Japanese and Chinese names throughout are given in Japanese and Chinese order, in which the surname precedes the given name.As for the spellings of Chinese names, mainly the Pinyin system is used. However, the Wade-Giles system is also employed for words still commonly used: for instance, "Chiang Kai-shek" instead of "Jiang Jieshi." Words like "Nanjing" and "Nanking" are regarded as interchangeable.This article is part of the online project The Nanjing Massacre.

Confessions III: Rape and Pillage

Violation of Women

“Women were the main victims, indeed…. We would pick some sunny place, like around a storehouse for example, then make a screen by hanging up branches with leaves,” answered Private Tadokoro Kozo of the 114th Division when interviewed by the Pacific War Research Group in 1971. “We would get a ticket called Sekken [Red Ticket], which had the company commander’s stamp on, to wait for our turn with our loincloth off.”

“One day I was assigned a leader to kidnap women. When we showed up, all the women frantically ran off. It was hard to chase and catch them because we couldn’t kill them yet.”

“There wasn’t any soldier who didn’t rape. After things were done, usually we killed them. We’d let the women go, they’d run off, and we’d shoot them from the back. We didn’t want to leave any trouble behind. If the gendarmes found out, we would be tried by court-martial. So, although we didn’t really want to kill them, we did it — though, in fact, there was hardly any gendarme in Nanjing. I served in Nanjing for about two months.”¹

Unlike the relentless mopping-up operations and the executions of the POWs that were in some cases recorded as a part of official military operations, the cases of rape naturally did not leave any documented evidence. As observed by the foreigners in the Safety Zone, however, without doubt many Japanese soldiers abducted Chinese women, sexually assaulted them and in many cases, in order to leave no evidence, they killed the victims after the acts.

Although many former soldiers of the Imperial Army came forward to admit butchering Chinese captives and civilians in Nanking, many fewer veterans were willing to talk about their perpetration of rapes.

In China many survivors of rapes began telling of their painful past in the last two decades, but probably a lot of rape victims have already passed away in the last 60 years, if not killed right after being molested.

Theses conditions altogether make it rather hard today to grasp the scale of the violations of women committed by Japanese troops.

However, the establishment of Ianjo, or official brothels (literally, “house of restful consolation,”) in as early as late December 1937 by the Shanghai Expeditionary Force and the 10th Army, clearly indicates how desperate the Japanese government was to keep its troops away from raping and spreading venereal diseases among themselves.

Today more than ten such institutions were known to have operated under the Japanese government in Nanking although the idea seemed to have had little effect in stopping the rape criminals for the first several weeks.²


On the day the Japanese troops entered Nanjing, the wholesale looting that was initiated by the retreating Chinese troops significantly escalated to the level of what Tillman Durdin of the New York Times called “plundering of the entire city.”

Once gaining a control of a district, the Japanese soldiers broke into shops, houses and other buildings and took away anything they wanted. The commander of the 16th Division, Lieutenant General Nakajima Kesago, wrote in his diary on Dec. 19:

When we enter, the houses have generally been rummaged in by the Chinese troops, and many things are gone. Nevertheless, the army soldiers rush to break in and loot, whether it is their assigned district or not. This tendency is especially true about the houses in suburban areas. After all, those impudent gain the most….

Although the plate stated “Division Headquarters,” when I went into the building, every room had been ransacked including the government chairman’s office. They [Japanese soldiers] took away everything, even the old displays….

Supervising the privates wouldn’t be of much help since, to my surprise, even high-ranking officers are candidly being thieves.³

Nakajima himself was not at all the exception. Apparently he did not have any guilt about looting Chinese property. On January 23, 1938, when asked about the furniture in the Nationalist Government Building by Matsui Iwane, the commander-in-chief of the Central China Area Army, Nakajima replied, “What is the matter of taking furniture when we are taking over a country and taking away people’s lives? No one is going to be pleased even though we leave it there.”⁴

Nakajima was later found stealing Chiang Kai-shek’s treasures such as rugs and paintings and sending them to Kyoto in 23 boxes when he was serving as the commander of the 4th Army in Manchuria.⁵

As typified by Nakajima’s attitude toward plundering, even commissioned officers joined the lower ranking soldiers to ransack every building in Nanking. No one tried to abide by the international law on wartime requisition, according to which one had to pay in military currency or leave a kind of promissory note when commandeering any article that could be later exchanged into real currency.

Most soldiers just looted things and robbed people without a word. As observed by foreign journalists and missionaries, many times the Japanese troops shot the Chinese who tried to stop the plundering or resisted while being robbed.

Some soldiers left the notes supplied by the Army, but as an accounting officer of the 9th Division recalled, those notes were written with no faith, having such false names as “Commander of the Retreating Unit, Chiang Kai-shek,” or simply stating, “Idiot!”⁶

As a consequence, when the Chinese refugees who survived the most intensive reign of terror for weeks finally went back home, there was absolutely nothing left for them to start over their normal lives again.

It is recorded that as early as the beginning of January 1938, the Japanese Army encouraged Chinese people to start business, trade money and produce food as a way to restore order in the city, but they had no stock to begin with, no money to spend, and no livestock or grain to grow.⁷

Interview: Wang Weixing

Wang Weixing is a historian at the Jiangsu Academy of Social Sciences. He is also a member of the Research Center of Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese Aggressors located in Nanjing Normal University. He has recently published an essay on the psychological backgrounds of the Japanese troops in Nanking.⁸

“There are four aspects we should always look at to understand why Japanese soldiers went on the rampage in Nanjing.”

“First, they were vindictive towards Chinese because of the large number of casualties in Shanghai and other places in China. They carried out reprisals against even ordinary citizens. For instance, one diary of a former soldier tells us that he avenged his brother’s death in Northern China by killing many Chinese.”

“Second, they had to give absolute obedience. To Japanese soldiers it was a holy war. They were fighting for the Emperor. So they did whatever they were told to do. Considering that the massacres took place in many parts of the city during the same period of time by different groups or units of the Japanese troops, there must have been an order from the higher echelon of the Japanese Army.”

“Third, as a national policy, Japan was trying to be on a par with Europe and openly contemptuous of Asian countries. Their chauvinism as the Yamato race took a great role in their attitudes toward Chinese. They probably thought they could do whatever they want because they are superior to Chinese.”

“Lastly, it was an unexpectedly long war for Japanese soldiers. Japan took it for granted that the war in Shanghai would end soon. But in fact the war was long and drawn out. That made many soldiers mentally unstable. They were fierce, homesick, anxious and worn out. The only comfort and joy they could find was to murder prisoners of war and to rape women. It may sound strange but in a sense those criminal acts became their amusement….”

“But it should be noted that although killing prisoners of war was an order, the way to kill them depended solely on individual soldiers. I am against the idea to emphasize the insanity of the Japanese troops by pointing out grotesque ways of murder such as eating up internal organs, etc. There is no evidence to prove such things happened, at least not in Nanjing.”


  1. Taiheiyou Senso Kenkyukai, “Nanking Gyakusatsu de Tairitsu suru Shougenshatachi [Conflicting eye-witness accounts of the Nanjing Massacre],” in Mokugekisha ga Kataru Showashi 5: Nichi Chu Senso [Showa History Told by Witnesses 5: Sino-Japanese War], 75–76.
  2. Yoshiaki Yoshimi, Jugun Ianfu [Comfort Women], (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995), 22–25; Fumiko Kawata, “Nanking Senryo Chokugo ni Hajimatta Ianjo Setchi [The Establishment of Consolation Houses Started Right After the Capture of Nanjing],” Kinyobi 8.9 (10 March 2000): 39–41.
  3. Nanking Senshi Shiryoshu I [Historical Records of the Battle of Nanjing I] (Tokyo: Kaiko, 1989), 226.
  4. Ibid., 247–248.
  5. Yutaka Yoshida, Tenno no Guntai to Nanking Jiken [The Emperor’s Military and the Nanjing Incident], 153.
  6. Fujiwara, Nanking no Nihongun [The Japanese Army in Nanjing], 110.
  7. See for example, James McCallum’s letter to his family on January 6 in American Missionary Eyewitnesses to the Nanking Massacre, 1937–1938, 42.
  8. Wang Weixing, interview by author, Nanjing, China, 30 March 2000




Content of this site was originally submitted for the degree of Master of Arts in the Graduate School of Journalism of the University of Missouri-Columbia in August 2000.

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Journalistic Historian

Journalistic Historian

This account is created to host my Master’s degree project on the Nanjing Massacre that I produced in 2000.

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