Tamura Taijiro's Shunpuden

The life of a Chosenese "spring girl" in wartime China

By William Wetherall

First drafted 23 December 2014
First posted 28 August 2015
Last updated 15 September 2015

Shunpuden Published editions Tamura Taijirō Wartime setting Original story GHQ/SCAP suppresses original Kerkham on censorship Sato on censorship
Carnality in action Tamura's dedications to Chosenese women Flesh trumps race (and love conquers all)
"Would the Emperor call me a whore?"  Harumi's "racial backhand" against Japanese who made a fool of her
Shunpuden films Akatsuki no dasso (1950) "Escape at Dawn" Shunpuden (1965) "Story of a Prostitute"
Related article "Comfort women" or "sex slaves"?  Nuanced history v. victimhood hysteria

Tamura Taijirō's "Shunpuden" (1947)

How the life of a wartime "spring girl"
survived postwar censorship

One of the most important works in Japanese fiction to depict the lives of women who worked in military-attached brothels in China -- arguably better as "social history" than many radical accounts of "military sex slaves" -- is Tamura Taijirō's Shunpuden.

Contemporary readers of the published version of this story, as edited by its author and/or publisher both before and after it was supressed by censors at General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP), would have had no trouble understanding that the three most prominent women in the story were from Chōsen, and that their real names were Chosenese. Even I, when reading the first few pages of the story, without any explicit mention of Chōsen or Chosenese, could figure out that Tamura was excluding the girls from those he called "Japanese" and "Chinese" -- and he wasn't suggesting that they were Russians or native Karafutoans.

A few years later -- when studying the contributions of Chosenese novelists to Japanese-language literature during the period that Chōsen was part of Japan and Chosenese were Japanese -- I realized that Tamura's title, Shunfuden, is a giveaway to the story's Chōsen connections. For the most famous classical Korean love story is Shunkōden (春香傳, 春香伝) as it is known in Japanese -- or Chunhyangjŏn (春香傳 춘향전) in Chosenese or Korean. See Cho Kakuchu, Shunkoden, 1938, in the Fiction section of the Bibliographies section of the Konketsuji site, for details.


May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition
Tamura 1949 Tamura 1949
Font and back of cover of 1947 Ginza Shoten edition
Drawings by Migishi Setsuko (Yosha Bunko copy)
October 1949 Yakumo Shoten edition
Tamura 1949 Tamura 1949
Fronts of obi and jacket of 1949 Yakumo Shoten edition
Obi advertises book as original story of Shin Tōhō film
Akatsuki no dassō [Escape at dawn] in which
A stiffling fog enwraps two young lumps of flesh
that cut harsh army regulations into lust

Tamura 1949 Tamura 1949
Front and back of cover of 1949 Yakumo Shoten edition
Cover drawings by Okamura Fuji (Yosha Bunko copy)
Tamura 1962 Tamura 1962
1966 3rd printing of 1962 Shun'yōdō Shoten bunko edition
Jacket drawing by Naruse Kazutomi (Yosha Bunko copy)
Tamura 1965 Tamura 1965
Cover and frontispiece of 1965 Tōhōsha edition
April 1947 photo of Tamura at Yangch'üan in Shanhsi province
Boxed edition with heavy red cloth boards (Yosha Bunko)
Chō Kakuchū's Shunkōden (1938)
Cho 1938 Cho 1938
Fronts of obi and cover of 1938 Shinchōsha edition
Cover drawing by Murayama Tomoyoshi (Yosha Bunko copy)
"The emotions of the peninsular race swell like the tides"
See Cho Kakuchu, Shunkoden, 1938 for details
Kaibara Hiroshi's cartoon (1988)
Kaibara 1988 Kaibara Hiroshi
Shoo-wa owat-tennoo
[The show is over for Emperor Showa]
Tokyo: Shakai Hyōron Sha, 15 October 1988
Yosha Bunko copy
Click on image to read text

Published editions of "Shunpuden" in Yosha Bunko

1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition

2 (forward), 2 (contents), 251 (stories) ページ、初版

Tamura Taijirō
Cover drawing: Migishi Setsuko
[The life of a spring woman]
Tokyo: Ginza Shuppansha
20 May 1947, printed
25 May 1947, published
251 pages, 1st edition, paper cover

1949 Yakumo Shoten edition


Tamura Taijirō
Cover drawing: Okamura Fuji
[The life of a spring woman]
Tokyo: Yakumo Shoten
25 October 1949, printed
30 October 1949, published
268 pages, 1st edition
Paper cover, jacket, obi

1962 Shun'yōdō Shoten bunko edition

昭和昭三七年八月五日 第一刷発行
昭和昭四一年一月三〇日 第三刷発行
223ページ、カバー, 春陽文庫

Tamura Taijirō
Cover drawing: Naruse Kazutomi
[The life of a spring woman]
Tokyo: Shun'yōdō Shoten
5 August 1962, 1st printing published
30 January 1966, 3rd printing published
223 pages, cover, Shun'yō Bunko

1965 Tōhōsha boxed edition

中川一政 (題簽扉)

Tamura Taijirō
Nakagawa Kazumasa (title calligraphy)
[The life of a spring woman]
Tokyo: Tōhōsha, 1 February 1965
237 pages, hardcover, boxed

The 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition is a collection of 8 stories, beginning with the cover story, the novella Shunpuden (pages 1-69), by far the longest story.

The 1949 Yakumo Shoten edition also had 8 stories, beginning with Shunpuden (pages 5-73), followed by the second story in the 1947 Ginza Shuppansha collection. All 6 other stories are different.

The 1962 Shun'yōdō Shoten bunko edition includes 5 stories in addition to Shunpuden (pages 1-48), all of them different from the stories in the earlier anthologies.

The 1965 Tōhōsha edition features Shunpuden (pages 5-57) with 7 stories not in the earlier editions, including Nikutai no akama (1946), the first of his "nikutai triology", the second being Nikutai no mon and the third Shunpuden, all written in 1946 immediately after Tamura returned to Japan from China. The frontispiece of this edition is captioned "A portrait during the war" which is said to show Tamura at Yangch'üan (Yangquan) in Shanhsi (Shanxi) province.


Tamura Taijiro

Carnality in wartime China and postwar Japan

Tamura Taijirō (田村泰次郎 1900-1983), born and raised in Kōchi prefecture, was educated in literature at Waseda University. He was active in literary circles, and was earning his living as a novelist and writer, when the conflict between Japan and China -- later called a war -- broke out in 1937.

In 1938 Tamura visited China, and the next year he visited Manchuria and northern China with other writers, who wrote about the their observations and experiences in these areas. Many literary figures worked during the war years a journalists attached to Japanese military units.

Tamura himself was drafted in 1940 and spent the rest of the war in Shanhsi, the setting of Shunpuden. He was involved in combat and was also once captured. He had risen to the rank of sergeant by the time the war ended in 1945, but would not return to Occupied Japan until 1946.

Tamura's first novel, Nikutai no akuma or "Demons of flesh" (肉体の悪魔), about the carnality he witnessed in northern China, was serialized from September 1946 before being published as a pocket book. The story involves a relationship between a Japanese soldier and a Chinese women who had been captured as a communist guerrilla. He protects her from the brutality of other Japanese soldiers until she is returned to her village.

Tamura's most famous novel, Nikutai no mon or "Gate of flesh" (肉体の門), was published in May 1947. It immediately became a bestseller and was filmed in 1948. The novel has been the basis of four films and a TV drama as of this writing. The story involves a prostitution ring in postwar Japan in which the girls agree never to sleep with a man for free, and never to sleep with a GI.

Shunpuden, the topic of this article, also writen in 1946, and first published in 1947, is the third of Tamura's "nikutai triology".


Wartime setting of "Shunpuden"

The action in Shunpuden unfolds during the period when Japan was at war in China but not with China, at least from Japan's point of view. The Marco Polo Bridge incident north of Peiping on 7 July 1937 sparked battles between Japanese and Chinese forces in northern China. These battles took place Peiping, as Peking had been renamed in 1928 when Chiang Kai-shek moved the capital of China to Nanking, to Tientsin, where Japan had a small garrison as part of its extraterritorial concession in the port town. By 30 July 1937 Tientsin had fallen to Japan, though for a while Japan continued to respect other foreign concessions.

The three women featured in Shunpuden had been working for a brothel in Tientsin and were probably there at time.

By the middle of August Japanese forces were embroilled in hostilities in southern China, and on 12 November they controlled Shanghai, from which they pursued Chinese forces fighting defensive battles in retreat up the Yangtze river. By 13 December the Chinese capital at Nanking had fallen, and by 25 October 1938, Japanese forces controlled Wuhan, halfway of the Yangtze between Shanghai and Chungking (Chongqing), where Chiang Kai-shek had set up his government in exile. On 30 March 1940 Japan sealed an agreement with Wang Ching-wei, who as a rival of Chiang Kai-shek established his own nationalist government in the belief that China would suffer less by not fighting Japan. However, Japanese forces continued to face resistance from Chiang's nationalist forces and Mao Tse-tung's communist forces.

The main action in Shunpuden takes place at a forward Japanese army base in Yu county (盂県) in Shanhsi (Shanxi, Shansi) province (山西省). The county was at the front between Japanese units and guerilla bases. Japanese forces had invaded Shanshi province shortly after the start of hostilities in northern China in the summer of 1937. Shanhsi was a stronghold of anti-Japanese resistance, and Japanese forces continued to carry out relatiatory actions against guerillas from Japan's bases in Shanhsi. Tamura spent most of the war years serving in the Imperial Army at bases in Shanhsi.

Related to Yu county -- in 1995, four Chinese women from Yu County filed law suits against the Japanese government. They claimed they had been abducted and raped and made to work as comfort women by Japanese soldiers and demanded reparations and an apology. Three similar lawsuits followed. By 2011, all suits had been dismissed. Some of the judgments recognized the allegations but ruled that applicable laws did not permit judicial relief. The courts held that the women had no legal right to compensation, because Japan and China, when normalizing their relationship, had agreed that all grievances were settled, and because of statutes of limitations.


Original story of "Shunpuden"

Shunpuden is set at a brothel attached to a Japanese Imperial Army unit in China. The original story features Harumi (春美) from Heijō (平壤 P'yŏngyang), and Yuriko (百合子) and Sachiko (さち子) from Heian Kokudō (平安北道 P'yŏng'an Pukto), both parts of presentday DPRK. Harumi's name -- "spring beauty" -- virtually declares that she is the heroine.

The original version, which has never been published, contained a number of direct references to Chōsen, as well as the above place names. The revised published versions do not mention Chōsen, or the names of the women's home provinces, but other references make it clear that they are probably Chosenese.

The name Harumi is best known today as that of the singer Miyako Harumi (都はるみ). She was born Ri Chunmi/Harumi (李春美) in 1948 the daughter of a Chosenese father and Interior mother, in Occupied Japan, where under Japanese and Allied Occupation Law they were Japanese. She and her family lost Japanese nationality in 1952 with other Chosenese and Taiwanese, and she naturalized in 1966 as Kitamura Harumi (北村春美), thus adopting her mother's name a year after Japan and ROK normalized their relationship and Japan began to officially recognize ROK nationality among Chosenese in Japan who registered as nationals of ROK. See Public Figures in Popular Culture: Identity Problems of Minority Heroes in the Minorities section of Yosha Bunko for details.

The three girls had been sold to a brothel in the port town of Tientsin (天津 Tianjin) by their parents in what was then a fairly widely practiced form of indentured servitude. Harumi and her lover were attempting to pay off her debt when he returns to the Interior and comes back to Tientsin with a wife.

Harumi and the other two girls then volunteer for work at a brothel being set up for an Imperial Japanese Army battalion encamped at a town in a neighboring inland province. The station is under military control, and Harumi and the other girls find themselves servicing lower ranking soldiers by day and officers by night. Harumi falls in love with Private Mikami Masayoshi, but has to tolerate forceful demands by his commanding officer, Aide-de-Camp (Lieutenant) Narita. A series of events results in Mikami being confined by Narita. Mikami asks Harumi to steal a grenade from Narita to help them escape, and when she realizes he plans to kill himself, she joins him in death. Yuriko and Sachiko cremate Harumi and scatter her ashes, not knowing her real name.


GHQ/SCAP suppresses original version of "Shunpuden"

The earliest version of Shunpuden that Tamura presented for public consumption appears in the galleys for the April 1947 inagural issue of the literary magazine Nihon shōsetsu. Tamura's story headed the list of several stories by various writers, some better known or more highly acclaimed than he.

The galleys of the April 1947 issue of the magazine were "submitted [for approval of publication] in January 1947 to the book section of the Press, Publications, and Broadcasting (PPB) of the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD)" and hence Shunpuden had to have been written in 1946 (Kerkham 2001: 323-324). More specifically, they were submitted to "the Press-Publications unit of the Press, Publications and Broadcasting [sic = Broadcast] Division (PPB) of the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD)" (Kerkham 2001: 335).

A copy of the suppressed galleys survives in the Gorden W. Prange Collection at the University of Maryland, and related documents. Prange (1910-1980) was a professor of history at the University of Maryland before the Pacific War and returned to the university after serving in the US Army from 1942-1951. He was stationed in Occupied Japan, during which time he served as General MacArthur's (SCAP's) Chief Historian. After returning to his professorial post, he wrote several books about the war, based on the primary sources he had collected, and the interviews conducted with Japanese military officers and others during his stay in Japan.

Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) had a Communications Division which monitored mail, telegrams, and telephone communications, and a Press, Publications [Pictorial], and Broadcast Division that examined newspapers, books, movies, and plays. CCD was closely overseen by military intelligence officers in G-2 in the Government Section (GS), which was the military component of General Headquarters, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ/SCAP). The Civil Communication Section (CCS) was responsible for helping rebuild Japan's radio, telephone, and telegraph infrastructure. The Civil Information and Education Section (CIE) was in charge of public information, education, religion, and other sociological and cultural matters. At the time, radio was the only electronic mass medium for disseminating public information and providing educational, entertainment, and cultural programs. The offices of both CCD and CIE were located in NHK's Tokyo headquarters building, which GHQ/SCAP had requisitioned for the purpose of using radio to help democratize Japan. NHK was then Japan's principal radio broadcaster. It would not begin its television services until 1955, three years after the end of the Allied Occupation.


Eleanor Kerkham on censorship of "Shunpuden"


The most valuable examinations of GHQ/SCAP's censorship of Shunpuden in English, based on an examination of original documents in the Gorden W. Prange Collection at the University of Maryland, have been made by Eleanor Kerkham, a now retired professor of Japanese literature at the University of Maryland.

Eleanor Kerkham
Censoring Tamura's "Biography of a Prostitute" (Shunpuden)
In Rachael Hutchinson, editor
Negotiating Censorship in Modern Japan
(Routledge Contemporary Japan Series)
Routledge, 2013
264 pages, hardcover
Pages 152-175

Eleanor Kerkham
Pleading for the Body: Tamura Taijiro's 1947 Korean Comfort Woman Story, Biography of a Prostitute
In Marlene J. Mayo and J. Thomas Rimer, editors, with H. Eleanor Kerkham
War, Occupation, and Creativity: Japan and East Asia, 1920-1960
Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001
xiii, 405 pages, paperback
Pages 310-359

Kerkham reconstructs the series actions taken by GHQ/SCAP regarding the original galleys of Shunpuden. She reports that the "data sheet" attached to the galleys briefly described Shunpuden as follows (Kerkham 2001: 335).

. . . depicts the tragic story of a Korean Prostitute who committed suicide with a Japanese soldier at the China front. At the same time, it emphatically illustrates the corruption of the former Japanese army.

A two-page summary of the story attracted the attention of an officer who wrote -- "Leave this thing out! The mention of a Korean prostitute is dangerous, let alone the whole article." Kerkham points out his incorrect characterization of the "short novel" as an "article" -- suggesting that perhaps he misunderstood the intent of what he was reading.

The officer -- according to Kerkham -- struck out "hold" and wrote "SUPRESS" on the 1st page, then stamped "SUPRESS" on the 1st page and on each of the other pages. However, the image of the 1st page, which she includes in her article, shows "HOLD" block-printed in upper case, crossed out with "Sup" written in cursive lower case above it, and immediately above this, in the margin at the top of the page, a "SUPRESS" stamp.

The initial reason for the novella's suppression -- "incitement to violence and unrest". A later reason -- "criticism of Koreans". (Kirkman 2001: 335-336)

Kerkham expands on this reasoning as follows (Kerkham 2001: 340-341). Highlighting and boxed comments mine.

It happens that in 1947 occupied Japan, SCAP officials were indeed troubled by the brewing "Korean problem." Korean nationals, many of whom were forcibly brought to Japan as contract laborers during the 1930s and 40s, were demonstrating for their civil rights, seeking repatriation to Korea, or were at odds among themselves along Communist / non-Communist, South / North Korean lines. [Note 95] Although there is no indication that the problem of Korean "comfort women" was then an issue of concern to any of the parties involved -- Japanese, Korean, or American -- SCAP anxiety about "incitement to unrest" was undoubtedly real. [Note 96]. . . .

Korean nationals   Kerkham's "Koreans" in Japan were not "Korean nationals" but nationals of Japan. Under a dual status system of international and Japanese law, and SCAP's legal authority representing the Allied Powers as a multinational and transnational entity, Chosenese in Occupied Japan were "non-Japanese" only for purposes of repatriation, border control, and registration as aliens under the Alien Registration Order effective from 3 Mar 1947 -- shortly after Shunpuden was suppressed. SCAP, and the Japanese government under its own laws and SCAP's directives, regarded Koreans in Occupied Japan -- and otherwise treated them -- as possessing Japanese nationality. There was as yet no Korean state. Even after ROK and DRPK were founded in 1948, Chosenese in Japan formally remained Japanese nationals until losing Japan's nationality in 1952 when the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect. In Japan today, there are still some Chosenese.

forcibly brought to Japan   Practically all Chosenese who had come to the Interior as conscript laborers, some of them but not most forcibly brought, returned to the peninsula during the final months of the war and the early months of the Occupation. Practically all Chosenese who remained had migrated to the Interior on their own free will, and most had settled in the prefectures with families brought from the peninsula or begun after arriving in the prefectures. Not a few had been born in prefectures, and some were married to Japanese in Interior registers.

seeking repatriation to Korea   Practically all Koreans in Japan at the time had waived opportunities to return to the peninsula, either because they found life in the prefectures more to their liking, or because they thought economic, social, and political conditions in Occupied Japan were better than they were in the divided occupation zones on the peninsula. The repatriation program had ended in late 1946 and early 1947. The main "Korean problem" for SCAP authorities was the political divisiveness of Koreans in Japan, and the desire of many to be treated as "United Nations nationals" rather than as Japanese. SCAP refused to exempt Koreans in Japan from subjectivity to Japanese laws, as there were no legal grounds for treating them other than as Japanese pending treaty settlements.

Kerham goes not speculate about whether Tamura himself intended his story as a comment about the "military role" in the plight of the women he depicts in his story. She suggests that SCAP -- because of the use of Japanese women for the "'comfort' and recreation of American [sic = Allied] forces in Japan" [Note 97] -- was perhaps "not at all eager to have the topic of militarized prostitution become a 'public issue'" and hence resorted to the censorship category of "criticism of an ally" as a "more legitimate sounding" reason to suppress the work.

Both reasons -- "incitement to violence and unrest" (bōryoku to fuon no kōdō no sendō 暴力と不穏の行動の煽動) and "criticism of Koreans" (Chōsenjin e no hihan 朝鮮人への批判) -- were listed on various "Key Logs" which had been issued by the end of 1946 to supplement the Code For Japanese Press issued on 21 September 1945 by the Civil Censorship Detachment of GHQ/SCAP's G-2 section.

Kerkham on publication of May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha collection

Kerkham makes the following observation, which suggests the extent to which opinion within GHQ/SCAP could vary -- as it did on other issues as well (Kerkham 2001: page 345, note 9).

9. Tamura Tajirō, Shunpuden (Tokyo: Ginza Shuppansha, May 1947), 1. The quote ["openly describing things which stagnated in my breast during the long war years"] is taken from the preface to a collection of stories featuring what appears to be a self-censored, "de-Koreanized" version of the short novel Shunpuden. This version did, to the later surprise of the magazine section, get past the Book Unit of the Press, Publications, and Broadcasting Division (PPB) of the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) and was published in May.


Hiroaki Sato on censorship of "Shunpuden"

"Why did they bother?

A more recent look at Shunpuden in English, by the New York based writer, translator, and critic Hiroaki Sato, was published in The Japan Times, to which he often contributes his takes on contempory and historical issues.

Hiroaki Sato
Redaction of a 'comfort woman' story The Japan Times
The View From New York
3 November 2014

Sato made the following remark about the title assigned Shunpuden by GHQ/SCAP censors.

First, the title: It was translated "The Story of a Prostitute" for the Civil Censorship Detachment of the Civil Information and Education (CIE) Section of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's GHQ. A more faithful translation may be "The Life of an Alluring Woman," with the understanding that shunpu, "alluring woman," is one of the many words for prostitute.

The distinction is important for the story. The heroine is an attractive, strong-willed woman known by her Japanese name, Harumi. In her sexual dealings with a dozen men a day, she still can develop a passion for someone she likes. So, she falls in love with a low-ranking soldier named Mikami, who is naive and timid.

"Alluring" may be a clever way of representing the erotic and carnal nuances of "spring" (shun 春) -- as used in expressions like "selling spring" (baishun 売春) and "spring picture" (shunga (春画), respectively the selling one's body for sexual pleasure, and woodblock prints depicting sexual intercourse. However, "shun" is perhaps best equated with "spring" in view of the fact that the protagonist's name is "Harumi" (春美), meaning "spring beauty". The erotic associations of "spring" are clear enough in context. The "fu" or "pu" (婦) might also work better as "women" in English, since the story involves several such women while mostly concerned one of them.

Kerkahm glosses "shunpu" as follows (Kerkham 2001: 335).

Tamura's fictional vision is colored not only by his nikutai theory but also by a fantasy that he and other contemporary Japanese government officials and former military men have used used to justify their own actions and attitudes -- that these women were "prostitutes" (the term "shunpu" in Tamura's title is literally "woman of spring" or "sex woman").

The characterizations of the "spring woman" in Tamura's story a "sex woman" and "prostitute" are Kerkham's, not Tamura's. In his longer dedication to Shunpuden in the May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition (see below), as well as in the narrative of his story, Tamura puts the girls who served in the "women's army" above the "prostitutes of Japan" who stayed in the rear to cavort with the officers and disparage the rank-and-file soldiers and the women who lived and died in the fighting.

Why all the fuss?

As Kerkham describes the revisions to the original story, both those that appear to be have been inspired by GHQ/SCAP's suppression, and those that seem to have been motived by self-censorship, the modifications involve mostly the elimination of direct references such as "Korea" and "Korean" (by which he has to mean "Chōsen" and "Chosenese"), or expressions like "women who loved garlic and hot red peppers" -- and, she writes, "key terms such as racepersonal names, or foods like "and as the place of origin of some of the women, and descriptions of food

Sato, though, raises a question that Kerkham ask (Sato 2014).

Among the altered words or expressions was "Korea" or "the Korean Peninsula," which was changed to "the land that is a corner contiguous to this Continent." But such deletions and alterations would not have duped any of the readers of the day.

Then why did they bother?

As I pointed out at the outset of this article, This, of course, is the point of my observation at the outset of this article that, for 1947 readers familiar with literature, the title Shunpuden would probably have congered of recollections Shunkōden", the Chosenese classic romance that was dramatized in the Interior in 1938, and continued to be publicized by reprintings and even a bunko edition of Chō Kakuchū's play into the early 1940s. See Cho Kakuchu, Shunkoden, 1938, also in this Literature section, for details.


Carnality in action

Although Shunpuden does not use the word "nikutai" (肉体) -- "body" or "flesh" -- in its title, it counts as the 3rd work of Tamura's "nikutai triology" on the grounds that he clearly articulates his "nikutai doctrine" at the start of the story, as well as in the forward he wrote for the version first published in May 1947 by Ginza Shuppansha.


Tamura's dedications to Chosenese women

Tamara praised Chosenese women like those he portrayed in Shunpuden in at least two introductions he wrote for the story. I have transalted the entirety of the shorter edication he made to the original version of the story, which survives only in a copy of the galleys, and the first and most relevant part of his preface to the May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition. The 1949 and 1962 editions have no introductions, and the foreward to the 1965 edition does not especially concern the women in Shunpuden.

Tamura's dedication of "Shunpuden" in suppressed galleys version

Tamura's dedication in supressed galleys version of Shunpuden

The Japanese text is my transcription of the dedication shown at the top of the 1st page of Tamura's Shunpuden as shown in an image of page 24 of the galleys in Kerkham 2001 (page 337, Figure 29). The structural translation opposing the Japanese text is mine. Note that the parenthetic (作者) (Author) at the end has been struck out on the galleys, presumably by the editors of the magazine that had positioned Tamura's story first among several short stories in magazine. The sources of Kerkham's and Sato's versions are shown below (see source details above). All [bracketed remarks] are mine, except in Kerkham's translations, where they are hers. All highlighting and related comments are mine.

Original text (Tamura Taijirō)


Structural translation (William Wetherall)

I dedicate this story to the tens of thousands of Chōsen[ese] girls' [women's] army [members] who, to comfort the lower-ranking Japan[ese] Army soldiers who had been deployed in the hinterlands of the continent during the war, offered themselves to every foremost frontline [forefront] that Japan[ese] women out of fear and contempt would not approach, and ruined their youth and bodies [flesh]. (Author)

Eleanor Kerkham (2001: 311)

I dedicate this story to the tens of thousands of Korean women warriors [Chōsen joshigun] who, to comfort ordinary Japanese soldiers deployed to the Asian mainland during the war, risked their lives on remote battlefields where Japanese women feared and distained to go, thereby losing their youths and their bodies [nikutai].

Hiroaki Sato (2014)

This piece is dedicated to the tens of thousand of Korean Daughters who volunteered to every battlefront, which Japanese women would not approach with fear and contempt, in order to comfort the lowest-ranking soldiers of the Japanese Army deployed to the interiors of the Continent during the war, and who thereby destroyed their youth and bodies.

Comments on my translation

hinterland is my preference for "okuchi" (奥地), which is metaphorically a "back land" in the sense of a place that is deeper in the more remote bowels of coutry as seen from its capital, larger cities, or coastal ports. The term "naichi" (内地) is metaphorically an "interior land" of a country viewed from its coasts, ports, or peripheral territories, or outlying islands. In Imperial Japan, however, "Naichi" (内地) was also the formal name for the prefectural "Interior" jurisdiction of Japan, as distinct from Chōsen, Taiwan, and Karafuto (which joined the Interior as a prefecture in 1943). Furthermore, Chōsen, Taiwan, and Karafuto (before it joined the Interior) were informally regarded as "gaichi" or "exterior lands" relative to the Interior, although they were included with the Interior within "Japan" as a sovereign dominion, as distinct from territories that were legally under Japan's control and jurisdiction hence part of Japan's legal empire but not part of its sovereign empire.

Tamura associates the soldiers (heitai 兵隊), the women (josei 女性), and the "girls' [women's] army (joshi gun 娘子軍) with "Japan" (日本) and "Chōsen" (朝鮮). If pressed to clarify himself, he might say that he meant they were "Japanese" (Nihonjin 日本人) and "Chosenese" (Chōsenjin 朝鮮人) as "people" (jin 人), which the English "-ese" suffix is apt to imply. If further pressed, he might say that he meant "people" in a racial rather than civil sense, though at the time Chōsen was an integral part of Japan and Chosenese were Japanese by civil nationality. Japanese law has never coded "race" or "ethnicity" and hence "-jin" (-人 "-person, -ese") suffixes in Japanese legal parlance denote only a civil status based on the territorial affifiliation of a person's domicile or household (family) register. In English-speaking circles, including those in which Kerkham and Sato were writing, people habitually use "Korea" as a generic term for the peninsula and/or a government on the peninsula, and "Korean" as the attributive form of "Korea" or noun meaning the people of Korea -- even during periods when "Korea" and "Koreans" did not exist. The Allied Powers also did this, though occassionally Allied documents stated "Korea (Chosen)" as though to remind people what "Korea" actually meant in the legal world. Today these distinctions are blurred or entirely lost, which makes it difficult to civil status issues then and even now -- and difficuult to talk about people who consider themselves "Kankokujin" (Korean) or (not and) "Chōsenjin" (Chosenese) or (not and) "Korian" (Chorean).

offer oneself (teishin suru 挺身する) means simply to contribute one's body (and soul) to a cause, to step forward on one's own volition and throw oneself into doing something -- i.e., to volunteer one's labor -- never mind that there may be considerable social pressure to do so, and that not doing so may bring about severe criticism if not also social ostracization. Kerkham's "risk one's life" (see below) puts an interpretive spin on Tamura's expression rather than leave its meaning to the reader to consider in the larger context of the statement -- volunteering for work a battle zone. Elsewhere, too, she at times "over translates" (and sometimes "under translates") Tamura's phrases.

Comments on Kerkham's translation

Kerkham renders "Chōsen joshigun" in the deleted introduction as "Korean women warriors" -- which technically overtranslates "Korea women soldiers" (Chōsen women soldiers) if not "Korea women's army" (without seeing the original I cannot whether the numbers are counts of individuals or descriptions of the size of military group they comprise.

Kerkham later, intentionally (and I think playfully), morphs "women warriors" into "Amazons" in this comment (Kerkham 2001: 315).

In the novel Shunpuden, Tamura depicts his three Korean "Amazon soldiers" as having been sold to their parents to what seems to be a privately owned brothel for Japanese army officers and civilians in the city of Tianjin, Hebei Province. [Note 31]

Comments on Sato's translation

Sato makes a case for "daughters" as a translation of "joshigun" (女子軍), which he points out is "niangzijun" in Chinese and originally "referred to the army of women that Tang Emperor Liyuan's daughter Gongzhu is reputed to have raised to help her father." However, here the term "joshi" (女子) simply modifies "army" (gun 軍) without pretensions alluding to classical literature. It was used attributively in all manner of expressions to mean simply "girl" or "female" or "women's" -- as it does here.

Tamura's dedication of "Shunpuden" in May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition

Tamura's dedication in May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition of Shunpuden

The Japanese text is my transcription of the 1st paragraph of Tamura's 2-page foreword (jo 序) to the October 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition of Shunpuden (Foreword, 1). The structural translation opposing the Japanese text is mine. The translation following these panels is Kerkham's (Kerkham 2001: 340). The [bracketed titles] in Kerkham's version are hers. All highlighting, other [bracketed remarks], underscoring, and comments are mine.

Original text (Tamura Taijirō)

「春婦傳」は原稿用紙百枚の書下し作品である。戰爭の間、大陸奥地に配置せられた私たち下級兵士たちと一緒に、日本軍の将校やその情婦たちである後方の日本の娼婦たちから輕蔑されながら、銃火のなかに生き、その春と肉體を亡ぼし去つた娘子軍どれたけ [sic ~ どれだけ] 多數にのぼるだらう。日本の女たちは前線にも出て來られないくせに、将校とぐるになつて、私たち下級兵士を輕蔑した。私は彼女たち娘子軍への泣きたいやうな慕情と、日本の女たちへの復讐的な氣持でこれを書いた。「肉體の悪魔」、「肉體の門」と同じく、長い戰場生活のあひだに、自分の胸のなかに欝積したものをぶちまけたものだ。この作品の出來榮えについては、正直なところまだ私自身よくわからない。ただ私は、自分の肉體のなかに、血と硝煙の匂ひで燻しかためられた。理屈を超えた悲痛のかたまりのやうなものがあるのを、はつきりと感じてゐる。私は夢中で、それを表現しようと試みたにすぎない。

Structural translation (William Wetherall)

Shunpuden is a work of 100-pages of manuscript paper which [I] wrote [as a whole for publication without serialization]. As for the [women in the] girls' army -- who, during the war, together with us lower-ranking soldiers who were posted in the hinterland of the continent -- while being disparaged by the officers of the Japanese Army and the prostitutes of Japan in the rear who were their paramours, lived in the middle of gunfire, and destroyed their youths and bodies -- how large a number would they climb to? The women of Japan, despite not coming to the front, having become conspirators with the officers, desparaged us lower-ranking soldiers. I wrote this [story] with an affection toward [the] women [of the] girls' army such as [so strong] that I want to weep, and revengeful feelings toward the women of Japan. Like Nikutai no akuma [Demons of flesh] and Nikutai no mon [Gate of flesh], [Shunpuden is something in which I vented things that had pented up in my chest during [my] long battlefield life. As for the making of this work [as for how I managed to write this story], frankly I myself don't well understand. [It's] just [that] I, in my own body [flesh], was fumigated and hardened in [by] the smell of blood and nitrate smoke [explosives]. I clearly feel that [in my body (flesh)] there is somehing like a lump of grief [sorrow, pain] that transcends reason [logic]. I, [as] in a dream [absorbed in these feelings], merely tried to express them.

Eleanor Kerkham's translation

During the war there were undoubtedly a great many women who sacrificed their youths and their bodies, while held in contempt by Japanese officers and the Japanese prostitutes serving as their war wives in the rear guard. They lived within the range of gunfire along with us lower-ranked soldiers stationed in the Asian Mainland. The Japanese women, assuming they must not go out to the battlefields, conspired with commissioned officers and despised ordinary, lower-ranked soldiers. I have written this story with a heart-wrenching longing toward those frontline women and with feelings of disdain toward the Japanese women. This is a work in which, just as in my Nikutai no akuma [Devil of the Flesh] and Nikutai no mon [Gateway to the Body], I have openly described things that stagnated in my breast during the long war years. To tell the truth, I cannot yet judge its literary quality. I have simply felt, with a clarity deep within my flesh and bones, that there was within me a dark, inchoate cloud of grief that smoldered unbearably with the scent of blood and gunpowder smoke. Dazed, like a man lost in a dream, I knew that I must try top put my feelings into words. [Note 94]

Note 94   Tamura Taijirō, Shunpuden (Ginza Shuppansha, May 1947), preface, 1.

Comments on Kerkham's translation

Kerkham's version is a very loose and embellished adaptation, not a translation. She seems to have no respect for Tamura's powerful phrasing and metaphors. Nothing he writes requires the paraphrasing, explanation, and commentary she swaps for his straight, simple, and perfectly pitched diction. Translation is not about language -- not about Japanese and English -- but about story and narrative. Translation requires accepting that the author is the story teller, and recognizing that the reader is smart enough to understand and appreciate the way the author tells the story.

Comments on my translation

women of Japan"   Tamura does not call the prostitues who cavorted with the officers "Japanese women" but "women of Japan" -- which are obviously the "prostitutes of Japan" who are "paramours of the officers". This implies that the girls in the "women's army" are not "of Japan". In the original verious of Shunpuden, they were "of Chōsen" (Chōsen no 朝鮮の).

guru   I have underscored guru (ぐる) because Tamura stressed this expression with dot marks (bōten 傍点) beside the hiragana.

Nikutai no akuma was first collected in an anthology of Tamura's stories published in April 1947. This was reprinted the following year when another published brought out another anthology that featured the novella as its cover story. I would guess that Tamura took the title of from the Japanese translation of Le Diable au corps (The Devil in the Flesh), the 1923 novel by Raymond Radiguet that set in the Great War. The first of several Japanese translations of Radiguet's novel was published as Nikutai no akuma (肉体の悪魔) in 1930. A second translation as Oni ni tsukarete (魔に憑かれて) [Possessed by the devil] came out in 1946, the year Tamura wrote his novella. A third translation bearing the compound title Nikutai no akuma: Oni in tsukarete (肉体の悪魔:魔に憑かれて) [The devil of flesh: Possessed by a demon] came out in 1952, when the first of several movie versions of the novel, a 1947 French production, was released in Japan. At least two other translations have since been published, both as Nikutai no akuma.

nikutai   Metaphorically, all appearances of "nikutai" (肉体) in Tamura's stories should probably be consistently translated "flesh". He uses other words, such as "shintai" (身体), for body. The "body" is a corporal object, a vessel for the "flesh" that incarnates the body's carnal spirit as it were. Note that everything Tamura says about his own state of mind reflects his characterization of "carnal" condition of the women's lives. His body, too, is driven by the emotions that originate and fester in his very flesh.


Flesh trumps race (and love conquers all)

If likeable like, if hateful hate, and no regrets

The human condition of the women in "Shunpuden" is essentially one of "carnality" -- meaning that every they do is determined by the "will" of their "bodies" or "flesh" -- depending on how one wishes to translate "nikutai" (肉体). As I stated above, I characterize Tamura's "nikutai-ron" (肉体論) as "nikutai doctrine". If pressed to fully anglicize the expression, I would render it "doctine of carnality". If pushed for an explanatory translation, I would go with "carnal determinism".

Three pages into Shunpuden, following fast and dramatic establishing scenes, comes a long paragraph that essentially defines the geographical and socio-economic origins of the three women featured in the story. The paragraph also articulates Tamura's doctrine of carnality, according to which his characters live through the wills of their bodies or flesh.

In her 2001 article on Shunpuden, Eleanor Kerkham translates the entire paragraph as it appeared in the galleys submitted to GHQ/SCAP for its approval in early 1947, with her notes and commentary. However, she divides her translation into two parts, one earlier and the other later in her article. And elsewhere in her article she comments on matters related to the original and revised versions of this paragraph.

In the following table, I have first shown Kirkham's translation of the original version (left), followed by my transcription (center) and my structural translation (right) of the revised version of the paragraph.

The human condition and carnality of the women in "Shunpuden"
The galleys version and the revised published versions

Kerkham's translation

The following text my splicing together what I am calling Part 1 and Part 2 of Eleanor Kerkham's translation of the original of the above paragraph, which she read on a copy of the galleys submitted to SCAP, as preserved in the Prange Collection (Kerkham 2001, Part 1 page 316 with note 32 on page 350, and Part 2 page 333 with note 82 on page 356). All highlighting is mine. All remarks in [square brackets] and italics are Kerkham's, and all remarks in <angle brackets> are mine.


I have transcribed the versions as published in the May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition (pages 5-6) and the October 1949 Yakumo Shoten edition (pages 8-9), with reference to the 1962 Shunyōdō Shoten edition (pages 3-4) and the 1965 Tōhōsha edition (pages 8-9). The paragraph is essentially the same in all these editions, copies of which I have in Yosha Bunko.

Structural translation

The purpose of a structural translation is to preserve the phrasing and metaphors of the original as closely as possible. The "construction lines" that result from this approach to representing Japanese texts in English could easily be erased by polishing. I have chosen to leave them here for the purpose of reflecting in English as much as possible of the cadance, flow, and texture of the Japanese narrative, which unfolds very dramatically and at times is even lyrical.


I have grouped Kerkham's notes and comments, and my own notes and comments, at the end. All highlighting in the transcription and translations is mine.

Kerkham's translation Tamura's text Structural translation

<Part 1> Harumi was born in a town from the area of P'yŏngyang <sic = Heijō 平壤> and Yuko and Sachiko were born in P'yŏngan Pukto <sic = Heian Kokudō 平安北道>. All had their own Korean <sic = Chōsen 朝鮮> names, but when sold to the Akebono-chō in Tianjin by poverty-stricken families, they were given professional Japanese <sic> names [Genjina]. Having been addressed by their customers only by these names -- which they used most often even among themselves -- their real names were known only to themselves. There were even time, indeed, when it seemed they had forgotten their own names. The feelings and way of thinking of these women who had left their homes when very young and had dealt only with Japanese customers, were very Japanese-like, and they were completely unaware of anything unnatural in this. When a drunken customer hurled words of abuse at them, however, they were forced to realize that they were as of a different race from their partners. At such times they became enraged and felt that they were being torn asunder by an unspeakable despair. The sensitive customer, however, moved beyond race and made love to them gently. <Note 32> <Part 2> With a customer they disliked, they were apt to curse foully and wave him out, but with guests they liked, they would entertain lavishly, even spending money of their own. These women lived in innocent naïveté; when happy, they would belt out a song, and when sad they would cry out loud. They possessed an extraordinary passion. It was not something that came from logical reasoning, or from knowledge found in books. It was an intense life ideology that they hammered out with their bodies [nikutai]. When their body liked something, they accepted it with complete abandon, and when it disliked something, they rejected it totally. The intensity of their expression revealed the intensity of this life force within their bodies. The bodies [nikutai] of these women who ate garlic and red hot peppers, their very flesh and bones, were sharp, containing a willful intelligence. And even after strong emotions that might flare up within that willfulness, they experienced no remorse. Perhaps this was a special ethnic <sic = racial, national> characteristic of these women. <Note 82>


  As for the women, everyone was born on a corner of land adjoining this continent. All had actual names, but everyone, after coming to Akebono-chō in Tientsin (天津 Tianjin), having been sold for borrowings [wages] in advance, on account of the hardships of the lives of [their] families in [their] home villages, had been given professional names. As now they are not called by other than their professional names by customers, this has come to be the convention among even the women, and their real names are unknown but only in the women's hearts. There were times when it seemed as though they had entirely forgotten even their own real names. In the feelings and ways of thinking of the women, who [since] leaving their home villages, at the time they were girls, had come to make companions of only Japanese guests, there were likely Japanese-like aspects. They themselves were not aware of any unnaturalness in the matter of their being Japanese-like. At times, when made by a guest who was drunk and had hurled insulting words at them to feel that they were a different human being than their companion, they had feelings of having been struck and crushed by anger and an indescribable despair, but [with] guests who suited their feelings, they were able to transcend race and frankly love. Disgusting guests they reviled with dirty mouths and rebuffed, likeable guests they treated even as far as loaning money, when happy they sang songs, when sad they raised their voices and wailed -- the women had come to live true to nature in blooming profusion [simply and without care]. The women had something like a kind of excessive passion about them. It was not something that came from logic thought in the head, or from knowledge read in books. It was a fervent theory of life that the very bodies of the women had created. Things their own bodies liked they liked without limit, hateful things they thoroughly hated. The intensity of their expressions manifested the intensity of life inside the women's bodies. The bodies of the women, chewing of garlic, eating chili peppers, is a fierce will of their very bodies. And in the aftermaths of whatever passions lived in such wills as they were, there were no regrets. That might have been the women's special quality.

Kerkham's notes with my comments

Note 32Shunpuden, 16 (Ginza Shuppansha edition, 3-6 and Kōdansha, 432). In all citations of the original, I list first the Nihon shōsetsu page numbers for the apparently self-censored Ginza Shuppansha May 1947 version published as the lead story in the collection of short stories entitled Shunpuden, and next I cite page numbers for the 1953 Kōdansha edition published in the Gendai chōhen meisaku zenshū (Collection of Modern Masterpieces of Fiction) Series, vol. 13, Tamura Taijirō, "Shunpuden," 431-466. I note differences in the censored and published versions when relevant. It should be noted that even in the 1953 Kōdansha edition, Tamura does not return to his original version. That is to say, he allowed the story to remain de Koreanized even after the Occupation -- and censorship, presumably -- had ended. Note, for instance, that in the suppressed Nihon shōsetsu version of the passage translated here, Tamura names the specific areas in Korea where the women were born, while in the 1947 and the later 948, 1949, and 1953 published versions, he states simply that "all were born in the corner of the peninsula on the Asian Continent." He excises the word Korean (Chōsen no) again when mentioning the women's names: "All had Korean names" is altered to read "all had their own real names." Finally, and perhaps most significantly, in the Nihon shōsetsu version, Tamura uses the term "minzoku" (ethnicity, race) in the phrase "atte to wa chigau minzoku no hitori de aru koto wo oboesaserarete" (forced to realize that they were of a different ethnic origin from their partners), while in the published versions the word "minzoku has been eliminated: "aite to wa chigau ningen no hitori de aru koto wo oboesaserarete" (forced to feel that they were a different sort of human being from their partners). As discussed below, the version without any mention of Korea or use of key terms such as race passed the book censorship inspection and was published in an anthology of Tamura's stories in May 1947.

While minzoku is changed to ningen in the phrase Kerkham cites, it survives in the phrase minzoku o koete in all published versions. Immediately following her citation of Part 1, Kerkham makes the following comment about minzoku (Kerkham 2001: 316).

The use of the phrase "minzoku wo koete" (surmount, move beyond "race," or more accurately ethnicity), hints at the narrator's own sense of ethnic superiority, feelings that, nevertheless, could somehow be overcome by a customer's sensitivity toward the women.

I do not at all get the impression that Tamura's use of "minzoku" implies a sense of ethnic superiority on the part of the narrator. If anything, the narrator is using "minzoku" as a frank and contemporary expression of recognition that Chosenese (Chōsenjin 朝鮮人) were of a different "nation" than the "Japanese" in the story. Never mind that, at the time, Chosenese were Japanese, and the "Japanese" in the story were actually (Naichijin 内地人). And never mind that, in the racialist ideology of the times, the Interior (Naichi) and Chōsen were envisioned as a single body (Nai-Sen ittai 内鮮一体) on the assumption that their people shared a common ancient ancestry -- namely that of the Yamato race (Yamato minzoku 大和民族). Tamura is narrating in a voice that was probably common to many people, and was more certainly more in keeping with the postwar mood in which Chōsen had been liberated from Japan, and presumably Chosenese had been liberated from their status as Japanese -- thought that, too, was not entirely true at the time Tamura was writing. I also get the impression that the narrator is totally sympathetic to all characters that deserve sympathy, regardless of their putative race.

As for Kerkham's glosses of minzoku -- as "ethnicity, race" or as "'race', or more accurately ethnicity" -- they simply don't hold. The term is never used in any sense of having a "-quality" or even of designating an "origin". At the time, "minzoku-sei" (民族性) was used to mean "nationality" as the quality of being part of a "minzoku" (民族) conceived as a "nation" in the racioethnic sense or as a "race" in the ethnonational or ethnological sense. Today "minzokusei" is commonly associated with "ethnicity". But "minzoku" as used by Tamura is clearly a racioethnic "nation" or ethnonational "race". And on purely morphological grounds, "ethnicity" and "ethnic" and "ethnic origin" are impossible translations.

Note 82Shunpuden, 16 (6; 432). As mentioned earlier, the phrase "who ate garlic and red hot pepper" were deleted in Tamura's self-censored version of the story published in May 1947. The sentence in this passage, "perhaps this was a special ethnic characteristic of these women," was also deleted in the published versions."

This is not true. Both phrases Kerkham states were deleted in the published versions appear in all published versions, beginning with the May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition.

Wetherall's notes and comments

Kerkham does not show a facsimile or transcription of galleys of parts of the story which she has translated. My impression from her description of the galleys, and from her translation of the above paragraph, in comparison with my copies of published versions, is that the text published version -- except for the very few phrases that she has noted were deleted or rewritten -- is essentially the same as the text of the galleys version.

I get the impression from Kerkham's translation that she prefers freer, more prosaic, and even interpretive adaptations that ignore the semantic and stylistic details of the original in favor of something she feels is a better way to tell the story in English. She may also have been thinking about present-day readers and style books and even political correctness -- hence her representations of proper nouns according to external (non-Japanese) rather than internal (Japanese) standards. Note, for example, her romanizations of Chōsen place names in Sino-Korean rather than in Sino-Japanese -- though Tamura probably wrote the names thinking of their Sino-Japanese readings, and only readers family with Chosenese readings would have read them otherwise. Even the women, when speaking Japanese, might have read given their Chosenese names in Sino-Japanese. Note also rendering of "Chōsen no" as "Korean" -- though "Korea" did not then exist" at the time of the story.

actual names (hontō no namae 本當の名前)   This is a paraphase for "real name" (see below).

having been sold for borrowings [wages] in advance (zenshaku de kawarete kite 前借で買はれてきて)   Tamura has very clear contemporary grasp of the socio-economic conditions that, historically, movitated some families to sell a child or two -- a boy or a girl -- into a condition of indentured servitude for an amount of money that the broker would pay the family in advance, against the wages that the indentured worker was expected to earn the owners of the contract over a period of time. These arrangements were legal, so long as they weren't deceptive. Not a few women who became professional geisha or pleasure girls began their careers through such arrangements. A contract was often a bond, and could be bought by another person. The bonded or indentured person could even be bought out of debt and thus be free, though there might be conditions on their freedom. A women might be bought out the houses in which she worked by a patron, who she might marry or continue to relate with as a mistress.

professional names (genji-na 源氏名)   This refers to a professional alias, such as those adopted by geisha, pleasure girls, cabaret hostesses, bar girls, and men at host clubs -- in this case prostitutes at brothels. "Genji" alludes to Genji in Murasaki Shikibu's Genji monogatari, whose lovers have all been given simple and poetic names by which they are known in the tale.

real names (honmyō 本名)   A person's "real name" is the person's legal name -- in this case, the names of girls according to their domicile or household registers.

transcend race (minzoku o koete 民族を超えて)   The term "minzoku" refers to a "nation" conceived as a "racioethnic" collectivity. It is commonly used in terms like "ethnology" (minzokugaku 民族学) to denote the study of the ethnic aspects of a population regarded as an "ethnos" or, in some case, a "Volk". It is also translated, as here, "race" in the somewhat older anthropological sense of "French race" or "German race". At the time of Tamura's story, Chosenese (and Taiwanese also) were actually Japanese, on account of their being nationals and subjects of Japan, and official statitics and other government reports usually showed breakdowns of "countrymen" (hōjin 邦人) by their civil status as Japanese, which was based entirely on the territorial affiliation of their household registers -- the prefectural Interior or Naichi (内地), Taiwan (台湾), Chōsen (朝鮮), or Karafuto (樺太) until 1943 when it was integrated into the Interior as a prefecture. Socially, though, many people continued to "racilaize" people according to their putative "ethnic" characteristics -- which were not necessarily predicated on or predictable from their formal civil status, since people changed their territorial registers if were married or adopted into a family in another territory. Had, for example, one of the girls in Tamura's story been indentured to an Interior family as a domestic servant or maid, and had the family then wanted to adopt her as a daughter, and been permitted to do so, the girl would migrate from her biological parents' Chōsen register to her adoptive parents' Interior register, and hence she herself would cease being Chosenese and become an Interiorite. Still -- in racialist terms -- some people might have perceived her to be of the "Chōsen minzoku" or "Chōsen race", and she herself might have continued to harbor such a racioethnic or "national" consciousness. The point in Tamura's story, though, is that true love conquers all perceptions of racial or national or caste or class differences.

raised their voices and wailed (oogoe o agete nakiwameki 大聲をあげて泣きわめき)   This -- like chewing garlic and eating peppers -- alludes to Chosenese (Korean) behavior. Wailing is culturally learned expression of grief at funerals, but may characterize other expressions of emotional pain.

fervent theory of life (hageshii seikatsu riron 烈しい生活理論)   This of course is Tamura's tradmark "carnality doctrine" (nikutai-ron 肉体論) of life, in which he attributes most human behavior to bodily needs, centering on sexual desires. Shunpuden immediately followed his first and second novels -- Nikutai no akuma (肉体の悪魔) or "Demon of the flesh (the body)]", which was also set in Shanhsi province (山西省) in wartime China, and his best known novel Nikutai no mon (肉体の門) or "The gate of flesh (the body)", which was set in the world of prostitution in postwar Occupied Japan. It was rivaled by a not entirely different "doctrine of decadance" (daraku-ron 堕落論), most fervently articulated by Sakaguchi Angō (坂口安吾 1906-1955), who saw Japan tail-spinning in moral decline after the war, but also before the war, owing to the materialism and narcissism that came with modernization, Europeanization and Americanization, that lacked moral anchors.


"Would the Emperor call me a whore?"

Harumi's "racial backhand" against Japanese who made a fool of her

Kerhkam takes too many liberties in some of her summaries of Tamura's narrative. Rather than show readers what Tamura writes, let them participate in his drama without her running commentary, and then step back and ask what he was doing in the story -- she front loads her presentation with her own story, in the course of which she lifts things out of Tamura's story to suit her own viewpoint -- and not infrequently she garbles the details.

Her overview of Harumi's comments about the emperor is a good example of what she does (Kerkham 2001: pages 318-319 and notes, all [bracketed remarks] and highlighting mine).

Kerkham's representation

. . . the narrator vividly exposes the assumption of ethnic superiority [sic = Kerkham's characterization] expressed in the attitude of the officer [who would become Harumi nemesis] toward his Korean sex slave [sic = Kerkham's characterization]. On the occasion of their first meeting, for instance, Harumi has gone to bed for the night with another officer [sic = a sergeant]. The higher-ranking second lieutenant, Aide-de-Camp Narita, demands admittance. Harumi refuses to allow him in and Narita kicks open her door [sic = Harumi opens the door], forcing her previous guest to leave [sic = and orders her guest (= the sergeant) to leave]. She continues to resist, however. "Get out of here! I won't be with a damn fool; I won't have you!" "'Even if he murders me,' she thinks, 'I will not become the partner of this officer.'" Yet the man will not be deterred. He hisses this slur: "Damn fool! How dare a low-class Korean whore say such a thing?" [Note 41] Shaking with anger, the spirited Harumi comes back with a tactic that had, back in the city, silenced unpleasant customers. "Korean? You wonder how a Korean can say such a thing, but we have the same emperor." This bit of logic sends the officer into a rage and he slaps Harumi down: "You fool, how could the emperor know the likes of one such as you! You utter the word 'emperor'! How dare a dirty slut like you say such a thing?" [Note 42] . . .

Note 41 (page 352)   In the published versions, "low-class Korean prostitute" (Chōsen pii no bunzai de nani o iu ka) (Chōsen is written in katakana in the Nihon shōsetsu [galleys] version) is changed simply to "low-class prostitute" (Pii wo bunzai de nani o iu ka): ibid., 22 (24-25; 440).

Kerkham does not say how "Chōsen" was written. Before Tamura's time it would have been "Teusen" (テウセン), but by his generation most people were writing "Chousen" (チヨウセン). Latter writers have written it "Choosen" (チヨ―セン) to suggest a degrogatory tone. Nor does Kerkham say whether "Chōsen" was linked to "pii" (ピイ) -- meaning "prostitute" -- with a mid-dot (・) -- but then such details were not in her brief.

Note 42 (page 352)   Ibid. Again the references to "Chōsen are deleted in the published versions. In the 1968 Kōdansha version, Harumi's comeback to the officer becomes "A whore? You call me a whore? Would the emperor call me that? We have the same emperor!" (Pii, piitte, baka ni suru ka. Tennō Heika ga sore iu ka. Tennō Heika onaji zo), 440.

Kerkham's remarks that Harumi's comeback "became" the statement she cites is very hard to follow in her presentation since she doesn't show the original text. However, the revision she cites had taken place by no later than the 1962 edition. See my translation of Harumi's remarks about the emperor in their fully context below for further details.

Tamura tells the story rather differently.

Harumi quickly becomes very popular and everyone wants to play (asobu 遊ぶ) with her. The lieutenant who barges in to her room in the following scene has only heard of her by reputation, but is determined to have his turn, even if it means pulling rank and breaking in line.

Tamura uses "asobu" (遊ぶ) in its totally conventional sense of "play" or "hang out" or "have fun" -- whether kids with toys in room or on a swing in a park, or high school students at a fastfood shop after school, or an office girl in bed with her married supervisor at a love hotel. My structural approach is to translated the word just "play" and leave its nuances to the reader. The word "yūjo" (遊女) is an old term in Japanese for "pleasure girl" while "playgirl" is "pureigaaru" (プレイガール).

Midnight has come on the 5th night and someone pounds on Harumi's door so hard it seems it might break. The sergeant major, who was there for the night, is sleeping in her bed. She asks who's calling and says she has a guest. "I don't care, open up", the caller says and starts kicking the door. She can see his eyes peering through a space between the door and the frame. He kicks the door harder, calls her a fool, and worrying he'll break the door, she releases the catch and opens it herself. Harumi tries to block the door, but the tall officer pushes her aside and barges in. It was the lieutenant. He sees the man on Harumi's bed and orders him to get up. The sergeant, pretending he was asleep, opens his eyes and lifts his head from the pillow. The lieutenant recognizes him, and knowing he'd been permitted to stay the night, says, "You've already played, right? So change with me (mō, asondan daro, na, kawatte kure yo もう、遊んだんだろ、な、かわつてくれよ). The sergeant's acknowledgment of the lieutenant's request was weak, but seeming resigned about it, he stands to leave. "Why are you leaving? You can't leave," Harumi says, taking his arm, while glaring at the lieutenant. "You leave (anta wa kaere yo あんたはかえれよ)," she says to the lieutenant. "I'm not playing with you." The narrator remarks that Harumi doesn't care if she's killed, she's not going to take the officer as a partner. (1947: 18-21, 1949: 22-24).

The confrontation escalates like this (1947: 21, 1949: 24-25).

Fools, prostitutes, and the emperor
Harumi's first encounter with Lieutenant Narita






"You fool. What's a mere whore got to say [about who she plays with]."

Hearing this, Harumi's head burned, and her body (shintai 身体) shook, with such rage she no longer knew what was what.

"You make a fool [of me], saying [I'm] a prostitute, a prostitute? Would his Majesty the Emperor say that? [You're saying it] is the same [thing]."

She was excited, and fitfully coughed, but she knew the effects of these words. They were not words that Harumi had discovered, but how many times had the women come to use them toward Japanese, at all manner of times, at all manner of places. This was even something of a racial backhand. When [they] said this most Japanese fell silent.

"Fool. Would the Emperor know [women] like you?" the lieutenant said, and suddenly pushed her away [sent her flying]. "You talk about the Emperor? Defiled [women] like like you, you [think] it's okay to say something like that?"

Comments on narrative

I have transcribed 天皇陛下がそれいふ (Tennō Heika ga sore iu ka) as published in the May 1947 Ginza Shuppansha edition. The October 1949 Yakumo Shoten edition has "ga" for "ka" -- clearly an proofreader's oversight of a typesetter's error (or someone distributed the "ga" to the "ka" box in the type case).

Making fools of prostitutes

The 1962 Shunyōdō Shoten bunko edition (page 15) has the following text for tthe line Kerkham cites from the 1968 Kōdansha edition. The 1965 Tōhōsha boxed edition (page 20) is the same except it lacks the comma between "pii" and "tte" and writes "baka" in kanji rather than katakana.


Pii, pii, tte, baka ni suru ka. Tennō Teika ga sore iu ka. Tennō Heika, onaji zo

Saying prostitute, prostitute, you make a fool of me? Would his Magesty the Emperor say that? His Magesty the Emperor, [he's] the same [as us].

The punctuation and orthography reflects later standards. The insertion of "His Majesty the Emperor" as the topic "the same" appears to be an attempt to clarify the meaning of the original statement, which is not clear.

Racial backhanding

In another example of the importance of the "minzoku" (racioethnic "nation", ethnonational "race") metaphor in his depiction of the differences between the "women" (kanojo-tachi) and the "Japanese" (Nihonjin), Tamura characterizes Harumi's remarks about the emperor as a sort of "racial backhand" the women, and apparently other Chosenese, use in common to silence Japanese who would disparage them.


Shunpuden films

The 1st movie version, made in 1949 and released in 1950 by Shin Tōhō (新東宝), corrupted the original story, beginning with its title, "Akatsuki no dassō" (暁の脱走), or "Escape at Dawn" as it is generally known in English. The film was directed by Taniguchi Senkichi (谷口千吉 1912-2007) from a script he wrote with the help of Kurosawa Akira (黒澤明 1910-1998). After squabbling over how to handle the Chosenese elements that remained in the novel, and the manner in which the lovers died, the film turned Tamura's story into a very different kind of drama.

The 2nd film adaptation, made and released in 1965 by Nikkatsu (日活) and directed by Suzuki Seijun (鈴木清順 b1923), attempted to return Tamura's story to its novelistic roots, but ended up corrupting it in different ways -- again without its original Chosenese elements.


Akatsuki no dasso 1950 Akatsuki no dassō < Escape at Dawn >
1950 adapation of Shunpuden by Taniguchi Senkichi
Yosha Bunko scan of Taiwan DVD edition

Akatsuki no dassō 1950 (1949)

"Escape at Dawn"

In this first film adaptation of Tamura Taijirō's Shunpuden, Harumi is played by Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口淑子), better known on Broadway and in Hollywood as Shirley Yamaguchi (シャーリー・ヤマグチ), but best known as the Manchuria-born singer and actress Ri Kōran (李香蘭 Lee Hsiang Lan). At the time Kaihara Hiroshi's book of lampoons on the dying "emperor system" came out in 1988, she was, as he describes her in his article on "Chosenese ianfu" (Chōsenjin ianfu 朝鮮人慰安婦), "none other than the Liberal Democratic Party's number-one talent Diet member Ōtaka Yoshiko (大鷹淑子)." See Kaibara 1988 below for details.

The conventional English version of has "escape" for "dassō" (脱走), which means "desert" in a military context. The terms "escapee" and "deserter" are respectively "dassōsha" (脱走者) and "dassōhei" (脱走兵) in Japanese.


The women in the movie are not represented as "comfort women" (ianfu 慰安婦) but as "consolation unit personnel" (imondan-in 慰問団員). An "imondan" (慰問団) was more broadly a "group" or "troupe" of entertainers, especially singers and dancers, sometimes famous, sometimes not. The women were not obliged to sexually fraternize with soldiers, though they might be courted by officers or higher ranking cadre, or even woo those they liked.

The graphs imon (慰問) denote a "consolation inquiry" in a sense similar to "mimae" (見舞い). As used in the military, it meant something intended to "comfort" or "console" or "cheer up" or "soothe" or "amuse" or "relieve" soldiers in the field. An "imonbukuro" (慰問袋) was a "comfort bag" or box of amenities given a soldier, especially in a warzone, where sweets, cookies, and other such items were in short supply.

The term "imondan" also seems to have been used, as in this movie, to refer to groups of women who entertained soliders at club houses where drinks were served. In the course of such work, the women were subjectable to pressure to sleep with officers and cadre who flaunted their authority and desire.

By some accounts, this movie had a difficult birth, as its director, producer, and writers disagreed over how faithfully it should adhere to the original. The double-suicide ending became a double-murder, which villified the military more than the original. The characterization of the prostitutes in the original story as "imodan-in" rather than as "ianfu" was most likely contrived as a way to increase the audience's sympathy for the heroine, rather than as a gesture to "censorship" -- since there is no evidence that depicting "ianfu" was taboo.

The story

In this first movie version of Shunpuden, Mikami, a gentle Superior Private stationed at a forward Imperial Army base in a fortified village in China, is wooed by Harumi, a singer, who would rather fraternize with him than be forced to sleep with the vulgar and violent adjutant (aide-de-camp). The adjutant, who is jealous of her feelings toward Mikami, sends him on a mission into territory controlled by Chinese resistance forces. He is wounded and captured, then released and returns to the base, where the adjutant and some others treat him badly. Harumi persuades him to desert, and in disguise they join a group of Chinese who are permitted to leave the village. The adjutant, who learns they are missing, does not spot them until they are some distance from the gate of the walled village. But they are within the range of a machine gun mounted on a turret near the gate, and the adjuctant himself mans the gun and fires at them until they they are mortally wounded. As they die, Harumi extends her hand toward Mikami's but fails to reach it.

The film

Akatsuki no dassō was produced and distributed by Shin Tōhō (新東宝), a 1947 split-off Tōhō (東宝) that became known for its "exploitation" films. The "New Toho Company" lasted until 1961, when it went bankrupt, though parts of its operations were reincarnated in other companies, including Shin Tōhō Eiga (新東宝映画), which made a name for itself as a major producer of "pink" or "sexploitation" films.

Internet film databases give the release date as 8 January 1950, but the Akatsuki no dassō was first screened in 1949. The original release is said to have run 115 minutes. The Taiwan DVD release, which has the original Japanese soundtrack and options for Japanese or Chinese subtitles, runs 110 minutes.

1950 Akatsuki no dassō staff and cast credit
監督 Direction
製作 Production
原作 Originator
脚本 Scenario

撮影 Cinematography
音楽 Music
美術 Art
照明 Lighting
谷口千吉 Taniguchi Senkichi
田中友幸 Tanaka Tomoyuki
田村泰次郎 Tamura Taijiro
谷口千吉、黒澤明 Taniguchi Senkichi
Kurosawa Akira
三村明 Mimura Akira
早坂文雄 Hayasaka Fumio
松山崇 Matsuyama Takashi
大沼正喜 Ōnuma Masaki
三上上等兵 Superior Private Mikami
副官 Adjutant (Aide-de-camp)
中隊長 Company Commander
小田軍曹 Sergeant Oda
山本上等兵 Superior Private Yamamoto
木村軍曹 Sergeant Kimura
小島伍長 Corporal Kojima
野呂軍曹 Sergeant Noro
桑島軍曹 Sergeant Kiwashima
春美 Harumi
百合 Yuriko
薫 Kaoru
恵子 Keiko
伸枝 Nobue
立花 Tachibana
池部良 Ikebe Ryō
小沢栄 Ozawa Eitarō
清川荘司 Kiyokawa Soji
伊豆肇 Izu Hajime
柳谷寛 Yanagiya Kan
田中実 Tanaka Minoru
島田友三郎 Shimada Yūsaburō
田中春男 Tanaka Haruo
山室耕 Yamamuro Kō
山口淑子 Yamaguchi Yoshiko
利根はる恵 Tone Harue
若山セツ子 Wakayama Setsuko
立花満枝 Tachibana Mitsue
安雙三枝 Yasufusa Saegusa
深見泰三 Fukami Taizō

Kyoko Hirano on "Akatsuki no dasso"

Kyoko Hirano
Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo
(Japanese Cinema Under the American Occupation, 1945-1952)
[Smithsonian Studies in the History of Film and Television]
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992
365 pages, illustrated, hardcover (paperback 1994)



Shupuden 1965 Theater poster (Yosha Bunko) Story of Prostitute 1965 DVD release with English titles
Shupuden 1965 Laser Disc release Story of Prostitute 1965 VHS release with English titles

Shunpuden 1965

"The Story of a Prostitute"

This 1965 Nikkatsu production, directed by Suzuki Seijun (鈴木清順 b1923), is the the second film adaptation of Tamura Taijirō's Shunpuden. Harumi is played by Nogawa Yumiko (野川由美子), who played Maya, one of the prostitutes in Suzuki's direction of Nikkatsu's 1964 remake of Tamura's Nikutai no mon.

Known in its English-titled release as "Story of a Prostitute", this version of Shunpuden is supposed to be truer to the novel, but I have not yet seen it. What I have pieced together about the film is based on an image of a poster.