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Introduction to Japanese Army Pay Books

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    Introduction to Japanese Army Pay Books

    Easter gave me the chance to finally take photos to illustrate the article I wrote more than a year ago. Another long one, so please let me finish uploading without interruption. Hope many of you find it interesting.

    There are many who collect German Soldbuchs and Wehrpasses for the great info they carry about the campaigns the individual served in, etc.. However, because of the language, Japanese versions have hardly received any attention, though the content it offers is even more richer than German counterparts. So here is an introduction to a highly interesting yet very affordable field of collecting.

    Similar to the German Soldbuch, the Japanese Army Soldiers also had what was called Guntai Techo (Military Booklet). Like its German counterpart, it contained information about the civilian occupation of the soldier, branch of service, rank, unit, birth date, qualifications, education, height, decorations, service record, punishments, hospitalizations and pay records, but contained no photos, as it served more as a personal record rather than an ID. In that sense, it combined the functions of the German Soldbuch and Wehrpass. However, as you will soon learn, that was only a fraction of the contents.

    Here is how they evolved in style from the Meiji period to the Showa period.
    Top Row (left to right):
    Early Meiji Period (up to 1906), Late Meiji to beginning of Taisho (1907-1912?)

    Bottom (left to right):
    Taisho, Showa (notice the shift from Khaki to Olive)
    Attached Files

    The reverse
    Attached Files


      The booklets all start with the imperial rescripts , the emperor’s personal exhortations to his soldiers. The pay books from the Meiji period only contained the rescript from Emperor Meiji, but Emperor Taisho added a few words of his own upon ascending the throne, and likewise Hirohito, Emperor Showa. So the booklet became thicker and thicker and reached its maximum in the 1942 version when Tojo added his “Instructions for the battlefield” and Hirohito added the final message after committing Japan to war with the Allies in 1941. The Meiji booklet consisted of 56 pages, and in 1942, it reached 80 pages, then finally 86 pages by 1945.

      There were some unique features seen only in the Meiji and Taisho booklets, but otherwise most of the content had been carried over into the Showa booklet. Also, because the Showa versions are more readily available to collectors, I will use the 1942 final version booklet to illustrate the points I discuss.

      “Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors (Gunjin Chokuyu)” by Emperor Meiji
      Issued on 4th January, 1882, it is the most important document in the development of the modern Japanese Military, apart from the Conscription Ordinance of 1873 and was the first to be addressed directly to soldiers. Intended as the official code of ethics of all soldiers, it provided the moral underpinning for the prewar national ideology that defined service to the state in terms of absolute loyalty to the emperor.
      This rescript had the distinction of being presented directly to the army minister by the emperor at a special ceremony at the palace. This unprecedented act was meant to symbolize the personal bond between the emperor and the military, as if he were giving private instructions to his personal army, and it elevated the observance of these precepts to a sacred obligation to the throne.
      The rescript takes up the first 20 pages of the Show period pay book and 18 pages in the Meiji versions. In the Showa version, all imperial rescripts are printed in red.
      The message is composed of 3 parts, the foreword, the 5 points that comprise the code of conduct, and the closing.

      Here's the beginning of the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors
      Attached Files
      Last edited by Nick Komiya; 04-12-2009, 04:47 PM.


        The foreword
        It starts, “The military of our nation has for generations been under the leadership of the emperor. In the ancient past, Emperor Jinmu himself destroyed the----“. He goes on to describe how over the more than 2500 years of the reign of emperors, a long period of peace brought complacency and decadence to the imperial court, while the warrior class emerged from the peasants, and came to power during later ages of unrest to the point that the emperor’s supreme authority over the military was undermined by this new Samurai class, which led to a 700-year reign of the Samurai. But towards the middle of the 19th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate under pressure from many foreign powers nearly led the nation into a humiliating state (colonization). Thanks to his loyal supporters, the National crisis was avoided and the Samurai class returned the supreme authority to the emperor like old times (Meiji Restoration). Since then, for approx. 15 years, Emperor Meiji strived to establish a modern army and navy. He reminds the soldiers that now the supreme authority lies with the emperor and in order to prevent the same mistake that led the nation astray, the fighting men are only empowered within this framework. As the well-being of the population, peace and Japan’s esteem in the world all depend on whether the military will be effective in carrying out its duty, he continues to pass down the 5 core points of the military code of conduct.

        Military Code of Conduct

        1. Loyalty to the Nation
        He says soldiers should not be misled by the whims of public opinion, and should distance themselves from politics and be true to their duty with the attitude that “duty is weightier than a mountain and death lighter than a feather”.
        2. Courteousness
        He talks about respect for one’s superiors as well as one’s subordinates. When to salute, and that in the interest of unity of the troops, an attitude of kindness and benevolence must be the rule towards subordinates.
        3. Bravery
        Brutal conduct in the rage of battle is not bravery; that a soldier must first be able to think things through before taking action. As true bravery is to conduct one’s military duty without underestimating a weak enemy and neither fearing the strong, those who honor bravery must interact with others in a mild manner to gain the goodwill of the people. Irrational brutality will only serve to cause one to be hated and despised by the populace.
        4. Integrity (trustworthiness)To abide by one’s word and to do one’s part. In order to ensure integrity, a soldier must think matters through with a clear idea of priorities before committing to any actions. Otherwise one will often become victim to a dilemma, torn between incompatible commitments.
        5. Frugality
        Decadence spreads like a plague, destroying the morale of the troops and will cause the military to be totally discredited by the people.

        To observe the forgoing 5 codes, one is required above all to have a heart that is sincere and it is this spirit that runs through all the 5 codes. Without this, all good deeds are merely superficial. A heart that is sincere has the power to achieve all.
        “----your observance of my instructions to stay on this path and to act accordingly for the sake of carrying out your duty to the nation will not only bring me joy, but should be greeted with approval by all my subjects of the nation of Japan”.
        4th January, 1882

        Here's the end of the Rescript showing the above date.
        Attached Files


          The rescript if read aloud will take about 10 minutes long, but despite that length all Army soldiers were expected to memorize it, word for word. So even before joining, men will furiously cram until they could recite it smoothly by heart. The fact that it was written by a professional ghost writer helped greatly, as it is written in profound language with a pleasing flow of rhythm. Officer candidates would have had to expect to write out excerpts of a section of this as part of their written exams. There should be no wonder, therefore, that many of the slogans found on Yosegaki flags come from these rescripts.
          The Navy, however, took the whole thing less seriously at least during WW2, generally instructing recruits to read it through, but did not expect one to memorize it.

          The original draft clearly mentioned Civilian Control of the military through civil servants acting on behalf of the emperor, but this was deleted and later led to the General Staff usurping the Supreme Authority behind the back of even the emperor himself, making it an entity even above the Constitution (secret manuals issued in 1932 only to general staff officers confirmed this arrogance). Exactly what the rescript intended to avoid, a reemergence of a neo-Samurai class.

          Missing from the Showa booklet is the Soldier’s Oath, which in the Meiji booklet took up 5 pages immediately after the rescript above.

          The Soldier’s Oath
          Called “Doku Ho” in Japanese, it literally means Law that is Read and was established in 1871. Upon being inducted to the army, it was indeed read out loud at the oath-giving ceremony, so even the few illiterate soldiers would understand before they signed the oath in their booklets.
          It mirrors the 5 codes from the rescript, but breaks it down further to a total of 7 clauses.

          1. With sincerity of heart to show one’s utmost loyalty
          2. To show respect and courtesy to superiors and act towards equals with integrity and courtesy.
          3. To follow the orders of superiors immediately whatever they are
          4. To conduct oneself with bravery
          5. To hold love of violence and the petty valor born of such blood lust in contempt
          6. To endeavor to acquire high virtues and lead a frugal life.
          7. To hold honor dear and fear dishonor.

          Lastly, in addition, “to observe the laws and rules of society, not to shame one’s ancestors and tarnish the family name. The criminal law of the army is there to punish those who bring harm and disrepute to the army and as such is particularly strict in its punishment.”
          This is followed by a statement that requires the soldier’s signature, signet and the date.

          This oath was omitted from the Showa period pay books. During the Taisho period (1912-1926), the ideals of democracy and personal freedom took hold in Japan and caused many new Soldiers to refuse signing the statement, often even refusing the regulation cropped hair style. The fact that the army condoned such behavior in those days is in stark contrast to the absolute power it wielded later in the Showa era.

          Here is the end of the oath with signature dated Dec 1st 1907 from a Meiji booklet. Old booklets all show inductions happening on December 1st.
          Attached Files
          Last edited by Nick Komiya; 04-12-2009, 04:49 PM.


            Let’s get back to the 1942 booklet and continue with the imperial rescripts. There were 4 more added since the days of Meiji; one from Emperor Taisho, then from Emperor Showa (Hirohito) and another paragraph from Emperor Taisho again. And finally, Hirohito declaring WW2.

            Imperial rescript from Emperor Taisho from the first year of Taisho (1912) July 31st
            This is a short 2 and a half pages.
            Upon inheriting the throne from his father, he once again prevailed upon soldiers and sailors to continue to observe his father’s 5 codes of conduct. He praises them for the great esteem the military brought to the nation and imperial rule by conducting themselves honorably in accordance with the codes in the series of wars (Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War, etc). He asks the soldiers to now let him enjoy the same dedication they showed his late father.

            Here the begining
            Attached Files
            Last edited by Nick Komiya; 04-12-2009, 04:49 PM.


              The end, showing date of July 31st, 1912
              Attached Files


                Imperial rescript from Hirohito from the first year of Showa (1926) December 28th
                In a briefer 2 pages, Emperor Showa issues a fairly unimaginative statement that says little more than, “carry on with the good work under me as well”.
                Dated December 28th, 1925.

                Attached Files


                  And the ending--
                  Attached Files


                    Imperial rescript from Emperor Taisho from the Third year of Taisho (1914) November 3rdThe astute Emperor Taisho remembered as an afterthought that he should not forget to massage the ego of the veterans in reserve as well, and contributed one page.
                    “In my opinion, much of our national defense relies on you, the veterans in reserve. I expect to see you all, army and navy veterans to join in further tempering the warrior spirit and enhancing the military performance, and while at home, serve as the fortress of the nation by being good loyal subjects, obedient to the military forces.”

                    Emperor Taisho thanking the veterans and reserve
                    Attached Files


                      The very last version of the booklet has the addition of another “statement” from Emperor Showa dated December 8th, 1941, which runs 6 pages. This message did not make it for the printing of the 1942 edition of the booklet, so I assume it appeared from the 1943 edition.
                      This is addressed to all his subjects, military and civilian alike in which he informs them of his declaration of war against the United States and the United Kingdom and commands all to do their duties to achieve the objectives of the war.
                      It continues, “The vision of my forefathers was to stabilize affairs in East Asia and thereby contribute to world peace. Therefore, to interact with the world powers to share mutual prosperity has always been the diplomatic priority of the empire. As such, it is regrettable, but at the same time unavoidable that we now find ourselves in conflict with both the USA and the UK.
                      It is now four odd years since we had to enter into conflict with China, who refused to understand our true intentions and carelessly brought disruption to the peace in East Asia. Fortunately, the people’s government has been replaced and our empire has re-established relations as a good neighbor. However, the administration that remains in Chongqing is counting on the support from the US and UK and refuses to desist from offensive action. The US and UK are supporting the exiled government in aggravating the unrest in East Asia, and in the name of peace, conspires to conquer. They have further prevailed upon other nations to join them in increasing their military presence around our empire to challenge us and to sabotage in any way possible, our empire’s peaceful commerce, finally resulting in an embargo of all trading, introducing a serious threat to the continuation of the empire. Wishing to rectify the situation in a peaceful manner between governments, I have endured in patience. However, they have shown absolutely no willingness to seek a compromise and have continued to delay the resolution. In the meanwhile, they employ delaying tactics to jeopardize our economy and military in an attempt to subdue us by intimidation. In this way, our empire’s years of effort to bring stability to East Asia have all been reduced to nothing, and the empire has plunged into a crisis in which we now find ourselves. Now the only path remaining is for the empire to rise in defense of itself and shatter all obstacles that threaten us.
                      Under the protection of our royal ancestors, and putting my faith in your loyalty and bravery, in furtherance of the heritage of my forefathers, I expect the swift resolution of the conflict to ensure the glory of the empire through establishing eternal peace in East Asia.”

                      December 8th, 1941

                      The opening for Hirohito's declaration of war
                      Attached Files


                        This is followed by 3 pages containing 7 points of instructions on the handling of the booklet, which remained more or less unchanged through the years. From this point onwards the Showa booklet is printed in black ink.

                        Instructions regarding the handling of the pay book

                        The instructions translated here are from the Meiji booklet, so it refers to the oath omitted from the Showa booklet as well as other minor differences, but the gist of the message remained unchanged.
                        1. As the book contains items such as the rescript, the oath & statement as well as one’s own record, which are all matters that soldier’s need to refer to constantly and also because it serves as a voucher proving provision of pay or items at times of transfer or remote assignment, it is required to be carried with the utmost care to prevent damage or loss.

                        2. Any inaccuracies found in entries concerning one’s record or regarding the receipt of money or items in the pay record section should be reported immediately.

                        3. This booklet as well as any portable item issued and entered in the pay record section must be cared for at the personal responsibility of the soldier. Therefore damage or loss caused intentionally or incidentally will be subject not only to repayment, but punishment as well.

                        4. On occasions of discharge, transfer, change of specialty, remote assignment, etc, one is required to ask for proof of payment of salaries up to that point in the pay record section.

                        5. When responding to call-up or appearing at periodic roll call inspections for soldiers in reserve, one must always bring this booklet.

                        6. Veterans who have damaged or lost the booklet shall report to the regimental district commander by providing a certificate of proof or a statement of cause.

                        7. At the time of discharge from military service or exemption from duty, this booklet is to be given to the individual.

                        Shown below is the end of Hirohito's Pearl Harbour date declaration and the start of the Booklet handling Instructions.
                        Attached Files
                        Last edited by Nick Komiya; 04-12-2009, 04:50 PM.


                          The handling instructions of the booklet is followed by 4 pages of instructions that serve as a manual for responding to call-up for military service. This section appeared from the 1939 edition paybooks.

                          Instructions in responding to call-up and reporting to service

                          This consists of 3 main headings, Preparations in advance, Protocol for call-up and Secrecy.

                          1. Preparations in advance
                          In order for the soldier to be able to devote himself to his duty without worries of what he leaves behind, household matters should be set in order, and the family should be instructed accordingly so that, during one’s absence or after one’s death, the family need not engage in needless dispute. Details of matters to be addressed are as follows;

                          A. Getting family records into order
                          -when married, immediately register
                          -when having a common-law wife or a child outside the marriage, pay particular attention.
                          -If a dispute in the remaining family is anticipated, one may want to consider splitting the
                          household in advance.
                          -Any other status changes to one or one’s family relevant to the family record should be

                          B. Preparation of a will
                          -In cases where the composition of the family is complex, it is acceptable to prepare a will
                          designating the head of the household, distribution of assets and other necessary matters.

                          2. Protocol for call-up
                          A. When a soldier goes to war, not only should one expect not to return alive, but one should also be aware that the recovery of the body may often be impossible due to death occurring deep in enemy lines, or because of the body being vaporized by enemy fire leaving not even a piece of flesh. One should make the family aware that this would be the result of the soldier’s duty being fulfilled. It is allowed to leave behind ones photos, strands of hair, clippings of finger nails, etc for the family.

                          B. Designate a person to manage matters in your absence, covering such matters as cash, real estate, buildings, rental or borrowed goods, dues, taxes, savings, insurance, running of the business, family budget and education of children, pensions, etc

                          C. If possible, pay your respects to the shrine, family grave and notify the community association, head of the city, ward or village, superiors and colleagues at work, neighbors and relatives

                          3. Secrecy

                          A. Military secrets are not to be discussed outside the authorized circle, however intimate
                          you may be with the person, be it family, relatives or any other acquaintances.

                          B. Do not discuss on the phone or in public places such as theaters, bars, trains, matters such
                          as call-ups, assigned unit designation, destination of mobilization and other classified

                          C. When being called up, do not carry banners or flags that display the designation of the
                          unit of assignment.

                          D. Matters such as the composition of the unit, its equipment, strength, activities, etc. should
                          not be discussed in letters, and neither should the unit designation be written on the

                          E. If inappropriate political propaganda statements are discovered in letters or among gift
                          packages one should report this immediately.

                          F. When handling or carrying military secrets be accountable and pay thorough attention.

                          G. Beware of what you dispose of as trash to prevent inadvertent dispersal of classified

                          Of the above, A to E should also be explained to one’s family.

                          Here is the very grim part, Instructions in responding to call-up and reporting to service, i.e. How to get ready to die!
                          Attached Files


                            Instructions for the Battlefield
                            These infamous 22 pages of writing that appeared from the 1942 edition booklet was penned by Tojo and published in January of 1941. This was required reading for soldiers and civilians alike, and many historians blame this document as the root of the atrocities and tragedies during the pacific war, particularly the clause that calls for death rather than succumbing to the shame of becoming prisoner. Ironically, the words had a strong and catchy ring like Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or give me Death!” and the population took it to heart as the extension of the emperor’s command to his subjects.
                            The less catchy phrases regarding benevolence and mercy fell to the wayside.

                            It consists of a foreword, followed by instructions in 3 chapters and a closing.
                            The foreword explains that, though the code of conduct of the soldier is clearly laid out in the rescript, it is often the case that one can easily lose sight of greater ideals in the heat of battle; that the purpose of this section is to translate into specific detail and within the context of battle, the code of conduct.

                            Here is the Foreword
                            Attached Files


                              Chapter 1
                              A. Empire
                              A very philosophical explanation about the relationship between the emperor and his subjects. The need for the subjects to work with the emperor to ensure national prosperity and the need for soldier’s to have a thorough grasp of such a relationship and show unwavering commitment to defend the empire.

                              B. The Imperial Military Forces
                              As the military represents the emperor, it must reflect the divine values.
                              To be righteous yet war-like, to be war-like yet virtuous is the spirit of the divine warrior capable of bring peace to the world at large. To be war-like requires strictness and to be virtuous requires forgiveness. Those who dare to rise against the imperial forces should be destroyed through intensive and determined action, but once subdued, the enemy should not see further harm and should be treated with benevolence.

                              C. Military discipline
                              Absolute obedience to orders even when the facing death. The need for the troops to be fully aligned to act upon a single order.

                              Putting aside personal interests to serve the interest of the whole. To establish a binding rapport within units.

                              While fully devoting oneself to one’s individual duty, respect the duties of others and cooperate.

                              F.Attacking Spirit
                              In an attack, aggressively advance and do not let up until the enemy is completely destroyed. In defense, blunt the spearhead of the attack and secure the initiative. The line must never be yielded even at the cost of death. In pursuit, be thorough and determined.

                              G.Conviction of victory
                              Belief is power. Faith in victory comes from ceaseless and determined training.

                              Chapter 1 opening. You can call this the Japanese counterpart of Mein Kampf
                              Attached Files


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