the top of the
military command in Tokyo, among the sta ocers at IGHQ and the members
of the Liaison Conferences between IGHQ and the Government. The words
and deeds of these high- ranking military and civilian figures may be found in
their personal records, many of which have been published, such as the Sugi-
yama Memo [Sanbōhonbu, ed. 1967], Records of Defeat (Haisen no Kiroku)
[Sanbōhonbu, ed. 1979]; Classified Journal of the War (Kimitsu Sensō Nisshi)
[Gunjishi Gakkai, ed. 1998], Documentary Sources of the Southern Military
Administration (Shiryōshu Nanpō no Gunsei) [Bōei Kenkyūjo, ed. 1985], The
Secret Records of Prime Minister Tōjō (Tōjō Naikaku Sōri Daijin Kimitsu
Kiroku) [Itō et al., ed. 1990] and the Shigemitsu Mamoru Manuscripts (Shige-
mitsu Mamoru Shuki) [Shigemitsu 1986]. There are also the National Archives
of Japan’s open access cloud archives, the Japan Center for Asian Historical
Records (, which has increasingly made the military and gov-
ernment sources of Imperial Japan available to the public including many of the
above as well as those of the National Institute for Defense Studies (Bōei
Kenkyūjo) Archives. Serious researchers, however, should still visit and consult
its collection for unpublished “narrative” sources not yet available on the Asian
Historical Records database, including the collection of memoirs written by
former Army Chief of Sta ocer and war architect Col. Ishii Akiho5 and other
Introduction 21
unpublished and personal “narrative” sources donated to the National Institute
for Defense Studies. These documents showing the actual day- to-day process by
which these leaders directed the war oer scholars rather exceptional opportun-
ities to reconstruct the past in detail, while other topics and periods of Japanese
modern and contemporary history suer from a serious lack of unclassified
sources. In this volume, we will investigate how this group of leaders, ensconced
in their secret headquarters far removed from Southeast Asia, conceptualized
their army’s occupation of the region.
Next, we have the ocers and enlisted troops serving in the expeditionary
forces to Southeast Asia, the men in uniform who left a huge amount of nar-
rative. Focusing mainly on bloody and violent experiences from the battlefield,
these first- hand accounts and memoirs are in a certain sense extremely important
as historical experience forming postwar consciousness in Japan; however, given
the concern of the present work with the “colonial experience,” light will be
shed mainly on the experiences of those at the hub of the expeditionary forces
charged with military administration and occupation policy- making, acting as
intermediaries between the war leaders in Tokyo and the people of the occupied
territories and their political leaders.
For example, the candid remarks of Iida Shōjirō, Commander in Chief of the
Hayashi Group (Burma) [Iida 1962; Bōei Kenkyūjo, ed. 1985] and the memoirs
of Imamura Hitoshi [1960], the Osamu Group (Java) Commander, attest to
the friction that existed between the troops in the field and both IGHQ and the
Southern Army General Sta. Attention will be drawn to military administration
described in such sources as the memoirs of Utsunomiya Naokata [1981], head
of the General Aairs Department of the Military Administration in the Philip-
pines, and the primary sources collected by Watanabe Wataru, who held the
same post in Malaya [Akashi, ed. 1998]. We will also hear from the younger,
lower- ranking ocers who served as military administrative sta in the region,
such as Saitō Shizuo [1977] in Indonesia, Sakakibara Masaharu [1998; Akashi,
ed. 2004] at Southern Army Sta Headquarters, and their counterparts in the
Philippines, Malaya and Singapore, whose stories appear in the available pub-
lished interview data. There are the memoirs of agents involved in special polit-
ical operations or “scheme” (bōryaku, see Ch.4) in Burma (the Minami Agency),
India (the Fujiwara Agency) and the Philippines (operatives working under Gen.
Artemio Ricarte).
While accounts of the occupation on the local level are few and far between,
the reports filed by Hitomi Junsuke regarding “good will mission” operations
throughout the Philippines have survived and been published [Watari Shūdan
Hōdōbu, ed.]. Through such published materials, we will investigate the atti-
tudes and actions of Japanese men in uniform directed at the indigenous peoples
of the occupied territories and their political leaders.
The Southern Army’s utilization of a large contingent of civilians, non-
uniform employees and commissioned corporate personnel in its invasion and
occupation of Southeast Asia has to be one of the most striking characteristics
of the Asia- Pacific War. Although the amount of narrative produced by this
22 Introduction
sector of the war eort pales in comparison to the body of literature generated
by uniformed combatants, it has particular importance in informing us of histor-
ical aspects of the Southern Occupation that tend to be missing in the battle-
field narratives.
It should not be surprising that the most prolific and enlightening parts of the
civilian corps narrative come to us via the pens of intellectuals, in particular literary
figures, who have left a substantial collection of accounts and memoirs dating
from the time of their initial involvement to the end of the war, and even after.
That being said, within the total number of civilians mobilized by the
Southern Army, those who can be called “intellectuals” comprised an excep-
tionally tiny group. Within the total number of the estimated 20,000 “gunzoku
employees of the Army and Navy, the area groups conscripted 7,652 govern-
ment bureaucrats and corporate personnel to serve as “administrative directors”
and “administrative sta ” [Bōei Kenkyūjo, ed. 1985: 198], while the Army and
Navy supplemented their uniformed troops with 13,695 gunzokuemployees
specializing in such fields as linguistics and communications technology [ibid.:
199]. Besides personnel with “gunzoku classification, a large contingent of
civilians, including women, were hired and transferred south to serve as typists,
telephone operators, and vehicle drivers, etc., while a huge part of the Japanese
business sector advanced south along with the occupation to take over factories,
mines and oil fields seized from the enemy, some in the form of military-
commissioned enterprises. Members of the workforce dispatched from the
private sector were classified as “industrial development and trade sta (sangyō
kaihatsu kōeki yōin).” As of June 1943, the number of Japanese nationals resid-
ing in occupied Southeast Asia (i.e., army administered territory), including visi-
tors, exceeded 40,000 [ibid.: 183–4].
Another interesting genre in the civilian narrative regarding the Southern
Occupation was written by the contingent known as keizaijin (literally
meaning homo economicus),” a moniker that cropped up in prewar journalism
around 1930 referring to the leaders of Japan’s business community
(keizaikai)—corporate executive ocers, board directors and the like—and then
came to prominence after total war had broken out in China in 1937, reflecting
the atmosphere of the business community which felt it their patriotic role to
contribute all they could to the success of the Empire’s war eort. As soon as
the southern operation stabilized to a certain degree, large groups of Japanese
began to be dispatched to the region in the capacity of military administration
sta members and participating enterprise employees. For their contribution to
the Empire as the builders of its “Greater East Asia Co- Prosperity Sphere,”
these keizaijin were lauded as business and industrial “warriors,” but through
their experiences as such they developed their own sense of self- awareness,
significantly dierent from that of the men in uniform.
Murata Shōzō, Supreme Advisor to the Military Administration in the Philip-
pines (later plenipotentiary ambassador to the Philippines) clearly outlines the
keizaijin experience in his diary, while the journal kept by Sakakibara Masaharu,
published after the war “in unexpurgated form” [Sakakibara 1998: 377],
Introduction 23
although written as a sta ocer at Southern Army General Headquarters, con-
tains entries that seem to express the keizaijin point of view. The central gov-
ernment bureaucrats who were mustered into the Southern Army’s military
administration, beginning with Iwatake Teruhiko, who later became a serious
scholar of that military regime, stand before us as valuable witnesses for piecing
together a total picture of the Southern Occupation; and the accounts and
memoirs that have remained regarding the “oilmen brigade,” which took charge
of the oil fields at Palembang, Sumatra, are especially informative concerning
the war and military occupation experiences of the keizaijin contingent. Along
this same vein, we have the diary of Kuwano Fukuji, a trading company
employee dispatched to Burma, where he had worked before the war, a record
filled with interesting, personal insights of “one individual citizen,” published in
1988 “for the information of younger generations” [Kuwano 1988: 14]. This
kind of narrative accumulated from such a diverse mix of civilians telling of their
experiences in encountering “the Other” will be referred to as showing views of
keizaijin as homo economicus, which are dierent from those of professional
writers and intellectuals.
Last but not least, are the experiences of Japanese nationals who had been
residing in Southeast Asia before the war, called “zairyu hōjin” or resident Japa-
nese. Suddenly caught in “enemy territory” following the first strikes and decla-
ration of war, many had been taken prisoner or evicted from their homes, and
consequently welcomed the Japanese Army’s takeover and occupation; but as
the war dragged on, they would see their former livelihoods ruined and be
eventually “evacuated” altogether to Japan. By means of interview data and the
memoirs of such zairyu hōjin as Ōsawa Kiyoshi [1978], who miraculously
survived the cruel and bloody Battle of Manila with the help of Filipino friends,
we will encounter how these displaced Japanese ruminated over their unique
experiences in postwar times.
Here mention should be made concerning all the “storytellers” who will not
appear in the following chapters, in order to re- confirm the purpose of this
study. As exemplified by those who appeared at the beginning of this chapter,
those whose accounts and memoirs have been chosen for study here are, with
very few exceptions, “postwar Japanese,” who survived wartime to tell their
tales. As mentioned above, the survival rate among all Japanese who were dis-
patched south during the war comes to 44 percent all told, and 54 percent
when limited to Southeast Asia proper, figures which best show how skewed
our selection of “storytellers” is. On the other hand, since the main objective of
this study is to understand Japan’s Southeast Asian occupation in terms of the
historical experience that gave birth to the “postwar Japanese,” we would rather
limit ourselves to the kind of narrative left by those who survived the war and
were able to chew, regurgitate and mull over their experiences after the conflict.
One more important constraint placed on the subject matter at hand is the
exclusion of the people of Taiwan and the Korean peninsula from the members
of the Empire’s “Japanese nation” whose narratives are to be analyzed. The
total number of people of Taiwanese and Korean descent who were conscripted
24 Introduction
and militarily embedded during the war is estimated by the Japanese govern-
ment to have reached 451,000 [Kōseishō 1997: 23], and many of them were
deployed as both combat troops and gunzoku” with the Southern Army. This
is one statistical reason why excluding colonial subjects from our pool of “Japa-
nese” would appear at first sight to leave us with a biased sample. However, our
focus on “postwar Japanese” demands that they be excluded. For example,
Yoshizawa Minami, a pioneer in the pursuit of the historical experience of Japa-
nese deployed to French Indochina, including that of Lin Wenzhuang, a colo-
nial subject of Taiwanese descent who remained in Vietnam after Japan’s defeat
and escaped the country as a refugee in 1979 [Yoshizawa 1986: 122–4],
described his first reaction to Lin as “a forgotten experience unimaginable”
[ibid.: 120–1] for any “postwar Japanese” living in the late 1970s. It is in this
way that the experiences of the Japanese colonies and the people of Taiwan and
Korea, who just before the end of the war were not only subjected to the
military draft, but also scheduled to be included in the electorate for the House
of Representatives of the Imperial Diet, were completely wiped from the
“postwar Japanese” memory, and thus have by definition little to say about that
particular historical experience.
This brings us to the dicult problem of putting into focus those who have
not yet told their stories, the Empire’s subalterns. For example, there is the so-
called “military embedded comfort women,” whose “existence” has been
repeatedly described in postwar literature, but who were for almost four decades
after the war hardly perceived in terms of sex slavery, in particular, or Japanese
colonialism, in general. If we assume the ignoring or forgetting of the view-
points of colonial subjects and sex slaves to be problems missing from the master
narrative in the “postwar Japanese” world, such a phenomenon must in some
way be related to the present state of the historical experience concerning the
occupation of Southeast Asia. While following mainly the warp and weft of the
“master narrative” woven by the existing sources, it is also necessary to adopt a
method of reading from those sources not only what they contain, but also the
subaltern elements conspicuously missing from them.
1 All dates appearing in the text have been confirmed by comparison with the available
sources. According to the research done by Kawanishi Masaaki, the envelope contain-
ing the induction notice delivered to Abe Tomoji was a special delivery letter received
by the Tokyo Central Post Oce in the morning of 15 November 1941. If so, there is
a distinct possibility that the induction notices were all sent at the same time as the
issuance of IGHQ Army Department Order (Dai Riku Mei) No. 564 ordering the
Southern invasion [Kawanishi 2001: 161].
2 According to the 1875 “General Outline of Military Institutions” compiled by the
Ministry of War,
The term gunzoku will designate public servants (bureaucrats) in the civilian gov-
ernment sector in the employ of (dispatched to) the army, and other personnel in
the capacity of supervisors, procurers- suppliers, and non- combat and transport,
laborers, et al., all providing their services to army- owned production facilities.
Introduction 25
The ranks of “gunzoku” were divided into government civil servants (bunkan), tempo-
rary administrative sta (koin) and private contract laborers (yōnin), et al.
3 The Japanese military, at least in the Philippines, called its Senden- Han psych- op
detachments the “Propaganda Detail” and also “PK Units” emulating the German
Propaganda Kompanie Einheiten. After the name was ridiculed by Filipino Anglo-
phones as nothing but “army units spreading lies and deceit,” the name was changed
to Hōdōbu (Department of Information) in July 1942. The change was also imple-
mented by the other area groups in the Southern Army under similar circumstances
[Hitomi 1994: 31–2].
4 Whenever dates are mentioned in Sakakibara (1998), the reference citations will there-
after be omitted.
5 Ishii Akiho’s “Diary of Southern Military Administration (Nanpō Gunsei Nikki),”
which appears as a “selection” in several volumes of a number of War History Series
(Senshi Sōshō) compiled by the War History Oce of the National Defense Institute
of Japan, as well as Documentary Sources of the Southern Military Administration
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The Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia between 1941 and 1945 brought with it severe food shortages, largely arising from organizational failures and inadequate transportation. the nine essays in this volume examine the situation in food exporting countries such as Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, in food deficit areas such as Malaya, the Philippines and Java, and in Sarawak which was largely self-sufficient. Two essays examine in detail the famine that struck the Tonkin area of northern Vietnam in 1945.
The Japanese occupation of both British Borneo - Brunei, Sarawak and North Borneo - and Dutch Borneo in 1941 to 1945 is a much understudied subject. Of particular interest is the occupation of Dutch Borneo, governed by the Imperial Japanese Navy that had long-term plans for 'permanent possession'. This book surveys Borneo under Western colonialism, examines pre-war Japanese interests in Borneo, and analyses the Japanese military invasion and occupation. It goes on to consider the nature of Japanese rule in Borneo, contrasting the different regimes of the Imperial Japanese Army, which ruled the north, and the Navy. A wide range of issues are discussed, including the incorporation of the economy in the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere and the effects of this on Borneo's economy. The book also covers issues such as the relationship with the various indigenous inhabitants, with Islam and the Muslim community, and the Chinese, as well as topics of acculturation and propaganda, and major uprisings and mass executions. It examines the impact of the wartime conditions and policies on the local multiethnic peoples and their responses, providing an invaluable contribution to the greater understanding of the significance of the wartime Japanese occupation in the historical development of Borneo.