Nambu World: Display At My Museum Lecture, January 10, 2008

    On January 10, 2008 I gave an invited one-hour lecture at The Military Museums, a single complex in Calgary that houses several museums representing different regiments and branches of service. It is an official Canadian Department of National Defence facility whose website is at The Military Museums - Home.  My topic was "Sending Japanese Soldiers Off to War: The Artifacts and Culture Behind Letters from Iwo Jima". I set up a small display of related artifacts in the museum foyer. I only had about half an hour to set up, so it had to be simple. Here is an overall shot. The banners on the right are send-off banners for a Mr. Kurita (sponsored by a billiard hall) and a Mr. Ishikawa (sponsored by his employer, Nippon Life Insurance). The banner on the right is a welcome home (gaisen="triumphant return") banner for a Mr. Maekawa, who served in the Manchurian Incident (banner sponsored by a dry goods store). You can read more about banners at Nambu World: Japanese Enlistment Banners. Detailed photos and descriptions of the background panels and cases follow below.


        Starting from the left, the first background panel is a good luck flag for a Mr. Sato. This one probably dates from 1942 or later as it has the slogan "Defeat England and America". More interestingly, however, it also has a rather long slogan that translates roughly as "achieve a state of mind where, upon seeing the enemy, you will certainly kill him". Sort of Zen-like. You can read more about these flags at Nambu World: Japanese Good Luck Flags. Below this was a case with senninbari (thousand stitch belts), shown in more detail below. I did not do the kind of detailed labeling I usually do because I was standing with the display the whole time it was accessible to the audience doing a running commentary . 


        Here is a more detailed shot of the contents of that case. On the left is a small (<24 inch) senninbari with the slogan mamore gunkoku, "protect our country at war". (You can read more about senninbari at Nambu World: Senninbari (Thousand Stitch Belts). Just to the right of that at the bottom of the photo is a small wallet that was made in the field from a comfort bag (imonbukuro, which is what the three characters on it say). The senninbari came in that wallet. The large white senninbari is from a military doctor with the rank of captain and has the date "an auspicious day in August, 1937". In the upper right is an unfinished senninriki (like a thousand stitch belt but with the character meaning "power" repeated instead of stitches. It has the very common slogan "bu-un-cho-kyu", "eternal good luck in war". The same slogan is on the senninbari in the lower right, which belonged to a Mr. Kuwahara. It appears to have been taken in the field as it has blood stains and a US Army Intelligence inspection stamp.   


        The middle section of the display had a panel explaining the significance of good luck flags and thousand-stitch belts and a case with the flag and other effects of a Corporal Ogita, who was killed near Shanghai in 1938 (see below for more details).  


        This case houses some of the effects of Corporal Ogita (I have a number of his other items as well). The flag in the background has the usual "eternal good luck in war" slogan in the upper right and the slogan yamato damashii (Japanese spirit) across the top. His green service record bag (hokobukuro) is in the centre along with a wooden door badge indicating his family has a son at the front, and booklets about draft rules and the responsibilities of a reservist. Along the right is the red sash he wore at his send-off ceremony, his service record book (top) and the ribbons his bereaved parents wore at his funeral (bottom).    


        The far right case had the flag of a Mr. Kameuchi, which bears the other very common wartime slogan jinchu hokoku (loyalty and national service). The items in the case are described below.   


        This case has a variety of small items. At the left are sashes from the Women's Patriotic Association and National Defense Women's Associations along with membership badges from those groups (women's groups organized the preparation of the good-lick items and were prominent participants in the send-off parades and related ceremonies). Below the blue Japan Women's Association patch to the right of the sashes are a membership badges from that organization as well as one from the Seinendan (Youth Group; sort of like a militarized version of the Boy Scouts) and early and late versions of the Imperial Reservists' Association badges. The four rows of five small items each are comprised of o-mamori, good luck charms frequently purchased at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples even today (the ones shown here all have military slogans on them and seem to date from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05). The document in the upper centre/right is a receipt for conscript life insurance, with the insured conscript badge below it. There are several period photos and in the lower right corner, Imperial Gift cigarettes (given to soldiers as a gift from the Emperor when returning from a successful campaign), a small silver box commemorating gaisen (triumphant return) from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 and a sake cup with a flag of Manchuria that is marked to commemorate triumphant return from the Manchurian Incident of the early 1930s.   


        Finally, here I am with my display. The talk was a success, with about 25 people present, including the Consul-General of Japan. This level of attendance seems to be about average for the lecture series. I got this opportunity due to a fellow member of the Military Collectors' Club of Canada who put me in touch with the organizer. After I retire in a few years, I hope to devote myself full-time to speaking and writing on topics related to the Imperial Japanese military, so I was very pleased to be offered this chance to get started on building my reputation.   


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Last updated: January 17, 2008. All contents are copyright Teri unless otherwise specified and may not be used elsewhere in any form without prior permission.