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Attitudes to the war
Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu: Living in the jungle
Living in the jungle

One of the main themes that recurs repeatedly in the diary is the difficulty the diarist and his comrades experience while living in the New Guinea jungle. Wewak, where his regiment landed initially, is 2 degrees south of the Equator and is firmly in the humid tropics. The climate there is very different from Japan. There is a wetter, warmer season from around November to April and a drier, cooler season from May to August, but the differences are not really marked. There is rain, high humidity and heat all year around.

For TAMURA, the jungle symbolised hostility. The fauna he saw there were completely new to him and the tropical climate was foreign. He had trouble adjusting his mind and body to this new environment as he started to suffer from tropical illness, probably malaria. The soldiers were not allocated a barracks to live in; rather, they lived in canvas tents for many months. The living conditions in the tents were miserable as it rained constantly. The soldiers tried to adapt to this foreign environment and make their lives more comfortable, but the result was disappointing.

The next prose passage appears in the early part of the diary and was probably written in early March. His sense of season is still firmly based in Japan and he constantly refers to Japan. He laments the passing of time as he desperately misses letters from home. Yet, at the same time, he discovers some novel enjoyment in drinking coconut milk.

There is hardship in this unfamiliar place where we have no house and get drenched in squalls. The rain showers that have been falling regularly every day did not come today and we are having clear and dry weather. Thus, the heat seems to be much stronger today.

Back at home, in March, it is getting a little warmer. I realise that life in the military makes us suppress consciousness of time and forget about months and days. I feel I do not pay attention to the passing of time, and have become less sensitive. I do not have much chance to appreciate the people around me. I assume we will get tired of coconut trees in a few months.

Since I have to stay in bed, I feel tired and my spirits are low for no particular reason. I do not like this. It seems everybody’s spirits have been falling like mine.

The Empress’ birthday [1] has passed and canola flowers should be flowering at home. [2] I have not received any letters since I left home and that makes me feel very sad. Only those who have experienced military life, filled with duties and regulations, could understand how I feel.

The only pleasure I have is to drink coconut milk. I gulp it down when I am thirsty. I believe this is truly the high point of living in the tropics.

I have not had a chance to write to my family.

We are living in tents, and the days pass meaninglessly in hard labour. (pp.3a-3b)

A few weeks after recording the previous entry, he writes how he feels about his day-to-day activities in the jungle. The novelty of coconut milk has quickly worn off and the tough living conditions are making him weary. He also reflects on his role in the campaign, where he works as a labourer constructing an airfield.

1 April
I remember reading in a magazine that a soldier who was marching toward Rangoon during the Burma Campaign said, “I want to piss in the Pacific Ocean”. We are now by the beach in New Guinea. When I remember the article, I cannot help but smile wryly. It has been fifty days since our landing. The period of staying here seems to have passed quickly as well as slowly.

In the primitive jungle, we do not even have candlelight. We get up when the sun rises and go to bed when it gets dark. We labour at the same type of work day after day. This is part of military life.

I have eaten enough coconuts and now crave fresh vegetables and fresh pickles. I miss food from back home.

One friend lamented that, as soldiers, we have to forgo everything. There are peculiar duties in military life other than daily work and fighting. Things are decided according to the rank one holds.

We pull carts through the coconut trees today as we have been doing on previous days. This is our campaign. When I think about it, I cannot help but conclude that it is strange to labour like this.

I am involved in a large-scale war. I have to acknowledge that all human beings are fighting each other in this world. That is the reality. (p.8b)

The following section is about him being sick and staying in the tent as rain falls continuously in the jungle.

Rain in the jungle”
11 April

Every night, without fail, the rain falls continuously, as if a woman is weeping. The rainy season has arrived in the jungle. When the ceiling is only around 1.5 metres high, the damp is oppressive, and we feel uncomfortable even if we keep the fire on.

It is April, and springtime in Japan. Yet, the weather here has not changed at all since our landing. I feel, rather, that it is getting cold.

Cicadas continue to sing noisily, but the weather is truly dull.
Everybody feels that things are nicer in Japan.
Twenty of us who share the same accommodation are lying languidly and feeling dejected because of our sickness.
We are all thinking our own thoughts while we stare at the rain through small windows. (p.26b)

The following short poem is about the rain and the soldiers. It was probably written around 13 April although it describes the rain as the May rain. The poem vividly depicts the mood of the soldiers who were confined in tents in the wet weather.
“The rain is falling down”

The rain keeps falling down
On the jungle, on coconut trees in the tropics.
The rain is so fine it looks like thin threads coming down.
It keeps falling without hint of stopping.

We stay inside a house that we built.
Whenever it rains, I miss my house at home.
I miss a roof with roof tiles.

Here we are at the edge of a front line in the South
And kept in the May rain.
We do not fear the enemy shells,
But are fed up with day after day of the rain. (p.32b)


1. 6 March 1903
2. Canola flowers come out in bright fresh yellow as the first spring colour in Japanese spring.

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Overview essay
First entry
In the jungle
Letters home
Daily life
Airfield construction
Night air raids
Mountain highland trip
Meeting locals
Highs and lows
Human relationships
Last entry

Attitudes links
Australian Attitudes
Tamura diary
Southern Cross
Midget Submarine

Click images to enlarge.
Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu, page 3a

Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu, page 3b

Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu, page 8b

Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu, page 26b

Diary of TAMURA Yoshikazu, page 32b

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