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I am Kita-no-Ookami from Japan. I have some opinions and questions about photographs on your home page.
(1) "Murder Competition" (heroes)
This is a well-known news story that was carried in the "Tokyo Hibi Shinbun" (now "Mainichi Shinbun") during WWII. The picture was taken by Mr. Sato, and the report was written by Mr. Asami. At the Tokyo Trial, the two persons (Mr. Mukai and Mr. Noda) on the photograph were put to death owing to the news. However, in fact they are innocent. The report is nothing but a lie. In that story they were reported to fight hand-to-hand combat with a sword and to kill about 100 "enemies" (in this point, the report never said they killed "prisoners" anywhere). However, Mr. Mukai and Mr. Noda were not foot soldiers but commanders (2nd Lieutenants) of artillery units. So, they could not have fought hand-to-hand combats at all, even if they wished. But, at the Tokyo Trial, no judges accepted their true self-justifications. Later, Mukai's daughter protested with so many tears in her eyes against Mr. Dou, who had said that the report of Tokyo Hibi Shinbun might be true. Hearing her precise explanations, Mr. Dou admitted his misunderstanding, apologized to the daughter, and made the excuse that the false report would have been intended to raise the Japanese fighting spirit (morale).
I think this case is just a "tragedy", don't you? The power of mass media (especially of photographs) is so strong that anyone must pay careful attention to it. A recent example of the false photograph is the "Oiled Bird" in the Gulf War. We must not be deceived by such a false photograph, nor distort the "true" history.
(2) "Bushido is our Chivalry" (rape)
This photograph was taken by a Chinese American cameraman, and carried in LIFE (one of the most famous news magazines). It was taken when the air force of the Chinese National Party bombed the South Shanghai Station; later a Japanese cameraman accidentally met the cameraman in South Korea at the Korean War, and heard from himself so. The real condition at that time was as follows: after the bombing by the air force of the Chinese National Party, the Chinese refugees went out of the shelter, then a Chinese watchman alarmed an incorrect air-raid by mistake, and many of the refugees rushed back for the entrance of the shelter and were crushed to death. This photograph indicates by no means "rape", and has no relation to Japanese soldiers.
(3) "Murder Competition: the smile that says it all" (practice)
One had better recognize that most of this type of photographs (beheading) are pre-arranged performances or made-up scenes. The reasons are as follows:
1) Usually the Japanese army executes criminals by shooting, and seldomly permits to take photograph of them.
2) For Japanese soldier, the Japanese sword is very holy and precious. So, they never use the Japanese sword to behead criminals who are, in a certain sense, dirty.
3) In those days, taking such an "acting photograph" was popular amusement among Japanese soldiers. In some cases, a Japanese soldier used to play a role of a criminal, and, in other cases, a Chinese played a role of an executioner (sword-bearer). In the latter cases, we can see that the way of grasping the sword by the executioner is completely wrong from the viewpoint of "Kendo (Japanese fencing)".
4) In most of this type of photographs, you can easily find out someone who can't refrain from smiling or laughing, as seen in your photograph.
5) Although the excutioner is ready to behead on this type of photograph, I have never seen the pair to the photograph, that is to say, a photograph taken after beheading the criminals. Have you ever seen?
Nowadays, a historian who has good sense would never admit these photographs as reliable material. I think that continuous appearance of these photographs will lose the worth of your home page.
Sincerely yours. Thank you.
The Editor has replied as follows:
Thank you for your letter explaining the provenance of the photographs we reproduced. We shall publish it to help our readers understand why they were taken.
You ask at the end of your letter if I have ever seen a photograph taken after a beheading. I regret to inform you that I have seen many. One series I remember immediately was taken of a group of captured Australian airmen as, one by one, they were decapitated. A photograph had been taken after each swordstroke. Each photograph in the series showed one more man without his head and one more head lying on the ground.
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