ASIA212Varley

One of the most widely heralded of these practices

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Unformatted text preview: ated from their units and hears ominous rumors that famine is so widespread within the Japanese army that some men have even resorted to cannibalism. Later he comes across a dying officer who, in a last stage of delirium, raises his arm and exclaims: “When I’m dead, you may eat this.” The climax of the novel is reached when the soldier meets two former companions and partakes with them of “monkey meat.” It is not long before the soldier has occasion to learn the true source of his food when he witnesses one of his companions on a “monkey”-hunting excursion: There was a bang in the distance. “He’s got one!” shouted Yasuda. I rushed out and ran through the forest in the direction of the shot. Presently I reached a spot where the trees grew sparsely and from where I could see across the river bed. A human form was flying over its sun-drenched sur- 316 Culture in the Present Age face! His hair was in disorder and he was barefoot. It was a Japanese soldier in a green uniform. And it was not Nagamatsu! Again there was the report of a gun. The bullet went wide of its apparent mark and the crouched figure continued running. He ran steadily along the river bed, now and then glancing back over his shoulder. Then, evidently confident that he was out of range, he gradually straightened his back and slowed down to a walking pace. Finally he disappeared into a clump of trees. Now I had seen one of the “monkeys.”15 Whereas Fires on the Plain describes the degradation of the Japanese soldier in the field,16 Zone of Emptiness (Shinkû Chitai, 1952) by Noma Hiroshi reveals a scarcely less extreme form of brutalization and degradation of the military man in camp at home. A young soldier, Kitani, has just returned from the prison stockade, where he has spent two years for the falsely alleged theft of a lieutenant’s wallet. Japan’s “holy war” has entered its final stage of deterioration and disillusionment, and men of all ranks are now engaged in a bestial struggle to secure rations and to avoid the certain death implicit in overseas assignment. But Kitani is fired only with the determination to avenge himself against th...
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