As we approach the 80th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking and the time when all the perpetrators and survivors of the Rape of Nanking have passed away, the immense value of recording the testimonies of these perpetrators and survivors cannot be overestimated. Not only that they are needed for historical accuracy, but they provide a cornerstone to build true friendship and peace between China and Japan, as well as for the rest of the world, a cornerstone for perhaps the very survival of humankind.
Faced with conflicting information about the Nanking Massacre when she was a youth and a young adult, Tamaki Matsuoka, a Japanese elementary school history teacher, spent almost 30 years of her adult life, trying to find out just exactly what happened in Nanking, China during the short period of about six weeks to two months during the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1938. Enduring a long, difficult, challenging, and dangerous journey, she exhibited courage, dedication, commitment, and sacrifice to achieve her objective. Among other accomplishments, she interviewed over 250 former Japanese soldiers who participated in the Nanking Massacre and over 300 Chinese survivors of the Nanking Massacre. Through these testimonies, she has presented an undeniable case for the existence of the Nanking Massacre as one of the most horrific atrocities in the history of humankind.
A summary of her life-long project has just been published in the English book Torn Memories of Nanking , which should be a must-read book for everyone.
How Did This Project Begin and Carried Out? Tamaki Matsuoka was born in Japan in 1947. When she was growing up in Osaka, Japan, and even when she was a young adult working as an elementary school history teacher, she heard and read all kinds of different comments and reports about what happened in Nanking during the Nanking Massacre at the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1938. Were a lot of Chinese, including women and children, massacred? Were a lot of Chinese women and girls raped and then killed? Were there a lot of looting, burning, and horrible executions? With what happen just a natural consequence of war? Was the so-called Nanking Massacre fabricated and exaggerated by the Chinese?
Starting around 1988 or a little earlier, she decided to try to find the answers to those questions. An ambitious and formidable task even for a person working full-time on that project. But Tamaki had to earn a living working full-time as an elementary school teacher, and also together with her husband raising a family with two sons. She was able to work on this project only during the summers, school holidays, or weekends. Initially she only had herself to work on this project, and she had to pay for any incurred expenses (e.g., travel expenses between Japan and China). Furthermore, she endured a lot of criticisms and attacks from the Japanese right wing.
Nevertheless, during these 30 years, through her dedication and commitment, Tamaki courageously faced and overcame all these obstacles. Even after establishing some initial contacts with former Japanese WWII veterans after posting an announcement in Japanese newspapers, she had to overcome significant cultural and political reluctance to talk about this sensitive subject. Again it took months or even years of building friendship with these veterans and gaining their trusts in the importance of the project that the veterans were willing to open up and discuss these long-held memories which they had not discussed with anyone else (including their immediate family members) for over half a century. Similarly, she had to overcome significant reluctance for the survivors to revisit the long suppressed terrifying dark memories of the past, including cultural reluctance to discuss being raped, and political reluctance to discuss atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers when at times the Chinese government was trying to establish friendlier relationship with the Japanese government.
By comparing notes of the perpetrators and victims, Tamaki matched up records and compiled testimonies of the mass slaughter, rape, arson, destruction, plunder and other unimaginable violence committed to the Nanking residents including women, elderly and children. Her work produced numerous presentations, research articles, films and several books, including winning the “Japan Congress of Journalists Prize” in 2003. Thanks to her and others, the true picture of Nanking Massacre is gradually being revealed to the world with irrefutable evidence.
What Happened During the Nanking Massacre? The Second Sino-Japanese War started on September 18, 1931 when Japan invaded and took control of Manchuria, the northeastern part of China. But massive military battles between Japan and China did not erupt until after July 7, 1937 when Japan crossed the Marco Polo Bridge and invaded Beijing (the Marco Polo Bridge Incident). The Japanese Imperial Army engaged a long, hard-fought battle lasting more than three months and took control of Shanghai near the end of November 1937. Then it was relatively easy for Japan to march into and took control of Nanking, the then-capital of China, on December 13, 1937, since most of the Chinese Nationalist army was already retreating westward, eventually to Chongqing, which became the war-time capital of China.
The best way to get a good sense of the Nanking Massacre is from interview statements that Tamaki recorded from Chinese survivors and Japanese soldiers. Here is a small sampling from her recently published English book.
- Qiu Xiuying (7 year-old Chinese female survivor): “There were lots of bodies lying around Yijiang Gate. Even the area inside the gate itself was piled high with bodies. A mass grave had been dug near the gate and bodies thrown in willy-nilly. It was a truly horrific sight, with bodies piled up all the way to the grass along the edges of the hole. Inside the gate, bodies were piled up to a height of more than one metre and there were more bodies lying in front of the gates and along the city walls. There were more bodies at Zhongshan Wharf. It was so terrifying that I couldn’t look at the bodies, but I recall that most of them were wearing civilian clothing rather than military uniforms. There were even naked corpses. Just like the bodies at the city gate, some were bound up and others were naked. It was truly terrifying.”
- Deguchi Gonjiro (23 year-old Japanese soldier): “The day that Nanjing  fell, there were mountains of dead bodies piled up outside the walls of the city. I felt something soft beneath my feet. Lighting a match to see what I was stepping on, I realized that the entire surface under my feet was like a carpet of dead bodies. There were dead bodies everywhere. I don’t know which unit was responsible, but they had all been killed by bayonets. There were women and children, but no soldiers.”
- Yang Mingzhen (7 years old Chinese female survivor): “Japanese soldiers came back again that afternoon while my mother and I were lying on the kitchen floor. My father was so weak that he was just lying there. A Japanese soldier came up to my father, opened his eyes with his fingers and thrust a knife into his mouth. Then he came up to my mother and pulled her trousers down. As he wiped the soot from my mother’s face, she bit his hand. Livid, the Japanese soldier hit my mother’s face again and again and then raped her. After that, he started taunting her, twisting the barrel of his gun around inside her vagina. The other Japanese soldier pulled my trousers down and started taunting me, prizing open my still-firm vagina with his fingers. At any rate, they were prepubescent genitals, the genitals of a six or sever-year-old. I screamed out in pain. The Japanese soldier forcibly raped me. He was a beast. The two of them took turns raping my mother and I. Blood flowed in torrents, and it was so painful that I couldn’t even walk afterwards. My genitals became swollen and continued to bleed. Urine would dribble out uncontrollably and flow into my wounds, causing unbearable pain. I still suffer incontinence to this day and am unable to urinate normally. Even now, I still have to use diapers. My parents were killed.”
- Teramoto Juhei (24 year-old Japanese soldier): In the case of girls who were virgins, they would start frothing at the mouth and pass out as three or five men hold them down. I did it as well, and nothing good came of it. Soldiers from all over Japan did this kind of thing all the time. It’s just a case of whether they admit to having done so or not.”
- Matsumura Yoshiharu (24 year-old Japanese soldier): “We would head out in pairs or groups of three. We would kidnap any girls that we came across. It was girl chohatsu (commandeering). Once our squad captured girls, of course we would rape them. Many times, when people said they were going out for chohatsu, what they meant was that they were going out to look for girls to kidnap.”
- Yang Shaorong (25 year-old Chinese male survivor): “The Japanese practice was to make each group of three (prisoners) advance toward the river and then shoot them. As the bodies steadily started to pile up, Japanese soldiers would then douse the bodies in gasoline and set them alight. Gradually, my turn approached. Since we knew that we were going to die in any case, our group moved forward on its own. As gunfire rang out and the people in front of us were killed, we fell forward on our own accord. However, although we had avoided being shot, we were worried about being burnt alive if we remained where we had fallen. As my hands were bound, I used all of the strength in my legs to crawl to the edge of the Yangtze River, a short distance at a time. Thinking that I could avoid being burnt to death by entering the river, I slowly submerged myself in the water. Under my feet and above my head, there were bodies everywhere. My stomach was touching the shore and there were bodies above my head, so I was able to avoid being discovered. Finally, my fear of being burnt alive faded away.”
- Sawamura Jiro (24 year-old Japanese soldier): “They (Chinese prisoners) were all made to run along the pier and they were all shot and killed from behind, while we told each other, ‘what an awful thing we are doing.’ The Chinese that had been shot jumped (or fell) into the river, so there was no need to clean up afterwards either. The river would carry them away.”
- Tanaka Jiro (29 year-old Japanese soldier): “We dragged all of them (Chinese prisoners) out of the freight train hangar and made them sit down facing the shore. They sat down in knee-deep mud. When the command was given, they were sprayed with bullets at point blank range from machine guns that had been hidden in nearby trenches. They fell down, one by one, like dominoes. Blood-soaked, smoking pieces of flesh and clothing flew up into the air. Light machine guns that had been set up on the wharf took care of the several dozen or so of them who had jumped into the river. The muddy waters were soaked red with blood. What a miserable scene! Will such a wretched scene ever be seen again in this world?”
- Tokuda Ichitaro (23 year-old Japanese soldier): At Xiaguan (the district in Nanking that is next to the Yangtze River), I saw a large number of bodies floating on the Yangtze River. Corpses were continuously being tossed into the river until the water was full of them. While transporting the corpses, we noticed that there were so many corpses on the road that automobiles could not drive through. Basically, it was a road made of dead bodies.”
How and Why It Happened? How could humans use such atrocious treatments toward other humans? Although a complete explanation may not be found from the interview statements, they do mention many of the reasons.
- Teramoto Juhei (24 year-old Japanese soldier): “We used to look down on the Chinese, calling them chanko.”
- Zhang Xiuying (23 year-old Chinese female survivor): “The Japanese didn’t consider the Chinese as human beings.”
- Teramoto Juhei (24 year-old Japanese soldier): “Even though they were aware of the fact that soldiers were going out and grabbing girls as they pleased, the officers tacitly provided their consent by remaining silent. As men, we couldn’t stand it – not being able to sleep with a woman for six months or a year.”
- Matsumura Yoshiharu (24 year-old Japanese soldier): “Even though we were the victors, we were actually extremely cruel. Back then, we did not think of the Chinese as human. When you enter another country and perform such acts of cruelty, it is a war of invasion.”
- Suzuki Rikio (24 year-old Japanese soldier): “We received the order, ‘Shoot’ from our platoon commander, but I think that the order (to kill any Chinese) came from our division commander.” “Thinking at the time that it was normal for those who had been defeated at war to be treated in this way, that it couldn’t be helped.”
- Wang Jinfu (10 year-old Chinese female survivor): “The Japanese killed us like insects.”
- Itsuki Makio (22 year-old Japanese soldier): “At that time, the Japanese thought of themselves as superior and did not treat the Chinese as human beings.” … “I heard that our company commander had issued an order saying, ‘Once you’re in Nanjing, robbery, rape, and murder are allowed.'”
What Is Its Significance for the Future? More than 70 years have elapsed since the end of WWII and close to 80 years have elapsed since the Nanking Massacre, yet Japan still has not officially acknowledged and apologized for the massive and inhumane atrocities that the Japanese Imperial Army inflicted all over Asia. Yes, some parts of the Japanese government have on a few occasions voiced their regret over those past actions, but invariably, those announcements were negated by subsequent announcements by the Japanese government. In addition, no such announcement has ever come from her National Diet, the highest organ of state power in Japan. Furthermore, the actions of the Japanese government are far from being consistent with such acknowledgment and apology. For example, Japan’s prime ministers have paid tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 convicted and executed Japanese WWII Class A War Criminals are enshrined, and Japan for many years has revised her textbooks so that generations of their students would know nothing about this part of history.
China and Japan are the second and third largest economic powers in the world. True friendship between China and Japan are crucial for establishing peace in Asia, as well as in the world. However, if such important part of history is denied, then there could not be true friendship and peace between China and Japan.
That is why Tamaki’s work is so important. Her reconstruction and correlation of the testimonies of former Japanese soldiers who were stationed in Nanking and Chinese survivors of the Nanking Massacre have established irrefutable evidence on the existence and scale of the Nanking Massacre. Here are examples of their testimonies:
- Yang Mingzhen (7 year-old Chinese female survivor): “In addition to the damage I suffered personally, I also witnessed many other Chinese being killed by Japanese soldiers. There were dead bodies all over town. Japanese soldiers would rape any woman they caught sight of, kill any man they found. What on earth makes them think they can say that the Nanking Massacre never happened!”
- Deguchi Gonjiro (23 year-old Japanese soldier): “What the newspapers often refer to as the ‘Nanjing Massacre’ is an indisputible fact, and people who deny this are lying.”
- Teramoto Juhei (24 year-old Japanese soldier): “The Nanking Massacre happened. I saw it with my own eyes.”
- Zhang Xiuying (23 year-old Chinese female survivor): “I saw those things with my own eyes. On no account am I telling lies. I hear that there are people and politicians in Japan who say that the Nanking Massacre is a fabrication, but I [honestly] suffered these kinds of horrendous experiences, even having my daughter burnt to death. I am still enduring hardship in my daily life. I have a crooked finger as a result of the stabbing and I still can’t raise my arm, even sixty or more years later, after that beating with the rifle butt. How can Japanese people still say that the Nanjing Massacre is a fabrication?”
- Zhang Xiuhong (11 year-old Chinese female survivor): “We are all brothers, whether Japanese or Chinese. Please don’t do bad things like the Japanese Army did before. Japan and China want to cooperate in a spirit of friendship. I want young people [in each country] to come together, to study, to work, and to build peaceful nations. Please don’t do anything bad.”
- Mitani Sho (18 year-old Japanese soldier): “Until now, I had no opportunity to tell my story. After sixty years, I can finally give my testimony. I am extremely grateful. As a Japanese, I often reflect deeply on this episode. Today, however, many Japanese deny that the Nanjing Massacre or military sexual slavery took place. What kind of people are they? These people are trying to find an excuse to slowly change the interpretation of the Japanese constitution. Today, they are establishing a large military, and completely revamping the armed forces. In addition, they are trying to place the Japanese Army under U.S. command as an allied army that is prepared to fight American wars. Under a new security treaty and guidelines, Japan would be automatically pulled into any wars that the U.S. started. If such a situation were to arise, it is possible that events like the Nanjing Massacre could happen again. If we do not clearly state the historical truth and admit to this truth, we will not be able to establish a peaceful world for ourselves and our families.”
I want to end this article with a February 23, 2015 quote from Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito “It is important today, when memories of the war are fading, to look back humbly on the past and correctly pass on the tragic experiences and history Japan pursued from the generation which experienced the war to those without direct knowledge.”
 Torn Memories of Nanking, by Tamaki Matsuoka, ALPHA Education, 2016, ISBN 978-0-9920550-I-1 (paperback). Parts of this English book, plus other material, have previously been published in several other books in Japanese and Chinese by Tamaki Matsuoka.
 Nanjing is just another spelling of Nanking.