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Food rations in the Japanese forces

Discussions on all aspects of the Japanese Empire, from the capture of Taiwan until the end of the Second World War.
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Food rations in the Japanese forces

Postby Sewer King on 31 Dec 2007 06:49

This is the beginning of an anthology of sorts about food in the Japanese forces. There have been detailed discussions in other threads about German Army food, or that on board U-boats. One or two recent threads mention Japanese food but do not concentrate on it.

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?

-- Alan
Last edited by Sewer King on 01 Jan 2008 21:47, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Akira Takizawa on 31 Dec 2007 08:49

As Japanese foods were not popular in the West, there are curious foods in US manual.

> sea cucumbers in curry powder

I have never heard of such a food. I don't know exactly what it is. But, it will be a mistranslation of pickled cucumbers.

When Rottman wrote his book about Japanese infantry, I helped him. But, it still has some misunderstandings.

> The Japanese usually seasoned cooked rice (gohan) with soy sauce (shoyu) or fermented soybean paste (miso).

Japanese usually eats Gohan as it is. Shoyu and Miso are the seasonings for meat, fish or vegetables.

> Kanpan is still eaten in Japan today.

It is true that Kanpan still exists in Japan. But, it is now emergency ration for earthquake or other disasters.

> Did it originate from Army issue in the same way that dark Komissbrot bread began with the old German armies?

Probably, so. Cracker was not popular in Japan.

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Postby aipaul on 31 Dec 2007 19:01

http://www.lonesentry.com/articles/japa ... index.html

I found this article on eating captured Japanese rations.
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Postby hisashi on 31 Dec 2007 19:38

Kanpan was developed by IJA facing the difficulty of field ration supply in Sino-Japanese War. They sent a mission to Europe and German Hartkeks as the base of development. They wanted more preservable ones, which made kanpan extra dry and hard. After the introduction in Russo-Japanese War, it was gradually improved.

Hartkeks (NATO type II, in the middle)
http://homepage3.nifty.com/aeyn/ger_typ2.html

Kanpan (Old Army Type, Large Ground SDF type which was abolished, and Maritime SDF type)
http://10.studio-web.net/~phototec/kanpan2.htm
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Postby Sewer King on 01 Jan 2008 21:46

Many thanks to Taki, also the same man who readily found me the only pictures I have ever seen of the Ishii water filters. I should have seen Rottman's acknowledgements where you were credited.

I too wondered about “sea cucumbers in curry powder.” Sea cucumbers do exist, they are members of the echinoderm family and are related to the starfish and sea urchins. Like them, they live on the sea floor. But unlike starfish they do not have many arms, and instead they are oblong creatures that do look like common cucumbers.

I had vaguely heard that sea cucumbers were eaten by the Chinese and southeast Asians, but not that the Japanese did. Some are sensitive animals and will actually throw out their internal organs if disturbed, growing them back later. But I thought they were a delicacy and not a common seafood, therefore unlikely to be IJA-issue. Nor would they seem likely to season with curry powder. I agree that this sounds like a mistranslation of "pickled” or “salted” cucumbers.

The ration described in the War Department manual and by Rottman sounds quite good. They seem the “best” a soldier might ever see, especially in pre-war garrison. That is why I started with those authors, with the expectation that the Pacific war began to decline the ration. It seems that Japanese troops in China would naturally have had to make wider use of Chinese staple foods, but I do not know.

In the forum thread cited earlier, another of our members (Kim Sung) said that he ate kanpan during his military service and liked it. He was then in the Japanese SDFs, but did not say which one. Are they used by South Korean forces too?

hisashi wrote:Kanpan was developed by IJA facing the difficulty of field ration supply in Sino-Japanese War. They sent a mission to Europe and German Hartkeks as the base of development. They wanted more preservable ones, which made kanpan extra dry and hard. After the introduction in Russo-Japanese War, it was gradually improved.


Thanks also to hisashi! Although the IJA followed a Prussian model, I did not know it looked there for so small an item as combat rations. The hardness of army crackers are always a subject for jokes. An extra-dry and hard one sounds going too far. In the American Civil War hardtack was typically crushed with stones or rifle butts, then soaked for stews, pan-fry, or with cooked fruit. I suppose that the Japanese did something similar with their early kanpan -- or did they eat them dry with something, as shown in the links?

Today's kanpan benefit from the modern packaging materials. They and the German crackers also had American equivalents during the Cold War of the late 1950s-early 1960s. These were large cans of hardtack for emergency Civil Defense (CD) use, filled with nitrogen or other inert gas to help preserve them. There were also CD fruit candies. Since they were never actually needed they were sold as surplus and some people ate them as curiosities. I think that US Navy lifeboat rations also contained hardtack cans, but smaller.

Does the English-language "Nutrition Facts" printed on the kanpan wrapping suggest any export? Those look like tubes of honey or fruit preserves with them.

aipaul wrote:I found this article on eating captured Japanese rations.


Very interesting too, especially for the close-ups of packaged combat rations and its translated labels. I guess the October 1944 date is a direct result of operations in the Marianas Islands and the Philippines.

Maybe this bulletin should have mentioned Japanese alcohol. There was a terrible incident where Marines on Tinian had mixed drinks using drums of Japanese alcohol, not knowing that it was "wood" or methyl alcohol, rather than the "grain" or ethyl alcohol they thought it was. Several died. From what some of us suspected here on this forum last year, one of them was Marine Sergeant Lee Powell, who had starred as "The Lone Ranger" on American radio.

Similar poisoning incidents were known in the European theater, among liberated Russian slave laborers who found German wood alcohol used as rocket engine fuel.

The US Army's so-called "Green Book" history volume Quartermaster Corps: Operations in the War against Japan makes some reflective mention of IJA food at Guadalcanal. Because of the terrible monotony of their own C-rations, US forces resorted to eating captured Japanese food -- mainly hardtack, rice, canned seafood, breadfruit, taro, and tea -- and found it palatable. The Japanese ice plant set up there was an especially welcome capture. Even the War Department Handbook on Japanese Military Forces cited earlier, mentions these field ice plants kept in use by the Americans, and at more than one place (page 333).

Since it was an airfield, I expect that the Japanese base on Guadalcanal (later Henderson Field) was more likely to have good provisions compared to those of ordinary ground forces. This is suggested about air units on Rabaul (future post),

I do not know if Japanese soldiers ever made use of captured Allied food rations. When they invaded the Philippines in 1941, they captured American food stockpiles and may well have used some of them. When Singapore fell the same happened to stocks of British liquor, which the Imperial Navy gladly used. And of course, scattered Japanese holdouts from the end of the war onwards took their chances to get food from American bases.

The famous author James Jones wrote a book about pictorial war art in the late 1970s, titled simply WW2, It has an American cartoon of a ragged, diehard Japanese soldier finally coming forward to offer surrender on just one condition -- that he won't have to eat Spam in captivity.

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Alcohol in Japanese military forces

Postby Akira Takizawa on 02 Jan 2008 03:31

Image
The Japanese on Sumatra. A tankette carries whisky which would be captured at Singapore.

As for the alcohol in Japanese military forces, following book is a good source.

http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Military ... 764318810/

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Postby Sewer King on 04 Jan 2008 06:05

To me, the soldiers walking alongside the tankette might look a little envious of their armored comrades and their cargo. You can almost read the label of the box with the Maltese cross, hung from the rear left of the vehicle. Also, it is interesting to imagine the Imperial Army and Navy arguing over division of the captured British liquor from Singapore.

The walking soldiers are bicycle troops? They also wear the old-style steel helmets.

Were military sake cups widely destroyed in postwar demilitarization? As a collectible I imagine them similar to Japanese swords, which are more abundant outside of Japan than inside it since the war ended.


=========================


From Henry Sakaida's book The Siege of Rabaul (St. Paul, Minnesota: Phalanx Publishing, 1996), pages 54-55:

[chapter 13] The Food Situation

Food and troop morale have always been closely associated, especially during wars. World War II spurred the advance of food technology by the United States. The Japanese military, on the other hand, was backwards in these regards and lived off the land.

Yet the Allied effort to strangle Rabaul by cutting off incoming supplies did little to starve the defenders into submission. There were no dire food shortages as far as the 105th Naval Base Air Unit [there] was concerned. Men still enjoyed rice three times a day as late as 1945, although in smaller quantities than a year previously.

The total obliteration of downtown Rabaul by the hellish bombing raid of 3 March 1944 caused food rations to be reduced. Commander Sumio Sano, the supply corps officer of the Southeastern Fleet, recalled: "Out of a total of approximately fifty tons of hardtack and canned goods stored here, about twenty tons were lost."

Fish was the staple food in the Japanese diet next to rice. There was a naval fishing unit at Rabaul. When Allied bombers sank most of the trawlers, the Japanese resorted to bombing schools of fish from the air. After each raid on Simpson Harbor, thousands of dead fish floated in. Unfortunately, the vast array of weirdly-colored fish posed gastronomic dangers. Some men died eating poisonous varieties.


If fishing duty could be kept up in the island garrisons, it might be expected to include a small "industry" of preserved fish. Hopefully fishermen would catch more than was needed for fresh meals and preserve the rest in case of future need. But this too has its own problems. Can we get or make enough clean salt? How and where can we store dried or salted fish so it won't be lost to spoilage or bombing?

Simpson Harbor was infested with sharks. Lieutenant Minoru Shinohara of the 8th Submarine Base Unit remembers one disturbing incident: "My men hooked a huge shark and brought it up. We couldn't believe our luck! When we gutted the shark, a human arm slid out. Thoughts of a huge feast quickly evaporated. The disgusted men threw the man-eater back into the sea."

Petty Officer Sekizen Shibeyama notes that fighter pilots received special attention. "In Rabaul, pilots were treated specially. We were provided with wine, tobacco, ice cream which was made in Rabaul, and so on. As far as food was concerned, we were satisfied."

Commander Hori elaborates on the food situation:

“Since the stoppage of traffic between Rabaul and our home country, we had stockpiled about a month's supply of rice to be used in case of enemy attack. We stored the rice in drums and in caves and air-raid trenches. The rice did not mildew, but there were many worms in it. We ate the rice with the worms. We also raised sweet potatoes and vegetables in large gardens and farms; we also bred chickens and pigs. Also we produced daily necessities by the use of primary materials, even tobacco and palm wine. These products were never rich, but they were good enough for daily life."

A certain species of wild bird produced a huge egg which was coveted. They would nest around the many hot springs in the Rabaul area, laying their eggs in the soil and parties of men would venture into the jungles to hunt for these eggs.

The Japanese, master gardeners noted for their green thumb, were very proud of their large native gardens. Their main crop was the sweet potato. They also grew cabbage, eggplant, and cucumbers. The warm climate, abundance of water, and extremely fertile soil produced a bountiful harvest. This also attracted pests.

The main threat against food production was from the ravenous sweet potato bug. At night, they would march over the potato fields like an undulating carpet, leaving a totally denuded field in the morning. The Japanese fought back by making a moat around the field. As the army of insects [was] floundering in the water, fuel was added and set on fire.

The Americans were the other pest and took a keen interest in the native gardens which were mostly tended by Korean laborers. They periodically dumped bombs to help cultivate the fields, leaving huge craters.

Typical meals taken by an air unit consisted of rice, soybean paste soup with vegetables; bits and pieces of pork, chicken, or fish; pickled vegetables (tsukemono); and some canned goods.

There was a fair supply of local fruits and too many coconuts. In addition to its juice, the despised coconut also produced oil which was used to fry foods and make soap. Coconut meat was also mixed with rice.

By 1945 the food supply had deteriorated and variety became monotonous. Said Yoshinobu Ikeda, "from January 1945 until March 1946. it was sweet potato, coconuts, and some rice at every meal!"


It seems that for Japanese soldiers in many Pacific garrisons, coconut became as disliked as luncheon meat or Spam did to American troops. Coconuts were the only local foodstuff in abundance.

Each unit on the island was responsible for the raising and distribution of food to its own members. While the 105th [Naval Base Unit]was adequately fed, some other units were on the verge of starvation. Lieutenant Minoru Shinohara, a gunboat commander, remembers subsisting on "grass in salt soup" and sweet potatoes. Once he took several drums of liquefied sugar and went around Rabaul, looking for a unit to trade with. It took him three days to make the transaction so he could bring food back to his men.


Liquefied sugar in drums has some small interest in itself. It sounds like the German wartime use of canned artificial honey (Kunsthonig). This was a large amount of ordinary sugar dissolved in a small amount of water, making a thick saturated syrup. The Germans tinted it for direct use in place of honey -- during WW1 it was said to be a favorite of an obscure army corporal named Adolf Hitler (see Robert Waite's 1977 biographic study The Psychopathic God). But there is no hint at how the Japanese used this syrup. At the least, it was a way to concentrate a perishable foodstuff for safe shipment.

Incidentally, sugar syrup would be ideal for making cheap rum or "white lightning." Keep enough American soldiers in remote field quarters and some few clever ones will go to brewing strong drink. French, British, German, and Japanese troops did not go without since they were issued rations of rum, wines, or beers. Even so, was there any sort of small tradition of Japanese homemade brewing that might come out in Army field service? Since "palm wine" was mentioned above, any such thing might be more likely in base areas such as Rabaul. I have seen mention of Japanese officers drinking rum at the Bonin Islands, the Marianas, and Iwo Jima. but this is simply a natural result of those islands' sugar cane crops.

Underground protection for foodstuffs was required by the constant air raids. The Japanese had already lost 800 tons of rice out of a total of 8,000 tons in April 1944. Rice was packed in sacks and stored under open-air sheds and later stored in tunnels with dire consequences. "It was a gamble to either put it in the tunnels and have it rot, or put it out in the open and have it destroyed by bombing." said Commander Sano. "Much of the rice was lost to rotting. The damp atmosphere in the tunnels and caves also contributed to the spoilage of canned goods; they rusted. Losses from rotting [were] about thirty percent, and it was difficult to separate the good from the spoiled."


I am trying to picture 8,000 tons of rice – the displacement of a navy light cruiser. As a Filipino I eat rice as a staple too, so I buy it in 50-pound sacks (for a family of four). If the Japanese packed it similarly in 25kg sacks, that equals more than 290,900 of them. This sounds like quite a dispersal problem.

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Postby hisashi on 04 Jan 2008 08:10

Sea cucumber problem:

Japaneses eat raw, thinly sliced sea cucumbers in sashimi, with vineger and soy sauce. Raw sea cucumbers strongly smell sea water (it is natural their body are like jerry) so it is not imaginable curry-spiced sea cucumber. Once dried, sea cucumber becomes a luxurious material for Chinese/Japanese dishes, but it is again not imaginable such material was included in military supply.
It might happen in some isles, they found sea cucumbers as scarce food, and was cooked in curry powder to cover its smell. I suppose, if it was true, it was a last resort for them. Many Japaneses do not eat any sea cucumber.

Kanpan:

The first version of Kanpan was larger, but was impopular that in breaking it down some fractions were wasted as powder. Smaller, improved kanpan was easy to chew down. Also in Japan kanpan was served with rock candy, or colored candies in military, because rock candy reminds soldiers of icy battlefields.

http://store.yahoo.co.jp/ring-g/32260007.html
Typical civilian-use package nutrition facts reads
100g (85g kanpan + 15g candy)
410 KCal
protein 9.0g
fats 6.1g
carb 79.8g
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Postby aipaul on 04 Jan 2008 19:04

I've eaten sea cucumber before. I think it's called namako or something like that.
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Postby Sewer King on 08 Jan 2008 04:31

So sea cucumber is eaten in Japan, even if only as an uncommon delicacy. If it really was found in food stocks captured by US forces, I would think it was something just for a few officers. Sea cucumbers live on the bottom so they would seem unusual things for island garrisons to catch, although I don’t know how far down they are.

hisashi wrote:Also in Japan kanpan was served with rock candy, or colored candies in military, because rock candy reminds soldiers of icy battlefields.

Is this a poetic allusion to something in Japanese history?


=====================


I have seen comparatively less mention of food aboard ships of the Imperial Navy.

Others before have mentioned the Navy’s weekend tradition of curried meat dishes which followed the Royal Navy’s example. Also a chef's improvised beef stew niku-jaga, which originated with a request from the great Admiral Togo for the beef stew he had known in Britain.

Here are a few glimpses, starting with Jonathan B. Parshall and Anthony P. Tully’s reexamination of the Battle of Midway, Shattered Sword (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2005). The authors make passing mention of pilots relaxing on Kido Butai’s carriers, page 70:

On a war mission, the cooks made special efforts to ensure that the men were given tasty rations. The crews were indulged with fresh fruit and delicacies such as ohagi (sugar and red bean rice cake) and shiruko (red bean soup with rice cake in it).


In his technical study Combined Fleet Decoded (New York: Random House, 1995), John Prados mentions the routine on board super-battleship Yamato flying Admiral Yamamoto’s flag, 600 miles behind Kido Butai en route to Midway. From page 170:

The commander in chief, rising early, checked the weather and made for the elevator to Yamato’s bridge, six decks up in the conning tower. At breakfast time … the meal would be served on the flag bridge (not the compass bridge) by Petty Officer Omi. It was quite difficult to move the hot food up into the place without disrupting other activities. Breakfast might be boiled rice, miso soup, egg, dried fish, and trimmings. After the food, staff usually stayed to discuss matters of concern, and chief of staff Ugaki would join in, his watching brief on the compass bridge taken up by Captain Kuroshima. Shorter staff discussions followed lunch and dinner, to review events of the day. The latter meal would be served more formally, in the staff mess, as on the Nagato but on the starboard side of the ship.



=====================


Even late in the war, food on board "Hotel Yamato" still seemed to remain the best in the diminishing Navy. From Russell Spurr's account of the super-battleship on her final mission, A Glorious Way to Die (Newmarket Press, 1981), pages 79, 123, and 125:

At least the food was good. Menus changed daily. Eighty cooks worked in the main galleys deep in number 4 deck. Meals were brought up to the mess deck in large stainless steel canteens. The crews ate ample portions of frozen fish, fried beefsteak unobtainable ashore, a variety of vegetables, pickles, and of course plenty of glutinous Japanese rice. The three officers' messes had their own cooks and the pick of the food supplies.

Japanese warships were far from dry. Ratings could draw a ration of rice wine with their dinner, or a bottle of beer ... There were no restrictions on the officers, who frequently caroused when in port. At sea, however, they were more abstemious ...

A steward served Scotch in cut glasses. The whiskey and the glasses were part of the leftover loot from Singapore. The liquor stocks of the captured fortress were so vast that the Japanese Navy was still drinking [them] more than three years after the British surrender. Yamato carried so much liquor, in fact, that her supply staff joked that the fish would be drunk for miles around, if ever she was to sink.

Executive officer Nomura was determined to foil the fish. His final orders of the day were for a monumental party. It might be the last one most of them would ever have. Cooks had already been instructed to break out the best rations for a symbolic last supper ...

The cooks had outdone themselves. Special dishes appeared, suitable for the eve of battle. There was sekihan, made of red bean paste, and okashiratsuki, a kind of sea bream made complete with the head of the fish. And more, lashings more, of the warm rice wine that brought a flush to their faces ...


As far as I know, sekihan is red rice rather than bean paste. It is made by steaming rice with red beans so that it comes out bright red-pink. Red is a lucky color and this dish is eaten at some celebrations (?) in Japan.

I seem to remember that the recent Japanese film about the last sortie of Yamato gave a glimpse of her galley, as the filmmakers imagined it.

Is it safe to assume that sister battleship Musashi was as well-appointed? While half-sister carrier Shinano might not have. Of course these ships’ accommodations were not typical of the whole IJN which, like the US Navy, nevertheless at least had some benefits of fresh foods in its shipboard refrigerators.


=========================


The following is from a short account of Japanese submarine life in Dorr Carpenter and Norman Polmar's book Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1986). It naturally reads much like that on board other navies' submarines. Excepting the foodstuffs, so does the loading and serving of food as told on page 9:

Submarine crews, as well as the rest of the seagoing navy, tended to have preferential treatment with respect to food and cigarettes. At sea the submariners had a diet of boiled white rice, pickled vegetables, dried seaweed, eggs, beef, pork, various fish, and usually for breakfast, miso-shiro, a vegetable soup. Refrigeration was severely limited, and fresh meat, fish, and vegetables would be exhausted in about a week, after which canned food was the staple. There was little coffee but plenty of tea. Officers and men generally ate the same food, their daily submarine ration amounting to some 3,300 calories, quite high for wartime Japan. Sake and beer were available to submarine crews ashore, while at sea a commanding officer could issue alcohol under special conditions. But drunkenness ashore or afloat was not tolerated.

Life in the cramped, un-air-conditioned submarines was difficult. On long deployments bags of rice and canned food filled every available space, and just moving through the submarine was a difficult task. The newer boats had cooling systems; the older craft were always very humid. Rats were common on board.

... At the bases in Malaya and Java there was ample fresh fruit for the sailors.


The calorie count of a Navy ration given here is about the same as the Army’s, as told in the Handbook of Japanese Military Forces cited earlier. Since the two services generally despised each other, I expect that Imperial soldiers would think their sailor comrades ate too well – if they ever had the chance to see what they ate.

-- Alan
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Postby Pax Melmacia on 09 Jan 2008 03:44

Near the end of the war a small Japanese unit was trapped in one of the jungles in the Philippines. The GIs hunting them knew they had no food, and would break soon. To their surprise, when they did encounter them they were fairly fit. It seems one of the Japanese soldiers had been a botanist back home and he taught his comrades how to live off the land.

Any info on Japanese use of 'wild' food?
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Postby Sewer King on 11 Jan 2008 06:10

Kumusta ca, Pax! I am a little surprised you did not beat me to this topic, as you did other ones.

Pax Melmacia wrote:Near the end of the war a small Japanese unit was trapped in one of the jungles in the Philippines. The GIs hunting them knew they had no food, and would break soon. To their surprise, when they did encounter them they were fairly fit. It seems one of the Japanese soldiers had been a botanist back home and he taught his comrades how to live off the land.


There was a similar incident among Allied prisoners in Japanese hands. They used an Indonesian soy food called tempeh, which cultures a beneficial fungus around soybeans. According to Barbara Ford's book Future Foods (New York: William Morrow, 1978), page 57:
The men found the boiled soybeans [the Japanese gave them] were given hard to digest, so several Dutch prisoners from Indonesia, who were familiar with tempeh, suggested fermentation. After obtaining a microbial culture, the men soaked the beans and fermented them outdoors in the hot climate. The resulting product was successfully used in treating protein and vitamin deficiencies" according to a British medical report ...

Tempeh does taste good and remains an Indonesian specialty today, also sold as a health food in the West.

Pax Melmacia wrote:Any info on Japanese use of 'wild' food?


I have seen mention of wild goats eaten by the Japanese troops on Chichi Jima, chief island of the Bonins group. After years of war the goat population was largely gone that way. Wild pigs were also found on other islands. Like fishing, regular hunting for wild game naturally seems more likely for garrison units who would have time and peace to do so.


===========================


Here are two descriptions from general books in English about the Japanese Army, with a few of the same earlier misundertandings about the food.

From George Forty's Japanese Army Handbook 1939-1945, (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1999), pages 82-84:

... Rice was of course a staple part of the ration, comparable with bread or biscuit in European armies, nevertheless the IJA ration was adequate and reasonably tasty. Cooked dry, the rice had a consistency of a 'sticky mass' which made it ready to eat with chopsticks. To ward off beri-beri some barley was sometimes mixed in but this was not popular, the alternative being to cook the rice with a few pickled plums; these were a laxative so counteracted the constipating effect of the rice. To make the rice more palatable it was often seasoned with soy-bean sauce (shoyu) or its powdered equivalent (miso). Other favored foods included pickled radishes; dried, tinned, or pickled octopus; dried bread and vegetables. Preserved food included dried and compressed fish (salmon or tuna) which had to be soaked and salted to make it palatable; all manner of preserved vegetables; canned beef or whale meat; even vitamin tablets. The daily ration varied between 2 1/2 - 4lbs a man, depending on whether it was fresh or preserved.


I have seen a photo from the civilan home front showing a Japanese father and son together eating “Rising Sun” lunches. These were a rectangular tin of rice with a pickled red plum in the center. Obviously these were a patriotic model of the Japanese flag. But were these manufactured meals, or just a way of serving the rice?

There were also two emergency rations: 'A' Ration consisted of 1lb 13oz of rice, 5oz canned fish or meat, a little miso or sugar; 'B' Ration was the IJA 'hard tack', issued in three muslin bags each of 1/2lb of small oval biscuits. It was only to be eaten on the orders of an officer.

There was also another emergency ration which consisted of a cellophane packet of cooked rice, pickled plums, dried fish, salt and sugar, while paratroops were issued with yet another but even lighter-to-carry 'Iron Ration'.


The American K Ration also began as a paratrooper ration in 1941, but for normal combat use rather than emergencies. A cellophane packet of Japanese emergency ration sounds small enough, but this supposed “iron ration” sounds even smaller.

Surviving examples of wartime combat rations are relatively uncommon anywhere. Maybe those of the Japanese even more so, and since the Imperial parachute forces were small, their iron rations seem rarest of all – if anything is known at all.

'Living off the land' was allowed and encouraged if circumstances permitted. Fishing, vegetable gardening, local purchase and so on were all encouraged to augment issue rations, the transport of which varied with the nature of the terrain. The Soldier's Guide to the Japanese Army quotes an example: in New Guinea a 700-strong IJA battalion carried rations sufficient for twelve days, each man carrying a three-day supply of 'Fresh' rations, plus four days of 'Preserved', while the remaining five days' supplies (2.98 tons) were carried in the battalion supply train. Packaging was generally poor in the early days of the war which resulted in considerable food loss.



=========================


From another recent, general book, Leo J. Daugherty's Fighting Techniques of a Japanese Infantryman, (UK: Spellhurst Ltd, 2002), page 34:

In the field and on the march, the Japanese soldier's ration, or schichi bu no san, consisted of milled wheat and rice, and apportioned to seven portions of rice to three of wheat per soldier. This was then mixed up and placed in a large cauldron or pot, and was served to the men three times a day. This was also the staple diet in garrison, although supplemented with other delicacies. Japanese soldiers were also given bread once a week, although this was not compulsory. In fact, Japanese soldiers, like most Asians, had little liking for bread and instead preferred to eat rice or wheat for their starch supplement. Soldiers drank green tea or hot water with all three meals.


This sounds a little overstated. Doesn’t this also refer to barley in the rice, rather than wheat? I have seen it written elsewhere (and here) that the Japanese soldier did not take readily to breads as a staple, but it seems better to say that rice was much preferred over baked breads. I would have thought that in north China and Manchuria breads were more common than elsewhere ecause they were normal foodstuffs there, and a field soldier often does not have great choice of what he has to eat.

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Postby Peter H on 11 Jan 2008 14:46

Didn't the Japanese Navy have special catery ships?(or should I say ships that provided cooked meals for personnel on the major fleet vessels in times as required?)
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Postby aipaul on 11 Jan 2008 20:37

Did the IJN do any organized fishing from their ships while out at sea? The Japanese love [i]sashimi[/] and would have taken full advantage of any school of tuna they came across I think.
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Postby Sewer King on 13 Jan 2008 06:05

A short account titled "Feeding a Battalion" in the Burma theater, by Professional Accounts Officer Masao Hirakubo, 3rd Battalion 58th Infantry Regiment, 31st Division. As given in Kazuo Tamayama and John Nunneley's anthology Tales by Japanese Soldiers in the Cassell Military Paperbacks edition (London: Cassell, 2001), pages 171-172:

The 3rd Battalion of 58 Infantry Regiment fought at Point 7378 at Shangshak, and then worked around to Lohima from Mao, while our 2nd Battalion went on the Kohima-Imphal road. I was the accountant officer of the battalion who was responsible for 1,000 officers and other ranks, when any supply from behind seemed impossible.

We went into Naga Village north-east of Kohima Ridge (which the Japanese called Kohima Village) in the early morning of 5 April 1944 with complete silence, the enemy being surprised. To my great delight there were twenty warehouses in which a lot of rice and salt were piled up.

I thought it essential to secure the food and asked the battalion commander to lend some men to carry out rice from the warehouses during the night. The adjutant bluntly refused, as all the soldiers were fast asleep after the hard march in the mountains and the work could be done on the next day. So I argued and fought hard with him and the commander finally supplied me with 50 soldiers. I took command of the men and carried as much rice and salt as possible to a valley. Next morning many British planes bombed the warehouses and everything remaining was turned into ashes. I regretted not to have carried out more.

While the battalion was attacking Kohima Ridge from the fork road, my unit with fifteen men cooked rice and boiled water for drinking all night after sunset. We put two big rice balls in a mess kit and water in a canteen per person, and carried them to the front line. They ate them, breaking them into small pieces.

My problem was that there was nothing to eat with the rice balls. We purchased pigs from a village about 20 miles away and collected edible wild grasses from the field which were boiled with salt and put in the mess kits. Sometimes I went to the divisional depot and got a tiny but satisfactory allocation of rice, thanks to my securing the warehouses.

When we were to retreat on 1 June, we had still some rice left which we divided among all the men in the battalion.


I imagine that Hirakubo’s men ate more fortunately than many other Japanese in Burma. It has some passing interest that that he gave such exact dates and locations that could be traceable in other records, including British ones. Field life was hard enough in Burma for both sides, but I have not read enough about the Japanese side of it.

The old European-style mess kits for other ranks are sometimes described as “kidney-section” because of their shape. The Japanese Army mess kit was this same design, except that its lid had no panhandle. Was it based on that of the French or the Germans? I assume this was the same one mentioned above, and from magazine photosI think it was still in use by the modern Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces, at least until recent years.

Soldiers’ mess kits seem used mostly to carry and hold portions of rice and other foods, and relatively less for any actual cooking in the field. I do not remember where I saw the following, or if it is true -- that modern Asian kits of this type had small marks on them for cooking rice itself. Fill them with rice up to the lower line, water up to the higher line, and then boil accordingly. In any case, it seems much easier to cook rice for a small group and serve it out.

Officers’ mess kits were oblong rectangular tins with lids and wire handles, with a matching dish insert like the soldier’s. They do not seem to be as usable for cooking, but in bivouac officers would not make their own meals. I have the impression that Japanese officers had to buy almost all of their own field equipment, including this. Was that so?

Peter H wrote:Didn't the Japanese Navy have special catery ships?(or should I say ships that provided cooked meals for personnel on the major fleet vessels in times as required?)


I have seen mention of the IJN's refrigerated supply ships, but not dedicated ones for meal service to the fleet. The nearest I can think of are submarine tenders like the Jingei and others which provisioned the I-boats -- but of course for any wartime submariner, any meal eaten off his boat is fine dining. And the Italians hulked a few of their old pre-dreadnoughts as barracks ships. If there ever were such service vessels in the IJN, I would think they were more like barges and harbor craft in the fleet bases.

aipaul wrote:Did the IJN do any organized fishing from their ships while out at sea? The Japanese love [i]sashimi[/] and would have taken full advantage of any school of tuna they came across I think.


It seems unlikely. Organized fishing would need to be a full-time activity when undertaken, at cross purposes with a ship's naval operations. A chance of a good fish catch (and fishermen among a crew or at a shore station) would be welcome of course. Because of their low freeboard and occasional need for surface running, I-boats seem the most likely ships to have any chance to fish. Especially in home waters, early in the war or before it. But I do not know.

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