December 8 was the day when Japan ambushed Pearl Harbor and entered the Pacific War, but before that, the Japanese army had been at war with China since 1937.
The behavior of the Japanese army in China is often talked about as a dark part of history. The Japanese army, which cannot supply food, had only the option of “local procurement”, and the unwilling soldiers were disliked by the Chinese people for acts contrary to humanity, such as looting and rape.
Also, like Unit 731, 3,000 people were killed as a result of biological experiments involved in research on bacterial warfare. However, despite the cruel acts in mainland China, it is the feelings of many Japanese who want to believe that the Japanese originally have humanistic feelings.
In China during the war, some Japanese military personnel were devoted to planting trees. Colonel Yoshizo Yoshimatsu (1915-1985) led the Third Regiment of Mobile Infantry and was fighting in Taiyuan and Anbei in Shanxi Province, but his regiment continued planting trees with the idea that “green trees make people’s hearts peaceful”. Since the slogan of “Koa” (developing Asia) was a part of the purpose of Japan’s Asia-Pacific war, creating “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Area”, thus planting trees matched up to Japanese army’s ideal to turn the desolate and dry land of China into green.
The number of saplings planted is estimated to be 4 million, and according to historian Kazutoshi Hando, there was no day off from planting. When he was stationed in the town of Baotou, he built a park and even set up a zoo for the children. It is said that planting green trees on the yellow and dry land of China and building poplars and rows of cherry blossom trees gave a soft and fresh feeling not only to Japanese soldiers but also to Chinese residents on the battlefield. Fumiyoshi Furukawa, who belonged to the Yoshimatsu Regiment, recalls that tree planting was a “good idea for two birds with one stone” that would soothe the hearts of soldiers and please the Chinese residents. (Fumiyoshi Furukawa “” Koa “Tree Planting Unit”)
According to Mr. Furukawa, the 1st Battalion has planted 500,000 trees and built a stone monument to commemorate the “Koa Tree Planting Forest”. It is said that the seedlings were mainly made from cuttings, and a field of cuttings was created in the garden of the barracks and watered every morning and evening for transplanting. At Baotou, “Koa Tree Planting Park” was created, along with 10,000 Japanese cherry tree saplings, trees were planted, a simulated Mt. Fuji was created, a pond was created, fish were released, and Japanese soldiers and local people enjoyed fishing together.
The regimental song of the Yoshimatsu Regiment was recruited from members and made, but it looks like the one below and was sung along with other military songs.
Overcome the storm over the snow
Dark green spreading in all directions
West wind how savory
There is a shade of peace in us
After the war, a letter of appreciation was given to Captain Yoshimatsu from Shang Jiang Liu Zhi of the Kuomintang government army and Mao Zedong, leader of the Chinese Communist Party.
Kizo Yoshimatsu’s idea was to remind us that there is a common issue between Japan and China, such as desert greening, even during the war, and his activities shows that there was a humane Japanese military personnel who cared about the Chinese people and sought to deepen engagement with Chinese citizens during the war. Mr. Yoshimatsu was also a pioneer in the idea that increasing the amount of green space would help stabilize society. The idea sets an example for the current international community facing climate change.
planting trees in deserts in China