We need not question the success of the country of Japan over the years and decades that have passed. Despite being a small country, they have managed to surmount others through their handwork, heart, and passion. They are globally competitive and respected in many fields such as business, medicine, and sports. It is now generally recognized that Japan has been much the most successful of the countries outside Europe and North America in achieving modernization. (w. Beasley) Historically, military was on of the key factors that brought them success. They had the tactics and weaponry that enabled them to bring down Pearl Harbor.
But more importantly than that, (and what could possibly be the stem of their military success) were the beliefs and codes they applied to war. One of these codes was the Bushido, developed by the ancient Japanese samurai. The word Bushido literally means Military-Knights-Ways, the ways which fighting nobles should observe in their daily life as well as in their vocation (I. Nitobe). The lines “observed in their daily life as well in their vocation” cannot be overemphasized enough. Through Bushido, the Japanese believed that military was something deeper than the usual fighting.
It was more of a way of application for them in their lives, a way that they should conduct their lives. Bushido was a law written in their hearts, they need not write it but rather passed it down from generation to generation by word of mouth. It kept them socially aloof from the populace, a moral standard and guided them by their example (I. Nitobe). Therefore we can say that the Japanese got most of their inspiration and molded character from the Bushido, unlike any other countries that just considered their military as just that and nothing more.
Inspiring it indeed is but it also raises a question of how this Bushido influenced the Japanese in the way they treated the people they conquered in the early years. If we were to look at their history, particularly in Asia, Japan was without a doubt one of the most dominant and successful colonizers, having even colonized the Philippines. From tales of mouth, books, and other experiences narrated by historians, it has come to the common knowledge that the Japanese ruled the Philippines with an iron fist.
You hear experiences such as the death march and constant local wars that happened during their reign in the country unlike their predecessors the Americans who did not much have these kinds of experiences in the land. This continues to puzzle the minds of many historians and many have tried to find answers to why the Japanese ruled this way in the Philippines. They have taken into consideration these beliefs in military that the Japanese fuel out for inspiration. Could it be that the beliefs of the Bushido had something to do with the way they ruled?
Stated more formally, how did Bushido influence the treatment of Filipinos during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines? Japanese History To begin with the analysis of the question, let us start with a brief history and background of Japan. In the early years, agriculture was an evident disposition of the Japanese. Rice cultivation is known in the East Asian islands including Japan. Communities are built wherein the people there shared the task of planting, harvesting, and defending their crops. With the emergence of this agricultural lifestyle, the attention of the people during these times was diverted from hunting to agriculture.
This can be seen in the transition from having a primitive hunting and gathering society known as Jomon to having a new culture based on agriculture known as the Yayoiv (Reischauer). Early Japan was mainly controlled by the powerful clans, the Yamato clan for example, which is also considered the most powerful imperial family who emerged in the third century A. D. However, wars are evident during the early Japan era which is a big contributing factor to the forming and emergence of the Samurai which will later on carry the principles of the Bushido (Reischauer).
Several wars between clans have broken out as centuries went by but none more important than the one between Minamoto Yoritomo and Taira Kiyomori which will end up with a Minamoto victory. This is an important war since as a direct result in the victory of Yoritomo, he established the bakufu or “tent government” which will eventually be the first step to Japanese feudalism. The transition to Japanese Feudalism will then be completed in the 16th century (Reischauer). The samurais were born under the feudalistic Japan wherein large landholders got hold of majority of the wealth and power.
With the rise of power for the few people in the feudalistic setting of the country, a need for protection is a need for the powerful landowners. This gave rise to the formation of the samurais whose initial mission is to defend the riches of their landlords (Szczepanski). The feudalistic and decentralized society in Japan gave rise to samurais but when the government became reunited and the caste system got established in the Edo Period, the samurais eventually made up the ruling military class and became the highest ranking social group in the hierarchy in the social caste (Samurai).
From the period of the early Japan on, agriculture and warfare was evident that they all contributed to the rising of a feudalistic structure of government, which then gave rise to the birth of the Samurais. These samurais then uphold the moral principles called the “Bushido”. Bushido Shifting the focus now to the Bushido, the Samurai and the Bushido are interrelated in such a way that the Samurais consider the Bushido as their code of conduct. This code of conduct is similar to the Western Code of Chivalry and this consist a series of moral principles.
The series of principles explain why the samurai carry such discipline and pride when in battle. In line with this, the following are the Principles of the Bushido (Huffman). Compassion Benevolence (Jin) This refers to the love and affection for others encompassed by the use of skills and talents for the good and to help others. The samurai develops his quickness and strength through intense training yet he must use these assets to good use. He must have compassion and he should benevolently help his fellow countrymen by all means. Devoted Loyalty (Chugi)
This refers, in the context of the samurais, to being loyal to their master or emperor. Several tales of this type of loyalty were told, such as the story of Masashige Kusunoki who fought for his emperor Go-Daigo even when the odds were not in their favor. This also explains the belief of the Samurai wherein he should have complete responsibility for the things he have said and done, and its consequences henceforth. Honorable Reputation (Meiyo) This talks about the importance a samurai’s self-reputation wherein their words and actions reflect who the person truly is.
It is by these wherein one samurai can shape his reputation and must make it an honorable one. Sincere Truth (Makoto) This refers to the integration of the samurai of actions and words. They consider speaking and doing as just the same. Basically, when a samurai makes a promise, he fulfills that promise no matter what. He does not have to perform an oath or “give his word” in doing so. This is so because for the samurais, lying is regarded as a cowardly act and therefore dishonorable. In effect, lying will greatly affect the reputation of a samurai. Patient Persistence to Perseverance (Nintai)
This is a perfect portrayal of the modern “try and try until you die” cliche. In relation to the aforementioned principle about truthfulness, the samurai is obliged, through his moral beliefs, to fulfill his promises and failure will never be an option for them. In short, the samurai continues to uphold his promises until he dies trying. This spirit of never giving up is seen as the Japanese never gave up against the Americans and Filipinos in the latter part of the World War II even though many of their men have died. They fought until the end. Moral Justice (Gi) This refers to a samurai’s belief and willingness to fight for justice.
The only basis of honesty and justice of the samurai is himself and for them, there is only a right way and wrong way in implementing actions and deeming it in line with justice or not. There is no such thing as questionable justice for them. In other words, the samurai stresses on the correctness of their judgment and actions that it must always be righteous. Heroic Courage (Yuu) In the setting of multiple wars or battles, these warriors, known as the samurais, must have heroic courage. For them, living a life of cowardice is not living a life at all. A person must have courage so that he may live life completely.
Moreover, they considered death, a dog’s death, when it is for an unworthy cause. Polite Courtesy (Rei) Respect is one of the virtues that the samurai encompasses and upholds. A samurai must have sympathetic regard for the welfare of others. There is no need for the samurai to prove his strength and be cruel. For them, people who don’t show outward respect to their fellow men are nothing more than animals. Now that we have defined the Japanese Bushido, their “way of life,” and their culture aspects and significance, we will briefly review the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines.
It is important to understand the Japanese Occupation in the country because later, we will be analyzing the specific actions of the Japanese and how they were influenced by the Bushido. The invasion of the Philippines happened shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941 (Cortes 2000, 355). When the Japanese planes first arrived in the Philippines, they bombed and attacked Baguio, Davao, and the Clark Air Base (Cortes 2000, 357). By bombing the Clark Air Base, the Japanese were able to destroy high value targets, including American fighter planes and bomber planes (Cortes 2000, 357).
Then, on December 10, Japanese planes flew over manila to attack the American naval base in Cavite (Jose 1998, 22). Not having enough reinforcements and resources, the United States, specifically the United States Asiatic Fleet, had no choice but to abandon Manila Bay (Cortes 2000, 357). The Philippines was no longer suitable as a base of operations (Cortes 2000, 357). As a result, the Americans lost control of the Philippine seas and the Japanese had complete air superiority over Philippine skies (Cortes 2000, 357). In anticipation of the coming Japanese land forces, General MacArthur started making defense plans for the Philippines.
Mac Arthur’s first plan, to hold the enemy at the beaches, would prevent Japan from securing a “beachhead,” or advantage point (Cortes 2000, 357). MacArthur concentrated Filipino division on the strategic beaches of Lingayen Gulf, Zambales, Batangas, and the Quezon Province (Cortes 2000, 357). However, on December 22, the Japanese landed in Lingayen Gulf where the Filipino lines were thin (Cortes 2000, 357). Soon enough the Japanese troops overwhelmed the Filipino defenders, and the Filipinos and Americans were forced to retreat (Cortes 2000, 357).
Ideally, Mac Arthur wanted to defend each island by building up beach defenses so strong that the enemy would not be able to land (Jose 1998, 41). His plan ran counter to the standard defense plan for the Philippines, called “War Plan Orange (Jose 1998, 41). ” War Plan Orange focused on blocking and defending Manila Bay, the Bataan Corridor, where they would wait for American reinforcements (Cortes 2000, 357-58). But the American reinforcements never arrived because the bombing of Cavite and Pearl Harbor had crippled the United States presence in the Pacific Ocean (Cortes 2000, 358).
The Japanese strengthened their dominance of the seas and skies in the Philippines (Cortes 2000, 358). As a result, President Quezon and General Mac Arthur fled to Australia (Cortes 2000, 358). Quezon evacuated to Washington DC, where he lead the Philippine Commonwealth government in exile (Cortes 2000, 358). On April 9, 1942, Bataan had no choice but to surrender because of the attack led on by the Japanese and their reinforcements (Cortes 2000, 358). After the surrender, Filipino and American soldiers were forced to march out of Bataan to San Fernando in Pampanga, in what was called the Death March (Cortes 2000, 358).
The following month, General Wainwright, due to lack of food, medicine, and supplies, was forced to announce the surrender of Filipino-American troops in the whole Philippines (Cortes 2000, 359). On January 2, 1942, Japanese took control of Manila, declared martial law, and established the Japanese Military Administration (Cortes 2000, 359). President Quezon directed the Commonwealth government to collaborate with the Japanese (Cortes 2000, 359). The Japanese declared that their motives were to emancipate the Philippines from the oppressive domination of the United States (Jose 1998, 101).
More importantly, Japan wanted the Philippines to be a member of the Co-Prosperity Sphere in Greater East Asia. As a member, the Philippines would enjoy “independent prosperity and culture (Jose 1998, 101). Japan later renamed the former Filipino government to the Philippine Executive Commission on January 23, but stated that they had the final say in matters of policy (Cortes 2000, 360). In an effort to centralize the administration, the Japanese Military Administration restructured certain functions of government.
The Japanese reduced offices, provinces, lowered salaries, and disbanded all prewar political parties (Cortes 2000, 360). The Japanese also tried to strengthen control over the people (Cortes 2000, 360). By rationing and controlling the distribution of food and other commodities, the Japanese attempted to suppress guerilla movements and control Anti-Japanese sentiment (Cortes 2000, 360). As a reward for their cooperation, Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo promised independence for the Philippines if they continued strong cooperation (Jose 1998 130).
However, many Filipinos had mix reactions about this “promise of independence. Almost all Filipinos doubted the sincerity of the Japanese promise (Cortes 2000, 361). Eventually, on October 14, 1943, the Second Philippine Republic was inaugurated as Jose P. Laurel as their “elected” president (Cortes 2000, 361). Unfortunately, Laurel was forced into signing an alliance treaty with Japan, allowing Japanese forced to remain and take advantage of the Philippine natural resources (Cortes 2000, 361).
In spite of “independence,” the Japanese military still wielded power and pressured the government (Cortes 2000, 362). The Japanese pushed for a major cultural reorientation for the Filipinos to “reawaken their indigenous culture as part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (Cortes 2000, 362). The Japanese controlled all media, censored all newspapers and radio, and disabled shortwave radios from received broadcasts from the Allied forces (Cortes 2000, 362). The Japanese repeatedly blamed the Philippine’s problems on the United States.
To dispel loyalty to the United States, the Japanese portrayed the United States as a “cunning devil bent on world domination (Jose 1998, 224). ” However, their propaganda campaign was not an overwhelming success. The main impression among most Filipinos in Manila was the near collapse of the Philippine economy (Cortes 2000, 362-63). Bank notes were valued next to nothing due to inflation, the food supply dwindled, and infrastructure suffered immensely (Cortes 2000, 663-64). Consequently, Filipinos disliked Japanese rule very much and awaited American salvation (Cortes 2000, 365).