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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hisashi
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by hisashi » 11 Apr 2015 12:01

Just as hot pepper was introduced to continental and SE Asia by Spanish trade, so too was it first introduced to Japan from the Portuguese, as Hisashi said. Modern-day santaka and hontaka are said to be Mexican in seed origin, as were the original peppers for Tabasco sauce.
In my childhood, 1960s, powdered hot pepper was already an old member of Japanese cuisine seasonings. But Tabasco have not succeeded to join in them. That is, perhaps in 1980s Italian cuisine gained ground in Japanese market. Delivery Pizza chain using motorbikes was a newcomer those days.
I am a little surprised that fish is not much “curried” in Japan, considering other seafood curries cooked across southeast Asia. Maybe it was because curry came to a modernizing Japan together with rise of meat-eating -- while fish was long enjoyed there separate from such changes?
I have some problem on translation. Shellfish, shrimp and squids are typical ingredients of 'Seafood Curry' in Japan. Streamlined fish with spine have been cooked in more traditional style. In other words, we do not care fish in stew have bones, but we feel inconvenient if we have bones in curry rice.
Before cooking barreled meat, it famously had to be soaked (or “steeped”) in fresh water to remove some of the salt. There were even wooden basins just for this, called “steep tubs.” But on old sailing ships, fresh water could be scarce for that use. A common American Civil War telling has some Union troops rinsing their salted meat by hanging it from a rope, down into running stream water.
Bodara (tara stick), salted and dried pollack, is a typical Japanese preserve food which needs steepening. In military or not they must wait a day or so to remove salt.

My late mother (born in 1932) told me of prewar life; if they bought a salted salmon or amberjack as a whole, they at first picked it with a dish under its bottom. Dips of salt, with fish oil, poured out of strongly salted fish. For a few day they waited to eat them and enjoyed salty oil with bowls of rice.
Like the above, general writings in English often say “Japanese historically ate little meat because of religious influence against it, especially Buddhist.” But, this telling also seems to associate a few Japanese eating meat with Christian influence at the time. Maybe it was more European generally, rather than Christian?
Of course simply Japaneses were poor. Nutrition situation was severe in industrialized Europe until very recently till they reached modern situation - tall, massive Europeans with some needs of diet. Relatively foods other than crops/vegetables were intensively consumed in cities, especially large cities.


It is true that from Buddhism morale government of the day had ordered ban on eating, but to 14th century or so most conscious Buddhists are nobles or powerful samurai. Demands to Buddhist believer was so hard, for example to pray in the name of the Holy thousands time every day, so until the last phase of medieval era Buddhist could not come into common peoples' life. It is not a balanced view to believe Japaneses in general kept out of meet eating from Buddhist belief.

Among the many unknown thousands of diaries (many thousands?), most were lost with their writers in battle,
Only a relatively small number would survive the war.
Of those that survived, only relative fewer would be published.
Of those published, only some fraction might still be fairly available, even in Japan?
Of those available, probably fewest of all are those that have been translated. They were done because of especial interest about their writers, i.e. Admiral Ugaki Matome. Yokota Yutaka based his book The Kaiten Weapon on his diaries as one of those special attack pilots, and it was translated for that interest.
Many diaries written in the front would be lost. But so many military men wrote recall after the war. But any piece of the writing justifying the war or showing sympathy to the war would bring dispute in, so many of them were privately published and circulated among veterans, families etc. But still huge amount of them survived. For military buffs, the real problem is that they have not been intended for them. So many recalls refer mainly of individuals the author owe or made friend, and spend too little lines on those wanted by military buffs.

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Sewer King
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Sewer King » 25 Jul 2015 23:56

Apologies for being away so long. If I haven’t been on this thread, I haven’t been on the Forum itself.

As always, thanks to Hisashi for explanations of many related aspects of Japanese food, past and present, military or not. These encourage me to find more about them, and also to look for broad similarities in other armies or societies. Such comparisons may help better understanding, especially in an international Forum.
  • Of course there is natural chance of mistakes, but I am learning better how to judge sources and use them with due caution. Not only about food or military -– this problem happens in many English-language general writings about Japan..

    It makes me re-read and re-write many times before I post. But discussion is better for it, to whatever degree. Indeed, this is true for many long-running threads. Just as Marcus noted that international members can use this Forum to improve their general English conversation, so I too have learned on it how to write better.
Even for an audience I have never actually been sure of, but happy to write for. With the invaluable help of Hisashi as teacher, I always imagined the size of his ‘class’ here is larger than it seems.

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hisashi wrote:. . . Shellfish, shrimp, and squids are typical ingredients of 'Seafood Curry' in Japan. Streamlined fish with spine have been cooked in more traditional style. In other words, we do not care fish in stew have bones, but we feel inconvenient if we have bones in curry rice.
This seems to fit the quote about kare raisu as a favorite easy meal that many Japanese enjoy in casual setting. The concept has became known as “comfort food” in the US, though I don’t know if there are similar terms in other countries. Often, comfort foods are the common home-cooked dishes that a person (or people) liked when growing up. These are wanted with no inconvenience in cooking or eating them

Richer dishes of washoku (Japanese cuisine) may have traditional rules of serving and eating, and fish bones may be expected in them. But curry comes from yoshoku (Western cuisine) and thus does not have such rules? It can be easily cooked, and casually eaten. What first made curry convenient for military meals, does so today for modern civilians.

The meat version seems the more common picture of Japanese curry, even here in this thread, whether in old IJA/IJN days or today. I suppose Japanese seafood curries also date back to then, even if not as well-known to foreigners? For one thing, I had imagined it as one way to cover the taste of unpopular whale meat, if used for that.

This difference Hisashi told about fish bones also sounds a little like a difference between officers’ and soldiers’ meals in garrison. Or maybe more so, the difference between officers’ and sailors’ meals in the Navy? That is, officers' meals had finer dishes, but which were less convenient to cook and serve –- including cuts of meat or fish with bones. On the other hand, enlisted men’s meals were quickly cooked in large amounts, so they had to be more convenient by nature –- and boneless.

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hisashi wrote:Bodara (tara stick), salted and dried pollack, is a typical Japanese preserve food which needs steepening [in water] . . . In military or not they must wait a day or so to remove salt.
Bodara sounds close to stockfish from northern Europe, dating back to the Middle Ages -– and is probably just as old?
  • Originally stokkfish in Scandinavia, stockfish was cod preserved by cold dry wind (but not needing salt). If kept dry, it lasted for long time like hardtack biscuits. But one telling says that in return, it had to be well-beaten with a hammer, scraped, then soaked in butter or mustard. Whether in Japan or Europe, preserving cheapest salt meats or fish was a seasonal protein reserve that survives in modern cuisines.

    Food histories are often happy, but not always. The salt cod (bacalhau) common today in Caribbean and Brazilian cuisine was also cheap food for African slaves shipped to those colonies for hard labor. Colonial New England also exported salt cod to Europe, and in both places it was a commoner’s food. Probably bodara was also common in old Japan the same way? And for the same reasons, it would be good for soldiers’ rations.
I haven’t yet found the reference from a Japanese officer, saying that each IJA field soldier packed a small piece of dried fish as emergency ration(?) If so, this sounds comparable to the iron rations of Western armies, normally eaten only when ordered by their officers.

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hisashi wrote:My late mother (born in 1932) told me of prewar life; if they bought a salted salmon or amberjack as a whole, they at first picked it with a dish under its bottom. Dips of salt, with fish oil, poured out of strongly salted fish. For a few day they waited to eat them and enjoyed salty oil with bowls of rice.
We in the Philippines do similar but with small salted sardines we call tuyo. These are typically cooked with vinegar, lime juice, or oil. Sometimes a little of the latter gets spooned onto the rice –- as I remember my own late mother did too (1925-2008).
  • I would expect to find the same done in other parts of rural SE Asia. Often, anyone living on certain basic foods, with few extras, will tend to cook them in similar ways. Ordinary civilians and common soldiers historically ate simple diets. From their viewpoint, a flavored oil dressing might be a small treat, that would stand out in memory this way.
That might be why Hisashi and I remember our mothers liking them, in those days when food was less luxurious than now. So, too, might IJA field soldiers of that time, coming from backgrounds harder than those of today.

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hisashi wrote:Many diaries written in the front would be lost. But so many military men wrote recall after the war. But any piece of the writing justifying the war or showing sympathy to the war would bring dispute in, so many of them were privately published and circulated among veterans, families, etc. But still huge amount of them survived. For military buffs, the real problem is that they have not been intended for them. So many recalls refer mainly of individuals the author owe or made friend, and spend too little lines on those wanted by military buffs.
I was not sure if the soldier/sailor’s diary might be a thread on its own, because it might be short.
  • In the quote from Kanagaki Robun about eating meat, it might reflect only the audience who heard his monologue –- indeed, it seemed written for that audience. By comparison, soldiers and sailors were a wider sample of Japanese men at the time. They could neither choose what they ate, nor make their opinions public. Although they would have enjoyed the meat dishes served to them, I cannot see if they thought of those as progressive, parallel to Kanagaki.
Diaries would seem to be the place for such feelings, whether about food or anything else.
  • I imagined it difficult to search them in large enough numbers, just for chance of this one thought, even if it was possible. And even then, those would be in widely-scattered short mentions. But, it is noticeable that enough was written about IJA / IJN food in veterans’ recalls -- even the relative few translations quoted in this thread (with more to come).

    However, memoirs naturally have more benefit of their authors’ reflections, because diaries are written more about moments soon after they happened. For my part, I know only one author (Yokota Yutaka) whose memoir was based directly on his diaries, but there must be many others in Japanese.
Earlier here I made a rough comparison between soldiers’ meals and electric lighting at home as measure of modernity for IJA draftees of a certain time, This is similar to looking for average men’s opinions of their army/navy food.
  • When I compared IJA draftees to those of WW1 US Army, it was because military buffs (in US, also) might not look at the sociology of those draftees. It’s similar to what Hisashi said about their low interest in veterans’ memoirs.

    Americans as a people are long used to abundance, and their self-image of it. They often forget (in both past and present) that their abundance is not always distributed evenly. So it may be hard for them, or even strange, to think of a US draftee impressed by his rations in 1917-18. Instead, military buffs usually know many jokes, slang, and rude songs about army food when it was not good.

    Hisashi noted for us that Japanese military of all ranks were relatively poor compared to European living standard. In turn, European soldiers were relatively poor to American ones then, especially in food rations. From this viewpoint it may be hardest for today’s US military buffs to truly understand an IJA soldier liking his simple food.
In all the old armies, every recruit left his home and went to new living conditions of a training base or fort. In wartime, he left his fort and went to new conditions at the front, or at sea. He kept lasting impressions of them, great or small -- whether or not he wrote them in a diary or memoir.

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hisashi wrote:. . . It is true that from Buddhism moral government of the day had ordered ban on [meat] eating, but . . . [because of its strict practices,] until the last phase of medieval era Buddhist could not come into common peoples' life. It is not a balanced view to believe Japaneses in general kept out of meat-eating from Buddhist belief.
It did seem not balanced, so I quoted it with a certain skepticism of general saying -- not sure if that comes out clearly. Unfortunately this is a common pitfall of general history about many things. But maybe more so about Japanese history and culture, both military and not. Especially in English, where any such mistakes can be carried on into future writings.
  • In fact, the quote from Kanagaki Robun is my only direct Japanese quote saying Buddhism opposed meat-eating. Although valuable as satire, one quote is not authoritative of course.

    But although hard to prove, I daresay there were probably enough people in Kanagaki’s audience at the time who agreed with him. Otherwise, his monologue could not have worked. Satire depends on being easily understood –- apart from whether or not it is true, or agreed upon.
Compared to meat, there is enough balanced study solely about rice in Japan, from Japanese sources and published in English too (but I imagine far more is written about it in Japanese). More white rice for more people was seen as a good thing.
  • Yet at the time, might eating more red meat have had some social controversy? Say, between older and younger generations of Japanese at the time. I suppose this because in 1880s-1900s, Japan’s modernization would be widespread enough to have such controversies –- as often happens in any developing country. If so, Kanagaki Robun likely saw some of it, since he lived from 1829-1894.
A few recent Western military history authors have also based their work on such study and research in Japan, using Japanese sources. Some cultural/food historians did similarly, much quoted here in this thread. But even their good perspectives may not reach into many fine points of a specialized thread like ours.

Earlier, we saw how and why the IJA increased meat in its food ration. When a people’s basic diet is improved like this -- beyond subsistence -- one author broadly supposed that it raises their ambition as a nation, along with birthrate and general health.
  • In medieval Europe the advent of the moldboard plow and three-field crop rotation of beans with grains led to more food and better food. This helped raise the continental population, including that of military-age men, for the crusades and empires that followed.

    Mongol conquests across Eurasia may have been helped by their wide use of dried meat and preserved horse milk, which is richer than cow milk. On the wide scale, the author compared this with the dynamism of other pastoral, nomadic peoples who ate meat and dairy.

    (Tannahill, Food in History revised edition, pages 122 and 157)
Could it be said that dietary improvements helped “fuel” a rising Imperial Japan, at least on a smaller and shorter scale in the military? And later also, a Japan rebuilding in its postwar boom? In prewar the IJA / IJN had led in this, but in postwar they left a legacy in school lunch meals and some popular dishes.

-- Alan

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hisashi
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by hisashi » 28 Jul 2015 09:17

As most ethnos in the world, Japense don't like cold meal. But relatively Japanese bears cold meal on travel/move. Typical military ration in medieval/Sengoku era was Onigiri and (primitive) Miso. Miso in that era was solted grains, not always farmented.

Those imaged as 'Washoku' by foreigners are mostly those shaped in Edo era, 17th-19th century, plus recent amendment by refrigerators, especially sushi with raw fish. That is, military ration in washoku was not seriously talked because 17th-19th century was an exceptionally peaceful period in the history of Japan.

It was after Meiji Restoration that a huge demand for fast food around modern labor-intensive factories. Udon & soba were always a part of it, but they must boil noodles after ordered. Today soba stands in railway station boils each soba within a minute - a great achievement. But they could not compete with 'ready-to-eat' foods in serving time.

They made a variation of ready-to-eat takeout foods. 'Gyoda-Fry' is one of it, wheat paste baked with oil, seasoned with Uster-Sauce-like localized sause. They could be stocked for hours before peaktime and was loved by workers in the factory.

https://www.google.co.jp/search?q=%E8%A ... 51&bih=616

Curry rice was not as good as those 'ready-to-eat' foods in prewar Japan. Today we eletrically keep rice warm and curry joined the club of fastest foods. Some people say 'curry rice is a drink', but such way of eating is not good for one's health.

I don't know any seafood-curry tradition. After deep-frozen food became popular, they offered 'sea food mix ' package, typically with shrimp, clam and squid. I image 'seafood curry' was one way of consuming that package.

Some part of whale is really oily, but most of whale meat is red, with almost no fat; it is not good for stew. Whale meat was consumed in soy-sause seasoned fry (tatsuta-age). Canned whale steak, or similarly strongly seasoned steak, was not very popular as I recall.
This difference Hisashi told about fish bones also sounds a little like a difference between officers’ and soldiers’ meals in garrison. Or maybe more so, the difference between officers’ and sailors’ meals in the Navy? That is, officers' meals had finer dishes, but which were less convenient to cook and serve –- including cuts of meat or fish with bones. On the other hand, enlisted men’s meals were quickly cooked in large amounts, so they had to be more convenient by nature –- and boneless.
Absolutely yes. Some dish, such as 'Chicken Rice' = chicken pilaf seasoned with tomato-sauce, were only for navy officer and never for sailors.

In prewar Japan they made an effort to export bodara but eventually it did not make a large amount. Bodara was so salty that it easily make one thirsty if they directly consume it.


I should point up that Kanagaki Robun's Aguranabe was written in 1871. Slaughterhouse was allowed in foreigners' residence area in Yokohama in 1964, so it was not so long after constant supply of meat was assured. In short, for most people meat was too expensive and animals were used up to tract skew etc. rather than killed in youth. It was not the matter of religion. Hikone-Han, Ii family, kept a supply of good beef and presented it to shogun himself and VIPs. Hunting was allowed in the most area of Japan and many animal were killed, though not constantly supplied to restaurant.

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Luftflotte2 » 03 Oct 2015 23:07

Slightly relevant, a field kitchen beside a trench in China. Hopefully it has not been posted before.
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Akira Takizawa » 04 Oct 2015 02:10

Luftflotte2 wrote:Slightly relevant, a field kitchen beside a trench in China. Hopefully it has not been posted before.
It is not field kitchen, but hot water vehicle(沸水車). It is old type before Type 97.

Taki

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Luftflotte2 » 04 Oct 2015 02:41

Thank you for the correction!

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by kugelpanzer » 21 Jun 2016 17:23

In all areas aside front the "Necessary Strongholds of the Nation" or 絶対国防圏 food rations were up to the locale army group.

What is more apparent is the fact that the Japanese army had no logistical plan on delivering food from the mainland or vice versa. By 1943 the United States began hunting undefended Japanese cargo carrying supplies and men destroying the logistical so called "Sea lane" the Japanese army passed majority of their cargo. 2.3 million soldiers or 60% of those who died in the Pacific war on the Japanese side had died due to Starvation. The Japanese army did have logistics companies that brought food, however they were taught to only to get food from locales leading them to forcefully taking food growing bad relations, encouraging resistance movements to form - further making the food supply issue worse.

In terms of cannibalism there are many records of Japanese soldiers eating comrades up in the New Guinea front where there was a lack of supply throughout most of the war.

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Hama » 28 Jun 2017 08:33

Where did the myth among westerners come from that Japanese troops only ate two meals a day? Was it just something they saw in the battlefield when food was scarcer? Because Japanese definitely ate three meals in barracks, and in the field too.

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Truckman » 07 Sep 2018 14:16

I read this thread from one end to the other, and gained some valuable insight from it...Thanks to all who contributed...

What I did not find is any photos of the galley areas or mess decks aboard the smaller freighters, such as the Sea Trucks (or "Sugar Dogs" or Kaijo Torraku) about which I'm writing now...The pics from the larger ships were helpful, but I'm trying to contrast life on the Sea Trucks with that on USN Small Coastal Transports...

I realize it's a very limited subject, but any response will be helpful...Thanks... :thumbsup: ...Ben

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