12 Short Undercut Female
When I accustomed in Nagaland, a baby accompaniment in northeast India, to address a allotment about the Naga bodies and their action for independence, I never anticipation I would run into an actually amazing angle of World War II history — and, as I afterwards learned, a potentially abandoned (or concealed) allotment of history apropos the Korean “comfort women.”
Among the assorted interviews I was putting together, I encountered an 82-year-old admirer in a apple abreast Kohima. He is the ancestor of the woman who ran the guesthouse breadth I was staying. He was built-in in 1937 and spent his accomplished activity in the apple of Kigwema.
In April 1944 he saw with his own eyes the British affray with the Japanese in the mountains and hills that beleaguer this area, breadth a few villages are scattered: Kigwema, Mima, Zakhama, and Viswema. The action in question, the Action of Kohima, was amid the hardest and best memorable in this Asian region, so abundant so that the English accede it their greatest battle.
In Kohima the Japanese who accustomed from the Burma aisle advised to cut off the accumulation adversary advanced at Imphal, breadth addition affray was demography abode amid the English-Indian army and the Japanese.
During our interview, which was mainly focused on the present political bearings in Nagaland, the old man swerved generally into the past, to the time of World War II. Having majored in avant-garde history in college, I was added than accommodating to chase the man’s articulate detours. At one point while I was alert to recollections of war memories, in his elementary English, the old man mentioned the attendance of Japanese changeable soldiers.
I flinched. I was abiding I heard wrong. In my abstraction of that time period, I acquire no bond of women actuality present in the ranks of the Japanese army. So I asked the man to echo his aftermost words. He does: “There were Japanese aggressive in this village… including some armed women.”
I was afraid by what I heard, but still I could not actually acquire it. I accordingly asked the man’s niece, an 18-year-old alleged Baby (who would advice me as translator additionally in the abutting interviews), to amuse ask him the catechism a third time, but this time in his own built-in language.
The old man again for the third time: yes, he saw women with the Japanese army. And he kept going, anecdotic how they were dressed (in aggressive uniforms). He remembered decidedly able-bodied their aberrant “flip-flop boots” (this accurate memory, as we will see, became capital to approve the believability of his testimony).
The old man insisted that the women additionally agitated weapons — abate weapons than the men’s, but they were armed. I asked him if he remembered the soldiers speaking in Japanese, but he couldn’t recall. Instead he kept cogent me about those boots.
A day later, I asked Baby if we could affirm her grandfather’s memories with addition elder. Addition day anesthetized and Baby told me that she begin addition old man of the aforementioned age who had agnate recollections. I capital to allocution to him, too.
This man, clashing the first, batten alone the bounded accent and my acquaintance translated for me the accomplished conversation. This man did not bethink audition the soldiers speak, but he was assertive he additionally saw the “Japanese women.” He additionally mentioned those boots again; he remembered them vividly because they had some abnormal cut to the feet.
I advised this an actually abortive detail at first. But aloof for the account of it, I showed him some photos on my smartphone of the acclaimed Japanese geta sandals, cerebration they could be what he had seen. He said no, that wasn’t right.
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At that point I had a abrupt realization: Could he by adventitious be anecdotic tabi boots, the boots that Japanese farmers generally wear? I do beforehand agriculture in Tokyo already a week, and some of the added volunteers abrasion the aforementioned affectionate of boots.
I showed the man the photo of tabi boots and bingo! They were absolutely the boots that he recalled the women in the Japanese army wearing. These boots acquire a different shape, and alone the Japanese acclimated them at that time. In actuality the Kohima Museum of War, which I would afterwards visit, showed tabi boots in a account as allotment of the accepted compatible of the Japanese soldiers.
This old man’s bond was abounding of added details. He alike started to actor how the soldiers acclimated their katanas to action the enemy. Like my aboriginal interviewee, he additionally accepted that the women were armed with abate weapons than the men. He alike remembered what the Japanese yelled back they approached his house: “Kora” (an assertion that the aged in Japan still use to this day).
He started assuming the gestures and announcement of the soldiers who had entered his home over 70 years ago. He remembered 12 soldiers, some of whom were administration weapons, as there charge acquire been a abridgement of them during that point in the battle.
In the afterward canicule I would account two added bodies who accepted sightings of women with the Japanese army.
A 96-year-old woman remembered the changeable soldiers actual well. They were a little roundish, and “kinda unpleasant,” she said matter-of-factly, “especially if I analyze them with the admirable English nurses who were blockage in Kohima’s hospital.”
When I told the old woman that there are no abstracts recording the attendance of women soldiers in Kohima, she looked at me with an afraid face, as if arctic in a shock. “But I saw them with my own eyes!” she said as my translator-friend giggled at me for my accidentally calumniating mistrust.
In Mima, addition apple in the area, I interviewed addition old man who had active memories of that time because his ancestors in actuality “hosted” (not voluntarily, as may be calmly guessed) four Japanese soldiers, two of them women.
He remembered that the soldier slept on a array of harbinger mat, the two women and the two men separated. The women had abbreviate hair, and wore some affectionate of baseball-type hats. They went out in the morning and alternate in the evening. One man, called Homato, gave orders. The men fabricated the lunch, and the old man was afraid it was not the added way around. Again they all ate with chopsticks. The men agitated a katana and a weapon while the women agitated backpacks and strolled bottomward the acropolis together, a few paces apart.
The old man took a pen and wrote bottomward the names of the soldiers. He remembered the names of anniversary of the four soldiers he hosted and their aggressive chief. He alike remembered, to my amazement, how to calculation in Japanese: “ichi, ni, san…” And he alike recalls how they said “we go bottomward to the village” in Japanese. “Mura ni ikou.” His anamnesis is absolutely extraordinary.
I acquire contacted a few historians and experts for animadversion about the attendance of Japanese women in action zones alongside the Japanese army. They all agreed on one point: To their knowledge, there is no almanac of this. But there is one approach that they are accessible to acquire as a accessible explanation.
That approach was accustomed to me by Professor Takeshi Fujii of Tokyo University of Foreign Study. Fujii thinks these women could alone acquire been “comfort women” from Korea.
In Rangoon, Myanmar, at that time there were Japanese geisha, mostly for the ball of baronial aggressive officials, but there were additionally “comfort women” — those girls and women affected into animal bullwork to appease Japanese troops. Those abundance women were mostly Koreans, and they were the alone women in abutting acquaintance with the Japanese soldiers at that time (there are accounting accounts about this, for archetype the account by Korean Mun Oku-chu of her time as a abundance woman on the Burmese Front.).
Robert Lyman, a British aggressive historian, confirms that “comfort women absolutely accompanied the Japanese 15th Army into Manipur in 1944, and some of them did ability Kohima. Wherever the Japanese units deployed, abundance women accompanied them.” Indeed, in his book Japan’s Aftermost Bid for Victory, Lyman writes that General Ren’ya Mutaguchi “ordered, ten canicule afterwards the antecedent beforehand began, that the absolute accompaniment of Fifteenth Army’s prostitutes, or abundance girls… to be despatched to Imphal, so as not to decay any time afore his men could be adored for their backbreaking endeavors…”
So we apperceive the abundance women were there, but why would the army acquire them fight? Was it desperation?
For Fujii, that’s absolutely the reason. Japan was already on a bottomward circling apropos the aftereffect of the war. The soldiers knew they wouldn’t survive those battles, but they had no choice. That’s why, Fujii conjectures, those women were accustomed weapons and aggressive clothes, and were beatific forth with the Japanese army (we apperceive additionally that it was accepted to accord Japanese names to the abundance women). Of advance if that is the case, said Fujii, it would never be mentioned in the official records, and that’s why we don’t acquisition it in the history books.
And this makes all the added admired the assemblage I interviewed, who can advice afford ablaze on a cogent allotment of history that so far has remained buried.
If the abundance women were forcibly active as ad-lib soldiers in a action anybody knew had no adventitious to be won, in face of the abhorrent altitude in Nagaland at the time, again their corruption went alike above the apprenticed “physical entertainment” of the soldiers that has sparked (and still sparks) so abundant altercation amid Japan and South Korea in the accomplished years.
The adventure of these adventuresome women, who will apparently abide bearding forever, deserves to be remembered. I achievement that anyone who has added advice will appear forward, whether added eye assemblage or anybody in control of accounting documents. Hopefully, allotment by allotment we will be able to bare the abounding ambit of the crimes that were committed during World War II — in an accomplishment not to grudgingly point fingers but to bigger accept our past.
Cristian Martini Grimaldi is an Italian announcer and the contributor from Japan for both La Repubblica and La Stampa.
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