Most of the Japanese captured in Yealbuga were soldiers, and most of them were military officers. However, there were some military affiliates and private people. They were officials of Manchukuo, officials of Sakhalin agency, and for example, officials of the Oji Paper making company in Sakhalin.
The numbers of such people were not big-perhaps about a hundred. As they were relatively elderly people with higher ranks, they were differentiated from other soldiers, and was classified into the regiment called, “civilian regiment.” The other name they had was “the group to cook vegetables” because their work was mainly light ones such as peeling potatoes.
The civilian regiment devoted their time to peeling potatoes silently at a corner of the kitchen. In winter, it was not easy to peel completely frozen potatoes, but it was much easier than going out and cut woods or transfer timbers. The best part was that they had a chance to hide some potatoes in their pockets, take it to their rooms and bake them in the stove to eat. Therefore, others were sort of envious of that regiment.
Among them, there were some high ranking officials of Manchukuo. There was a person like Mr. Sadazo Sekiya who was the deputy general of Welfare department, and several other deputy generals. The departments in Manchukuo were the same as ministries in Japan. Therefore, deputy generals were as important as secretary. In addition, managers of each departments were people from Manchukuo, and so the actual power belonged to the Japanese deputy generals. As a result, they were almost like ministers. I heard Mr. Nobusuke Kishi was once quite powerful as the deputy general of the business department.
Mr. Sekiya was one year senior to me in my “Ichiko”-First high school in Tokyo. I met him for the first time when we held the meeting of the association of graduate of Ichiko in the Gulag. There were more than ten people in that association. There were such people as Mr. TOrajiro Odamura, the leader of Shoshinkai which was then a very famous right wing group, and Mr. Tatsuo Shimizu, who belonged to Shinjinkai, which was the left wing group. It was so interesting to see so many varieties of people in a small groups. It was the reflection of the characteristics of our high school.
One of the interesting members was Mr. Tatsuo Hoshino. I knew his name as a translator of the “complete series of Lupin” by Maurice Leblanc which I had read since my elementary school days. I felt as if I already knew him well even when I met him for the first time, and I talked to him about many stories of Lupin that I remembered. Mr. Hosnino was a very calm gentleman, and was very happy to hear the title of the stories I remembered.
Why did they even detain civilians? I was not really sure, but perhaps they wanted to get information. Among them, there were judges, prosecutors and policemen. They seem to have been investigated by the Soviets so meticulously, just like the officers of the Japanese military police and intelligence.
I still remember how the regiment of civilians were peeling rock-hard potatoes with dull knives under bare light bulbs. I wonder how they are doing now. Considering their age when I met them, most of them must be gone by now.
The group who cooked vegetables were handling carrots, cabbage, daikon and tomatoes in addition to potatoes. Internees especially welcomed vegetables such as cabbage, cucumbers and tomatoes which they could eat immediately. In the life of the gulag, it was particularly important to stay close to food.