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Soldiers Alive

Soldiers Alive

translated, with introduction and notes, by zeljko cipris
Copyright Date: 2003
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  • Book Info
    Soldiers Alive
    Book Description:

    When the editors of Chûô kôron, Japan's leading liberal magazine, sent the prizewinning young novelist Ishikawa Tatsuzô to war-ravaged China in early 1938, they knew the independent-minded writer would produce a work wholly different from the lyrical and sanitized war reports then in circulation. They could not predict, however, that Ishikawa would write an unsettling novella so grimly realistic it would promptly be banned and lead to the author’s conviction on charges of "disturbing peace and order." Decades later, Soldiers Alive remains a deeply disturbing and eye-opening account of the Japanese march on Nanking and its aftermath. In its unforgettable depiction of an ostensibly altruistic war’s devastating effects on the soldiers who fought it and the civilians they presumed to "liberate," Ishikawa’s work retains its power to shock, inform, and provoke.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6437-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-56)

    One of the most influential events conditioning Japanese popular attitudes toward their nation’s worth and place in the world was the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. The country’s first major overseas war since its start of industrialization earlier in the century, this initial clash with China was the culmination of a struggle for control over Japan’s continental neighbor, Korea. Expansionist in nature, the war was an early manifestation of modern Japan’s imperialism.¹ It fostered a high degree of national pride and confidence among large sectors of the Japanese population and a concomitantly sharp decline in China’s long-standing prestige.² This perceptual...

  5. 1
    (pp. 57-71)

    The main force of the Takashima Division disembarked at Ta-ku directly after the fall of Peking, just when the late summer heat struck the continent. The sweating, dust-covered soldiers marched, accompanied by countless swarms of circling flies.

    For two months the troops advanced southward, pursuing the enemy along the banks of Tzu-ya River. By the time they heard that Shih-chia-chuang had fallen to their comrades, it was already deep autumn and frost lay white on the sentries’ shoulders.

    Takashima Division’s main force marshaled the rest of its units in the village of Ning-hsin and rested for ten days while awaiting...

  6. 2
    (pp. 72-85)

    On the eleventh of November, having overrun Ta-ch’ang-chen and Su-chou to encircle Shanghai, the northern units joined up near Ssu-ching-hsien with the southern units, which had landed at Hang-chou Bay, crossed Huang-P’u River, and marched north. Shanghai was totally surrounded. It was at this juncture that the main force of the Takashima Division sailing out of Dairen entered the Yangtze River delta.

    The ships steamed upriver, cleaving the turbid water. Soldiers were warned to stay in their berths; coming out onto the decks was dangerous. Standing on the deck, buffeted by the river wind, Commander Nishizawa and his adjutant closely...

  7. 3
    (pp. 86-95)

    After the morning roll call and breakfast, the off-duty soldiers left the camp with grins on their faces. Asked by others where they were going, they replied, “To get vegetables” or “To forage for meat.” With the army advancing rapidly into the country’s interior, the transport corps could not keep up, and the expense of supplying the troops grew formidably high; thus, many front line units came to live off the land. In North China the smallest requisitioned object had to be paid for in the interest of the postwar pacification efforts, but on the southern front there was no...

  8. 4
    (pp. 96-104)

    On the morning of the seventeenth of November, Kitajima Company set forth from Chih-t’ang-chen and spent the next night in the recently taken town of Pao-mai-hsin-hsih. Since starting to advance up the Yangtze River, the company had received a mere three days’ worth of field rations. Because the supply ships had not yet landed, the soldiers were compelled to search for rice, meat, and vegetables wherever they went.

    When Chinese harvested rice they did not polish it but stored it unhulled; consequently every house contained bags of rice in the husk. The soldiers had to find a mortar and hull...

  9. 5
    (pp. 105-120)

    On the highway leading from Ku-li to Ch’ang-shu, the Nishizawa Regiment met up with the front-line units pursuing the enemy from Mount K’u. Preparations for the siege of Ch’ang-shu began.

    A large force followed a stream running north of Ch’ang-shu and occupied the heights of Mount Yu to the west. Units approaching from the south crossed Lake K’u-ch’eng and landed at Mo-ch’eng-chen. The Nishizawa Regiment was entrusted with making a frontal attack.

    A driving rain mixed with sleet was falling. The previous day’s warmth gave way to severe cold. The city of Ch’ang-shu was a misty blur on the other...

  10. 6
    (pp. 121-129)

    The defense of Wu-hsi was as unyielding as expected, with none of the city gates breached even on the second day of fighting. On this day the Nishizawa Regiment lost its standard-bearer. A single bullet having pierced his left chest, he breathed his last even before being lifted onto a stretcher.

    “Tell the regimental commander I’m sorry,” were his final words.

    The regimental commander and the adjutant were on their way to inspect the firing line less than four hundred yards ahead when a regimental standard escort ran up with the news. The commander faced the stretcher as it was...

  11. 7
    (pp. 130-143)

    The bulk of the Nishizawa Regiment arrived before noon at the recently occupied Ch’ang-chou, found quarters throughout the city, and ate lunch. Destruction outside the walls was so great that there was not a roof left on a single house. A Rising Sun flag fluttered atop the desolate walls, and the figures of two sentries with fixed bayonets stood small against the clear sky.

    After a march unmarred by fighting, the soldiers rested, feeling quite tranquil. They were even having fun, as if on a group tour to see the sights. The fine weather, mild and springlike after three days...

  12. 8
    (pp. 144-161)

    On the eighth of December, the First Battalion of the Nishizawa Regiment launched a vehement attack against the enemy entrenched in the heights of Mount T’ang. By evening it had succeeded in occupying the surrounding highland, but the enemy, having constructed a series of sturdy pillboxes with mined approaches, prevented any further advance. The battle raged with spectacular ferocity.

    In the meantime, the other units marched along a road and entered the village of T’ang-shui-chen, a hot-spring resort emptied of inhabitants. In the inns, bubbling hot water overflowed from pools laid with white tile, sending up wreaths of steam.


  13. 9
    (pp. 162-175)

    Having crossed the river, some of the units continued to advance north from P’u-k’ou; others left Nanking to head some fifteen miles south in pursuit of the routed enemy. But for the soldiers who remained stationed in Nanking, tranquil days had at long last arrived.

    There was not a single work of art in the Nanking Art Museum, but it did contain mountains of South Asian rice. For the present, rice was in ample supply. Vegetables could be had in abundance by going to the fields adjoining the city. Water buffalo and pigs provided the meat. Hand grenades thrown away...

  14. 10
    (pp. 176-189)

    The year drew to an end and New Year’s Day arrived. It was a New Year with hardly any gate pines or rice cakes. Onlysakewas copiously available.

    Free of duty, the soldiers lay about in bed, drinking, chatting, and singing. After twenty days of rest they were bored, and many were beginning to think of home. The rough chatter of the signal corpsmen easily penetrated the single wall separating their room from that shared by interpreter Nakahashi, army priest Katayama, and the boy Chang.

    “Ah, I want to go home.”

    “I want to go home, too. I wonder...

  15. 11
    (pp. 190-199)

    “Hirao, let’s go buy a geisha.”

    “Geisha? One of those Hankow runaways? Hmm. Know where we can find her?”

    “Sure. I asked the old man at the canteen today.”


    “Not far from the canteen.”

    “All right . . . Wait, let me borrow a gun.”

    Kondō was feeling strangely euphoric. In fact he was very tense. As he waited, he kept rapping his head with the knuckles of his right hand. Hirao, to be safe when walking at night, had gone to borrow the interpreter’s big, antiquated Mauser, captured from a Chinese.

    “Good evening. Lend me your revolver, would...

  16. 12
    (pp. 200-206)

    Kondō spent a sleepless night. By the time the morning roll call ended, however, his agitation had somewhat subsided. After breakfast he sat sunning himself on the stone steps facing the yard where the horses were tethered. There were deep saddle sores on each animal’s back, exposing the red flesh. A veterinarian was applying a white ointment to the wounds and covering them with paper, then pouring a liquid medicine into the horses’mouths. Kondō watched the animals stir, his mind nearly empty of thought, his emotions pervaded by a dispirited tameness.

    Hirao brought his sundial and sat next to him....

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-216)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-222)