Daily Archives: 8 March 2006

Three Views of the Purge of Singapore Chinese, 1942

A member of the Japanese Kempeitai:

The Military Police had no power to change or even protest the order for a purge of the Overseas Chinese, although they opposed it from the outset. At the Military Police Academy they had studied various national legal systems as well as international law and were, accordingly, more knowledgeable than staff officers in matters of trial and penalty. To the police it was difficult to believe that those glorious warriors, who had just gained a stupendous victory, those prominent staff officers who had received the highest military education, would talk and behave so erratically, at a time of busy operations and when Malaya was in an unsettled state immediately after the stupendous British surrender.

Without influence and lacking assertiveness, Lt. Onishi returned to his Headquarters and conveyed the liquidation order to the captain of his auxiliary Military Police. The cruel task would fall on his company of auxiliary police. Neither the auxiliary forces nor the military police were eager to massacre the Chinese. A company at that time consisted of around 60 soldiers equipped with rifles or light machine guns. They hauled the victims away in lorries and slaughtered them down by the beaches. One of his auxiliary Military Policemen, Yamaguchi, carried out the executions with the help of the others, near Changi Road. The number of victims is not known. The figure given by the Japanese was 6,000. The highest Chinese figure was 50,000.

A Chinese survivor:

Yap Yan Hong was one of those who went to Onishi’s Jalan Besar checkpoint for screening. On the morning of the radio announcement, he put on a pair of new shoes and his best shirt. They were told to bring food and drink for three days. At the packed Jalan Besar Stadium he had a harrowing time, suffering from heat during the day, from exposure to cold at night, never knowing what to expect from one moment to the next. On the third day the women and children were told to go home. But the men were lined up and paraded before a high-ranking officer. As they passed him he flicked one index finger. If it was his left it meant the person must be detained; a flick of the right finger was a sign to go home. The fate of many thousands of people hung on the whim of a single person, on the wagging of a finger.

When asked by the military policeman at the third interrogation point where he had worked since the outbreak of war, young and naive Yap Yan Hong thought of the most innocent occupation. “In the map drawing business,” he replied. This could be a spy, the policeman thought. So Yap was detained for two days. Then he was tied with a rope as part of a group of six and made to mount a truck with two other groups. They were taken past Changi prison to the end of the island. It was already evening when his group was made to wade into the sea and was shot by the Japanese auxiliary military police forces. Yap was lucky. When his rope made contact with the sea water, it loosened and Yap, miraculously, was able to swim away, and survived to tell his story.

An Indian Independence League member:

On the afternoon of 21 February, Mr. Royal Goho, leader of the Singapore branch of the Indian Independence League, visited Maj. Fujiwara Iwaichi, who at his liaison agency (the Fujiwara-kikan) was successfully recruiting Indians to join the Indian National Army.

“Major, do you know that the Japanese soldiers are indiscriminately detaining Overseas Chinese and massacring them? One can barely face such cruelty. Has the Japanese Army lost its mind? The British had already surrendered and the war was supposed to be over!”

Busy overseeing the surrender of the 55,000 Indian POWs, Fujiwara was unaware of the incident.

Goho pleaded:

The residents of Singapore and Malaya respected the Japanese soldiers’ bravery and their fine policy to liberate and protect the natives. It is true that Indians and Malays were deeply hostile towards those Chinese who had been exploiting them to their hearts’ content under the British. And it is true that some even rejoiced in the massacre of Overseas Chinese. However, upon witnessing horrifying scenes, their regard for the Japanese Army has turned into fear. This is a sad thing for the Japanese Army. Can’t you do anything to stop it?

Fujiwara dispatched some members of his agency to investigate the situation. The result of the investigation was even worse than what Mr. Goho had recounted. Shocked by the seriousness of the matter, Fujiwara immediately went to see Chief-of-Staff Sugita at Army Headquarters, and inquired if this really was an order from the Army.

With a pensive expression, Sugita lamented that his moderate position had been overruled by staff officers holding extreme opinions, and an order to carry out the massacres had been issued much against his wishes. Fujiwara countered that the result of this purge was a disgrace for the Japanese Army ….

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. 153-154

See also British accounts of the fall of Malaya and Singapore (via Wikipedia).

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Repatriating Japanese Handbones, 1942

The commander decided to stay put for the night. It would give them time to bury the dead (after first severing their wrists to return hands to their homes). But digging in proved difficult, and after only 30 centimeters water appeared. So they did the opposite, they heaped earth to create a burial mound where they placed the corpses.

With two others, Tsuchikane was then ordered to ossify the wrists and hands by burning them to the bone. In an adjoining house, after sealing it and making sure no smoke escaped outside, they washed the pan from which they had just eaten their hot meal and put it on the stove. First they took commander Miyamoto’s hand from the mess tin and began to grill it. “Shuu, shuu,” it sizzled in the pan, with lots of grease escaping from the hand. Strong smoke with a hideous stench soon filled the room. It got unbearably hot and the three stripped to their loincloths as sweat cascaded down their bodies. One wrist took ages. Their chopsticks got shorter, catching fire many times owing to their efforts of turning the flesh and then burning away the muscle from the bones. The bones picked from the charcoal were transferred to a British tobacco can and passed on to the men waiting outside. They, in turn, put the bones in a white cloth and stored the packages with great care in their service bags.

The soldiers had promised each other to enter Singapore together, even if it were only their remains. They had fought together until today, they had eaten the same rice, they had ducked under the same bullets, and they felt bonds no different from those between brothers. Perhaps the bonds were even stronger through their knowledge of man’s fleeting existence they had experienced each day over the past months.

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. 135-136

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Sano: Ramen Town or Premium Outlet Town?

Until recently, the city of Sano (佐野) in southern Tochigi prefecture was known throughout the region for its ramen. Its official tourist map is headlined Ramen Town (らーめんの郷) and says that the keywords for Sano City are “Eat, Look, Worship”: くう みる おがむ. The back of the map lists the name, telephone number, regular day off, and hours of operation for 69 different ramen shops. The map itself also has textboxes listing 5 local tourist itineraries and 17 local festivals, each with its chief sponsor and annual schedule.

But Sano’s reputation for ramen is now being outshone by its reputation for retail. The Sano Premium Outlets mall sits across National Route 50 (connecting Mito and Maebashi) on the southern edge of town. Old Route 50 runs right through the older part of town, parallel to the JR Ryomo line that used to serve the textile industries along the northern edge of the Kanto Plain. Now the major Tohoku Highway (connecting Tokyo and Sendai) also skirts the eastern edge of Sano. The mall lies at the juncture of these two major traffic arteries, one running north-south, the other east-west. All the long-distance buses make regular stops there.

The Outlier father and daughter recently paid a visit to Sano, arriving in time for lunch at Dai-chan Ramen, well-known enough locally that each of the three successive people we asked for directions were able to help us home in on it. It was a friendly, family-run place, whose daughter my wife had taught. The ramen was good, the portions were ample, and the weather was fairly mild, so we decided to walk the rest of the way to the outlet mall, along a busy, gassy highway lined with rather ghastly strip malls, whose highlight was a billboard advertising the nearby リストランテ ジアッポネゼ / Ristorante Giapponese, featuring Italian cuisine, not Japanese.

The Sano Premium Outlets map lists, not 69, but 159 shops, ranging from Adidas, Armani, and Billabong to Tommy Hilfinger, Victorinox, and Wedgwood. The lines were longest at Godiva and Cold Stone Creamery. The architecture is colonial America, with two tall, white steeples rising above red-brick walls, and the major thoroughfares linked by Boston, Cambridge, Lancaster, and Princeton Avenues. The shoppers were at least as interesting as the shops. Many were quite stylishly dressed, and there seemed to be an unusually high proportion of middle-aged dowagers with lapdogs and young parents with young kids. Among the first shoppers we encountered was a lady with two poodles, one of which walked around on its hind legs. I was tempted to ask her whether the poodle was also capable of a たち小便 (‘standing piss’), but I didn’t want to embarrass my daughter. I never embarrass my daughter! Well, at least not if I can help it–and I usually can’t.

UPDATE: Ashikaga is locally famous for its soba, not its ramen, but some of the most elegant ramen I’ve had anywhere can be found at the Maruyama hand-made ramen restaurant about a block south and west of the Tobu Ashikaga-shi train station. Its leek and garlic ramen is to die for! Couldn’t resist spooning up all the broth, either. Plus, it’s open on Wednesdays, when most Ashikaga restaurants take the day off.

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