Work and Lifecourse in Japan

By Samuel Coleman; Theodore F. Cook Jr. et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Cataclysm and Career Rebirth : The Imperial Military Elite

THEODORE F. COOK, JR.

I did not consider this an occupation. Payment and the improving of my standard of living were not what I had in mind.

-- Former Lt. ColonelKanda Taizō, Imperial Japanese Army

The term "military career," like the term "professional soldier" is intensely disliked by most former officers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Not only did the Allied Occupation brand them as "professional soldiers" in its postwar purge orders, but they themselves did not view their military service in terms which might facilitate comparison with civilian employment, or even employment in other governmental institutions. "Armed bureaucrats" though they may have been in some of their institutional roles ( Feit 1973: 1.21), they maintain that they were not oriented to the miltiary for self- advancement or for employment. Again and again they made this point to me as we talked of their reasons for following the military route. Often they prefaced their remarks with, "I think this is difficult for a foreigner to understand," indicating the depth to which they felt their attitude to be "Japanese." This reflects both a powerful ideological commitment and, to a surprising degree, the realities of the military's demands on its officer corps. Japan's defeat in 1945 shattered the institutional base for that commitment, and in a sense the former officers had to begin adult life all over again. In this chapter I explore what it was in their military experience that may explain their relative success in postwar civilian life.

The Army officer corps was one of prewar Japan's most important

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