Episode 139 – The Soldiers of the Sun

This week: conscription in Japan. What’s it like to be conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army? How are conscripts treated, and what are the goals of the conscription system?

Listen to the episode here.


Drea, Edward. “Trained in the Hardest School” in In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army.

Drea, Edward. “The Japanese Army at the Start of the War” in The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War.

Ichinose, Toshiya. Kogun Heishi no Nichijo Seikatsu [Daily Lives of Soldiers in the Imperial Army]

Harries, Mairion, and Susan Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army.


Conscription physicals like this one were extremely demeaning for the conscriptee; the exams were extremely thorough, designed to carefully grade each potential recruit on a sliding scale. Some did attempt to cheat the system and draft dodge, but their numbers were surprisingly low.
Inspections like this one were the dread of conscripts; anything out of place would result in a severe beating.
As Japan became more militarized, aspects of army life began to bleed into civilian culture. These students from Keio University are taking part in a reserve training program designed to prepare them for potential callup.
One of the most widely taught army skills was bayonet fighting; matches between recruits could be punishingly difficult, but were also opportunities for gambling.

2 thoughts on “Episode 139 – The Soldiers of the Sun”

  1. This was a really interesting episode and a fantastic follow-up to the series that preceded it. I’m super excited for next week too! I know next to nothing about Japan’s space program but the history of America’s space program was one of my favorite historical areas of study as an adolescent!

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