The War and the Internment

The War and the Internment -- Seiichi Hoshino, Shimane Prefecture


1. Enlistment

January 1st, 1944 was going to be the day of my enlistment. On December 30th, 1943, I was invited by Goro Shinchiku, a senior from the same hometown in Japan who would also be enlisting, and visited his home near Shinkyo shrine. We talked about various things until late at night, drinking sake wine together. That night, I went to sleep with good memories from the visit. The following day, in the morning of the 31st, we gathered at the square in front of Shinkyo shrine. Four or five people were already there when I arrived. When I went up to the platform of Shinkyo station, in one of the passenger car windows of the incoming train from Dairen, I found someone making a gesture of "come here, come here!" with his hands. When I looked closely, it was Okui who was in the same class in the school called Santoya Middle School in the old school system in Japan. The last time I saw him was in March of 1941. I was so surprised and jumped into the train, sat right next to him and began to listen to him. He said he had been employed in the engineering department of the Manchuria Railway Company in Dairen since he he graduated in March 1941, and had been there ever since. When we just about covered all the current topics to chat about, we arrived at Tonei staition in Tonei prefecture in Manchuria. Okui was going to be a infantryman and I, an artilleryman. We prayed for the safety of each other and parted to the right and left, vowing to meet again someday. (Later, I learned that Okui had died with honor on Aug.16 in 1945 at the battle of Mt. Kachidoki near the Soviet border in Eastern Manchuria. By the unexpected participation of the Soviet army, that war occurred.)

The Greater Eastern Asian War was changing its direction by November, 1944. As the Kwantung Army had to move around very frequently, important points were reinforced with the soldiers on active duty, and other areas that were not as crucial were guarded by supplementary soldiers around forty years old. Regardless, more and more elite forces were transfered to the southern fronts. The railway stations near the border were becoming neglected as a result.

The atmosphere around us was changing rapidly, and it was becoming more and more inauspicious – there were Soviet spies and some Japanese soldiers running away. Flares began to fly at night. After May 8th, 1945, when Germany, one of the World War II Axis powers, surrendered, the movement of the Soviet army toward the Far East drastically became more frequent, and it increased more as it went into June and July. Nevertheless, the headquarters of our army did not have any effective countermeasure for that.

At 12 o'clock, midnight of August 9th, 1945, the Soviet army in the Far East advanced with great vigor and came through the Soviet border, breaking the existing non-aggression pact between Japan and the Soviets. The outcome was so obvious between the Japanese army with inferior equipment and the powerful, superior Soviet army equipped with 1,570,000 soldiers, 26,000 artillery, and 3400 airplanes.


2. Disarmament

On Aug. 17th, our artillery group was notified of the end of the war in the woods near Stone Mountain. I was vaguely guessing this would come; however, when the news came as a reality, I totally lost my mind – I couldn't think of anything, and my heart pumped fiercely. I tried to calm down telling myself it was an order from imperial headquarters, but anxiety attacked me over and over. Our bewilderment could not be helped because Japan was believed to be the country of God since it had never been defeated for over two thousand years. The only thing I could do was to try to convince myself. Later, disarmament took place in the town of Tokyo Castle in Mudanjiang province. After that, we were all put under the command of the Soviet army. I can never forget how miserable I felt as I watched all of my comrades placing down their guns quietly.

The commissioned officers in the Japanese army who gathered in the quad in the town of Tokyo Castle were reorganized into one thousand as a unit and were told to walk toward the temporary internment camp in Mudanjiang. Under the sweltering heat in the middle of August, there was not even enough food. The files of troops could not be kept well in order because of many dropouts one after another. Even under such conditions, Russian sentries continued to yell and made the marching incredibly difficult. In the beginning, comrades tried to help the dropouts, but gradually, everyone began to feel fatigued and could not afford to help other people any more. Dropouts pleaded others not to pay attention to them and keep going, so others had no choice but say, "Well then, I am going ahead of you, but catch up with me for sure." They kept walking, but looked back regretfully many, many times. Thus, the files kept proceeding to Mudanjiang. In absolute exhaustion, and without any force left, we finally arrived at the temporary camp. However, "camp" was just a big name only given for huge lines of buildings that looked like warehouses. We could easily imagine the hardship in the days to come. As we assumed, pillage by Russian soldiers began. If we had a watch, fountain pen, leather wallet or leather boots, they pointed automatic rifles toward us and yelled, "Give it to me." When night came, we heard many gunshots everywhere. Each one of them must have been for the purpose of pillage. If we denied them, we would end up gunned down. After ten days of hopeless experiences like this, we were stuffed into trains for departure.


3. Deceived by "Domoi Tokyo (Going back to Tokyo)"

September in Northern Manchuria was already a bit cold. There were more than fifteen roofed trains waiting for us at Mudanjiang station. Russian sentries were screaming, "You Japanese are going back to Tokyo!" We all wondered whether it was true or not.

We saw warhorses and vehicles like large two-wheeled wagons carried into the freight car. We didn't need such things if we were really going home. Then, we received blankets and arctic clothes. It was very strange. Everyone of us began to be skeptical if we were going to be taken deep inside Siberia.

We were deceived by the Russians repetitiously. What did our group do to the Soviets? They were the ones who suddenly trampled underfoot on the non-aggression pact between Japan and the Soviets. Moreover, only within a week of confrontation in the war, they did every evil thing they could to pillage, assault, coerce, and more, to maximum levels of villainy. What more did they want to do against us? It must not have been only myself whose anxieties were increasing unbelievably at this point.

Then, the cargo trains, with all of us in them, began to move.

All of us imagined that the train would take us from Mudanjiang to the port of Dalian by way of Harbin to catch boats that would carry us back to Japan. We kept looking for the direction we were heading toward. When the train stopped and then moved again, we noticed we were going in a different direction. It was completely opposite from the route we imagined. Harbin was to the west, but to the contrary, we were heading toward the east.

The uproar in the train stopped and it became silent. However, there were others who wanted to interpret the situation in a good way. They assumed that we would be taking the route to the South, passing Suifenhe, and taking ships at the port of Vladivostok in order to go across the Sea of Japan to reach Japan. The train sometimes stopped and then proceeded and went into Soviet territory. At the middle of the night, it stopped. It did not move at all. We could tell that we were at Voloshilov which was the dividing point of the Siberian railway and Suifenhe line. In the middle of the night, the train began to move again. It kept going and going. However, from the way the North star looked up in the sky, this train was not heading toward Vladivostok. It was apparently moving toward the north. Again, our expectation was betrayed, but we did not throw away our hope – human beings simply do not throw away hopes. Someone said we might be going toward Khabarovsk so that we could take a ship to go down the Amur River to head toward Sakhalin. Inside the covered train, so many speculations were going on. People were very excited about it. Then the train suddenly stopped and did not move at all. Eventually, we heard a sound like a steam whistle far away. It made many people think that they were really going to take a ship, go across the Sea of Japan, and would head for Japan. The cargo became so noisy with people saying this and that.

In a few days, we heard someone yelling, "Get off ! Get off !" Everyone came off of the cargo from here and there. Then a command came. "Line up!" Then we heard another command, "Advance !" which we were really waiting for. However, when we paid attention to the scenery, we realized that we were marching toward the mountains totally opposite from the Amur river. We proceeded for a while, crossed Komsomolsk, a relatively big town, and kept going toward the mountainside, the outskirts of the town. A little while later, the loud command was given to us, "Stop!" All at once, a thousand files stopped walking.


4. The Beginning of the Life in the Internment Camp

In a remote lonely place in a town, there were a couple of structures of one-story log cabins surrounded by double layers of barbed wire. The abnormal buildings we had never seen before were the internment camps that became the base for a few years of my life thereafter. I was figuring it out to an extent, but when I saw the place as a reality, I was severely disturbed – I could barely keep standing. There had been a light I kept hanging onto up to that point, but the light suddenly disappeared and the world of darkness seemed to have been formed ahead of me. From the two watchtowers, young Russian soldiers were watching intensely with Mandolin guns (PPSh-41) on their shoulders. The little hope of "Going Home to Tokyo" was completely shut off. Instead of that, the cold life of internment without any hope was about to begin.


5. Food and Hospital

In winter in Siberia, dawn did not break until late. About 7 o'clock in the morning, there was a bell for roll-call. It was still dark outside. Five hundred group members formed five lines to wait for the Russians to come for roll-call. Russian soldiers were not efficient, so they had to check each of the five lines before leaving. If the numbers did not match, they had to take more time to make sure. Incidentally, the temperature in the winter in Siberia goes down to below 40 degrees centigrade. Thus, it was extremely difficult to keep stamping our feet to stay away from frostbite on our toes in arctic clothes and shoes. There were about 4 kilometers up to the the lumbering area where we were going to work. After we left the camp, we all began to walk looking down. We had handmade empty cans on our waists in worn-out overcoats as if we were hawks without tails and wings – so miserable. By the way, the reason why we looked down is because we wanted to look for potatoes that might have been dropped on the road. Snow was not piling up as much since a storm blew it away. On such a road, potatoes of ping-pong ball size were covered by snow powder and it was hard to tell them from horse dung. Those who were smokers also had a reason to walk looking down – they were looking for tobacco ashes. If we were lucky enough to find one potato-like object, we picked it up and put it in the mess kit or duffel bag, then began to walk step-by-step heading toward the lumber area. When we got there, we boiled what we collected on the road, and ate it when they were done. Once in a while, a strange odor came out. When we took the lid off, we found out we were boiling horse dung. It was warmed up in the hot water and came to pieces, giving its smell to potatoes in the same pot. In such cases, we were all so disappointed because all of the potatoes in the pot became no longer edible. It was very difficult to tell potatoes from horse dung as powder snow on the road in winter in Siberia stuck to them. Truly, all of us internees were absolutely serious about food.

As the quantity and the nourishment of the meals at the camp were minimum, we could tell we were physically becoming weak. To solve the problem, we waited for spring and then captured pit vipers and striped snakes. We stripped off their skin, and grilled them with bones. The eyes of the pit vipers were especially valuable for those who developed night-blindness due to malnutrition. I remember capturing pit vipers at my working site myself and taking their eyes back to the camp for those patients. For those with light symptom of night-blindness, one pit viper was adequate. That means, they needed two eye balls. We also ate frogs. Many frogs in Siberia have red bellies. When we peeled the skin off and grilled them, they were as fragrant and delicious as little birds.

Nearby the area for our farm work, a river was running. At the riverbank, giant butter burs were growing. They looked like unbelievably gigantic paper umbrellas. I picked them and boiled them in the mess kit with salt. It was a bit bitter, but I tolerated it. I also picked various mushrooms with precise caution for identifying dangerous poisonous ones. I also ate practically any other things in the field that were edible, which often caused diarrhea. When that happened, I went to the bath area made of a drum in order to collect cinders that were left from previous use. Then I tapped them into powders using a rock instead of a hammer. That was my anti-diarrheal agent. Every time I went to my working field and had diarrhea, I repeated the same treatment. Then one day, I began to have bloody stools and fever perhaps because my intestines were finally scarred from many different things. On the following day, I could not go to work and a Soviet woman doctor came to see me. She said, "Your fever is not going down. You have malaria. Hospitalization is necessary." However, a Japanese military doctor, second lieutenant Mr. Yamane, said, "You don't have malaria. Your intertines have fever due to the scarring. Don't worry about it because it is a case of colitis. If you go into a hospital, you can rest and stay away from work. Great! Go to a hospital! Go to a hospital!" In the end, I did go into a hospital. I was considered a patient for malaria, and was put into an isolated hospital ward at first. Within a week, however, I no longer had a fever and was put back into the general ward.

There were various patients in the hospital. Among them, I remember the lance corporal, Maeda (forty five years old at that time) from Saseho who was suffering from frequent urination because of malnutrition. While he was working at the internal affairs office, he had to go to the bathroom thirteen times at most during a night, he said. After hospitalization, his straw bed – the sleeping mat used in the army – was always damp. It seemed he had no control of his urination and did not know when he was going. Malnutritian is awful. I remember reading in a book or something that the person's hands will be in praying position while sleeping when death is coming near. Mr. Tazaki, a supplementary soldier who was next to me, had so much appetite one week before he died, but then suddenly, he had no interest in food. Then, one day, in the middle of the night, he told me, "I may die tonight." I persuaded him, "No, it will not happen. You have to hang in there no matter what until you make it back to Japan." Morning came and when I looked at Mr. Tazaki who was supposed to be sleeping next to me, his body was already cold. I was so astonished by that because what he was saying became true. I could only pray for his happiness in the next world.

While I was in the hospital, every day, five to ten Japanese comrades died because of diseases such as malnutrition, tuberculosis, scurvy, or typhus. Sometimes, twenty people died in a day. Every morning, a truck came to receive corpses. During winter, in the freezing cold weather, they quickly became stiff like logs. Relatively better patients in the hospital carried the heads and legs of each corpse, and almost threw each one into the truck, yelling to each other, "One, two, three!" Sometimes, a full truck left us toward the cemetery. I felt so mournful after such sights. I could not imagine how the bereaved families would have felt if they were there. I could only pray for them from the bottom of my heart.


6. Lumber

The lumber site we worked on was about four kilometers from the camp toward the mountainside. I worked there for about a month from December, 1945 to December of the following year. During the summertime, I was sometimes attacked by mosquitoes and black flies, but I was able to put up with it. On the contrary, winter was a totally different story. I was a vice group leader of the eighth squad. The leader was Sergeant Shibata. He was a thirty-eight-year-old and started as a supplementary soldier. For some reason or another, he had excuses for not coming out to the labor site. As a result, I continued to lead my squad. The neighboring squad was the seventh squad, and the leader, Corporal Ishida, who came from Osaka Shiten'noji, also started as a supplementary soldier like mine. He also neglected his responsibility for the labor. As a result, the same situation happened in their squad, and the vice group leader, Corporal Ikoma, who was the same age as I was, ended up becoming an actual leader. Consequently, Ikoma and I, the two of us operated all the labor at the lumber site, and led the cutting tasks one by one. The process was really difficult, however. After the war was over, the class distinction was abolished, so there was no reason for the soldiers to pay close attention to the orders given to them. There was so much trouble making them do what was necessary, but if we became lazy, we could not finish our quota. Then the Russian guard would come to threaten us, yelling, with a gun in his hand.

We used a saw and ax for two people as tools. Cutting into wood with a saw, trees fell one after another. Then we rapidly cut off branches with axes of two meters in length. Then we piled them up one meter in height and two meters in length. When we finished all of the tasks, our quota was satisfied 100%. It was a task based on the cooperation of two people. If they could not work together, it was impossible to even finish 50%, let alone 100%.

When the weather was very bad and the temperature went down to forty degrees below freezing, along with a blizzard, the temperature would drop drastically to seventy or eighty degrees below freezing for body sensations. In such conditions, taking care of our tasks as we planned was extremely challenging. We came up with some tricks, though. What we did was to pile up the logs we cut down in a slightly different way. When we cut down Japanese white birch with lots of branches, we could create some extra space with the way we stack them together for the purpose of adding more hight, as well as width. If we only used logs of 10 to 20 centimeters in diameter that were cut two meters in length to pile up on flat ground, it really took a long time to accomplish 100% of our quota. This Japanese white birch method was a breakthrough for us because reaching 100% of the quota was relatively easier that way. Everyone had various devices so that accomplishing the quota would become even slightly easier.

In December, the temperature usually went down to forty degrees below freezing, centigrade. Nevertheless, the Russians made us go to work telling us a false temperature such as thirty-eight or thirty-nine degrees below freezing centigrade even if , in reality, it was really forty or fifty below freezing. According to the rules, they were not allowed to send us to work if the temperature was colder than forty degrees below freezing. As a matter of fact, we could not do any work even if we got to the working site if it was below forty degrees. Even if we went there, we would first collect firewood. Then we would collect dried branches or anything that we could use as firewood and made a huge fire in order to make our bodies warm before beginning to work. From the viewpoint of the Soviet inspectors, such actions were not desirable, so we were threatened with their rifles, complaining, “You are only warming yourselves with the firewood because you don't want to set to work." Because of such things, it was really hard for us to attain the quota. In my case, I was only eating 50% of meals on a daily basis. However, those who were well-built and had physical strength wanted to eat to their content. That's why they forced themselves to work hard to fulfill 100 to 120% of the quota. Despite the increase of their food, unfortunately, the ratio of death of such comrades was much higher because the provided food would only fill their empty stomachs and satisfy their hunger, but did not nourish their bodies at all. People with weaker health like myself could not work as hard, but did not force ourselves to work to the point of killing ourselves. As a result, those who did not work that seriously and only worked whenever they could lasted until the end.

In winter time, it became dark very quickly. As soon as our work ended, we had to gather quickly once again, and begin to walk on the road for four kilometers to get back to our camp. For all of us, looking miserable under malnutrition, with arctic shoe-like things on our feet, wrapped with arctic clothing, walking itself was tough. In the weather of seventy or eighty degrees below freezing, the road in the mountain side had forty to fifty centimeters high piles of snow even though it was rather dry snow in the cold wave. Walking in such snow, slowly, step by step, was an unbelievable hardship. In addition, Russian soldiers were not in a good mood on days the quota was not reached due to bad conditions caused by bad weather, and they used to rush us to walk faster, yelling, "Hurry up! Hurry up!" No matter what they told us, our feet could not respond to it. Because of all that, in winter time, it was already dark when we finally got back to the camp. Then there was a roll-call waiting for us. It delayed the end of our day even longer.

One day, when we went through the roll call and inspected the numbers of workers after we came back to the camp, we found out one person was missing. We all looked around to see who it was, and found out Fujita was not there. He was enlisted as a supplementary soldier of age thirty eight, and was from Aomori or Akita prefecture in Tohoku district. We decided to quickly search for him. So our representatives and some of us with physical strength, including myself, went back to the dark road to go closer to the site we worked at that day. The fact it was a snowy road made it a bit easier for us to walk. When we reached half of the distance between our camp and the site, we found Fujita falling down on the road. Those with physical strength took him on their shoulders in turns to bring him back to the camp. Nevertheless, all of his body covered with frostbite, it was already beginning to be stiff . We could not do anything else. How pitiful it was! "Please enter Nirvana peacefully." I could only send my prayers for him.

In the morning, we left our our camp to go to work, but people with less physical power often fell down as soon as we reached the lumber site. It was because of the freezing cold weather. If someone fell, we immediately made a fire and warmed up his body. When the body was warmed up, his energy came back. Such a person could not really contribute to our work, though. Looking back, the forced labor at the lumber site was a trying condition in the summer with mosquitoes, but we had to face a truly painful situation when the winter came.


7. Loading and Unloading

The cargo ships brought a lot of food such as salted fish – salmon, trout, cod and herring – packed in beer barrels from the the mouth of the river Amur from the direction of Sakhalin. When I was in the forced labor of handling cargo, we had to lift such items that came to the port of Komosomolsk from the ship's hold to the deck. The stairs on the ship made it extremely difficult to lift them. The only way to handle it was to coil them with ropes to pull them up onto the dock. Among us who were in that labor, there were some Russians as well. They stole those items from the crack of the barrels and took them to the black market bazaar first, and got them exchanged for money. Then they came to us and told us, "This time, we will be watching for you. Go ahead and steal them yourselves now!" When it was not easy to find what we could steal, we used to wind a barrel with salted fish inside with a rope, and just dropped it intentionally after it came almost to the level of the deck. When it dropped and bounced, the lid broke and the salted fish showed their faces. Then we put some of them quickly inside our overcoats or stuffed into our pockets in order to take back to the camp. In the beginning, this was quite successful, but eventually, we could not continue it because they found out what was going on. This labor was somewhat fun but also a bitter experience.


8. Foundation Works for Construction

I am going to write about what we had to deal with when we were taken to foundation works for construction during winter time. On such a day, we were told to dig a big hole one meter in diameter and one meter and fifty centimeters in depth. In winter, digging was not easy since the surface of the ground was completely frozen. If the temperature was forty degrees below freezing, the ground was the same as concrete, and it did not even allow a pickax to go in. Even a steal bar with a sharp edge did not work. In cases like that, first of all, we had to collect firewood, spending about one hour. Since the construction site was divided among different groups, each group collected as much firewood as possible to burn at the site where their hole had to be dug. We had to keep burning firewood for at least one hour. Then, finally, the surface melted and we were able to dig the same length as the plate of the spade we used to use in the army. When we finished removing the mud we dug, the next layer of ground was rock solid again. So we repeated the same procedure for that once more – we went to gather firewood, piled a lot of it on top of the hole and kept burning it for about an hour. Then we dug again. We had to do it again and again. It was such a labor intensive process to work on, especially in the freezing weather of forty or fifty degrees below freezing, that anyone with ordinary emotional strength would not be able to cope with it. Therefore, it was common not to reach the quota at 100%, let alone even 50%. Then the amount of our meals was decreased, and we were always in starvation. Soon, I also began to suffer from malnutrition.


9. Labor at Kolkhoz (Farming)

When we used to leave the camp at dawn to walk toward Kolkhoz, there was a pig farm, and there were about ten pigs kept there. This is a bit aside from my recollections of forced labor, but farmers picked cabbage for them from their field in order to give it to the pigs. Those pigs were given the good parts of the leaves of cabbage after the bottom parts were taken off. The bottom parts were all thrown away and we saw them on the road every day. To our regret, we had to fight against one another to pick the scraps of such cabbage, and then grilled them as soon as we reached Kolkhoz to eat them. Human beings were fighting to get the bottom leaves of cabbages that even pigs did not eat! However, when we grilled it, there was sweetness – it was delicious. It was indeed the bottom of human living – to my sadness, our dignity was totally ruined.

When we went to Kolkhoz to plant seed potatoes, perhaps around June, we drew lines in the seedling area first, and planted seeds with forty centimeters of distance in-between. In Siberia, the harvest was only once a year. Up to this work, it was just a normal process. However, on the following day, I saw everyone boiling the seed potatoes of ping-pong ball size that they just buried the day before – they dug them out to eat on their own! Just like an old proverb says, "We were not able to escape an urgent problem without making some sacrifice." We knew it was a bad thing to do, but we did not care. It must have been the demand of nature in order to keep the balance of the nutrition of our bodies.



When a full two years had passed since I was forcefully interned in Siberia, in July of 1947, my name suddenly appeared on the list of those who would be sent home – I was going to be sent to Nakhodka for that purpose. It was nothing but like a dream – tears of joy kept coming down, covering my cheeks. However, in the next instant, there were other words that would almost make my heart stop – the head of the camp told me, "You are so skinny and just with bones and skin because of the lack of nutrition. If we send you home like this to the port of Maizuru, Americans will scold us and we will be in trouble. That's why you are going to stay here longer to gain weight first." This was extremely disappointing. Am I going to spend another winter here? With my frail physical condition, I had already half given up on tolerating another freezing cold winter in Siberia.

Fortune comes to us unexpectedly though. Two months after that, around September 19th, the second order of "Domoi-going home" was issued. I was so thrilled at any rate, but this time, I knew I still had to be very cautious.

Even after I went onto the train to go home, I was not relieved yet. What I felt uneasy about was the issue of ideology. Inside the train, everyone was enthusiastically singing the song for revolution or they were "pretending" like they were enthusiastic about it because they were afraid of being sent back to the camp otherwise. The actives (interned Japanese who became educators of communist ideology) were screaming in the train, "Don't send reactionaries and anticommunists back to Japan!" If they told us to write an appreciation letter to Stalin, we had no choice but to write it as acceptance of their education. For all of us, the worst scenario was to be sent back to the camp again.

With the train smoking powerfully, we left Komsomolsk where we lived for some time. Then we passed Khabarovsk, heading all the way to Nakhodka.

Upon arriving at Nakhodka, I was immediately told to work as a cooking crew. Breakfast on that day was the rice cooked with salted cod. In the camp in Nakhodka, there were two thousand people waiting to go home, so we served the cooked rice with cod to all two thousand of them. Since I belonged to a group for internal affairs, I finished my breakfast and went to the kitchen, where the head of the kitchen told us whoever came to help cooking would be able to eat a lot of rice later on. I was happy to eat extra rice even though I already had breakfast that day. However, from about a little before noon, everyone began to make a fuss complaining they had stomachaches. I also had a stomachache, and went to the bathroom. Then I went back to my internal affairs office, but I wanted to go back to the bathroom again. I had diarrhea. Then I returned to my office, but wanted to go to the bathroom again... I kept repeating it, and I ended up using up all the toilet paper. At a little before noon, I went to the bathroom again, and stayed there until six o'clock in the afternoon. Because of the diarrhea, it was impossible to come out of the bathroom. As I was suffering with such a condition, people in my group began to look for me, wondering if I disappeared. Finally, after a lot of search, they found me in the bathroom. A little while later, the diarrhea finally stopped and I was able to go back to the office.

There was about a week before the ship called "Keizanmaru" for Domoi – going home – pulled in to the port of Nakhodka. While I was waiting, I was so stressed out worrying if my body would be cured in order to get on to the ship – I walked to the seashore and prayed, putting my hands together, to God for the cure of my sickness, looking over the ocean. Tears dropped down when I thought about the land of Japan which was just across the ocean from where I was standing – it was the land I kept dreaming of. I thought I could never afford to die after I finally got to this final point. Because of this incident of food poisoning, severely sick people unfortunately passed away, and some of them were sadly sent back to the hospital. As for me, I was fortunate because of my age: I was twenty years old at that time, and was young. It prompted my recovery, and I was already in a good condition by the time Keizanmaru came in to the port after a week.

Finally, I stepped into the ship, greeted by the crew and nurses of Keizanmaru. However, the frequent tricks by the Soviets since the time I departed from the temporary camp in Mudanjiang, taken to the camps in Siberia, then to Nakhodka that put me into all the misfortunes made me totally cautious. I almost lost myself in hurrying up to go over the bridge to get into the ship. I watched Keizanmaru departing the port of Nakhodka, kicking white waves in the ocean. We were chased by a group of dolphins as we proceeded in the Japan Sea. The ocean was so calm all the way for four days while we were going across. Then, at last, the day came to land at the port of Maizuru. I cannot express how much I was filled with emotion.

In retrospect, the fact that two thousand people suffered from food poisoning was so heartbreaking. I will never be able to forget it. The fact that I had to stay in the bathroom for six hours is also something that will never leave my memory.


11. My Last Words

Stalin in the Soviet Union trampled on the Potsdam Declaration. He usurped more than six-hundred-thousand people for labor from the former army of Japan in order to use them in an effort to revive his own land after the war, deceiving us, saying, "Tokyo Domoi-Going home to Tokyo" and actually took all of us to Siberia, where he forced us to be interned for a long time. We were pushed into forced labor under the cruel freezing weather and awful food and living conditions, resulting in the loss of the precious lives of seventy-thousand men. What a regret! My indignant lamentation will last forever. And now, when I think about my comrades who are still buried under the freezing ground in Siberia, I am filled with pathos.

The war only leaves extremely cruel results. Peace is so precious. I pray from the bottom of my heart for eternal peace in the world.


Foundation for Peace
Oral History of the Hardships by the Japanese Interned in Siberia Volume 15

Published in March, 22nd, 2005

Independent Administrative Corporation
Special Foundation for the Project for Commemoration of Peace
2-6-1 Shinjyuku, Shinjyuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Printing: Bunshodo Printing co.