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HOME > JAPAN > RUTH BENEDICT

'Be as one already dead'


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[I took these notes from Ruth Benedict's book, The Chrysantheum and the Sword (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967), while researching Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and the American Volunteer Group. Benedict was one of the first to attempt to enlighten American readers as to the reasons Japan made war as it had. -- Dan Ford]


p.23 Military commanders distributed cigarettes "from the Emperor." On April 29 led them bowing 3 times to the east and shouting Banzai (Ten Thousand Years) and led them chanting the "sacred words" of his Rescript for Soldiers and Sailors even when the unit was being bombarded day and night.

p.25-26 Precautions are unworthy: armor plate, search and rescue, etc. Wounded and sick are damaged goods, so no medics or stretcher bearers in the front lines, only rudimentary hospitals, and no provision for evacuating them in a retreat. The medical officer shot them as he was leaving.

p.57 The highest level of government had no elected officials

p.63 The army outlawed the formal "respect language" and promoted according to merit. Units formed from one neighborhood and in peacetime were stationed near home. Relations between officers and men, and first-year and second-year conscripts overrode the old caste system. So the army represented the common man against the financiers and industrialists.

p.64 High command traditionally independent of civil govt. So army and navy ministers (only) had direct access to the Emperor and could use his name to enforce their policies, w/o consulting the rest of the cabinet. Likewise requirement that they be serving officers gave them a veto over cabinet deliberations, without any financial penalty, since the constitution provided that if the Diet failed to pass a budget, then the previous year's budget was carried forward. (This may be a quote; paraphrase.) So appropriations could never be cut. Says army occupied Manchuria after the foreign office had promised it wouldn't, Q.E.D.

p.70 Every cigarette given out, and every glass of sake before battle, increase the on or indebtedness that the soldier "wore" for the Emperor. Every suicide charge was a man repaying this imperial on.

p.71 One has on as well to the teacher or lord who brought one along.

p.82 ko on -- from emperor
oya on -- from parents
nushi no on -- from one's lord
shi no on -- from one's teacher
on jin -- anyone to whom indebted

p. gimu -- limitless repayment owed
gimu chu -- to emperor
gimu ko -- to parents
gimu nimmu -- to one's work

p. giri -- specific, limited obligation
giri to the world -- to one's lord, family, or non-related benefactors
giri to one's name -- to avenge insult, to admit no professional failing, to observe the proprieties.

p.90 When emperor rode through the streets, windows were shuttered above the first floor so as not to look down on him. They were moved to ectasy that he "turned his thoughts to them." They dedicated their lives to "ease his heart." A man's highest duty not to his country but to the emperor as an individual. Officers "speak for the emperor" and thus geets unquestioned obedience.

p. Army trained to march 50-60 miles without rest or refreshment

p.104 "Baby birds cry for their food, but a samurai holds a toothpick between his teeth."

p.106 Says a man who inadvertently named his son Hirohito killed both himself and the child

p.107 Criticism of a man's work is criticism of the man himself.

p.118 A samurai committed suicide as his choice between ways to die -- death being certain

p.120 Easily swing between intense effort and lassitude

p.127 Sacrifice sleep for discipline: "Oh no! That is not necessary. They already know how to sleep. They need training in how to stay awake." (Quoted from HOW THE ARMY FIGHTS, articles from INFANTRY JOURNAL, Penguin 1942 pp 54-55)

p.131 Servants or salesgirls -- no contract -- "voluntary mistress" -- no protection.
Homosexual liaisons sanctioned among men of high station, but only as the active partner with a young boy, never the passive role

p.132 At urban sake parties, men often sit in one another's laps

p.133 Each man has a "gentle" soul and a "rough" soul, not good and evil

p.174 To feel the "sweat of muga" (palms of hands become wet) -- elimination of the observer-self by zen training. A bombardier before releasing his bombs, an ack-ack gunner loosing his shells, have become one with the projectile, one with the target

p.175 "Be as one already dead" -- so conduct one's own funeral before leaving home -- resolving "to fall with the flowers of Burma"

p.194 Extreme hazing of first-year conscripts by second-year. Become brutalized thereby.

p.195 E.g., the conscript forced to wag his tail like a dog, jump like a grasshopper, and eat standing on his head.

p.212 "Society is a triangle controlled by a pin in one corner." The triangle can move right or left, but only to the degree permitted by the invisible, unmoving pin, the emperor