Translation Works
To Japanese
The 1st Selected Works
The Prisoner of War Chronicles
(Nihon horyoshi)
RUSSIAN / Karine Marandjian published
Originally Published by:
Shinshosetsusha (1965)
Chuokoron-shinsha (1979) (pb)
  • A masterpiece by the founder of the Shinyokai study class, which fostered the development of such writers as Yumie Hiraiwa and ShoTaro Ikenami
A portrayal of the duty and humanity (giri and ninjo) with which POWs are treated by ordinary people, who tend to be loving and have a sense of justice
In 1904, the commander of a company of Japanese army troops asked his soldiers if they would like to make a study visit to see POWs. About half of the soldiers wanted to participate. The commander asked those not wanting to participate about their reasons. One private responded "because I feel sorry for them." When the commander asked what he meant, the private explained that the POWs were warriors despite being enemy soldiers, their misfortune in becoming POWs was being compounded by their being moved about for public display, and he thought it was sad. The reply did not just please the commander; it touched the hearts of those who had signed up for the study visit, so the study visit was cancelled. At that time, it was normal among Japanese people to have the kind of attitude expressed by the private.
During the Russo-Japanese War, an English general, who was the head of the team of foreign military observers, noted in his diary that Japanese soldiers would resort to seppuku ritual suicide when faced with the humiliating prospect of becoming a POW. The observer also noted, with amazement, that, besides food, the Russian POWs in Japan were also given beer and tobacco.
During that war, the Japanese military commanders ordered a cavalry regiment to take photos illustrating Russian soldiers' lives in POW camps and disseminate them among enemy troops. When the photos were passed along together with beer, the enemy soldiers accepted the photos and declined the beer. After the Japanese cavalry troops had delivered their gifts, the enemy troops escorted them back toward the Japanese side for about 5,600 meters and shook hands with them in a comradely manner. This is one of the examples featured in the Chuyu Bidan ("Moving Stories of Loyalty and Bravery") compiled by Japanese army headquarters at that time.
Based on his meticulous research, the author has included a great number of such actual episodes in this work, which appeared in the Taishu Bungei magazine in 1949. Driven by a desire to enable as many people as possible to learn about the pride and spirit of the Japanese, the author published the work at his own expense and distributed it free of charge before it was ultimately reissued by a major publisher.
GENRE: Historical essay