When the "Japan at War" forum began, there was a leading question about why the Pacific theater seems to get less attention than the European theater. The same might be true of certain subjects within the Pacific war that are more specialized than others.
Please add to or correct what is here. I especially invite our Japanese-speaking members to do so, in the expectation that there are Japanese sources not easily available to the rest of us. Soldiers everywhere have strong memories (and jokes) about what they ate during their service. Maybe Japanese war memoirs not translated for wider audiences mention it as much as those of other combatants.
A number of sources and authors are cited here, in general and in detail, for both Army and Navy food. But for ease of reading they are posted serially and not as one overlong post.
Long, specialized topics may naturally not get much reply, unless it is something on which there are many widely-read sources and strong feelings. If so, hopefully this will be of some reading interest, if not so much discussion. But as always one of the most enjoyable things about AHF is its great depth and range of expertise, and the surprises that result.
It may be much more circumspect and specialized than in other countries, but is there a limited military re-enactment interest in Japan? Who would be the best market for these reproduction IJA rations?
From the common reference War Department Technical Manual TM-E 30-480, Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, 1 October 1944 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1944), as reprinted by Greenhill Books, London, 1991. From Chapter VIII, "Supply, Movements, and Evacuation", pages 177-78:
Rations and forage
(1) Garrison. In garrison the Japanese ration consists of about 1.25 pounds of rice and a certain amount of barley plus a cash allowance which is made for each soldier to be spent on the purchases of meat, fish, and vegetables. This ration is both varied and adequate. On maneuvers rations are somewhat increased. The following are common constituents of the purchased ration:
(a) Cereals and staples. Rice, wheat, barley, canned rice cakes, canned powdered rice dumplings, canned rice boiled together with red beans, biscuits, hardtack, vitamins, sugar, soy bean flour.
(b) Canned meat and seafood. Beef, salmon, sardines, mackerel, seaweed, clams, trout, tuna fish, cod livers, seaweed and beans packed in layers, crab meat.
(c) Dried meat and fish. Flounder, salmon, bonito, squid, cuttlefish, laver meat.
(d) Canned fruits and vegetables. Tangerines, pineapples, bamboo sprouts, bean and burdock, boiled lotus, sprouted beans, arum root paste, spinach, beanflower, mixed vegetables, carrots.
(e) Vegetables and fish in barrels. Pickled salted plums, pickled radishes, sea cucumbers in curry powder, smelts in oil.
(f) Dried fruits and vegetables. Apples, carrots, Chinese greens, red beans, onions, potato chips, mushrooms, squash, kelp.
(g) Seasonings, etc. Soy bean sauce, dehydrated soy bean sauce, soy bean paste, vinegar, curry powder, salt, ginger.
(h) Beverages. Tea, sake, condensed milk.
(2) Field. (a) Rations and forage supplies in the field may be both "imported" or "local". The former was manufactured and purchased by base supply depots operated by the Intendance Bureau in Japan. The latter are obtained by purchase, requisition, or confiscation. The field ration in the Japanese Army is fixed by regulation as consisting of the following:
1. Standard, or normal field ration (total, about 4 1/8 pounds), consisting largely of rice and barley, fresh meat and fish, fresh vegetables, and various condiments and flavorings.
2. Special field ration (total, 3 pounds), consisting largely of rice; dried, canned, or pickled items. This ration is the one most likely issued in combat.
3. Reserve (emergency) ration. Class A (total, 2 1/2 pounds) consisting of rice, canned meat, and salt. Class B (total, 1 3/4 pounds) consisting of rice or hardtack, canned meat, and salt.
4. Iron rations, weighing about one-half pound for one meal, include special Japanese biscuits and extracts that have been successfully tried out in various climates.
5. Nutritious rations, consisting of extra amounts of all kinds of food are allowed to men who need them.
6. Substitute items according to a regular system.
7. Supplementary articles, to be issued as available, consisting of cigarettes, either sake or sweets.
(b) There are indications that the average ration in active theaters is about 3 1/2 pounds, and that because of failure of supply, the ration has often been reduced to a half or a third of the normal amount. The Japanese use local provisions whenever possible, and encourage the local cultivation of vegetables by units. Vitamin pills are a part of the normal issue, and delicacies, especially canned fruits, are issued occasionally...
(c) The calorie amount of the above Japanese rations has been calculated as being as follows:
Standard ration 3,470 (calories)
Special ration 3,540
Reserve ration (A) 3,140
Reserve ration (B) 3,000
1. Method of supply of rations. ... From the field supply depots the line-of-communications transport units carry provisions to the division maintenance area, where the division transport regiment picks them up and carries them to supply points, usually regimental headquarters areas. Here supplies are broken up into unit lots and issued to units under their supervision of the Intendance personnel. The unit trains carry them to forward delivery points, which may be unit or company kitchens.
2. In peacetime under normal conditions, 5 days rations were carried at one time: 2 days on the man, 1 day by the unit train, and 2 days by the division transport regiment. In active theaters the amount of rations carried by forward troops is apparently ordered for each operation, and is a combination of special field and emergency scales varying from 3 to 10-days rations. The method of transportation varies locally, but supplies are packed for ease of handling in bags or packages no heavier than 58 pounds or larger than 9 cubic feet. In the southwest Pacific Area, provisions have been floated ashore from barges or destroyers in drums and in rubber bags holding 132 pounds.
From what original Japanese sources would US military intelligence have assembled all this information, at this level of detail? Actual captured supplies? Manuals? Interrogation?
Gordon L. Rottman's Japanese Infantryman 1937-45: Sword of the Empire, Osprey Warrior series volume 95, (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006) follows a notional Japanese Army recruit named Taro through his training and garrison life. His example would seem to be the best of pre-Pacific War conditions. The same reads true for what he ate, from page 29-30:
Although some American accounts say that soldiers had no lunch, in actual fact three meals per day were served. Breakfast and dinner were eaten in the barracks. There were no mess halls. Meals were carried from the kitchen in covered pails by men sent from each han (squad). In garrison Taro ate comparatively well, receiving up to twice as much food as his family at home. The daily Japanese diet revolved around a basic rice, fish, and vegetable combination. The army attempted to duplicate this diet and added some meat, extra vegetables and sweets. The additions were not because soldiers were privileged, but necessary due to their physical exertion and to counter a lifetime's bland diet with insufficient protein and vitamins.
Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese soldier did not live entirely on rice and fish. To the Japanese rice was a staple food, just as bread is to Westerners, and constituted over 50 per cent of the soldier's diet. A soup or stew side dish accompanied the rice as did pickles, different from Western varieties.
Polished (white) rice was more common than the more nutritious unpolished (brown) as it could be preserved longer. Bulk uncooked rice (kome) was shipped in woven rice-straw or burlap bags, as were wheat, barley, flour, salt, and sugar. Being relatively stout, the bags were used as sandbags once emptied. Pre-cooked compressed cakes of rice, barley, and wheat were packed in tins, sometimes mixed with red beans. White bread was also served. [Rottman illustrates a 7in wooden-handled bread saw with two folding, straight sawblades.]
The Japanese usually seasoned cooked rice (gohan) with soy sauce (shoyu) or fermented soybean paste (miso). Japanese soy sauce is much saltier and 'hotter' than that commonly found [in the West today]. Miso was commonly used for preparing soups. But shoyu and miso were issued in liquid and dehydrated form. Salt, vinegar, curry, ginger, and bean pastes were other basic condiments.
Tea (ocha) was the preferred beverage and was served hot if at all possible. Canned rice beer (biru) and bottled rice wine (sake) were frequently issued. Cider was another popular beverage.
As discussed elsewhere here in this forum, the Japanese military issued barley to prevent beri-beri. Mixing it with rice was meant to ensure that the troops would eat it. I can't remember where reading that Japanese troops would try to separate the rice to keep for themselves and leave the barley for the Korean service troops and laborers.
Rottman points out a few distinctions seldom made by other writers. The IJA ration may seem relatively spartan to Americans, but it was more than some Japanese might have had at home. I have heard it said that this was often true of soldiers and sailors across the centuries, however dreary their food may sound today.
The author also points out a culinary distinction between the shoyu of Japan and what is usually thought of as "soy sauce" in the West. It might be a translation matter, but some other writers further tend to refer to miso simply as "soy bean paste" when it is a fermented product more elaborate than implied.
In one photo, seven soldiers are marching out of a room holding the handles of marmite-type containers in each hand. From its caption:
Soldiers detailed from their sections march back to the barracks with their sections' cooked meals in insulated containers. A strict accounting is being kept on the chalkboard. The duty NCO overseeing the detail is wearing a red-and-white armband.
In another photo, a kitchen detail is loading large wooden trays with portions of food in bowls, with apparent NCOs watching to one side. From its caption:
In a small unit kitchen meals are prepared for a festival. The rice, soup and side-dish bowls are placed in large wooden trays for delivery to an auditorium where the celebration will take place.
At the other end of the spectrum is a photo of a staple food in the field -- wrapped, rectangular hard bread or:
Hardtack crackers (kanpan) were issued with tinned meat or fish. Rice was cooked by the soldier or in field kitchens and distributed in insulated containers.
Kanpan is still eaten in Japan today. Did it originate from Army issue in the same way that dark Komissbrot bread began with the old German armies? Or was it a common cracker long known from civilian life and simply used by the military?