23 March 2006

Japanese Habits Strange to Burmese, 1942

Face slapping became a major issue. In the following year, the Japanese command, rather than prohibiting it altogether, forbade anyone below the rank of lieutenant-colonel to behave in this way.

Japanese troops indulged in other offensive activities: they bathed naked by water hydrants on the streets, to the horror of Burmese women. In some cases they were surprisingly cavalier with Buddhist shrines, stripping them of wood for cooking fires and otherwise violating them. As he escaped overland to India, Thein Pe viewed the eating and living habits of the Japanese soldiers with disgust: 'we cannot say whether or not they knew what a bed pan was. They were seen eating rice from one', he reported. A later British compilation of anecdotes noted ponderously, 'The Japanese gastronomic habits had served them ill: that they ate dogs was observed to their discredit.' But Japanese soldiers were extremely popular with the Burmese young. The troops were genuinely fond of children. The 'had made much of Burman boys and girls, given them sweet meats, taught them baseball, played football with them and taught them Japanese songs.' It was to be a 'golden age for children'. Parents worried that their offspring were being alienated from them and that the Japanese were using their children to spy on them.
SOURCE: Forgotten Armies: Britain's Asian Empire & the War with Japan, by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper (Penguin, 2004), p. 234

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