• The three brave soldiers meat bullet group, carrying a pipe packed with explosive to make a hole in the wire fortifications surrounding a Chinese position in Shanghai, during the Sino Japanese war of 1932.

Japanese soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice

Newer Older

Painting on the ceiling of Hiyoshi Shinto shrine.

Yosano Akiko's husband wrote a poem about these three heros who were to become the first war gods (kami) of the Showa era.

Engineers of the 24th Kurume regiment, Eshita Takeji, Kitagawa Susumu* and Sakue Inosuke carried a ignited pipe made of bamboo containing 20 kilographs of explosive into the line of enemy fortifications, and died in the blast. The blast opened a path for the Japanese army to advance.

The event was celebrated by Yosano's poem, Kabuki theatre, cinema and several songs. Three brave soldiers rice cakes" and biscuits were releases and the canteen of an Osaka department store offered Meat Bullet Three Brave warriors food (of unspecified ingredients).

made heros of the these soldiers over night.

Some claim however that the incident was a mistake owing to the use of a too short, or incorrect fuse, and that soldiers expected to return unharmed but blew up. Other claim that the solders knew the odds that they were facing.

As I heard when living in Kurume, it is also claimed that two of the three were from the Japanese underclass. While living in Kurume I heard the rumour from an ageing gentlemen that those from the Japanese underclass where the first to volunteer for such missions and the first to be asked. But that is only a rumour.

Please see the folowing Japanese page for details.

The tremendous popularity of this feat is dealt with in Censoring History: CItizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany and the United States where it is suggested, and I agree, that an examination of the media attention surrounding the "meat bullet brave men" allows us to understand just how fervent the war effort in China became. Some recent fiction portrays the Japanese as a land opressed by militarists that forced the Japanese to participated in an unpopular war.

Engineer Kitagawa's name might also be Tasuku, the character for his hame can be can be read in more than one way.

  1. Nemo's great uncle 119 months ago | reply

    Meat bullet? Is that another name for cannon fodder? Next time I'm at Google...

  2. timtak 119 months ago | reply

    Meat bullet is a transliteration of Nikudan, a human bomb. Perhaps a "suicide bomber" would be better.

  3. KF 红相机 93 months ago | reply

    interesting indeed!

    although the latest historical argument for the japanese participation in the war is very different from the 'militarists' one. in that it is thought that the entire japanese society was highly regimented from the start, as seen during the rapid modernisation period of the meiji restoration. and that japanese militarism was antagonised by the 1929 worldwide depression, which threw the japanese nation into turmoil. the rising sense of nationalism was coupled to this prussian brand of militarism as part of a cultural backlash against the western ways which japan has been following. therefore when the nation marched to war it had a perfectly supportive populace behind it.

    this theory is backed up by the fact that japan had been enaged in aggressive empire building from the late 19th century, firstly in china and korea. therefore the 2nd world war was the result of an existing process which had collided into the interests of the other major powers- britain and america in asia.

  4. Thiophene_Guy 88 months ago | reply

    Thanks for the interesting photo and for the intriguing historical context.

    Found in a search. (?)

  5. timtak 88 months ago | reply

    @ Thiophene Guy - my pleasure

    @ Krasni Fotoapparat
    ....Umm...Yes... But...How about a more Japanophillic, null interpretation? E.g. Europeans were ripping Asia apart, selling Asians drugs, invading them when they refused to buy drugs, invading them for no particular reason at all, forcing them to make unfair treaties, and generally treating them like animals, and after a while the Japanese thought "enough is enough," **as one might**.

    "As one might"....That is to say, as I might have thought, or anyone might have thought. In other words, do we need to presume special circumstances pertaining in Japan such as a "regimented" society, or a "backlash"? Do we need a "theory" to explain Japanese behaviour at all?

    At the same time, I like theories and yours sounds convincing.

    So my comment above is not to say that I do not agree with your theory, assuming you have or would agree with similar ones about Britain and America.

keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts