When World War 2 ended, Susumu Noda, his parents and twin younger brothers were living in the port city of Dalian, Manchuria, what was known by them as Japan’s “gaichi” or outer land. During the war, Japanese government propaganda proclaimed that defeat would result in men being killed and women raped. When the war ended, Noda’s hometown was overrun by the Russians.
The Soviet tankers arrived, so many of them. They crashed through the gates of the palace. But really their first order of business was finding shoes. The soldiers were wearing wooden clogs. When they found Japanese soldiers, they would take their shoes. At that time, there were still a lot of Japanese military in town.
When the war had started going badly in the south of China, much of the Kwantung Army was sent south. So at the end of the war, there was no army left in Manchuria.
The Russians would go into people’s homes when they learned from the Chinese that there were women there, young ones. The Russians would take them, so women shaved their heads and went into hiding. My mother shaved her head and hid.
And watches, they went into every house and would say ‘tokei’ (clock or watch in Japanese). When watches wound down, they thought they were broken and would throw them away because they didn’t understand that you had to wind them. They would wear as many as they could, some had them on their legs. They took every watch they could find. We wondered, ‘what is it with these Russian soldiers?’
The only thing they were advanced in was weaponry. They were proud of their guns. They would say, ‘If someone charges us, this holds 72 rounds and we will cut them down.’ Sometimes when we were going to school, we would see Russian soldiers. They would explain things to us, but of course, we didn’t understand Russian. It seems some had come from Berlin by way of Siberia, and they showed us their German pistols.
They showed us this hard bread they ate. It was like bricks, and inside there would be bits of straw. There was no way you could bite into it. Instead, to eat it, you would break it up with a hammer, and put the pieces in your mouth, where it would soften. It smelled of alcohol and I thought it was delicious.
The officers, who were quartered in peoples’ homes, they had white bread to eat. I thought it was funny that if they were really communists, how come the soldiers were eating that hard bread and the officers were eating white bread. What else were the officers eating? They ate raw vegetables, they’d put oil on them and eat them. We Japanese weren’t accustomed to things like salads.
The whole thing made me think about how strange communism was, for a doctrine that preached equality to have so much inequality. The officers ate like that while the enlisted men ate that hard bread. It was supposed to be fair, but that was all I understood of communism.
In Dalian, there was a Russian military government and a Chinese civil government, and the two governments would issue conflicting orders.
If you violated the military law the Russian army would shoot you. If you broke the civil law, you would receive a Chinese-style punishment.