A Unique Japanese WWII Story
"The gun had become my woman"-said by a Japanese soldier in Manchuria, 1941
Nobuo Kojima (1915 to 2006-Japan) work is said to deal mostly with the effect of the defeat in WWII on the minds of the Japanese. For many years he was a university professor in English literature translating into Japanese writers like Dorothy Parker and Barnard Malamud.
"The Rifle" is a wonderful anti- war short story. Our narrator was a soldier in the Japanese army in Manchuria during WWII. He has no great love for the emperor, he has no real political awareness as to why the war is going on, he has no fanatical hatred for Americans or Australians, and he does not come from a samurai family. He loves one thing about the war and that is his rifle. He caresses it, he strokes it, he obsessively cleans "her". He thinks of a woman he had an affair with when he touches his rifle. He likes target practice and is a champion, as long as he can use his special rifle.
In one really powerful scene a number of captives are brought in the area where he is stationed. One of the captives is a woman. His sergeant, whom he admires, ties the woman to a stake in the ground. He tells our narrator to walk 100 meters and then shoot her. After he shoots her he is to run at her full speed and stab her with his bayonet. He wants to please and he figures the woman must deserve this for why else would his sergeant give him this order. He is so proud when he gets to her body and sees he shot her right in the heart. The sergeant tells him (the young man has not experienced combat yet) "now you are a man" and he bloats up with pride.
This story is included in The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, along with 34 other short stories by the very best writers. I am reading all these stories and posting on a number of them.