hisashi wrote:In the peacetime, it was somewhat unlucky that one was drafted and it was a good news he finished his term safely. Then he, or maybe his parents also, bought small memorial presents to their friends, relatives and anybody they owe to ...
Thanks Hisashi, for this sense of the commemorative cups and flasks. With or without literature about them I would not have readily understood it as a casual learner who knows only little.
A present-day licensed dealer in Fukuoka city shows many more unit-themed cups. Seeing them as personal celebration adds more appreciation . In the American forces, drinking ware are simply pride or remembrance for the units or corps shown on them (I still have mine from the air force). There are saké ware collector's books, but for me they are too specialized for easy looking up.
The safe return of an ordinary conscript from the China war does not seem well-covered in English-language works, which probably look more at Pacific war soldiers' lives. I had first started with the idea that many of these drinking ware sets, or at least the finest ones, were more for officers.
- Some tellings do hint at a certain fatalism felt by the common soldier. As the China war dragged on, the danger of not returning from there became more widely felt, if still not openly spoken (Rottman’s Japanese Infantryman 1937-45 Osprey Warrior series volume 95, page 8) . The Army generals expected the China war would be won within a year. But after several years of it, and now in planning a new war in the Pacific, they had to explain the delay to the Emperor.
How had it been explained to the public, if at all? After several years, maybe this began the unlucky (although private) feeling about Army call-up?
hisashi wrote:The meaning of keeping a natsume [tea caddy] on warship is that, he was even on the battlefield ready to held a tea party. Heijoshin ("keeping," ordinary sense) was considered as an essential feature of a good warrior. I feel keeping such a thing was a luxurious vainglory only allowed for high-rank officer who could claim more space on the warship.
That seems to fit, since not only does higher rank have its privileges –- often, it has its vanity too. I think there may be some comparison to officers in the old British Army who might carry certain fine personal things into the field –- say, silver cordial flasks, or favorite umbrellas. A gentleman officer was supposed to keep up a gentleman’s ways, even in the rigor and brutality of war. Maybe “poise” or “composure” are English terms similar to heijoshin, if not exact.
Continuing mention of IJA rations from its early days – from Edward Drea’s Japan’s Imperial Army cited earlier. It repeats some of the trouble told elsewhere about bread issue, and barley in the rice, but it ends on a note of distaste. From page 74:
The army diet consisted of polished white rice, fish, poultry, pickled vegetables, and tea. Attempts by Japanese doctors to introduce white bread or a hardtack biscuit into the daily ration of the 1890s failed, but the biscuit did become part of the emergency field ration. Soldiers received just over two pints of cooked white rice per day even though anecdotal evidence showed that cutting the rice with barley prevented beriberi, known as Japan's national disease during the Meiji period. Between 1876 and 1885 about 20 percent of enlisted troops suffered systemic vitamin deficiencies and contracted beriberi; about 2 percent of them died. Field tests of a ration of barley mixed with rice conducted in 1885-1886 dramatically reduced beriberi cases (from almost 65 per 1,000 to just 35 per 1.000), but vitamin theory was still an unproven and contentious hypothesis. More significant, conscripts and officers alike regarded adulterated rice as penitentiary food (in fact, since 1875 it was prison fare) and considered it unfit for loyal soldiers of the Emperor, a case of cultural imperatives inhibiting disease control.
- (the author cites Harada Keiichi. Kokumingun no shinwa [Myth of the People's Army] (Yoshikawa Kōbunkan, 2001), pages 125, 141, 143)
This returns to the academic question of how often white rice was eaten by the average Japanese, before and during the Meiji era. We have noted that military service enabled many Japanese men to eat it every day as a normal thing. Apart from its rations issue, it seems as if the demand itself for white rice came about this way in a single generation. But maybe this was part of the fast modernization of Japanese forces in general through this time?
- Many ordinary Japanese, especially rural people, formerly ate a variety of other grains mixed with rice. Sometimes it was so diluted this way, that the rice could hardly be seen. Back then, they reserved pure white rice mainly for special occasions like New Year, when it was for mochitsuki. City people ate rice more frequently and thus suffered beriberi more, so that beriberi was then known in Japan as “Edo affliction.” (Cwiertka's Modern Japanese Cuisine, pages 66-68).
Dislike of barley in the rice ration repeats in many of our sources, but not its comparison to prison food.
Reliance on pure white rice made kakke (beriberi) common in the early IJA and IJN. Up to 120 out of 1000 sailors suffered it in the early 1880s, a very high rate (ibid). Although their officers were aware enough, there is no mention of how the men themselves saw beriberi. The nearest comparison might be that of British sailors before the 1790s, who feared scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) as a risk of life at sea.
Did early Imperial soldiers think of daily white rice as “a step upward” in their living standard? Or maybe as a soldier's privilege? Just as daily rice had once been the privilege of richer, city Japanese.
- If so, maybe the men saw barley as an adulterant in rice -- a “step downward?” The troops might have thought such rice was degraded, rather than fortified (as intended). This feeling might be like that of wartime Germans, whose bread flour was stretched with sawdust.
Maybe, would the men also have felt cheated if their white rice was later mixed with barley? In war, they will endure shortages and losses of food along with all other soldiers' hardships. But feeling that their officers deliberately gave them poor rations -- even if untrue –- this would cause many soldiers to grumble throughout history.
In the Siberian expedition long afterward, Hisashi explained how IJA soldiers felt underfed on bread rations. Bread had had to be substituted for rice. The men may have lived alright on it, but this feeling against bread (and for rice) was strong and not to be ignored.
- For some, this feeling might be best understood by reverse example. Imagine, say, average US soldiers of that time having to eat an Asian rice diet for a long time. They might not have liked it for similar reasons to Japanese troops disliking bread.
In fact, a rice-based field ration had been improvised for some US troops in New Guinea in 1943. This combined rice with C Ration canned meats and D Ration bars for field meals. Although It worked to vary the boring C Ration itself, it was not popular.
- (Stauffer, Alvin P. The Quartermaster Corps: Operations in the War against Japan, a volume in the “United States Army in World War II” official history series (“Green Books”). (Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1956), pages 304-306 )
There are similar examples in different armies and different times, where soldiers were dissatisfied with their allies' food rations. And also enough opposite cases where they liked their enemies' or allies' rations better than their own.