Australia–Japan Research Project at the Australian War Memorial The series of short poems below describes the soldiers’ lives in the jungle around Wewak. Their living conditions were tough and the troops were hungry. Furthermore, some were dying. At the same time, TAMURA and his mates managed to find time to relax in the bathtub and to admire the beauty of the night sky lit up by weapons’ fire, reminding them of fireworks displays. It has been some months since I left home. 11 April I have only accomplished 30 per cent as a farmer and really only 10 per cent as a city person. I know I have not achieved much by now. When I reflect, I feel ashamed of my conscience. I could not help but ask his age twice 15 April The ground rumbles whenever enemy horseflies drop their droppings.
Australian and Japanese attitudes to the war
Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu: Daily reflection of life in Wewak
I wonder if my letters have reached my family,
But their letters still have not arrived.
I never thought I would return home safely,
But the solitude blemishes a soldier’s heart.
A gasoline drum has turned into a bathtub.
An unshaven round face is floating in the bath,
On this evening in the South.
My mate who died with honour left us
Without reading a letter that came from home.
The beauty was the bullets that were fired from the flying planes
They are just like fireworks soaring from the ground.
We have come far away to attack this strange land of New Guinea,
Where crocs crunch coconuts with a smile.
My life, I know, is not that valuable
But as a shield of the Great Emperor,
I cannot waste it lightly.  (pp.22a-22b)
On 11 April TAMURA wrote the following poems while staying behind due to sickness.
The sun looks as if it rises from the west.
The direction is difficult to sense in the jungle.
In the forest, it sounded as if a kitten called.
A strange-looking bird was calling for its mate.
A smudge fire rises high and thin
Above canvas tents in the evening.
The sound of waves has become our lullaby.
Living in a tent is comfortable once one gets used to it.
Only because I became a soldier
Could I manage to be strong and courageous.
When somebody was asked about his wish,
The answer was to eat as many sweet cakes as possible.
When somebody asks what we want, how many of us can answer that question straight away? I have recently been thinking this way: there are so many things we want, that it is difficult to point out the most and the second most desirable.
This shows how far our situation is from normal.
Letters from home and from friends only make me melancholy.
Just as young children wish for all the toys,
We want everything when we are so far away from civilisation. (pp.23a-24b)
In the following prose passage TAMURA reveals his anguish about his attempts to improve himself as a person. It was written around 12 April.
I felt I was fully developed as a person, and was confident that I had led a full day-to-day life as a member of society. Yet, when I look back, that seems to have been an illusion.
Whatever duty I had, I did not dedicate myself earnestly, and my life so far has not been happy.
What is the use of sentiment? What is the use of education? The only thing we believe in on the battlefield is destiny and the world of loyalty and love.
‘Be faithful to your conscience.’
I appreciate these words. I will make an effort to become a competent farmer or a reliable worker.
Pursuit of pleasure should be only allowed when I have extra energy left.
The following tanka poems were written in mid April. Tamura observed and wrote about his daily activities and interactions with his commander and junior soldiers.
After the group commander shaved in our tent.
The first-year soldier returned soaked from his cooking duty.
I remember my first year, now some years ago.
Even though we sow vegetable seeds,
The plants struggle as there is not enough sun.
Our hopes are dashed.
Whenever rain falls, the bomb shelters are filled with water.
We are not sure what the shelters are for.
When I opened a diary left behind by my mate,
I was saddened to find a letter from his wife tucked inside.(p.36a)
The following three poems are about the jungle. Even though there were no ferocious animals in the New Guinea jungle, for him the jungle was a place where he might get lost and encounter dangerous creatures and incidents.
I spent almost half a day looking for my own camp with a compass
After I made a wrong turn on the way back from collecting pumpkins.
I see so many footprints, but I have not seen any beasts of prey.
I wonder where they are.
The sky has cleared and the water in the river is now clear.
Yet it is still dangerous to walk across a log bridge after the rain. (p.36b)
The poems below appear on one of the last pages of the diary. Probably, TAMURA copied them separately because he liked them. They also depict his life as a soldier in the Wewak area.
In the jungle, there are snakes scarier than bullets.
We appreciated coconuts when they were still novel to us.
In the autumn sunshine, mayflies are flying here and there.
The night in the land of everlasting summer is long, as fireflies flit across the darkness. (p.80)
1. The notion of becoming a shield of the Emperor was well accepted among the soldiers for hundreds of years. Dr. Jennifer Brewster points out that the metaphor of the shield appears in the oldest official history of Japan, the Nihonshoki, which was completed in 720. The expression appears in the chapter on Emperor Sujun, , in the context of a battle between the Soga clan and the Mononobe clan, and occurs in a speech by the dying warrior Yorozu.. Similarly, the Man’yôshû, a collection of tanka poems that was compiled later in the eighth century, contains a poem with the same metaphor which reads follows: “I will not from today, turn back toward home. I who have set out to serve; as Her Majesty's humble shield.” (Man’yôshû XX: 4373) Nara period.
Printed on 05/20/2022 08:52:30 PM
The series of short poems below describes the soldiers’ lives in the jungle around Wewak. Their living conditions were tough and the troops were hungry. Furthermore, some were dying. At the same time, TAMURA and his mates managed to find time to relax in the bathtub and to admire the beauty of the night sky lit up by weapons’ fire, reminding them of fireworks displays.
It has been some months since I left home.
I have only accomplished 30 per cent as a farmer and really only 10 per cent as a city person. I know I have not achieved much by now. When I reflect, I feel ashamed of my conscience.
I could not help but ask his age twice
The ground rumbles whenever enemy horseflies drop their droppings.