Daily Archives: 5 March 2006

Japanese Prisoners in India, 1942

[Japanese businessman] Omori and his 500 fellow prisoners reached India, after a ten-day voyage. They berthed at Calcutta, and stayed there for three days. At Changi Prison [in Singapore] they had been divided into two batches, and half of the original group from Port Swettenham had not appeared. Nor had they seen their wives and daughters.

After a 70-hour ride, they were unloaded in the middle of nowhere and marched two hours with their bags to the bulwark of an old fort. They filed through a huge entrance on which was written “Pranakila”. Inside, in a large patch of lawn, tents were lined up in rows to which they were assigned, six persons to one tent. One week later their missing families arrived, around 500 women and children, whom British authorities had held in separate camps on Blakang Mati (now renamed Sentosa) and other islands off Singapore.

Life at Pranakila camp near New Delhi, on an Indian diet of curries, lots of beans and gallons of tea, was not uncomfortable. The women had their own quarters with partitions in between and their beds were lined up under the thick stone ramp which acted as insulation against heat and coldness. The men were treated according to the standards of Indian soldiers; they slept in hammocks, and when it got cold they were given hay in addition to a blanket. Slowly their numbers grew to around 3,000 as they awaited the day when they would return home.

SOURCE: Guns of February: Ordinary Japanese Soldiers’ Views of the Malayan Campaign & the Fall of Singapore 1941-42, by Henry Frei (Singapore U. Press, 2004), pp. 58-59

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Japanese Life in Changchun, Manchukuo, 1941

The grand Army Building on Changchun’s wide main street reflected the majestic appearance of the Japanese military, and the newly-completed Building of Justice displayed a degree of splendour unsurpassed even in their homeland. The area around the station resembled bustling Japanese streets, and the adjoining pleasure district of Yoshino was better even than similar areas at home. Department stores flourished and in the colourful streets one could find eating and drinking stalls and all sorts of entertainment. There was no better place to relax from the boredom of camp life and amuse themselves on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.

Nowhere outside Japan could one feel more proud of being a Japanese. In these grand buildings, power and prestige paired with a never-ending energy in the buoyant shopping streets full of Japanese. But as soon as one set foot in the squalid suburbs of the Manchurians, the poverty was appalling. Japan’s puppet state, Manchukuo, was still a long way from realising the North Asian slogan: “Harmony among the five families [Japan, China, Manchukuo, Taiwan, and Korea], the Kingly Way is paradise.”

SOURCE: Guns of February: Ordinary Japanese Soldiers’ Views of the Malayan Campaign & the Fall of Singapore 1941-42, by Henry Frei (Singapore U. Press, 2004), pp. 34-35

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Nine Rules for Japanese Conscripts, 1940

  1. You are the lowest in the army; always bow and salute everyone first!
  2. When called, respond with a loud voice.
  3. Never be later than your comrades.
  4. Always carry mop and broom at daily cleaning sessions.
  5. Always do the squad leader’s laundry first.
  6. Eat all meals within three minutes. Keep toilet visits short.
  7. Keep your nails trimmed and your personal shelf tidy.
  8. Always be quickest to fall in.
  9. In case of insufficient members to line up, bring along one from another unit to make up the numbers.

SOURCE: Guns of February: Ordinary Japanese Soldiers’ Views of the Malayan Campaign & the Fall of Singapore 1941-42, by Henry Frei (Singapore U. Press, 2004), p. 12

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