The Breaking Jewel

The Breaking Jewel

Makoto Oda
Translated by Donald Keene
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 136
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/oda-12612
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  • Book Info
    The Breaking Jewel
    Book Description:

    Set on an island in the South Pacific during the final days of World War II, when the tide has turned against Japan and the war has unmistakably become one of attrition, The Breaking Jewel offers a rare depiction of the Pacific War from the Japanese side and captures the essence of Japan's doomed imperial aims. The novel opens as a small force of Japanese soldiers prepares to defend a tiny and ultimately insignificant island from a full-scale assault by American forces. Its story centers on squad leader Nakamura, who resists the Americans to the end, as he and his comrades grapple with the idea of gyokusai (translated as "the breaking jewel" or the "pulverization of the gem"), the patriotic act of mass suicide in defense of the homeland.

    Well known for his antiestablishment and antiwar sentiments, Makuto Oda gradually and subtly develops a powerful critique of the war and the racialist imperial aims that proved Japan's undoing.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51887-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Donald Keene

    The earliest use of the word gyokusai is found in the biography of a Chinese of the sixth century (the northern Ch’i dynasty), who reportedly said that he would rather be a broken jewel than a whole tile, meaning that he would prefer to die gloriously than to live the inglorious life of a common clod. As adopted by the Japanese, the expression acquired a special meaning during the Pacific War. Gyokusai was used to describe the final, all-out charge of surviving Japanese units against superior American forces. The Americans called such actions “banzai charges” because many of the Japanese...

  4. 1 The Breaking Jewel (Gyokusai)
    (pp. 1-116)

    “Sergeant Nakamura,” Kon suddenly called out. Nakamura had just ordered the members of his squad to leave the cave where they had been constructing a fortified position and take a break on the outside. Kon, a noncommissioned officer attached to the squad, looked up at Sergeant Nakamura, who had seated himself on a mudsmeared rock to the side. Kon had settled on the ground by the entrance to the cave. The ground was damp and shining with mud.

    Kon’s voice was low, but it carried well. Here and there in this patch of grassy land, a fairly big gap in...