Anti-war poem during WW2 – The Song of Loneliness


Apart from very general view that all wars are mostly caused by economical motives, ideology clashes, resource conflicts, etc., this poem tells me about the lack of love as the source of evil in this world. Mitsuharu Kaneko also known as a hardcore antiwar poet, was sticking to his principles all the while at risk for prosecution as an unpatriotic during wartime. On February 1915, he managed to get disqualified by purposely catching pneumonia in order to escape the draft. He began his journeys since then, and published a number of his representative work such as Koganemushi (Japanese Beetle), Malay and Dutch East Indies Travelogue, Songs of a Devil’s Child, etc.. The song of loneliness was written three months before the end of war in 5th May 1945, and published three years later(1948) in the poetry book Rakkasan(parachute).


A state is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.” Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra.
Finally these guardian deities of the lonely spirit brought the war. You are not to blame. I, of course, am not to blame. Everything is the doing of loneliness.

The poem prefaced with a verse cited from Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” conjures up unconditional obedience of people under the absolute authority, so called “patriotism”. Apparently, it’s a bit too abstract to draw the connection between the loneliness and the war, but is anyway stated as the cause which brings the war.

Loneliness made them carry guns, even made them, with the bait of loneliness, shrug off their mothers and wives and leave toward where the flags flapped. Trinket makers, cleaners, clerks, students, all turning into folk shaken with the wind.

“The bait of loneliness” can be interpreted as an incentive to the war for those who own lonely spirit eases the fear of the isolation from society, and the war could have been something for them to rely on. From its point of view, it might say this is how it led to the climate of public opinion and how the war was given priority over the loved ones.

Every and each one, no distinction among them. All taught to die was best.
Petty, timid, good-natured people, their thoughts darkened in the name of the Emperor, went off like brats, delighted, hubbubbing. But on the home front, we’re nervous, fearful of an arrow with white feathers, forcing ourselves to push aside skepticism and anxiety, we try to spend just this one day, we’re all doomed anyway, drunk on the sake given out.

During wartime in Japan, becoming a soldier was an honorable opportunity to work for the emperor, and to die for him. Those innocent young folks were brainwashed by imperialism, and cheerfully gone to the war fronts but completely freaked out after all.

Egoism, and the shallowness of love.
Bearing it in silence, women wait for rations, linking themselves like beggars. People’s expressions growing sadder day by day, the fate of the folk of an all-out nation,
I had not seen, since my birth, a loneliness so immediate, so profound. But I no longer care. To me, such loneliness doesn’t mean anything now.

I am still not sure if my interpretation about what it means by “egoism and love” is proper. In my opinion, however, the triumph of ego over love will eventually enslave ourselves by itself, and will lose freedom in our spirituality in the end. Love is freedom but was deemed as public nuisance to get annoyed by a huge national egoism being swallowed by people when the war goes on.

The loneliness that I, I now truly feel lonely about is that I can’t feel, around me, any desire, not even of a single person, holding his ground in the opposite direction of this degradation, trying to find the very roots of loneliness as he walks with the world. That’s it. That’s the only thing.

What he laments the mindset of Japanese is probably about excessive self-preservation attributable to the group-consciousness peculiar to Japan leading to the atmosphere to follow directive without question. Thus, people had gone along with a unifying force of the imperial Japan just like a troop of ants. Conversely, it recalls the famous quote by Dalai Lama – “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” That is to say the war under whatever pretense it made as is derived from the national egoism goes so far as to deny the existence of humanity.

Malaysian described by a Japanese poet – Malay and Dutch East Indies Travelogue

My life has the tendency to fall into a rut of broken relationship. Ironically, this town always makes me see a little bit of my personal bitter experiences in a rambling journey of a man with a sore heart. Mitsuharu Kaneko known as a wandering troubadour was facing life’s hardships such as wife’s extramarital affairs and writing impasse.

Synopsis: On November 1928, he eventually boarded a ship with his wife to Shanghai using “bound-for-Paris” as bait to draw her away from a Japanese soldier. Less money in his pocket constrained five years of wandering journey while earning his living. In 1940, “Malay and Dutch East Indies Travelogue” was finally published based on his hand-written memorandum about his own observations in Malay peninsula, Singapore, Java, and Sumatra.

Chinese people migrated all the way from Canton and Hokkien to this deep tangled jungle, are seeking wealth, and frying noodle in the hamlet along the river. They open convenience stores and coffee shops, and drop coins into their white baggy pants’ pocket. They make money from scratch, restrain all desires, and hoard up money. They are able to orient themselves to anywhere, and build their new hometown. If they have skin of heels, they can even make it Cantonese jelly soup. Huaqiao, Chinese abroad, are plunking six beads on their abacus(calculator) from the jungle while native Malay people are charmed by folk tales.

Southeast Asia in 1930’s was undeveloped jungle compared to which later economic growth was unimaginable. Today, peoples’ life style has changed a lot but the characteristic of multiethnic people in Malaysia has basically no big difference from what he wrote of his travels in Southeast Asia seventy years ago. Malaysia is one of the most generous countries on earth for good or ill where the people from different cultural background coexist together under the humid subtropical climate. If I were to use one word to describe, it’s a country of abandon in a way easygoing. People in this warm southern country usually give good impression of themselves being free-spirited than sobersides in the far east, but then again, are more or less self-indulgent in a positive and negative way.

Batu Pahat is just another small town in Johor Malaysia where Mitsuharu Kaneko stayed for a few years in order to come up with passage money for his own from Singapore to Japan and for his flirtatious wife from Paris to Japan. Those old architectures in the town probably remains a shadow of its former self as typified by Former Japanese Club Building where he lodged during his stay. There are several interesting episodes in his travelogue such as Chinese opium addicts (living a blank existence), Japanese prostitutes (their earnings snatched away from local guys), Rubber farm strike (triggered by Singapore communists’ sedition), etc.. It’s very impressive to read all those well-described characteristics of Southeast Asia where I live for a decade.

Pol Pot and Cambodian Genocide

Killing field, that’s where the measureless decayed skulls and bones fill the ground under the cloudless sky and scorching sun. Dozens of skeletal remains roughly thrown into many holes of 3 metres in diameter. Horrible stench of death hanging in the air out of piled up decomposed bodies, stained in the green paddy water. Ragged cloths and skeletonized bodies scattered all over the field. Overhead bird nests in the shrubs made by human hair. It seems awfully hard not to get horrified by the thought of such a creepy scene of the hell far out of this world.

It was a real incident happened in Cambodia known as a rich agrarian country advocated as a peaceful oasis of Indo-China. A truly bloodcurdling hell yielded in their life under the Pol Pot dictatorship. None of any other country can bear comparison with the number of deaths and the dimension of destructions and hatreds only in 4 years. Sadness and pain deeply etched into the mind of survivors.

About 2 – 3 million people were slaughtered in this small country of total population 8 million. Even now, exact body count is still not calculated yet. There is no other bloodshedding precedent in such a high rate even during the 20th century known as the full of revolution. This unparalleled genocide was achieved in only 4 years. For those who were regarded as an intellectual, 60 percent or more were namely killed.

An irrational and unknown fears terrified people, and an act of brutality was ruthlessly conducted. How did this psychotic slaughter happen?

During 19th century, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam were French colony. However, the independence movement of these countries in 1953 has escalated into the 1st Indo-China war. France lost out, and reluctantly acknowledged the independence of Cambodia. At this time, king Sihanouk became a head of state, came into power in this country, and walked on leftish path. On the other hand, a neighboring country Vietnam was divided into both the north that the communist party leads and the south of the pro-U.S. stance, and both sides started a political battle. Likewise in Laos, the conflict between pro-U.S. stance and anti-U.S. stance was continued. Especially in Vietnam, the conflict between north and south has charged into warfare, and once the America joined war in response to reinforcements request from south Vietnam in 1965, China and Soviet then backed up north Vietnam, and both sides strengthened its stance of all-out confrontation. The Vietnam war was aggravated with the intensifying afterwards, and America increasingly stepped into a quagmire.
The cornered America started a large-scale bombing to the north, and indiscriminately expanded the use of all inhumane arms such as the defoliant and the napalm, etc.. Cambodia walking on leftish path has maintained a neutral stance at that time. However, what if South Vietnam won the battle, their home country might be threatened. Moreover, South Vietnam became a key strongpoint held by the anti-Sihanouk calling itself free Khmer.

Sihanouk then set up a north Vietnamese army supply base near Vietnamese border on Cambodian soil, and secretly allowed military deployments and redeployments. Cambodian territory became a safe zone for the north Vietnamese army. There were nothing to worry about bomb as long as they stay there, and Cambodian rice will be replenished at the same time. However, such relations meant Cambodia was soon or later embroiled in the Vietnam war.
Vietnam war has got increasingly intense until the battlefield spread out to Cambodia before long. America needed to deal with Cambodia in order to alter the situation to their bombing advantage, to beat and squash north Vietnam. Then, America schemed to get rid of Sihanouk by offering enormous amount of war funds bundled with military help to pro-U.S. general Lon Nol. In 1970, the coup launched during Sihanouk’s French vacation succeeded splendidly. Lon Nol formed a new government, and the banished Sihanouk ended up straightway defecting to Beijing.

Since the Lon Nol regime was inaugurated in Cambodia, a matter of concern for America was settled, and was able to bomb to the north Vietnamese army supply base without constraints. As a result, three hundred thousand died at once, and about two million or more of refugees were brought in Cambodia. On the other hand, the defecting Sihanouk was calling from outside for toppling Lon Nol regime. His conduct obtained agreements from North Vietnam, and Kampuchea communist party that will become Khmer Rouge later on. Thus the hostilities has finally spilled over into peaceful Cambodia.

In Vietnam, North Vietnam supported by China and Soviet battled it out in one of the hardest regional battles ever. On the other hand, Khmer Rouge carried out the guerrilla activity domestically, and shook up Lon Nol regime from within. Thus, a keen combat was repeated here and there inside Cambodia, and plunging into the civil war over five years. The civil war worsened food and supply shortages in capital Phnom Penh, and the popular discontent has grown. Furthermore, terrorism and the plot whirled plunging into chaos. 60 percent of the country had fallen into the hand of the liberation forces, and the lifeline network had been cut everywhere. Since the north Vietnamese army had entered into the Cambodian territory, fierce combat was waged there against the south Vietnamese army and U.S. Army chasing after. Having suffered huge damage was Cambodia, and their hatred
of the Vietnamese were swelled and sparking the Vietnamese banishment policy. After such not a few number of armed-clash between Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese communism army, the breakdown between the two countries became any longer so obvious.

Before long, America made decision for complete withdrawal from Vietnam due to huge military expense and extensive damage. It was actually not very far short of, so to speak, a concession speech. In 1975, the Lon Nol regime without American support has collapsed at once after the withdrawal of the U.S. Army. And, the supplanter that came into power was Pol Pot faction called Khmer Rouge. Thus, the horrific Pandora’s box was opened. That will be brought out of the bottle opened by a goddess yielding to the temptation, and all misfortunes drop people to the depth of misery. A Greek myth became a reality.

17th April 1975 was the day beginning of the regime of terror. From that day forward, the storm of destruction, slaughter and hatred kept blowing for four years in this country. The common sense believed up to now was going to no longer apply. At that moment, who could predict that the horrible genocide begins before long?

That day, they came to capital Phnom Penh by truck, and were all teenager in black farmer costume with rifle. People shouted for joy and welcomed them with smiles as civil war termination was believed by them. However, despite the victory, they had shown neither laughter nor the sense of openness, and kept silent in the bad mood.

By two million people forced displacement, capital Phnom Penh turned into the ghost town. People were made aware before long that it was no time for cheers ahead of deportation order that obliges all residents in the city to migrate to the farm village. There were only incoherent things explained such as tentative evacuation because of B29 bombing or food shortage, etc.. People were chased into the farm village with only the barest necessities. Majority couldn’t flee the country against their quick execution. After a while, the forced displacement execution itself was becoming extremely cruel.