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Attitudes to the war
Admiration for the pure loyalty of the four brave soldiers

(Probably published on 8 October 1942)

KIKUCHI Kan, a well-known writer and publisher, wrote a newspaper article in anticipation of the imminent return of the midget submariners’ ashes on board the Kamakura Maru. KIKUCHI interpreted the submariners’ death in the context of Bushido, the code of the samurai. KIKUCHI became president of the Daiei Film Company in 1942, and wrote and produced the film One thousand spears of the KIKUCHI clan which featured the midget submarine attack on Sydney. The film was released in 1944. This article was found in one of the scrap books MATSUO Keiu’s father, MATSUO Tsuruhiko, had compiled and kept at home in Yamaga, Kumamoto. This article provides a historical perspective how the submariners’ deaths were interpreted in the context of Bushido in Japan during the war.

The newspaper editor provided a short introduction to KIKUCHI’s essay by informing the readers of the imminent arrival of the submariners’ ashes.

The heroic spirits of the four brave sailors have come home aboard the Kamakura Maru and will reach Yokohama on the 9th [of October 1942]. The incomparably loyal spirit of Bushido has been studied by our allies, the Germans. But they came to the conclusion that science cannot explain Bushido’s strength. What is Bushido? Mr KIKUCHI Kan, an authority on the Bushido spirit, has contributed the following essay to this newspaper.

KIKUCHI’s essay starts:

It is said there will be three reasons for the overwhelming victory of Germany. First of all, Germany has established a complete system of national defence. Secondly, it has developed heavy industry. Lastly, there is the supreme quality of the Nazi spirit. When the Nazi spirit and the Japanese spirit are compared, I believe that the Japanese spirit is much superior. Mr Hitler also praises the Japanese spirit and has said, “The Japanese spirit means the Bushido spirit.” Unfortunately, this might be rather a simplistic definition of the Japanese spirit, but I believe 70 to 80 per cent of the Japanese spirit is based on Bushido. Above all, the fact that Japan has won all its wars since the Meiji Era has demonstrated that the Bushido spirit has continued to exist and has been mixed into part of contemporary military philosophy. Thus, the Bushido spirit of the midget submarine crew who attacked Sydney Harbour in Australia, impressed the Australian politicians strongly. I believe that this is why the crews’ remains have been repatriated to Japan in a courteous manner. That is why I would like to contemplate on the Bushido of Japan, which even impressed the enemy nationals.

KIKUCHI argues that the ethics of Bushido have always been based on death; specifically, that those who follow Bushido are not afraid to die. Bushido is based on the acceptance of death.

Then he explains how traditional Bushido was different from contemporary Bushido. In his view, contemporary Bushido needs to have greater emphasis on the Emperor as the nation’s head, and not be directed just to their personal masters. He points out that, among the historical figures, KUSUNOKI Masashige and KIKUCHI Taketoki were the only loyal subjects who followed Bushido for the greater good of the nation. Such a national cause became evident when the Tokugawa era was coming to an end and the Meiji Restoration was taking place, as the samurais who were loyal to the Emperor brought down the Tokugawa government. KIKUCHI claims that this type of loyal spirit has been transmitted to the officers and other ranks of the Army and Navy, which is why the Japanese military is very strong. The soldiers are always aware of the possibility of death, but not scared of it. They are prepared to die for the Emperor and the country at any time.

KIKUCHI argues that the submarine crew had to confront death for many days before they were ready for their mission. Incidentally, Muirhead-Gould pointed out exactly the same point in his radio talk when he defended his decision to arrange the military funeral for the crew. In order to maintain their determination during that stressful period, it was necessary to hold strong principles and to demonstrate an extreme level of courage. Thus, KIKUCHI cannot help but to hold the crew in high respect. He compares the courage of historical heroes and that of contemporary heroes and concludes that the level of courage needs to increase according to the level of risk on the battlefield. In the old days, the risk on the battlefield was either a hundred or a thousand times smaller than in the contemporary situation, as the older guns could shoot for a range of only 75 metres or so. Spears and swords were effective only at a range of six to ten metres. Compared with warriors in the old days, contemporary soldiers had to demonstrate a level of courage a hundred or a thousand times greater. Thus, warriors such as the midget submarine crews, who had hardly any chance for survival, were doing more than was humanly possible.

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