The Japanese went to war in China equipped with Model 32 helmets, Arisaka rifles and Model D III Gelto cameras. During the Sino-Japanese conflict from 1937 to 1945, soldiers and officers sent to fight for the emperor accumulated a huge photographic record of their experience on the Asian mainland. It was a record that was mostly preserved, since far more Japanese survived the war in China than the war in the Pacific. Even so, for the next seven decades the images were stowed away in private homes, and only a tiny number have ever been published.
Below is a selection of snapshots from a private album. It shows a group of Japanese soldiers at work and at rest. Chinese civilians occur occasionally. The war is only hinted at, for example in the photo of a sad-faced soldier carrying a box containing a friend’s ashes. The selection does not by any means provide a comprehensive view of life as a Japanese soldier in China. Direct combat is absent. So are the war crimes that are documented to have taken place on a massive scale throughout all eight years of war.
Caring for the dead