Japanese troops 'ate flesh of enemies and civilians'

JAPANESE troops practised cannibalism on enemy soldiers and civilians in the last war, sometimes cutting flesh from living captives, according to documents discovered by a Japanese academic in Australia. In most cases the motive was apparently not shortage of food, but 'to consolidate the group feeling of the troops', said Toshiyuki Tanaka yesterday in a telephone interview from Melbourne.

The revelation adds more evidence to the toll of atrocities carried out by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War, only weeks before Japanese troops are due to be posted overseas for the first time in five decades as part of the UN peacekeeping operation in Cambodia. Japan's Asian neighbours have expressed strong reservations about the use of the troops. In recent months evidence has also come to light about the forced recruitment of Asian women as prostitutes, or 'comfort women', for the Japanese army.

Mr Tanaka, a 43-year-old scholar from Fukui in western Japan, is working at the Political Science Department in Melbourne University. The documents he found concerning cannibalism include captured Japanese army memos as well as sworn statements by Australian soldiers for war crimes investigations. Mr Tanaka says he has amassed at least 100 documented cases of cannibalism of Australian and Indian soldiers as well as Asian forced labourers in New Guinea. He has also found some evidence of cannibalism in the Philippines.

'In some cases the (Japanese) soldiers were suffering from starvation, but in many other cases they were not starving at all,' said Mr Tanaka. 'Many reports said the Japanese soldiers were fit and strong, and had potatoes, rice and dried fish.' Some Japanese press reports yesterday suggested the cannibalism was carried out simply because of shortage of food.

The researcher also denied it was a result of a breakdown in morale: 'The reports said morale was good. Often it was done in a group under instruction of a commander. I think it was to get a feeling for victory, and to give the soldiers nerves of steel.' He said it helped the soldiers to bond 'because the whole troop broke the taboo (of cannibalism) together'.

One statement by an Australian lieutenant describes how he found the remains of a number of bodies, including one 'consisting only of a head which had been scalped and a spinal column'. 'In all cases, the condition of the remains were such that there can be no doubt that the bodies had been dismembered and portions of the flesh cooked,' concluded the statement. Another statement from an Australian corporal tells how he found the mutilated bodies of colleagues whom he had earlier helped to bury in Japanese- occupied territory.

A Pakistani, who was captured when Japan overran Singapore and taken to New Guinea, testified that in his area Japanese soldiers killed and ate one prisoner a day for 'about 100' days. The corporal said he saw flesh being cut from prisoners who were still alive.

Mr Tanaka found the documents by chance while doing research in Australian government archives on chemical warfare. 'I just came across them by accident - they were labelled 'War crimes documents - closed materials'.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all