“The Psychology of a Cherry Blossom”
According to conservative estimates, the Empire of Japan lost approximately 4.5% of its population as a result of World War II. Over a decade of total war resulted in a heavy toll on the nation as more than two million people lost their lives. All around the world, the Japanese army became infamous for their ruthlessness and disposition to commit suicide instead of surrender. Indeed, it was this ‘fanaticism’ that was used as one justification for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese government emphasized the spiritual training of soldiers in order to engender a resolute, patriotic mindset. Even American military experts have agreed that the devotion of the Japanese soldier to his Emperor could not be affected by any means of psychological warfare . That this extreme psyche was so widely instilled in the Japanese army offers an interesting topic of discussion. The fervent, ideological upbringing and training of soldiers was a major cause of thousands of needless deaths during the war. Before exploring the childhood of a Japanese soldier, it is important to look at contemporary Japanese society at the time, which had been militarizing for years. As total war began, all aspects of life became connected to the military. In the pre-war years, everybody, and particularly young children who were far more amenable, would have been exposed to many new forms of indoctrination and propaganda. For example, boys at the age of three were dressed in military uniforms as opposed to the traditional haori and hakama for the Shichigosan Festival at the Yasukuni Shrine. Given the significance of this festival, this change is telling. The Shichigosan Festival originated in the Heian period and was meant to celebrate the passage of young children into middle childhood . That they began to wear military clothing reflected a society that was beginning to see young boys as soldiers . Another foreboding change was the growing popularity of Adolph Hitler. Nogi Harumichi, who joined the Patriotic Students’ Alliance at his university, recounted after the war how the youth began to idolize Hitler. News and movies honoring the Nazi regime were not just shown daily but well attended. Many people in Japan began to admire Hitler’s decisiveness and military successes, and they wished that the Japanese government would do the same. Many of these emboldened, impetuous youths eventually held positions in the military, and their adoration of the Führer and his ideologies surely affected their psychology . While society was beginning to shape everybody’s mindset, perhaps the biggest and most effective way the government inculcated nationalists was through the education system. Long before World War II began, in 1890, Emperor Meiji announced the Imperial Rescript on Education, which aimed to create a unified, national populace willing to die for the Emperor. Even the man who penned the document, Akimasa Yoshikawa, said that its primary purpose was to halt Westernization in Japan. State Shinto was promoted to serve as the bedrock of the intensifying nationalism . The document was short but clear in its message. “[One should] advance public good and promote common interests; always respect the Constitution and observe the laws; should emergency arise, offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth. ” In schools, this document became a component of every classroom. At the early age of eight, boys who were beginning their third year of primary school had a morning routine that involved facing the imperial palace, reciting the Imperial Rescript, and pledging their allegiance to the Emperor. They would also sing the national anthem, which became titled “The Emperor’s Reign.” Later on during the day, students would take Shushin classes, which served as the cornerstone of their moral...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document