Australia-Japan Research Project

AustraliaJapan Research Project at the Australian War Memorial
Australian and Japanese attitudes to the war
Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu: Encountering local New Guineans

During his trip to the inland, Tamura and his colleagues met the local people in the area, around 4 May. For TAMURA, the way they spoke, dressed and behaved was completely foreign. However, as we shall read in the following two pieces, he communicated with them and bought tropical fruits from them. He was impressed with the innocence of the local children. He found it amusing that the locals found the Japanese as curious as the soldiers saw them as strange. It is clear that he appreciated the differences and managed to see the local people as human beings.

“The Natives”
They speak fast in a foreign language.[1]
The soldiers listen to the language earnestly in order to understand it.
‘We’ve got it. They’ve come to exchange goods.’
In little string bags, they each carried about twenty bananas and papayas in order to exchange them with the goods the soldiers have.
They wear loincloths, but the rest of their bodies are naked.
The way they live seems to be primitive.
I gave twenty sen for two bananas. [2] These are the first bananas I have had in New Guinea. They tasted very very sweet. The size of the fruit was as big as my arm or even bigger. They were astonishingly large.

I dreamed that we could eat as much fruit as we liked, but so far only two. Yet, I enjoyed my first taste of bananas in this place. (p.47b)

“Natives”
When I saw real naked natives for the first time, I felt frightened. But they did not do any harm. They were very well hung, and proudly decorated their hair with bird feathers. It was a surprise for me to see the way they showed off their decoration.

When we reached our destination in the late afternoon, we rested by the regimental barracks.[3] There came forty to fifty natives, all of whom were naked. Some were carrying thick ropes and bush knives. A few were wearing crosses on their chests. [4] Furthermore, about half of them were completely naked. [5]

The soldiers stared at them strangely. The natives were also staring at the soldiers intently. They went around the building about twice and disappeared. When I asked other soldiers who had been here previously about them, they told us that the natives came to have a look at us. To them, the soldiers looked very weird. Probably, we looked very foreign to them.

I asked for bananas in the mountains. They seemed to be saying that they did not have bananas at the moment. I felt I understood their language a little bit. Compared with Chinese people, the native children did not have any traces of gloominess and looked so innocent, as if they were blessed by God. They seemed to regard the soldiers as a peculiar group. They were not frightened and did not cry although we were still new to them.

The grown-ups knew who had power, so they were more generous and gave various goods to the officers. The natives knew about the world, didn’t they?

Everybody says, ‘The natives look very vicious at first, but isn’t it good to know that they are really gentle and innocent’. (pp.47a-47b)



Notes
1. It is most likely that the local people spoke mainly in their own language. A few of them could have spoken Pidgin, which some Japanese soldiers picked up quickly so that they could carry out simple transactions such as buying food.

2. One hundred sen made one yen. This currency unit was abolished after the Pacific War. It is rather difficult to speculate how much twenty sen is equal to, but HISAEDA Akiyoshi who was a private in the Japanese Army in 1942 was paid ten yen fifty en when he was in Rabaul. Thus, it seems likely that TAMURA was paid at about the same level in 1943.

3. Reasonable numbers of Japanese troops had been sent inland to attempt to grow food and to establish a “western front” inland, to protect Wewak.

4. Catholic missionaries had come into this area from the coast before 1942, but there were no permanent mission stations. There had been a very small station at Maprik in 1942.

5. The local tribe in the area, the Arapesh, were completely naked before colonial contact. Margaret Mead who conducted a fieldwork among the Arapesh people in the 1930s wrote that the men “fasten their bark-cloth G-strings with a carelessness and disregard of their purpose that shocks the more sophisticated beach people” (Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, 1935, p.8. It is likely that many of those local people TAMURA met were still traditional and naked in 1943. For more about the Arapesh people, see Margaret Mead’s ethnographic works, such as The Mountain Arapesh, which was published in the late 1930s.


Printed on 04/23/2018 02:05:50 AM