JACAR Newsletter
【JACAR Newsletter Number 18, October 13, 2015】
Reports from JACAR Users

Images from a Japanese Army Prison Camp

(KOSUGE Nobuko, Yamanashi Gakuin University)

As a university professor, I teach courses in modern Japanese History. I also give lectures on it to a wider audience outside the university. People from around the world, both students and adults, come to my lectures. My greatest priority is corroboration: to always base my work on original historical materials, many of which are stored at the National Archives of Japan. Using online databases with my students on a daily basis, I find JACAR to be an extraordinary source of historical materials. JACAR is extremely helpful and useful, because it is easily accessible from anywhere on the earth, around the clock, in multiple languages, and viewing or obtaining materials is free of charge. To be able to use such a great digital archive benefits all.

In the JACAR database I recently found Senjinkun (instructions for the battlefield)(Reference Code:C01005234000). The instructions were issued January 1941, eleven months before the Pearl Harbor attack and the Japanese declaration of war against the United States and the United Kingdom. The instructions are known for the following quote: "You shall not undergo the shame of being taken alive." In this way, the document virtually prohibited Japanese troops from surrendering or being captured as prisoners of war, and it also made life very harsh, even punitive, for the Allied POWs who had surrendered to the Japanese.

In a 2015 book compiled by a panel of experts in international politics and related subjects, Keio University Professor Yuichi Hosoya pointed out that the cruel way the Japanese Army treated POWs has remained a sore for decades after WW II, as a lasting bitter memory between Japan and the countries concerned.

Title : Notification concerning battlefield instruction (25th image)
Title : Notification concerning battlefield instruction
(25th image)

Among the Allied powers, the United Kingdom had the highest number of POWs: more than 50,000 military personnel were placed in camps under control of the Japanese Army. Of the 50,000 POWs from the UK, two-thirds were sent to build a 415 kilometer railway between Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar). Many of the POWs died before the railway was completed in October 1943, having been forced to work with locally recruited Southeast Asians in severe, intolerable conditions on the steep mountains in scorching heat, battling with tropical disease. While the train line was closed in 1947, a section of it in Thailand was reopened and is still in service today. The line is now something of a tourist attraction, as a place for youth to learn about modern history and for the families and friends of fallen POWs to make pilgrimages.

One of the drawings by Jack Chalker during his days at Japanese POW camps
Drawings by Jack Chalker at Japanese POW camps.

Of the British POWs forced into labor on the Thai-Burma "Death" Railway, approximately one in five died of sickness or injury. After the war, Japanese who had facilitated the program were brought to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Tribunal) as well as other tribunals for Class B and Class C war crimes. The memories of the Thai-Burma Railway were shared worldwide, since its construction involved over 200,000 people from fourteen countries. Several drama films have been made, as well as a number of documentary films. Memoirs and novels have been published, many of which are very widely read.

In addition to films and books, there are remains from the past that can be seen today. A historic wartime steam locomotive that actually ran on the Thai-Burma Railway is on display in Tokyo at the Yushukan War Museum of Yasukuni Shrine. In Thailand, you can also visit the railway, upon which I once walked. Treacherous conditions in the mountainous areas made it really hard even just to take steps on the tracks, so I can only imagine how hard it would have been to build.

One of the drawings by Jack Chalker during his days at Japanese POW camps
Drawings by Jack Chalker at Japanese POW camps.
One of the drawings by Jack Chalker during his days at Japanese POW camps
Drawings by Jack Chalker at Japanese POW camps.

Here we have a collection of sketches, drawings, paintings, and diaries. A young British artist named Jack Bridger Chalker secretly recorded the lives of POWs during the construction of the "Death" Railway. He took an enormous personal risk in doing so; if found by the Japanese, he could have been executed as a spy. I was lucky enough to gain personal acquaintance with the renowned artist, decades after the war. The former POW wrote me that "our friendship is like cherry blossoms that came out from the filth of war". Jack and I have made a number of books together.

Jack wrote of his own experiences of war, and of the POW camps:

"I and so many thousands upon thousands of young men were planning our lives with great hopes when we were suddenly sucked into the process of killing to support or oppose the bestiality of international military lunacy and covetousness. This set against each other young men and women like ourselves who had not the slightest reason to be attempting to destroy each other."

Poppy and Cherry-blossoms, Jack Chalker, 2008.
"Poppy and Cherry-blossoms", Jack Chalker, 2008.

"Through the interest of my own family, as a young boy I was introduced to something of the exquisite and beautiful artistry of Japan, my father having a great interest in Japanese landscape and gardens and my sister in Japan's most lovely traditional dress and textiles. This formed an integral part of my early family interest and my delight and admiration for Japanese achievement in the arts has continued and developed throughout my life. War in no way intruded upon it and in many ways has accentuated it.
Being plunged into war and finding myself eventually a prisoner of the Japanese it became a terrifying contradiction having to witness and to be subjected to bestiality and watching my friends and fellow soldiers be maimed or killed. Even more disturbing to me as a young man was having to watch, powerless to prevent, extreme brutality to the civilian population whom we were unable to assist. This for many of us was heart-breaking and horrific and seemed to be lie the exceptional exquisite beauty, culture and great achievements of Japan."

"But during the three and a half years of captivity and despite our desperate conditions there were Japanese as well as Korean guards who are remembered with warmth and gratitude... As soldiers as well as in other human observations, we found the seemingly lower role for the Korean soldier somewhat puzzling and unjust and, whilst we understood a probable resentment on their part, we were unprepared for their tendency to vent some of this upon prisoners. But there were exceptions and on occasions we had sincere concern for them."

"...I mention these human exchanges, small as they may seem, for their importance in hopes and for survival. Despite inevitable hate or resentment at that time, such men kept us in mind of our shared, insane existence. ... I returned from the war, like so many thousands from both our countries, with immense relief that our involvement with bestiality and destruction was at an end and, though physically damaged and awaiting further medical help, it was for me the beginning of a new life."

Walking on the Railway in the Thailand side today
Walking on the Railway in the Thailand side today

I am glad to have this opportunity with JACAR to present these images, for which a young artist risked his own life some seventy years ago. As Jack said, I too hope that "it might be possible to meet young people and students with whom ... the visual legacy of war might engender universal compassion and perhaps contribute towards responsibility for what they, too would be leaving for future generations."

* Please see the drawings by Jack Chalker in PDF format file (65.9MB) (text in Japanese)*



ジャック・チョーカー「経験・記憶・和解」小菅信子編著『原典でよむ 20世紀の平和思想』、岩波書店、2015年。







Dobson, Hugo and Nobuko Kosuge (co-eds), Japan and Britain at War and Peace, Routledge, London and New York, 2009.

Towle, Philip and Yoichi Kibata and Margaret Kosuge (co-eds), Japanese Prisoners of War, Hambledon and London, London and New York, 2000.

Introduction of New Contents

A special web exhibition "Japanese Post-World War Two Demobilization and Repatriation"

In response to inquiries concerning what keywords to use for searching the JACAR database, we have released the JACAR Glossary. It allows for systematic searching of documents with maps and chronological tables that cover the topics of Japanese Post-World War Two Demobilization and Repatriation.

The End of the War as Seen in Official Documents : Records on Post-World War Two Demobilization and Repatriation
The End of the War as Seen in Official Documents : Records on Post-World War Two Demobilization and Repatriation
The End of the War as Seen in Official Documents : Records on Post-World War Two Demobilization and Repatriation
The End of the War as Seen in Official Documents : Records on Post-World War Two Demobilization and Repatriation

* Please see "Japanese Post-World War Two Demobilization and Repatriation" (Japanese) *

Event Informations on the Related Organs
October 24
     to December 19
Featured Exhibition :
"Welcome to the Treasure House of Historical Materials II : A Guide to Unknown Places"
This exhibition features three items specially selected from the Important Cultural Properties held at the National Archives of Japan. In addition to the official documents of the Meiji Government, a guidebook of the Chinese scenic area Lushan as well as records of Mamiya Rinzō's investigation of the East Tartary Region in Sakhalin will be exhibited. This exhibition takes part in "Tokyo Heritage Week 2015".
October 13, 2015
   to March 31, 2016
Special Exhibition :
"120 Years of Relations between Japan and Brazil"
This year marks the 120th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Brazil and Japan. Relations began October 5, 1895, after the signing of the "Japan-Brazil Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty". This exhibition, sponsored by the Diplomatic Archives, presents a history of relations between Japan and Brazil through diplomatic resources that resulted from the process of Japanese immigrating to Brazil in the Meiji era and the development of their society in the Taisho and Showa eras.
October 10
     to November 23
"The History of Japanese Diplomacy" cosponsored by the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History
In collaboration with the Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History, the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is holding an exhibit titled "The History of Japanese Diplomacy". This exhibition presents over a hundred years history of Japanese diplomacy, spanning the last days of Edo era and the Showa era. There are more than a hundred materials acquired by the Diplomatic Archives, including signed copies and instruments of ratification for many treaties, sovereign messages and personal letters from Napoleon III, Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria. The exhibition, held at the Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History, costs 600 yen for adult admittance.

Thank you for reading JACAR Newsletter No.18, and we hope you enjoyed it. In this issue, we have presented an article by Professor Nobuko Kosuge. We hope you also found it helpful that there has been a report given on documents in England. To make the newsletter an even more useful reference in the future, we would deeply appreciate any comments or feedback on * THIS FORM *.

Please email us if you would be interested in a member of JACAR presenting at your organization about our institution and its resources. We go to schools, research conferences, and a range of other institutions.

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