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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Akira Takizawa
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Akira Takizawa » 08 Mar 2009 13:00

Peter H wrote:Soup?
No, Sake.

Taki

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 08 Mar 2009 23:54

Thanks Taki.

Sake is better than soup. :)

Peter

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Sewer King » 12 Mar 2009 04:56

Peter H wrote:Meal on transport
These troops are not eating from their messkits, but metal dishes with some canned food. Would these have been prepared meals made specifically for troops in transit?

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Peter H wrote:Tank crews chomping on sugar cane
Is this in the Philippines? These tankers may be playing it up for the camera, but sugar cane is a good snack if a sticky one.
Peter H wrote:More tankers enjoy a meal
The crewman at left may be opening a can. Wartime tank men were sometimes able to carry a few more luxuries or cooking aids than could the infantry.

More good photos of the Type 94 tankettes besides.

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Peter H wrote:Preparing food. My understanding is that the Japanese had nothing like KP duty and all hands joined in food preparation.
Looks like Chinese cabbage, commonly called bok choy. If all hands worked at the mess kitchen, these two do not look as cheerful about it as those in other army kitchen photos.

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Peter H wrote:Making bread?
I have never before heard or seen that the IJA had mobile bake ovens. These are wood-fired, to tell from that around the wagon wheels. Were these standard throughout much of the army, at least in China?

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Peter H wrote:Senior officer with chopsticks / I don't know if this guy is eating,about to smoke,or even taking snuff. :(
To me it seems unexpected to focus on two army colonels so specifically while they are eating. It does seem as if they at least had good furniture for it, even in the field. The colonel with the table has the rectangular mess kit typical of officers.

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Peter H wrote:Soup?
Akira Takizawa wrote:No, Sake.
We have seen the traditional sake barrels, but is the container here also special to sake?

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Peter H wrote:Watermelon,again.
In China a truly casual shot of pausing for fresh fruit, all the more for the soldier at left probably spitting seeds.

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Editors of Time-Life Inc, Prelude to War volume in “World War II” series (Time-Life Books Inc, 1977), page 144. Original photo credit Y. Natori, Black Star.
Image
Captioned:
Sweet cakes called dorayaki, made of flour and sugar, fill the tray of a Japanese Army cook. Such tidbits were a welcome change from the dreary rations of rice, dried fish, and canned vegetables that were the standard fare for the Japanese soldiers who were serving in China.
Dorayaki are very similar to American pancakes, but they sandwich sweet bean (azuki) paste between two of them. Other recipes also show them made with single pancakes filled and folded over as apparent in this photo. What do the sign and the inscription over the man’s head say?

Under normal supply the Japanese soldier’s combat rations were probably no more dreary than those of other armies at war. Baked sweets and fresh fruit are welcomed by front-line soldiers anywhere, but I have the impression that Japanese troops were especially appreciative of whatever their cooks could do to improve things.

-- Alan

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Akira Takizawa » 12 Mar 2009 07:23

> We have seen the traditional sake barrels, but is the container here also special to sake?

Yes. It is called Ittodaru.

http://store.shopping.yahoo.co.jp/kuram ... o/826.html

> What do the sign and the inscription over the man’s head say?

5th Field Medical Facility
Sado Unit Factory

Taki

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 12 Mar 2009 08:06

Here's some more Field Bakery photos.
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 12 Mar 2009 08:14

More group effort
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 12 Mar 2009 08:19

Parcel from home?
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 12 Mar 2009 08:26

Tea for two
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 12 Mar 2009 08:30

Officers finish dining
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Sewer King » 13 Mar 2009 04:56

Thanks Taki and Peter.
Peter H wrote:Here's some more Field Bakery photos.
The first photo looks like a sausage-making machine. Its hopper on top would be for feeding in chopped meat and other ingredients. The bright-finished nozzle with fastener implies a grinding attachment. There are Chinese dried sausages and Japanese fish sausages, although we discussed the latter mainly as home-front food substitutes which survive today. But I haven't heard if the meat ones were served to any extent to IJA troops.

Whether for sausages or not, such a machine is more likely in a rear-area kitchen. What looks like a heavy flywheel on it implies a strong motor, and the whole thing is probably larger than shown. In the background, two more cooks (note the belt, although blurred) are handling ingredients in a wooden bin.

What specifically could the second photo be?

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Peter H wrote:More group effort
The kettles for rice are much like those from the 1904 war shown earlier in this thread, with firewood nearby at left.

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Peter H wrote:Tea for two
Not often to see some Army major-generals at table, and one with a steel helmet tied on (with cap underneath). The other general seems to have his slung behind the back.

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Peter H wrote:Officers finish dining
Presumably this is a garrison area, with white gloves worn again although we have seen field photos with the same. The officer taking his leave wears full field equipment and a large dispatch(?) bag. Behind the other officer a soldier looks standing at attention -- an orderly?

Can the sign next to the doorway be read? It almost seems that a soldier is also taking another photograph from there, but it is not clear.

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Simon K wrote:...There is a strong visual resemblance to Japanese forces in S.E.Asia and especially early (1950s to early 60s) North Vietnamese. Ive noted it before.

Though I am no expert, its possible that the PLA copied certain items of Japanese kit immediately after the war?
I believe that also, though I don't have firm proof.

Before the PLA began introducing its synthetic helmet from the late 1980s onward, its steel helmet looked much like that of the Imperial forces. Their entrenching shovel has the same thong hole in the blade as that of the Japanese, a feature also deliberately copied in the US Army combination shovel standard from 1945-1967. The sole patterns of the Japanese jikatabi I think were also repeated in the PLA canvas field shoes, from what I have seen in PLA pictorial magazines (Jiefangjun Huabao) of the 1980s; canteens and stick grenades also have some similarities.

Chinese PLA troops had packaged fortified crackers for emergency rations. That sounds similar to Japanese issue, but to this extent may be only distantly related if at all.

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Simon K wrote:I broadly agree with Alan. It seems as if the Japanese had the most advanced field rations in the world,certainly in 1941. They may even be better in terms of ingredients than C, K, 5 In 1 etc. They were unable to produce them in anything like the required amounts. The planning and production of them was certainly very ambitious.

In terms of the ration types and categories of use, it seems more flexible than the U.S. field ration series.
Certainly compared to the early US field ration C, which only had up to four entrees for most of the war.

The original C Ration became so detested that the very name "C Ration" was permanently dropped from official use by the war's end, when it had been greatly improved; my late mother remembered them as Allied food relief in the postwar Philippines. However, most canned US rations were still unofficially called "C rations" until they were discontinued by the early 1980s.

This may sound overstated at first, but I think Taki's explanation and Simon K's suggestion about the advanced state of IJA rations is akin to Allied underestimation of leading Japanese weapons and tactics. Such as the Zero fighter, the Type 93 torpedo, and the ability to attack oversea from unheard-of ranges. Field rations are not weapons, they do not bring down planes or sink ships, are not publicized by the enemy, and do not usually become collectibles. So, they do not get the same historical examination as weapons.

As we have seen here, English-langauge accounts often mention the cutoff of Imperial forces that would become short of food, while others of them confiscated or foraged for food, and still others starved. Many broader histories emphasize Japan's logistic vulnerabilities like these as one key to Allied victory. By contrast US production might is well known, in rations as well as in weapons.

But as a troop support matter all these things overshadow the design of packaged Japanese rations. Early on, they were advanced by that much, even ahead of the Americans -- and even if it just appears in our discussion, here in this forum.

-- Alan

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Sewer King » 06 May 2009 04:32

In Imperial Japan, Western foodstuffs first became popular among upper-class Japanese who could afford them. Later it was their deliberate use in military provisions that popularized them more widely..

Cited earlier in this thread, Katarzyna J. Cwiertka’s cultural study Modern Japanese Cuisine (London: Reaktion Press, 2006), looks at the military and naval policies that governed those provisions. From page 58-61:
The spectacular growth in demand for onions, cabbage and potatoes coincided with the rising popularity of yoshoku [Western-style cuisine]. Once these vegetables became widely available and inexpensive, they began to be used in Japanese cooking as well and their consumption increased considerably. For example, the acreage occupied by the white potato crop expanded more than tenfold between 1880 and 1930.

During the first twenty years of the Meiji period, the Japanese government was very actively involved in the popularization of Western vegetables [seiyo yasai]. The Agricultural Experiment Stations set up throughout the country became responsible for cultivating seeds of new vegetables and developing new varieties of already known ones. They were to encourage agricultural innovation, distributed the seeds to the prospective producers and provided them with help in starting up businesses.

It was at such a station that Kanie Ichitaro (1875-1971) learned how to grow Western vegetables. Kanie was born into a peasant family settled near the city of Nagoya, approximately halfway between Tokyo and Kyoto. Like other peasant boys in late nineteenth-century Japan, he experienced the hardships of the farming existence, but his life was already affected by the early reforms of the Meiji government -- he acquired three years of elementary education and at the age of 20 was drafted into the army.
Image
Kanie Ichitaro shortly before his departure to the front in 1904.
Along with the policies of ‘civilization and enlightenment’, which aimed to bolster Japan’s image in the eyes of Westerners, the ambitions of the new government were conveyed by the slogan fukoku kyokei (rich country, strong army), with the ‘strong army’ component increasingly taking precedence. The chief objectives of the Meiji leadership were to establish modern armed forces of the strength equal to those of the Western powers and to put in place the infrastructure of a capitalist industrial economy comparable to the ones found in Europe and the United States … this goal was to be achieved through mass compulsory education and universal conscription …

A year before being conscripted, Ichitaro got married and moved to the nearby village. He married well, into a family more prosperous than his own. Since his wife was an only child, following the established practice Ichitaro was adopted into her family, and after the death of her father was to become head of the Kanie household. His father-in-law was an enterprising farmer who grew mulberry as a cash crop. In view of the growing export of silk, mulberry, which was used to feed silk worms, constituted an important supplementary income for many farmers in nineteenth-century Japan.

In 1895 Ichitaro was drafted to the 6th foot regiment of the 3rd Nagoya Division of the Imperial Japanese Army, and his encounter with [a] First Lieutenant Nishiyama during the third year of service inspired him to take up the market gardening of Western vegetables. Nishiyama tried to convince young farmers in his regiment that growing rice and barley was the thing of the past and that modern times called for an entrepreneurial spirit in the Japanese peasants. Propelled by the rising popularity of dining Western-style, the demand for Western vegetables was constantly growing, but their production was still limited.

Since the mulberry field of the Kanie family had been troubled by diseases for a few years in a row, upon his return in 1898, Ichitaro managed to persuade his father-in-law to devote part of the mulberry land to growing Western vegetables. Cabbage, lettuce, parsley, carrots, and onions sold well during the following years, but tomatoes proved less saleable. With the hope of increasing sales, Ichitaro attempted to process the tomatoes into tomato puree. He was aided in this endeavour by cooks from Western-style restaurants in Nagoya, to whom he supplied his vegetables. In 1903, the first batch of tomato puree packed in empty beer bottles sold like hot cakes. In view of this success, mulberry fields were abandoned altogether, and growing and processing tomatoes was turned into the main activity of the Kanie family.

The following year the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) broke out and Ichitaro, being a reservist of the Nagoya regiment, was drafted again. This bloody war, in which Japan suffered nearly 100,000 casualties, proved lucky for Kanie. He not only managed to escape injury but was awarded with 180 yen for his brave conduct on the battlefield. The money was invested in the construction of a tomato-processing factory and the enterprise began to thrive. In 1901 Kanie stated to develop two products that would become emblematic for his business -- tomato ketchup and the so-called sosu (deriving from the English word ‘sauce’), a domestic product that replaced imported Worcestershire sauce used copiously on most items on the yoshokuya menu. In 1912 the ketchup and sosu constituted 91 per cent of sales of all the Kanies’ produce, including rice and barley that the family still continued to grow.
Other ex-soldiers elsewhere have turned their military experience towards a food business. An American soldier returning home from the 1848 Mexican War brought back hot red peppers that were said to be the origins of Tabasco hot sauce. In the WW2 Pacific a US Navy cook named Burt Baskin flavored his ice cream service with local fruits, and after returning home he founded the Baskin & Robbins ice cream store chain.

However, in the case of Kanie Ichitaro and his farm produce, it is interesting to read how forward-looking and entrepreneurial he seemed while still in uniform. Armies in general do not typically encourage this, and it seems even more striking here. Of passing note is that he came of age with the rise of Imperial Japan, and that he also lived long enough to also see the rebirth and economic triumph of his country after World War II. Did his product name continue in Japan, maybe into modern times?
A glimpse into Kanie Ichitaro’s life provides a perfect starting point for the analysis of the role that the Japanese armed forces played in the construction of Japanese national cuisine. The conscription experience broadened the horizons of young farmers such as Kanie and confronted them with objects, practices, tastes and opinions that they would otherwise have had little opportunity to encounter. In the army peasants not only became accustomed to the exotic taste of beer, meat and yoshoku, but also turned into regular customers of rice and soy sauce -- the two basic ingredients of the urban diet consumed in farm households only sporadically. Furthermore, the demand for processed food created by army and navy orders was crucial to the survival of pioneering canneries and other food-processing enterprises in Japan, which in the future would provide the Japanese public with its daily supplies. Thus, in the long run, the ‘strong army’ policies of the Meiji government had a significant, homogenizing effect on the consumption practices of the Japanese population.
The "chow" experience of early Imperial soldiers roughly compares to that of American ones of the World Wars. For the first time many of the latter ate unfamiliar foodstuffs, foreign dishes, food substitutes, preserved or processed food, and specialized snacks. For the Imperial recruit even the very concept of institutional food may have been almost as new as those rising food technologies would be to American conscripts later on.

However, there were some natural differences between Meiji-era army modernization and that of the American or European armies.
  • Japan’s development was a deliberate policy over a comparatively short time, over a generation or more. For the West, the Industrial Revolution which gave rise to its modern armies was also a long evolution that was spread across much of the 19th century.

    The new Imperial army had only just begun to fight short overseas wars. Meanwhile, Western forces had already fought and continued to fight various regional, colonial, territorial and civil wars. Japan was only just gaining its own logistic experience of empire, which the others had already had to one extent or another.

    Finally, where military provisioning was concerned, Japan was deliberately beginning to adopt some Western staple foods. There was no such comparably great change in the food of contemporary armies of the powers.
For better and worse, we take food technologies for granted today. Yet it is easy to see –- or forget –- that many of them began or grew with military rations and troop feeding. Food is culture, so universally so that it is unnoticed and unreflected upon. Any military culture is naturally driven by compulsion and necessity, both of which lead its soldiers to eat whatever they are served more or less. Cwiertka shows that Japan’s drive to modernize not only changed what her soldiers had to eat, but soon also led to new cultural attitudes towards the food itself.

-- Alan

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Sewer King » 17 May 2009 04:42

(continued from previous citation)

Cwiertka traces the earliest canned foods in Japan back to 1871, when a Nagasaki producer canned sardines in oil based on French methods. Soon other Japanese were canning peaches, tomatoes, venison and salmon, the latter two products in particular helping to play a part in the development of Hokkaido. The Interior Ministry actively supported the expansion of a domestic canning capability. All below quoted from the author, pages 62-65:
Food Processing and the Armed Forces

…Two reasons lay behind government support for the canning industry. First of all, the widespread use of canned food in the United States convinced the Japanese policy makers that, along with telegraph, rail and other technological innovations, canning was an attribute of progress and modernity. The second reason was related to the Japanese trade imbalance. Since the investment required for setting up a canning business was minimal and fresh aquatic and agricultural resources widely available, the authorities hoped that canned products would join rice, tea and silk as the Japanese export articles. It was not before the 1910s, however, that Japanese cans were able to meet these expectations and compete with American and European products on the global market.

Canned food did not succeed in becoming fashionable in Japan, unlike beef stew or yoshoku, because of its relatively high price. The Western community, top-end hotels and restaurants, and the Japanese elites who could meet the expense, preferred reliable imported brands to Japanese products of inferior quality. Fortunately, the infant industry could rely on the principal patron of canning – war. Warfare and imperialism had from the very outset played a prominent role in the development of the canning industry in Europe and propelled the production and consumption of canned food in various times and locations. Canning technology provided Western armies and navies with long-life and easy-to-transport food that could be securely eaten out of place and out of season. It enabled expatriate Western communities in remote corners of the world to retain their distinctive food patterns and protected them from the potential danger of contagion.
This also compares to the American path which, according to Cwiertka, was another model for Japanese canners. Canned foods were expensive when first sold in America too, until westward expansion made them more common and therefore cheaper – the Civil War and Indian Wars provided military markets for them, although as privately-bought supplements.

Australia had been a leading exporter of canned meat until the 1880s, when the US was able to rival her. According to food historian Reay Tannahill’s Food in History (revised edition (Crown Publishers, 1987, page 312), this happened only after the US had put its Civil War firmly behind it.

Japan, too, had just fought her own regional wars not long before this same time, although wider consumption of meat had only recently started there compared to its longer history in the West.

Tannahill noted a scandal of canned meat spoilage in Britain’s Royal Navy in the 1850s, (ibid, page 311), that damaged the reputation of early canned food. A livestock epidemic in the 1870s forced the large-scale British import of Australian canned meats, whose low quality at that time also did not help that reputation. There was a similar although false scandal about spoiled “embalmed beef” supplied to the US Army in the Spanish-American War of 1898. In its accelerated development the Japanese military seems to have avoided such food-processing failures as were experienced in the West.

Canning as a concept was first pioneered in France out of the Napoleonic Wars, and shortly afterwards in Britain. Specialized markets such as that of explorers and miners arose for it on both sides of the Atlantic by the mid 19th century. Like many other technologies it first arose to meet a wartime need, but canning as an industry would later be sustained at least as much by urbanization, industrialization, and national expansion. In the West, this civilian demand was often more important than the military one in widening the use of canned foods over a long time. In Imperial Japan the reverse seems to have been true at times during her rapid modernization.
Canned food appealed to the Japanese military authorities for the same reasons as their counterparts elsewhere – it made the armed forces less vulnerable and more independent of local food supplies. Experts in the West believed that standardized rations would improve military planning and preparedness, and facilitate the expansion of Western economic power in non-Western areas. In view of the Meiji rhetoric on meat eating, canned beef received particular attention in Japanese military circles – beef was considered critical for bolstering the disastrous physical condition of conscripts. Many drafted men were in fact excused from duty after the physical examination, simply because they could not fulfill the minimum height requirement of 151.5 centimetres, by the end of the nineteenth century such cases constituted 16.7 per cent of all conscripts …

For the sake of comparison, it should be mentioned that the average height of Dutch conscripts at the time was 165 centimetres, and this was comparable to young males in other parts of western Europe …
A similar point about the small stature of Army recruits at that time is made in Gordon Rottman’s Japanese Infantryman 1937-45: Sword of the Empire, Osprey Warrior series volume 95 (Osprey Publishing, 2005), page 29, and also cited earlier.
Canned beef and ship’s biscuits were introduced in the Japanese Imperial Army in 1877 on the occasion of the Satsuma Rebellion – the first test for the new conscript army. Their introduction was motivated by convenient portability as field rations. Moreover, beef was believed to have strengthening properties for the troops, By 1916, along with soy sauce extract and fukujinzuke pickle (various vegetables thinly sliced and pickled in soy sauce and miso), ship’s biscuits and canned beef constituted the chief four items in the field rations of the Imperial Japanese Army. The so-called Yamatoni (beef simmered in soy sauce with ginger and sugar) soon became the mainstay in military menus. For example, Yamatoni constituted 99.98 per cent of all canned beef purchased for the troops during the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), the first modern war that Japan was to fight. The army spent a total of 2,517,380 yen on canned food during that war, of which approximately two million went on canned beef. Imports from the United States accounted for merely one fourth of this amount; the rest was produced domestically – quite an achievement when one considers that both canning and beef were relatively new additions to the food production system in Japan.

By the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), which broke out ten years later, the total value of canned products contracted by the military had increased ninefold in comparison to the Sino-Japanese War. This time, following the successful incorporation of canned beef, the use of canned seafood increased remarkably. The share of imported cans became negligible and ship’s biscuits used as field rations were also by then produced domestically.
Although the army and navy ate much more meat than they had up to that time – especially by the 1904 war – this is more a change of an institution's foodways, rather than that of Japan’s population as a whole. Nor is there a wider sense of veterans keeping a widened taste for meat at home upon their return to civilian life. Could they?

American GIs returning from WW2 came home to a consumer society that could easily meet their demands for foods like those they first ate in wartime. But while the national hero Admiral Togo Heihachiro could call for the beef stew he knew as a midshipman in Britain –- and get it as niku-jaga* -– I cannot see whether returning Japanese soldiers and sailors of 1904 could also drive up civilian demand for more meat at home. However, it was gaining popularity in restaurant fare.

Of course by the middle of World War II, domestic canning would fall off along with many other industries. From page 128:
… Confiscation of scrap metal, needed for the production of aeroplanes, tanks and other front-line necessities, deprived many households of cooking equipment. Due to the shortage of cans, after 1942 canned provisions were destined exclusively for the battlefield. The home front had to make do with the ceramic substitutes [patent jars for food preservation]…
*{this link was thanks to our member hisashi]
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Setting up a modern military was considered a priority by the Meiji government. The Military Affairs Ministry was set up in 1869; a decree ordering all domains to adopt the French model for their land forces and the English model for their naval forces was issued in 1870; the formation of the Imperial Guards, the first military force directly under the control of the central government, took place in 1871; and the separate army and navy ministries were established in 1872. The emergence of a modern national military is conventionally dated either from the formation of the Imperial Guards or from the Conscript Edict of 1873.
A complete list of the evident foreign influences on the early Japanese military might be interesting. In those of its rations, we already mentioned here a German basis for hard-bread crackers (kanpan) and the British origin of Japanese curried beef and rice .

Interestingly, British adoption of Indian curry might also have influenced “mulligatawny soup”, a US Navy curry favorite from about the same time – and still found in its 1930s cookbooks (Paul Dickson’s Chow: A Cook’s Tour of Military Food (New American Library, 1978), page 100). So curry held a traditional place in three major navies of the time. Maybe it was carried into some of the Commonwealth navies as well?
The birth of modern military catering goes back to 1871, when it was proclaimed that the responsibility for feeding soldiers would from now on rest on the military itself. This decision revolutionized the existing status quo by discarding the prevailing practice of purchasing food for the troops from contracted cook shops, inns and pedlars. The introduction of a system of military catering marked a radical change …

The Conscript Edict of 1873 stipulated a daily ration per soldier at 6 go (approximately 40 grams) of white rice and an allowance of 6 sen and 6 rin (0.066 yen) for the remaining provisions. The 6 go quota was higher than an average of the contemporary civilian consumption … between 3.9 and 4.4 go and still translated into the huge amount of three to five helpings of rice according to today’s standards. [British observer] Major Henry Knollys was astounded, along with the simplicity of the Japanese military diet, at the mass of consumed rice. ‘The Japanese soldier,’ he wrote – ‘is perfectly satisfied with an enormous bowl of plain, snow-white rice as a staple, with little pieces of pickle as a relish.’
Cwiertka states that 1880s government survey in Japan measured people’s reliance on other grains and vegetables aside from rice. It found that rice made up only half of their staple foods. The rest was millet, Deccan grass, sweet potatoes, wheat, and various greens.

Just how much rice was eaten before and during Imperial times – how much, by what groups, and at what times -- still seems a matter of some scholarly debate, both inside and outside of Japan. But for all troops to daily receive more rice than many civilians averaged may have been a landmark in the country’s food history. This was long before white rice was such a commonplace -- and possibly a contributing early reason for it as well.

-- Alan

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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 04 Jun 2009 11:07

In the field Shanghai 1932
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 04 Jun 2009 11:08

Shanghai again--looks like a civilian noodle cart
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Re: Food rations in the Japanese forces

Post by Peter H » 04 Jun 2009 11:22

In the trenches
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