In this article, a famous Japanese author and novelist named Maruoka Akira (1907-1968) takes a trip to Korea in early 1943, writing a bit about his experience taking a train from Busan to Seoul, in which he encountered a group of 7 or 8 young Korean people wearing stylish Western clothes and having an ‘American vibe’. The only woman in the group wore the latest Ginza fashion, while the men wore flat caps which reminded the author of American movie stars. The author thought it was notable that they mostly spoke Korean with some Japanese and interspersed with the English word ‘okay’. He was shocked to find that neither the Japanese nor the Korean train passengers cared to observe the Moment of Silence at noon to honor fallen Imperial soldiers.
In August 1943, this would all change with silent prayers in trains becoming more vigorously enforced. In September 1943, the young Koreans would no longer be able to wear their stylish clothing in public with the passing of onerous clothing regulations enforcing a wartime minimalist fashion.
This article also features a travel story from Mr. Nobuyuki Tateno, a Keijo Nippo correspondent who also covered a 1944 story about Korean parents who picked up their son’s remains at a military facility in Japan. He observed young Koreans boys being forced to work in Pyongyang at Pothong river using a Mokko sling, which was a woven net traditionally used to carry heavy materials (dirt, rocks) in construction projects. The boys belonged to an Imperial Training Institute, which eventually became more of a source of cheap labor than a place to ‘train’ Koreans into becoming ‘true Imperial subjects’.
Also mentioned are other similar brainwashing institutions for indoctrinating Koreans with Imperial Japanese state propaganda, such as farmers’ dōjōs, women’s training centers, Imperial dōjōs, and Yamato cram schools. They have been covered in detail by other Keijo Nippo articles that I have previously translated, so I have provided links throughout the articles.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) June 9, 1943
How the powerful Korean Peninsula was viewed by mainland Japanese visitors
Expressions of determination on the faces of the youth fueled by hope
Mr. Nobuyuki Tateno’s Story
I felt that the situation in Korea had brightened when I saw the farmers’ dōjōs, the women’s training centers, and the Imperial dōjōs in the suburbs of Pyongyang. In Pyongyang, people below the conscription age are being gathered, and they are making efforts to grasp the Imperial spirit in the course of doing manual labor. I saw history-making expressions of determination on the faces of the boys carrying Mokko slings at Pothong river. I realized how the announcement of the conscription system had brightened the lives of the Korean youth, and the announcement had indeed been made at the most appropriate timing.
It makes me feel uncomfortable whenever I hear mainland Japanese people who pretend to know so much, telling me things like, “That’s not something that you can understand just by taking a two-week trip”. Whenever I see old Korean men and Korean women visiting and worshiping at Shinto shrines, I think about how well their leaders have managed to guide them up to this point, and I feel as though I have just witnessed a great historic leap forward. When I saw Sup’ung Dam and learned that its construction had gone very smoothly, I thought that this accomplishment silently attested to the success of the leadership.
Mr. Akira Maruoka‘s Story
I think there is a great gap between what I heard from my acquaintances living in Korea and what I actually saw in Korea during my visit. I was surprised when I arrived in Busan. I really got the feeling that continental East Asians truly lived here. There was this ‘continental feeling’ that was different from what I felt when I visited Sakhalin and Hokkaido. It made me realize that Korea was really at the edge of a continent that stretched to the Soviet Union, Germany, and Turkey.
When the train stopped, I felt a sense of quietude, which was a kind of a continental quietude that could not be felt in mainland Japan, and it made me feel a sense of harmony. I thought that this was the kind of place where continental East Asian people could relax.
Below, I will just describe what I felt without drawing any conclusions.
◇．．．When I was on a train, and there were seven or eight people in a corner who were very stylishly Westernized. They were Koreans. Among them was a woman. At first I thought she was a mainland Japanese woman, but it turned out that she was a Korean woman from around here. They all had an American vibe. The woman was dressed in the same fashion that you would see in Ginza. The men wore flat caps and looked like American movie stars. There was a guitar on the shelf, so I thought they were musicians who played light music. They spoke in Korean, but they occasionally tried speaking in Japanese, and sometimes they even deliberately said “Okay” in English.
◇．．．When I arrived at a certain train station, the station staff informed us that it was time for the Moment of Silence. A few station staff members stood up and prayed silently. I also stood up and prayed silently, but no one else stood up to observe the Moment of Silence, neither the mainland Japanese people nor the Korean people who were riding in the train. I had been told in mainland Japan that they observed the Moment of Silence on the Korean peninsula, and that it would be a very beautiful scene to behold, so I felt surprised.
◇．．．When I was eating my lunch on the train, I gave a boiled egg to a Korean child of about five or six years old who was sitting in front of me. The child’s mother seemed to be instructing the child to say “Thank you” but the child didn’t say anything.
◇．．．When the train was crowded, a young Korean man took a seat next to me. After he went to the bathroom, a young woman came and took a seat in his place. When the man came back from the bathroom, he did not say a word to the woman, but continued his cheerful conversation. In mainland Japan, when you go to the bathroom, you are supposed to put your hat on your seat or something, and if your seat is taken, you are supposed to say something about it, but he didn’t say anything and continued his conversation. I thought that was strange.
◇．．．In Seoul, I visited Yamato Cram School, where I saw young people who could be called the wings of the future. [END]