After Darkness - OPUS at UTS - University of Technology Sydney

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A F T E R

D A R K N E S S :

Japanese civilian internment in Australia during World War II

C H R I S T I N E

P I P E R

Doctor of Creative Arts University of Technology, Sydney 2014

C E R T I F I C A T E O R I G I N A L

O F

A U T H O R S H I P

I certify that the work in this thesis has not previously been submitted for a degree, nor has it been submitted as part of requirements for a degree, except as fully acknowledged within the text. I also certify that the thesis has been written by me. Any help that I have received in my research work and in the preparation of the thesis itself has been acknowledged. In addition, I certify that all information sources and literature used are indicated in the thesis.

Signed:

May 2014

Date:

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I would like to thank my supervisors, Debra Adelaide, Delia Falconer and Devleena Ghosh, for their guidance and faith in my work. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of: The University of Technology, Sydney; The Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai; The Copyright Agency Limited; Varuna, The Writers’ House; Ragdale Foundation (and the family of Alice Hayes); Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; Bundanon Trust; and the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. I thank those who shared their time and wisdom to assist my research: Yuriko Nagata, Yasushi Torii, Shigeo Nasu, Norio Minami, Kazuyuki Kawamura, Masashi Hojo, Mary and Peter Jarzabkowski, Evelyn Suzuki, Maurice Shiosaki, Mutsumi Tsuda, Rosemary Gower, Pearl Hamaguchi, Max Scholz and the late James Sullivan. Also: Pam Oliver, Noreen Jones, Lorna Kaino, Trevor Reed, Marie-José Michel, Mayu Kanamori, Robert Cross, Robert Rechner and family, Mary Rosewarner, Ken and Heather Wilkinson, Dorothy Wise, the Broome Historical Museum, the Adelaide Migration Museum, Malcolm Thompson at the National Railway Museum, and the National Archives of Australia staff. I am indebted to friends, family and colleagues who gave feedback on the first draft: Carlos Mora, Aditi Gouvernel, Elizabeth Cowell and my parents. Others who gave input include Kevin Maruno, Kim Jacobson, Jo Quach, Marina Gold, Patrick Boyle, Kevin O’Brien and the fiction feedback group, Samantha Chang and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop summer class of 2011. Thanks to Brian Duong for making the finished product look so good.

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Most of all, I am grateful for the support of my family. My mother deserves a special mention for her tireless translation work. My father and sister were early champions of my writing, and the Webster family were equally enthusiastic. My heartfelt thanks go to my partner, Kris, who gave feedback at all stages and endured my frequent absences, and returned it with patience and love. I hope it was worth the wait. To write the scenes set at Loveday internment camp, I consulted military records held by the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial, and material written by or featuring interviews with former Japanese civilian internees. Yuriko Nagata’s Unwanted Aliens, Susumu Shiobara’s memoir in the Journal of the Pacific Society, and the internment diary of Miyakatsu Koike were particularly helpful. Interviews I conducted with former internees and their relatives also shed light on living conditions and the emotional experience of internment. Rosemary Hemphill’s The Master Pearler’s Daughter provided valuable insight into life in prewar Broome. For the scenes set in Japan, I referred to books and articles by witnesses and historians such as Yoko Gunji, Sheldon Harris, Hal Gold and others. An extract from the creative project was published in SWAMP issue 12: . I published interviews with Mary Nakashiba, Maurice Shiosaki and Evelyn Yamashita (Exegesis Chapter One) on my research project blog: . A version of ‘Memory of Trauma and Conflicted Voice in The Remains of the Day, Austerlitz and After Darkness’ (Exegesis Chapter Three) has been accepted for inclusion in the Voice/Presence/Absence tablet book edited by Malcolm Angelucci and Chris Caines, to be published by UTS ePress in 2014. I have permission to use the above in this thesis.

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T A B L E

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List of images

Abstract

Creative component 1

After Darkness

Exegesis 231

The Gathering Light

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Introduction

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Perspectives on Japanese Civilian Internment in Australia

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Unearthing the Past: Silence and testimony in Japan

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Memory of Trauma and Conflicted Voice in The Remains of the Day, Austerlitz and After Darkness

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The Other Side of Silence

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Bibliography

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List of images

Map of Loveday camp 14. (©Crown in right of the State of South Australia through the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources)

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Japanese internees of Loveday camp 14B playing tennis, with a clubhouse they built in the background. (Australian War Memorial ID 123015)

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Japanese internees return to Woolenook camp after a day of woodcutting. (Australian War Memorial ID 122978)

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Japanese internees at Loveday use a celery planter to plant guayule seedlings as part of an experimental crop to produce rubber. (Australian War Memorial ID 123078)

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Former Tatura internee Mary Nakashiba. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Former Tatura internee Maurice Shiosaki. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Former Tatura internee Evelyn Yamashita. (Courtesy of Evelyn Yamashita)

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Former Loveday internee Jimmy Chi. (Courtesy of Evelyn Yamashita)

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The monument to the unidentified human remains in Toyama. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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The only remaining building of the Toyama Military Academy, which forms part of the United Church of Christ. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Yasushi Torii, president of the Association Demanding Investigation Into the Human Remains Found at the Former Army Medical College Site. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Shigeo Nasu, director of resources at the Centre for Victims of Biological Warfare. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Koeisha funeral parlour in Okubo, where the bones were kept for thirteen years while authorities decided what to do with them. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Kazuyuki Kawamura, secretary-general of the Citizens for the Investigation of World War II Issues. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Toyama Park, where the Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory once stood. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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The National Center for Global Health and Medicine. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Norio Minami, the lawyer involved in the case to prevent the cremation of the remains. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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The National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Toyama, where the human remains were found. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Rear view of the monument to the unidentified human remains. The remains are stored in boxes behind the metal door. (Photo by Christine Piper)

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Images used in Chapter Four, ‘The Other Side of Silence’, are from the researcher’s personal and family collection.

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Abstract

Traumatic experience, such as that induced by war, is often followed by long periods of silence, as individuals and communities strive to distance themselves from the pain of the past. Yet time brings a shift against what author W G Sebald termed the ‘conspiracy of silence’, with testimonies and deathbed confessions often occurring decades after events. Across its creative and theoretical components, this thesis addresses the question: How do we narrate the traumas of the past, as individuals and collectively? It considers the moral and ethical implications of silence and telling, and examines how the passage of time affects our understanding of the past. After Darkness is a work of historical fiction about Japanese civilians interned in Australia and other wartime misdeeds. In 1989, retired doctor Tomokazu Ibaraki reflects on the time he was interned as an enemy alien in South Australia during World War II. While working as a doctor at a Japanese hospital in Broome, he was arrested and sent to Loveday, South Australia. As the world of the camp unfolds through the doctor’s retelling, details about his past emerge—his deep connection with the nun he trained in Broome, and a trauma in Japan that triggered the breakdown of his marriage. At camp, he befriends a troubled half-Japanese internee, and when tensions between internees escalate, the doctor’s loyalties are divided as his sense of duty conflicts with his moral integrity. After Darkness explores how we face the traumas of our past and find the courage to speak out.

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The exegesis is divided into four chapters, with each investigating different expressions of silence in narratives about past trauma. The first highlights the gaps in historical literature about the 4301 Japanese civilians interned in Australia during World War II. I profile five former Japanese civilian internees to demonstrate their varying voices according to their place within the dominant cultural paradigm. The second chapter is a creative non-fiction essay investigating the effects of silence and testimony on the understanding of Japan’s wartime past. Through interviews with members of civilian activist organisations, I explore how the accidental discovery of unidentified human remains in Shinjuku in 1989 triggered the unearthing of traumatic memories, prompting individuals to speak out and opening up a dialogue for new understanding. The third chapter examines the representation of memory of trauma in Austerlitz, The Remains of the Day and After Darkness. Through the gaps in narration that introduce conflict in the voice, these texts probe how and when to narrate the traumas of our past, and highlight the repercussions of postwar silence. The fourth chapter is a personal essay charting the evolution of the thesis. I consider how, through writing the thesis, I addressed the gaps and silences of my own past—namely the disjuncture arising from my peripheral perspective of my Japanese heritage.

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by C H R I S T I N E

P I P E R

A F T E R

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©Crown in right of the State of South Australia through the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources

A F T E R

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TOKYO 1989

Mrs Ono descends the stairs to my landing, plump arms swinging. ‘Good morning, sensei,’ she says. There’s an elevator just a few metres away, but she always takes the stairs. For exercise, she says. But she’s not in her usual walking gear of sun visor, polo shirt and slacks. She’s wearing a straw hat over her perm, a skirt and a short-sleeved top that rolls at her neck. She walks past the window, over the rectangle of sunlight projected onto the tiles, and marches across the landing towards me. Before I have a chance to bend down, she scoops up the newspaper at my feet. ‘Isn’t it terrible,’ she tuts at something on the front page. My stomach turns. I don’t want to look, so I stare at her face. Foundation mottles her skin. Painted, blood-red lips. Mrs Ono shakes her head. ‘I hate to think how they came to be—’ ‘Going somewhere special today?’ I take the newspaper from her and tuck it under my arm. Surprise transforms Mrs Ono’s features. It’s the sort of reaction I dread these days. The subtle missteps one makes. Perhaps I took the paper too quickly? She hesitates. Her eyes search my face. When she speaks again, her voice is softer. ‘It’s the anniversary, today… of the bombing.’ Ah—I had forgotten. I’d remembered last night, when I switched off the television program about the bomb victims. And I remembered this morning, when I woke up to the glow of sunlight behind the curtains. Hot day. Good excuse to stay indoors, I thought. But sometime between getting out of bed, getting dressed,

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setting the coffee maker and opening the door to collect my newspaper, which another neighbour had kindly brought up from the entrance of our building, I forgot all about the anniversary. ‘Yes, of course. My memory…’ My hand flutters at my brow. ‘The ceremony in the park—is that where you’re going? How many years has it been now?’ ‘Forty-four.’ Mrs Ono states it as if it’s something I should know by heart. She inclines her head as she studies my face. ‘You won’t attend?’ ‘No, I don’t think so. The weather—it’s difficult for me…’ I smile, hoping to send her on her way, but she doesn’t move. ‘You never go, do you? To the anniversary ceremonies, I mean.’ I grow hot under her gaze. Perhaps my irritation shows, because Mrs Ono doesn’t wait for my response. ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t ask such things. How rude of me. Only…’ Her eyes wander to the inside of my apartment. ‘In my experience, I’ve found it helps to go to these things. It eases the pain. To honour them by remembering. I learnt that after my husband passed away.’ Mrs Ono straightens up. Her smile snaps back into place. ‘Anyway, a bit of fresh air and sunlight in the morning is vital for a healthy body, wouldn’t you agree? If you want to come to the ceremony, I’ll make sure you get a seat. Just look out for me near the front.’ She excuses herself and walks down the stairs, straw hat bobbing. My heart thumps as I close the door. I sit at the kitchen table to rest, touching the cool tips of my fingers to my eyelids. When my head clears I take a deep breath and spread out the newspaper in front of me. The first page features a story about the effects of radiation forty years on. Beneath it is a smaller article about the mystery of unearthed bones in Shinjuku. I’m surprised by how much Mrs Ono’s comment has unsettled me. Urging me to attend the ceremony, as if I never go out. I see acquaintances from the hospital most weeks and my sister’s family at least once a month. I play go in Kanda with a group of old friends every weekend, although I doubt she’d approve of the hours we spend staring at the board, arguing and drinking tea. I regularly walk in our neighbourhood park. I pride myself on remaining active—even though I’m now retired, I have to practise what I once preached.

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I fold the paper and stand up. My eye catches the dusty photo of my wife. Leaning against a tree beside the Kamo River, she smiles uncertainly, her hair pinned in soft waves around her face. She’d been afraid of the murky, roiling water. That’s the only detail I remember—what’s captured in the photo, in her ambiguous smile. Even Kayoko’s laugh and the pitch of her voice are lost to me now. I pour a cup of coffee and stand at the glass door that leads onto the balcony. From this vantage point, the cluster of buildings at the city’s heart echoes the distant curve of the Kanto mountains. The river snakes through the city, an age-old path through modernity. I’ve never been one to dwell on the past. What use is there in remembering when you can’t change what has been and gone? It may seem an odd belief, but there was a time after the war when everyone in Japan wanted to forget. But as the decades have passed the tide has turned. Now there are all manner of anniversaries and rituals that compel us to look back. Perhaps Mrs Ono’s right. I should make an effort. And why not? I’m too old to have any regrets. So I fetch my hat and pull on my sneakers and go outside. The sun momentarily blinds me as I cross the main road. I weave through the network of alleyways until I reach the park. A hundred people hug the shade beneath a grove of trees. A raised platform with a lectern caps one end. I’m glad for the children, who squirm around their parents’ legs as I join the back of the crowd. Mrs Ono’s straw hat floats several rows ahead. I move behind someone tall so she won’t see me. The district mayor is talking about the importance of maintaining a sense of community in the face of adversity. I can’t see his face, but his voice is like a current that carries me to another continent, where I lived for many years. I begin to think about people I once knew and scan the faces in the crowd, wondering what they might look like now. The mayor invites a survivor to the stage. I have to strain to hear him. He lost both his parents to the bomb, but somehow he survived. ‘I still remember the explosion—that flash of white light. It’s burned onto my memory forever,’ he says. Everyone claps when he finishes his speech. The woman beside me dabs her eyes. There’s a flurry of wings as a flock of doves is released. I look up to catch sight of

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the birds scattering and I’m jolted back to a place where strange birds roam the wide blue sky and barbed wire snares the earth. I return home. Unease gnaws at my stomach, so I busy myself around the apartment, watering plants and filing letters. But something takes shape within me. Not even sorting through my photographs calms me like it usually does. Now, as I sit at my desk, I see the persimmon tree outside, its broad green leaves almost touching the windowpane. It makes me think of my childhood. Being hoisted onto Father’s shoulders to pick the reddest fruit at the top of the tree. Later the sweet flesh erupting in my mouth. And the smell of simmering broth from the apartment below brings to mind Kayoko, and our first winter spent as husband and wife, living together in a cramped house in outer Tokyo, the aromas from every home-cooked meal melting into my clothes, my skin, my hair. And also the dusty haze of the afternoon light. It draws me back to a distant place, where I stand with one hand shielding my eyes from the glare of floodlights, the other holding a suitcase with the remnants of my life.

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SOUTH AUSTRALIA 1942

The sun spread on the horizon, bleeding colour like a broken yolk. In the growing light, I watched the details of the landscape emerge. The leaves of the eucalypts became sharply defined. The ochre earth glowed. The carriage creaked, continuing its gentle sway from side to side as we trundled further inland. I was used to the wide spaces of Broome, but this was a different sort of vastness: acres of sun-bleached pasture and crops that stretched away as far as the eye could see. Here and there, fat-bellied cows and horses pulled at the yellow grass. In the sweep of land before me, not a single person could be seen. Sweat gathered on my back and the undersides of my thighs, making the seat cling. I reached out to unlatch the window and caught a glimpse of my reflection. Hollow, sleep-starved eyes. Black hair, unkempt and oily. The whisper of stubble on my chin. The last time I had showered was at the camp in Harvey, three days earlier. I hadn’t realised the journey to South Australia would take so long. My buttocks were numb from hours of sitting. Paraesthesia, I thought, remembering the word from one of my textbooks. I heard a rustling behind me as someone sifted through his belongings. I knew a few of the men in my carriage—those who’d accompanied me on the journey from Perth. I had met the others that morning at Adelaide central, where we had gathered so early that stars were visible in the sky. Guards had surrounded us, rifles strapped to their shoulders, eyes darting to all corners of the terminal. On the deserted platform, we formed a strange group of forty men, united only by our

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nationality. After bowing and whispering greetings to each other, we fell silent. Judging by the newcomers’ deep tans and loose white clothing, I guessed they were from the Pacific Islands. At Harvey camp, I had met many Japanese from New Caledonia who told me they had moved there decades ago to work in nickel mines. After we had waited half an hour, a train chugged into view. Japanese faces peered at us through the windows of the carriages. There must have been at least a hundred men inside. The guards corralled us into an empty carriage and then, with a loud hiss and billows of white steam, we set off, leaving the silhouettes of city buildings behind. As the light grew stronger, I began to relax. Watching the peaceful countryside put me at ease. An old man sat in the seat opposite me. Since our departure, we hadn’t exchanged a word. I stole a glance at him as he stared out the window. Wrinkles creased the skin around his eyes like wet paper. One of the soldiers standing at the end of our carriage began whistling a cheerful tune. Two people near me were murmuring. I caught fragments of their conversation. They spoke with an accent I couldn’t place. ‘… soldiers here are much kinder. Did you see one of them offered me a cigarette?’ ‘Maybe our next camp will be as nice and clean as this train.’ I settled back in my seat, enjoying the breeze on my face. As we turned into a bend, I glimpsed the contours of a wide river, its surface glittering white. Dead trees haunted its edges, their limbs stretching skywards, as if begging for forgiveness. The train began to slow as we approached the outskirts of a town. Farmland gave way to wide, dusty streets. The river coursed ahead of us, just out of reach. We pulled into a train station, stopping with a jolt at the platform. ‘Murray Bridge’ the sign read. A woman and small girl were sitting on a bench on the platform facing our carriage. The girl was about three—my niece’s age when I’d last seen her—fairskinned and chubby, with brown curls pulled into bunches on either side of her head. Seeing us, her eyes flashed. She tugged her mother’s arm and pointed at us. The woman stared straight ahead. We were at the station less than a minute when the whistle blew. As the train lurched forward, the woman grabbed her daughter’s hand and dragged her towards our carriage. She came so close I could see a mole above her lip. She spat. A glob landed on the window in front of my face.

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‘Bloody Japs!’ she said, shaking her fist. The train groaned as it moved away. The woman became smaller till she was no more than a pale slip, but I could still see her face. Eyes narrowed, mouth tight—her features twisted with hate.

C The train reached Barmera at six o’clock that evening. Despite the late hour, the sun beat down, casting everything in a copper light. Dust thickened the air. Aside from the soldiers waiting to escort us to camp, there wasn’t a soul around. A wide dirt road stretched ahead of us, framed by swathes of green farmland on either side. In the distance, the slate-grey roof and white walls of a cottage punctuated the greenery; the cottage’s open windows were the only sign of habitation. Four soldiers stood on the platform, plus two on horseback who waited on the track. They wore the same uniform as those who’d guarded us on the train, but everything about them was different: the way they rested the butt of their rifles on the ground, their craggy faces and their easy grins. ‘Next stop, Loveday!’ one of them yelled, motioning for us to follow the path. On the train I’d pitied the other men with their scant belongings, but on the three-mile walk to camp with my four bags, I envied them. As we followed the track, I caught snatches of their conversation. ‘How hot will it be in the middle of the day?’ one wondered. ‘It can’t be worse than the ship. At least we have fresh air here,’ said another. The soldiers chatted to each other, and every so often they thrust their hands into the grapevines growing on either side of the path and pulled out bunches of ripe fruit. Burdened with my luggage, I fell to the back, where the older members of our group were walking. A guard on horseback brought up the rear. I heard a cry and a scuffle behind me. One of the men from New Caledonia was on his hands and knees, his head almost touching the ground. I dropped my bags and ran to him. His complexion was pale and his pupils were dilated, so I coaxed him to lie down. The guard on horseback called for the others to halt, and a crowd gathered around the man.

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‘Christ, he looks like death,’ said the guard. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ I pressed my hand to his forehead. He was burning. ‘What’s your name?’ I asked the man. He looked at me but said nothing. I asked him again. ‘He doesn’t speak Japanese, only French,’ said someone in the crowd. A slight man with hollow cheeks stepped forward. ‘But I think his name is Yonetsu. He was on the ship with me.’ ‘What’s the matter with him?’ The man shrugged. ‘Probably weak from the ship. They gave us very little to eat—only one meal a day. Even I got sick. We weren’t allowed to go on deck. Many died, especially the older ones like him.’ ‘He’s weak,’ I told the guard. ‘I don’t think he can walk. Is there something to carry him on—a stretcher?’ ‘Nah, we’ve got one at headquarters, but that’ll take too long. He doesn’t look like he’ll last another hour… Hey Jack!’ The guard at the front of the group turned his horse around. ‘Can you come here? I have to take this one to hospital. Can’t have one cark it already. Can you give us a hand?’ One of the guards and I eased the man up to standing, but we needed the help of several others to get him into the saddle. He was so feeble he could barely sit up, so we broke off vines to wrap around his body and secure him to the guard. They headed towards camp, silhouetted against the darkening sky. We resumed our walk, and before long a white glow appeared on the horizon. ‘Is that the camp? Loveday?’ I asked the guard nearest to me. ‘Yep, that’s it,’ he said. ‘It’s always lit up like that at night. Bright as daylight.’ I struggled at the back of the group, stopping to adjust my load from time to time. By the time we reached camp, my hands were blistered and weeping. We were told to line up outside a concrete building. Then, one by one, we were called by name to enter. Inside, three men sat behind desks scattered with paper. I approached one of the officers. He looked me up and down, stopping at the sight of my bags. ‘Four bags? Christ, did you bring your entire house?’ ‘My medical equipment—I thought…’

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He lifted his eyebrows. ‘Occupation?’ ‘Medical doctor.’ ‘A doctor? Here or overseas?’ ‘Both. In Japan I was a doctor, but more recently I was working at a hospital in Broome. Also at the camp in Harvey—they asked me to help. There were not enough doctors.’ ‘Is that why you got here later than the others from Broome?’ I nodded. ‘The military doctor at Harvey, Doctor Mackinnon, asked me to stay back. The camp commander approved the extension.’ The officer turned his attention to the form. Still writing, he addressed me again. ‘I see you’re thirty-three. How long have you been here? Your English’s good.’ ‘I came to Australia in 1938. It has been almost four years.’ The man beside me struggled to make himself understood. Linen factory, he said over and over in Japanese, referring to his occupation. ‘Marital status?’ I was caught off-guard. I opened my mouth but nothing came out. The officer looked up. ‘Well, are you married or not? Got a wife?’ ‘I—ah… Yes, I am married.’ ‘Where is she? Here?’ ‘No. She’s in Japan. In Tokyo. She’s never been to Australia.’ He looked as if he was about to ask something further, but he nodded briskly and returned to his notes. After a while, he paused, tapping one end of his pen on the desk. ‘I’m putting you in camp 14C, where most of the other men from Broome are. But you can’t take any of this stuff with you.’ He motioned to my open suitcase. ‘Scalpels, scissors—it’s far too dangerous with some of the other internees. We’ll put them in a safety deposit box along with your valuables.’ Before we were allowed to enter camp, we were subject to a medical examination by the camp doctor and his assistant. Although I knew what to expect—I’d carried out the same procedure on hundreds of new internees at Harvey—I wasn’t prepared for the indignity of being probed while naked. By the time I’d been examined, it

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was almost midnight and many of the others had already entered camp. I joined the remainder standing beneath the floodlights outside the entrance to camp. Everything appeared too bright and too crisp. Even the whispers of my companions were amplified in the stillness of the night. ‘They’re watching us now, aren’t they? From that tower?’ The nearest guard tower was twenty feet away, just behind the ring of floodlights. I squinted at the enclosure at the top of the tower. The barrel of a mounted machine gun jutted out against the sky. ‘They’re always watching us,’ another man said. ‘When we’re eating, sleeping and shitting. They have to. And even if they aren’t watching us, they want us to think they are.’ ‘Will they shoot us?’ the first man said. ‘Only if we try to escape.’ An officer strode down the incline towards us, his feet kicking up small clouds of dust. ‘Ready to enter?’ His voice boomed across the landscape. His face was red and shiny, as if he’d just emerged from a hot shower. ‘Thirty-two of you are in 14B and the rest are in 14C. All in 14B raise your hand.’ There was confusion around me, as many of the men didn’t speak English. ‘14B. Yes?’ The guard said more slowly, raising his own hand to demonstrate. ‘Right, you lot go first. Tell me your name before you enter the gate. Your name.’ He pointed at the clipboard he held in one hand, then signalled for the guard standing at the gate to unlock it. We farewelled the men leaving us. They were mostly Formosans and New Caledonians. Although I’d only been with them a day, I felt a strong kinship with them, having travelled such a long distance together. The old man who’d sat opposite me on the train was among them. He smiled at me before lining up to enter the rectangular wire enclosure. I never found out his name. After checking off their names, the officer locked the gate after them. ‘Say goodbye to freedom,’ he said under his breath. Several minutes passed before it was our turn to enter the gate. We squeezed into the space, which was just larger than an army truck, jostling and bumping each other. A wooden beam cut into the small of my back. I wondered how long we’d be kept like this, but the guard behind us called, ‘All in!’ and after a few moments

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a second guard opened the door on the other side. We spilled out onto a dirt road wide enough for four trucks to pass each other. It seemed to go on forever. ‘Welcome to Loveday Camp 14,’ said the second guard. ‘That’s the birdcage gate. There’s another one like it on the other side. You’ll get used to them soon enough.’ We followed him down the road that bisected camp, forming a procession of forty-odd men. ‘This is called Broadway, because of all the bright lights,’ the guard said, indicating the road. A wire fence ran along both sides. He pointed to a door built into the fence on our left. ‘That’s the entrance to 14B. They’re your neighbours. The entrance to your compound’s at the other end.’ He began to whistle a tune. Although the melody was cheerful, hearing it in that empty space filled me with sorrow. ‘Hey, look over there,’ the man beside me whispered. To our right, thirty feet away, a figure stood on the other side of the fence. An Occidental man in a light-coloured shirt and pants stared at us with dispassion, the way one would watch cars passing on the street. Although he probably meant no harm, his ghostly appearance perturbed me and I dared not look again. We passed a juncture where the road intersected a narrower dirt track about fifteen feet wide that marked the start of the two other compounds. ‘This small road that cuts across the middle is what we call The Race. And this is your camp, 14C,’ the guard said, indicating the fence on his left. ‘But we haven’t made it to the entrance yet.’ The low line of buildings beyond the fence appeared bleak in the unnatural light. The guard stopped whistling as we neared the end of the road. ‘Anyone there?’ he called. ‘Yes,’ a voice responded some distance away. Footsteps moved towards us. The guard unlocked the door and we filed into the compound. Three men stood on the other side. ‘Welcome to camp 14C,’ said the tallest of the men. His round, wire-rimmed glasses reflected the glare of the floodlights. ‘My name is Mori. I’m the mayor of this compound. I was working for Mitsui in Sumatra before this.’ He used the formal language of a native Tokyoite—words I hadn’t heard for years. ‘This is my deputy,

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Mr Yamada.’ He gestured to the man next to him, who had a broad, suntanned face and grey hair. He nodded and smiled. ‘And the secretary, Mr Hoshi.’ The third man bowed deeply, his paunch pressing against his waistband of his trousers. Sweat shone on his balding pate. ‘We’re here to ensure your time at camp is as comfortable as possible. If there’s anything you need, please come to us. Usually we’d take you on a tour immediately after your arrival, but as it’s very late we’ll show you your tent and the latrines and ablutions block tonight, and the rest of camp tomorrow. Your group is being spread across four tents. Could the men from Menaro come with me? The men from Batavia follow Mr Hoshi. You’re a large group, so you’ll be in two tents. And the one late arrival from Harvey camp—from Broome, yes?’ I nodded. ‘Please follow Mr Yamada.’ Mr Yamada stepped forward and greeted me. ‘You’re Ibaraki-sensei, from Broome? Hama told me all about you. Here, let me take one of your bags. The tent’s this way.’ Before I had a chance to protest he took one of the suitcases out of my hand. ‘Hama? Hama Yasutaro’s here?’ I asked. Hama was the vice president of Broome’s Japanese Association. We’d said goodbye at Harvey Camp, when I’d stayed back to help the camp doctor. I wasn’t sure whether we’d see each other again. I was relieved to know I had friends among the camp population. ‘Yes, but he’s in a different row of tents. I’ll show you tomorrow. We were going to put you with him and some of the divers from Broome, but when we found out you were a doctor…’ Yamada smiled. ‘We thought you might prefer to stay in my tent. You’ll like everyone in there. It’s a shame you didn’t arrive two weeks ago with all the others. We appointed the executive committee last week. We could have done with another educated man such as you.’ We walked along the lines of tents, then stopped near the middle of a row. ‘This is our tent. Row eight, number twelve,’ he whispered. ‘I’ve already made your bed. Drop your luggage and change your clothes if you’d like, then I’ll show you the latrines. I’ll wait for you at the end of the row.’ I set my suitcases down and sorted through my belongings, feeling for my nightclothes and toothbrush. I winced as my blistered hands knocked against something hard. I heard the sigh of breath from inside the tent. A rustle as somebody stirred.

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I was touched by Yamada’s kindness in welcoming me to his tent, especially since I was a stranger to him. I looked up at the heavens and silently said a prayer of thanks. The stars were faint pinpricks beneath the glare of lights.

C The next morning I woke early. Grey light filtered through the opening of the tent. It must have been no later than six, but the day was already full of the promise of heat. A warm breeze teased the edges of the tent. A fly circled above me in lazy arcs. My neck and back were damp against the bedsheets. The rise and fall of the breath of the men around me grew louder, filling my ears. I raised my head and sweat trickled down my neck. My six companions slept on, apparently unconcerned by the gathering heat. In Broome, on Sundays, I would rise at five o’clock and walk for two hours along the shore of the bay, weaving between the pink-red sand and the spiky fringe of grass that skirted it. The sun would burst from the horizon in an orange haze, slowly bringing the sand, the grass and the sea into sharp definition. Those walks always cleared my head and provided me with a calmness with which to begin the week. I crept to the doorway of the tent and looked out. In the bleak morning light, the landscape appeared completely different to the previous night. Rows and rows of khaki tents stretched away from me. Beyond them, the iron roofs of the mess halls were clustered next to the internal road I’d walked down last night. Stepping out of the tent, I turned to face the outer fence. Between the last line of tents and the perimeter fence was a flat, dusty expanse, littered with pebbles and clumps of stubborn grass. Beyond the barbed wire fence, dirt, grass and scrub continued in flat eternity. I walked towards the latrines in the northwest corner of the compound, passing a small galvanised-iron shed with padlocked shutters. Yamada had pointed it out to me last night. ‘You can buy cigarettes, razors and other supplies here,’ he’d said. I reached the concrete latrines and ablutions blocks, easily identifiable by their stench. Following the path that hugged the fence, I wandered past two mess halls

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and a kitchen. The air was alive with the clink of metal pots and bowls as breakfast was being prepared. The rich smell of fried butter greeted me. I looked at my watch. It was just past six. Breakfast wouldn’t be served for another hour. I slipped back in between the rows of tents, catching sight of the men inside, still prostrate on their mattresses, sheets crumpled beside them. I continued until I’d reached the fence that faced the world beyond camp. From what I’d gathered, our camp formed one section of a roughly circular larger camp that had been divided into four quadrants. As well as the Japanese in 14B and 14C, there were Italians and Germans in the other two compounds. A fenced-off divide separated each of the four camps, so although we could see each other, we had limited contact. The barbed-wire fence stood before me, steel tips dull against the brightening sky. A stretch of cleared land surrounded the camp like a moat. At the edge of the clearing a forest of tall red gums stood like sentinels. Bark peeled from their trunks like blistered skin. I’d received a letter from my mother the week before I’d left Harvey. In the months before my arrest she had urged me to return to Japan. But I told her I had to stay in Broome to honour my contract. In truth, the contract had already expired—I wasn’t ready to go back to Japan. ‘Dear Tomokazu,’ my mother’s letter had begun. ‘Snow has fallen steadily this week. Although the days are getting longer, the ice on the awnings grows heavier each day. Have you been well? I am in good health.’ Mother informed me she saw my sister, Megumi, and her two children almost every day. She’d visited the family graves early in the new year and said everything was in order. ‘Your younger brother, Nobuhiro,’ began the next sentence, but the rest of the paragraph had been neatly cut from the paper by the censors, forming a rectangle of empty space. The void seemed to have a force of its own, drawing the meaning of the words into it. The letter ended with: ‘Please take good care of yourself. I will write again when I have more time. From, Mother.’ I was anxious to know what had become of my brother who was in the navy and, when I’d last heard, had been sent to China. Although there were ten years

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between us, we were close. I often played with him in the fields at the back of our house. He’d planned to study medicine like me, but that changed when the war began. The letter didn’t mention my wife. My mother used to see the Sasakis from time to time, but I’d heard nothing of them in the past year. Trying to clear my head, I walked along the fence until I reached my row of tents. I was surprised to discover a Buddhist altar in the space between the last row of tents and the outside fence. It was a simple structure, no more than shoulder-high. It was made from unpainted pine; the roof was swollen and sun-bleached. Two rough-hewn doors splayed open, revealing a miniature scroll with the words ‘Eternal Happiness’, and a vase with several withered stems. In Japan, I would have lit a stick of incense at such a time. But here, so many miles from home, all I could do was kneel before the altar and close my eyes. I sensed a movement to my left and saw a figure come to stillness about thirty feet away. As I stared at him, I realised he was half-caste. On his way back from the ablutions block, the young man had a towel folded over his shoulder, soap in one hand—straight-backed and passive-faced, like a soldier in a parade. Our eyes met and he nodded, almost imperceptibly, before he continued on his way.

C I stepped into the mess hall and was assaulted by a barrage of voices, clangs and scrapes. The room thrummed with the sound of several hundred men eating breakfast. I longed for the silence of the early morning, when hardly a soul had been awake. ‘Meat?’ Yamada offered me a tray piled high with thick slices of something dark brown. ‘I think it’s mutton. Always mutton. Not to my taste, but it keeps me going till lunch.’ The smell of mutton in the morning made me feel weak with nausea, but I took a sliver, not wanting to appear ungrateful. Yamada poured me a cup of tea and offered me the first helping of oatmeal, toast, butter and jam. He introduced me to the other people at our table, who were also in our tent. I discovered that three of them had worked with Yamada at a rubber production company in Sumatra.

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Yamada was the director. He had been sent there from Japan eight years earlier to start up the business. Watanabe, the fifty-something, thickset man who sat opposite me, was Yamada’s deputy. Next to him was the accountant, Ishikawa, and next to Yamada was a man named Maeda, who was the operations manager. At the other end of the table was a dentist who was a few years older than me and also from Sumatra, and an elderly man from Borneo whose name I didn’t catch. Yamada leaned towards me. ‘We worked hard, but business was tough. Especially after the Dutch froze our assets—those bastards. I’ll never forgive them for what they did to us.’ As he recalled the Dutch embargo on Japanese trade, his face darkened. For a moment I was worried he would become enraged. I wondered if something had happened on the ship to make him so bitter, but just as quickly, he brightened. ‘What about you, sensei? Which university did you go to? Tokyo or Kyoto?’ ‘Tokyo.’ ‘Ah, the very best.’ He turned to the man on his other side. ‘Did you hear? He went to Tokyo.’ In between mouthfuls, I glanced at nearby tables, looking for my friend Hama. Raised voices cut through the din in the hall. I paused, knife and fork raised, trying to make out a conversation behind me. I caught the long, flat vowels of a native English speaker. ‘… took two pieces—same as everybody else. If you’ve got a problem with it, why don’t you ask that fella over there. Seen him take more than his fair share.’ The second speaker’s voice was muffled, but the few words I heard were enough to tell me that English was not his first language. I turned around in my seat. It took me a few moments to locate the men. The first was sitting at a table two rows behind me. He had a tanned complexion typical of many of the divers I’d known in Broome, but there was something distinctly un-Japanese about his person. He had a strong jaw and powerful, sloping shoulders that seemed to dwarf the rest of his body. I sensed he was a living portrait of someone I knew—the photographic ghost-image of a friend. He leaned forward in his chair, addressing the man opposite him, whose face I couldn’t see. ‘You’re telling me I took two big pieces? Jesus Christ. Hey, Paddy, would you

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listen to this?’ He turned to the person next to him. His companion was similarly broad and muscular, but had fair skin and wavy hair that fell over one eye. I recognised him as the half-caste I’d seen on my morning walk. As I glanced at the others at the table, I noticed several who appeared to be mixed race. ‘He reckons I took more than my fair share because I took two big pieces. As if counting how many pieces I take isn’t enough, they’ve also got an eye on the size of the meat we take. Next they’ll be counting how many pieces of toilet paper we use.’ Paddy shook his head. ‘Not worth getting worked up about it, Johnny. Can’t win this one.’ His voice was flat. I realised who the first speaker was: Johnny Chang. He’d been a well-known personality in Broome, a young businessman who’d run a noodle shop in Japtown then later started up a taxi business, the first of its kind in town. I had a clear mental picture of him on the corner of Short Street and Dampier Terrace, one arm draped over the open door of his parked car and the other fanning his face with a folded paper while he chatted to people on the street. He was known to everybody and moved among the Japanese, Chinese, native and even the white population with ease. His father was a Chinese immigrant who’d found a modest fortune on the goldfields and moved to Broome to start a restaurant, eventually marrying the Japanese daughter of a laundry owner. It was strange I hadn’t recognised Johnny straight away. Perhaps it was the difference in attitude; in Broome, he’d always been easygoing, but here it was as if he were another man. ‘What right have you got to tell us what to do, anyway? Acting like you own the place, with your so-called mayor who doesn’t even follow his own bloody rules.’ Johnny’s voice filled the crowded hall. ‘Yeah, that’s right, him…’ Johnny jabbed a finger towards Mayor Mori, who was sitting a few tables away. ‘He gets all sorts of special treatment. Two or three helpings of food, first in line to use the showers, no cleaning duties. Don’t think I haven’t noticed.’ Mori continued to eat, delicately spearing a piece of mutton with his fork and bringing it to his mouth. His expression was difficult to read. Yamada hissed to Watanabe across the table. ‘That half-caste—what’s his name? Chang? The troublemaker. He needs to watch himself. He’s an embarrassment to

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our compound. He’s upset many people already.’ I wondered whether I should mention my Broome connection to Johnny Chang. But we’d never been intimately acquainted, so I kept quiet. Yamada turned to me. ‘He thinks he’s better than everyone else. When I rostered his tent to clean the latrines, he initially refused to do it. Last week he forced his way into the executive meeting when we were in session. Said he’d been waiting to use the recreation tent. We told him the meeting was more important, but even then he wouldn’t leave. He has no respect for authority—no respect for our ways. None of them do.’ Yamada flicked his hand towards Johnny’s table with an expression of disgust. I was surprised by the news of Johnny’s antisocial behaviour. As far as I knew, Johnny had had little trouble with the authorities in Broome. He was friendly with the constables, some of whom he’d known for years. ‘You haafu fools don’t deserve the Japanese blood in you!’ said an old man at the mayor’s table, speaking in Japanese. Johnny thumped the table and stood up. ‘You bloody racist! I know what you just said. Think I don’t know what haafu means? You fucking Emperor-worshipping pig—’ Paddy put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder, trying to quieten him. It’s not worth it, he kept saying, but Johnny shrugged off his friend. ‘Don’t tell me what to do like the rest of these arseholes,’ he said. ‘Chinese bastard!’ someone cried. The remark sparked rage within Johnny. He knocked back his chair and began shouting profanity. I couldn’t hear much of what he said because others were calling for him to get out. ‘Dete ike!’ ‘Usero!’ Yamada was one of the loudest, bellowing in my ear. Johnny shoved his table so hard he jolted the people on the other side. I heard gasps. Someone at a nearby table stood up. ‘Enough!’ I realised it was the mayor who was standing. The room fell silent. ‘You go now. Or I report you to Major Lott. You get detention one week.’ Mori spoke in clear English. ‘You want me to leave? You’re a bunch of stinking racists, you know that? I can’t get far enough away from you.’

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No one said a word as he stormed out of the room, kicking an empty seat at the mayor’s table. I heard the sigh of my own breath. My heartbeat filled my ears. But only a few seconds later, the cloud of noise rose again. The screech of cutlery. Shrill voices. The banging of plates. I looked at the food in front of me. White specks of lard flecked the meat on my plate. The mutton had turned cold.

C After breakfast, Yamada led me to my old friend Hama’s tent. Inside the tent, figures ducked and weaved as the inhabitants folded bedding, sorted through belongings and swept the ground. Although I’d rarely socialised with the divers in Broome, when the men saw me, they stopped what they were doing and bowed in greeting. ‘Doctor, you made it! I’m so glad to see you,’ said one young diver from Wakayama, whose name escaped me. I was touched by his warmth. I’d treated him in the hospital once, although I couldn’t recall what for. Sister Bernice would know. ‘Ibaraki-sensei, is that you?’ Hama was crouched next to an open suitcase on the floor. Seeing his face, shiny with perspiration, brought to mind all the nights we’d socialised in Broome, drinking, playing mahjong, faces gleaming above steaming bowls of soup. But when Hama stood up, I was shocked to see how thin he’d become in the few weeks since I’d last seen him. He walked towards me and gripped my shoulder in an awkward embrace. ‘When did you arrive?’ ‘Just last night,’ I said. ‘You came from Harvey?’ ‘Yes. Another military doctor arrived last week, so they sent me here. But look at you, you’ve lost so much weight.’ His collarbones felt like they could snap beneath the force of my hand. His skin was hot. ‘It’s nothing,’ he said, pushing away my arm. ‘I don’t like the food here.’ ‘Has the doctor here seen you?’ ‘Yes, yes. Me and five hundred other men.’ Behind him, one of the divers who’d been listening to our conversation looked

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at me and shook his head. I wondered what he meant by that gesture, but I didn’t have a chance to find out as someone shouted nearby, a repeated word, taken up by a chorus of people as it was passed from tent to tent. ‘Headcount!’ ‘We have to go,’ Hama said. ‘Headcount near the fence. Come, I’ll show you.’ He packed the last of his belongings into his suitcase and closed the lid. We followed the stream of people walking towards the fence that faced the internal road. The strength of the sun seemed to have multiplied in the short time I’d been inside the tent. Even the air was hot, burning my throat whenever I took a breath. ‘It’s not like Broome, is it?’ I said, one hand shielding my eyes. ‘No. It’s a long way from Broome,’ Hama said, gazing at the rows of canvas tents, the wire fence and the flat, dusty expanse beyond. He coughed. ‘Think this is hot? It was worse two weeks ago. Forty-three degrees. Even hotter in the tents. Felt like Hell on Earth.’ He gasped between every few words, as if the effort of talking and walking was too much. When we neared the fence, Hama and I separated to join our respective rows. Yamada ushered me to stand in line next to him. I regretted not having the foresight to bring a hat as many of the men around me had. We baked in the sun as a procession of four army personnel entered the camp from the gate to our right. ‘Start the count!’ the officer at the front of the line said, and the others peeled away to walk between the rows, counting as they went. The remaining officer stared at each internee in the first row in turn. He was a stout man, with a girth that matched his thick arms and legs. He wore long khaki trousers, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows and a khaki peaked hat, whose brim plunged his eyes into shadow. His mouth was a perfectly still line. In his right hand he held a riding crop. The officers who’d been counting reassembled at the front and compared numbers. ‘All present?’ the head officer asked. ‘All present, sir,’ they chimed. The head officer stepped forward and addressed us. ‘It has come to my attention that some of you are not observing protocol regarding cleanliness. Belongings in tents must be neat at all times, and beds must be made each day. Failure to do so

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will result in severe reprimand, and repeat offenders will be detained with a view to punishment. To facilitate this, the other officers and I will conduct surprise inspections from time to time of tents and other areas.’ Yamada groaned. ‘Just what we need. Major Lott going through our belongings.’ I squinted against the glare, praying the major would stop speaking and we could go back to our tents soon. He droned on and on. I noticed some of the men around me slump, blinking in incomprehension. Even I, who had a good grasp of English, had trouble following his speech. My nostrils felt as if they were on fire. Several rows behind me, I heard a thud. I turned around, but couldn’t see past the other men. I heard urgent whispers. ‘… imperative that you observe these rules as—’ Major Lott broke off. ‘Silence down the back. What’s going on?’ He turned to the young officer next to him. ‘McCubbin, see what’s the matter, will you?’ McCubbin jogged to the back of the group. I saw a flash of blond hair as he passed. After a while, he called back: ‘Someone’s collapsed, sir. Must be the heat.’ Yamada turned to me. ‘Sensei, you should go.’ I pushed my way through the lines, until I saw a circle of backs surrounding someone on the ground. ‘I am a doctor. Can I help?’ When the men stepped back to make room for me I recognised the man on the ground. ‘Hama!’ I dropped to his side. ‘Hama, it’s me, Ibaraki. Can you hear me?’ His body was covered in sweat. His eyes were half-closed. I pulled up his lids and his eyeballs rolled. I checked Hama’s pulse. It was racing. The young officer gave me a canteen of water and I pressed it to Hama’s lips. ‘Heat exhaustion?’ McCubbin asked, crouching beside me. ‘I don’t think so. He’s sweating too much. I think it’s something else. He should go to hospital.’ ‘I’ll get a stretcher.’ I asked some of the men to shelter Hama from the sun while we waited for the officer to return. He drifted in and out of consciousness, sometimes opening his

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eyes to look at me. Each time his head lolled to one side I checked his pulse again. At last the young officer appeared with a stretcher and another guard. The three of us eased Hama onto the canvas. He looked small, his feet not even reaching the end of the stretcher. McCubbin and the guard hoisted him up, and we walked slowly to the exit. Major Lott had resumed his talk about cleanliness. ‘Hang on, he’s not coming with us, is he?’ the guard said to the officer, nodding at me. ‘Please, I’m a doctor.’ My throat tightened at the thought of leaving Hama in his precarious state. ‘This man is very ill. If we delay any longer he might die. If something should happen on the way, I can help.’ McCubbin’s face clouded. He looked back at Major Lott, who was still talking. ‘Well, okay, then. I’ll have to be on guard. Here, you take this end.’ I took the ends of the stretcher from him, careful not to jolt Hama. We crabwalked to the gate and onto Broadway. After shuffling along the internal road for several minutes, lurching beneath our load, we finally passed through the birdcage gate and emerged onto the track towards headquarters. My palms became slippery as the handles of the stretcher scraped against the blisters on my hands. I winced at the pain. Despite my best efforts to keep a quick pace, I slowed under the load. McCubbin offered to take my end again. I tried to hide my injuries, but blood stained the handles. ‘Christ—is that from you?’ McCubbin stared at the crimson streaks. ‘Yesterday, when I carried my suitcases from the station…’ ‘Geez, I wish you’d told me. I wouldn’t have made you carry him.’ He shook his head. We passed a camp on our right, smaller than Camp 14. It was prettier, too, with shrubs and saplings shading the huts. A couple of Italians who were crouched by a garden near the fence lifted their heads and watched us walk by. We continued in silence for a few minutes more, then the scattered buildings of headquarters came into view: a large, concrete edifice that cast a long shadow on the earth, and several white-painted iron buildings skirted by flower beds. The hospital was one such structure, with a peaked roof and windows on all four sides. Inside, standing screens divided the room into two wards: the beds nearest the

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door contained two ailing Australians, one asleep with a towel on his head and the other with a bandaged foot resting on a pillow. I assumed they were military personnel. From the beds beyond the screens, occasional coughs punctuated the silence. The medical officer who had examined me the previous day stood at the foot of one of the Australians’ beds. He wore a khaki shirt and shorts beneath his white coat. He looked up from his clipboard. ‘Another one? What is it, the heat?’ ‘His pulse is very fast. He has a fever too. I do not think it is the heat,’ I said. The physician glanced at me. ‘You’re the doctor I saw yesterday, aren’t you?’ I nodded. ‘Bring the patient into the internees’ ward, then.’ He indicated the back of the room. ‘You, too, doctor. You can help with the diagnosis.’ There were only two Caucasians among the ten or so patients in the internees’ ward; the rest were Japanese. They stared dully as we manoeuvred Hama onto an empty bed. The doctor checked Hama’s pulse, temperature and eyes. ‘Well, he definitely has a fever. How long’s he been like this?’ he asked. ‘Almost half an hour,’ I said. ‘Has he had any water?’ ‘Yes, a little. A few mouthfuls.’ ‘What’s his name?’ ‘Hama. Tsuguo. Or just Hama.’ ‘Hama? Can you hear me, Hama? Can you open your eyes?’ Hama turned his head away. The doctor put his stethoscope to Hama’s chest. ‘Has he been coughing?’ he asked. ‘I was with him for only a few minutes, but I think so, yes.’ He continued to examine Hama, checking his glands and kidneys. After a minute he folded his stethoscope and returned it to his coat pocket. ‘You’re right, it’s not the heat. This patient has TB. I’m surprised we didn’t detect it when he first arrived. Of course, we’ve had hundreds of new internees in the past few weeks.’

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Fever, chills, shortness of breath. I often saw cases of tuberculosis in Broome. Why hadn’t I thought of that? My failure to detect the disease had probably allowed it to spread and worsen. ‘George!’ the doctor called out. Moments later the assistant who’d been present at my medical examination entered the room. ‘Can you grab this internee’s file?’ He turned to me. ‘What is his name?’ ‘Hama. Tsuguo Hama,’ I said. ‘H-A-M-A?’ the doctor asked. ‘That’s right. From 14C.’ ‘And what’s your name?’ ‘Ibaraki. Tomokazu Ibaraki.’ ‘Doctor Ibraki,’ he said, mispronouncing it. ‘I’m Doctor Ashton. We could do with another doctor at camp. We just opened an infirmary in 14B. You’d also have to help the orderlies—handing out meals, that sort of thing. You wouldn’t be paid much, but it beats sitting around doing nothing. I’m sure Major Lott will appreciate your language skills too, as there’s such a scarcity of Japanese-speaking personnel. So how does that sound?’ He held out his hand. When I hesitated, he glanced down. His expression changed. ‘Good Lord. Whatever happened to your hands?’

C After Hama was given nourishment and allowed to rest, his condition became stable. In the afternoon, he was moved to the tuberculosis ward of the infirmary. I visited him the next day. The complex hugged the eastern corner of 14B, a stone’s throw from the duty guard camp. As I approached, I could see the guards and officers through the fence arriving from headquarters in trucks or on horseback along the dusty road. The three galvanised-iron buildings of the infirmary stood side by side, perhaps the largest structures in our camp. An enclosed walkway ran through the middle of the buildings, connecting them, and it was through this I entered, eventually finding my way along the dim corridor and past the other wards to where Hama was kept. The TB ward was at the back of the complex and had a heavy curtain

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covering the doorway. Inside, the shutters were closed against the wind. A dozen patients occupied the room, the sigh of their breaths and gentle rise and fall of their chests the only signs they were alive. Hama lay in a bed close to the door, and when I stood beside him, his eyes fluttered open and he gave a brief smile. ‘Feeling better?’ I asked. ‘As good as an old man can.’ His voice was raspy and he paused to catch his breath. Not wanting to tire him, I returned to my compound. I decided I would apply to work at the infirmary. I’d be able to monitor Hama, and I could think of no better use of my time at camp. I mentioned the idea to Yamada after lunch, the midday sun bearing down on us as we walked back to our tent. With little shade at camp, there was no escape from the heat. ‘Is that part of the voluntary paid labour scheme, where the Australian government pays you a shilling a day?’ Yamada asked. ‘I think so.’ I mopped my brow with a handkerchief. ‘We discussed it at the executive meeting last week. Some of the New Caledonians expressed interest in working in the vegetable gardens. While we don’t oppose it, we don’t want to work for the enemy just for pocket money. You can see how that presents a problem, can’t you?’ I blinked. Yamada’s expression was serious. ‘But we also know boredom could lead to unrest in camp,’ he continued, ‘so we’ve approved the scheme, with the suggestion participants commit small acts of sabotage from time to time.’ ‘Acts of sabotage?’ ‘Pulling out plants, planting seedlings upside down, that sort of thing. Not so much that it’s obvious, but a few disruptions here and there. But in your case, that would be impossible.’ He laughed. ‘Imagine! Deliberately making patients ill. No, your employment at the infirmary is for the good of the camp, so I’m sure Mori would find no problem in you working there. What’s the matter, Doctor? Are you all right?’ At the mention of ill patients, I had suddenly felt weak. I pressed my fingertips to my eyelids. I saw blackened limbs and rotting flesh.

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‘Just the sun,’ I said. ‘I think I’m all right.’

C At the start of my first shift, one of the orderlies greeted me inside the entrance to the infirmary. Stepping in from the sunlight, I took a moment to adjust to the gloom. A fan circled overhead, blowing air onto my face. ‘Sensei, it’s an honour to have you join us,’ the young man said, bowing deeply. His long, thin fingers fretted the sides of his trousers. His name was Shiobara and he was from Saitama prefecture, he told me, although he’d been a clerk at a lacquer factory in the Dutch East Indies the previous six years. I followed him along the walkway into the first building. Two wards of about sixty feet in length opened up on either side. ‘These are the general internee wards—for fever, malaria, non-contagious infections and the like,’ Shiobara explained. A small chair and desk stood at the entrance of each ward. A stocky young man sat at one of the desks, cheek resting on his hand, eyes shut. His lids flew open when he heard us. He stood up and bowed several times, apologising for his sleepiness. ‘This is Matsuda, from tent twenty-one,’ Shiobara said. ‘He’s been working long hours. We all have.’ Light streamed through the open windows. About twenty beds lined the walls, more than half of which were occupied. The clean, spartan room, the metal beds and white sheets—even the patients who watched us in silence—in some ways felt like home. I couldn’t help but think back to my first few months in Broome, when my senses were keen to the strangeness around me and everything appeared brighter, sharper and crisper, as if a veil had lifted. We continued along the walkway, crossing into the middle building. We stopped in front of an office and storage space. Among the cabinets, shelves crammed with books and odds and ends, chairs, pillows and piles of blankets was a space for the orderlies: a clearing big enough for a few mattresses, three chairs and a low table. This was where I would spend much of my time, and where I’d sleep if I was on the night shift. Although it wasn’t much to look at, the evidence of an abandoned

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go game on the table gave it a homely feel. Shiobara led me into the final building. The light dimmed. A curtain of thick white cloth covered the entrance to each ward. ‘You already know the TB ward,’ Shiobara said, nodding to his right. ‘And this is the ward for pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses. The orderlies for these wards don’t have to sit in the room due to the risk of infection.’ I followed Shiobara outside to a small one-room building near the entrance gate. The heavy aroma of frying fat reached me, and when we stepped into the dark room I heard it sizzle and pop. The dull thwack of a blade on wood stopped. Once my eyes adjusted, I saw a stout Occidental man in a white apron staring at me. ‘This is Francesco, the hospital cook,’ Shiobara said. ‘He used to work in a restaurant. He makes all the meals for the patients, and for us, too.’ The cook looked at me and shrugged, then returned to chopping onions. Shiobara showed me where the trays, dishes and utensils were kept and where to wash them. As breakfast was about to be served, he demonstrated how to portion meals and loaves of bread. Two other orderlies entered the room, both from the Dutch East Indies. Together we carried the trays to our waiting charges. Soon afterwards, Shiobara left me to return to camp. He’d worked the night shift and had hardly slept. I continued alone in my allocated ward for the rest of the day, asking the other orderlies for help from time to time. The work wasn’t difficult but it required stamina—all day I shuttled meals, cleaned dishes, mopped the floor and changed bedpans, so that by the end of my shift my legs trembled with exhaustion. It brought to mind my hospital internship in Japan, where I’d spent much of my time cleaning up after the patients. Despite everything I had been through in the previous eight years, it seemed I had returned to the point at which I’d begun.

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TOKYO 1934

When I was young, I only ever wanted to be a doctor. I was singularly devoted to the profession. From my early teens, I kept a notebook with observations of symptoms displayed by ailing family members, to practise for the future. ‘Temporary blindness in one eye. Pain in temples. Loss of balance,’ read the entry on July 17th, 1925, describing my father’s sudden, mysterious illness a few weeks before he died. In many ways, it was fortunate I was so inclined towards medicine, for my father was a doctor, and his father before him—as the eldest son, I was destined to follow their path. My younger brother might have been allowed to explore other careers, but never me. As a boy, I often came home with tailless lizards, five-legged beetles and other injured creatures with the hope of restoring their health. I recall finding a bulbul by the side of the road whose wing had been crushed and leg half-torn from its body. I picked it up and carried it home, feeling it shivering in the palm of my hand, its heart beating through its chest. Hours later, it died at the entrance to our house—my mother wouldn’t let me take it inside—and I cried, thinking if only I were older and a doctor like my father, I could have saved it. It was years before I realised the ambitions of my childhood wouldn’t eventuate—at least not in the way I’d imagined. It wasn’t until sometime after I finished my studies and began my internship at Tokyo Imperial University Hospital that it dawned on me how incapable I was—how incapable we all were. Medicine was not the noble, enlightened profession I’d envisaged. Patients still died; there was

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no secret cure. Greater men might be able to achieve more, but not me. We follow our childhood dreams, and some we even reach—but in the cold light of day we find they’re not as we imagined. Around this time I received a letter from my former microbiology professor at Tokyo Imperial University. He informed me that a medical research unit was opening within the Army Medical College. The deputy head of the new unit, Major Kimura, was a former student of his, and was looking for diligent junior researchers. ‘I know you want to practise medicine like your father, but research offers greater rewards for those at the top. In time, someone as focused as you could open up entirely new areas. This could be your opportunity to make a difference,’ the professor wrote. Over the subsequent weeks, his words stayed with me as I spent each day performing menial tasks at the whim of the doctors. If the letter had arrived a year later, when my internship was over and I had already accepted a position at a hospital, things may have turned out differently. But at that time, filled with the utter hopelessness of my work, I was desperate to do something else.

C Major Kimura’s office was located within the Army Medical College compound in Shinjuku. I walked there from the station, following a road that grew more isolated and leafier the further I went along it, until I saw the cluster of buildings ahead of me, at the top of a small rise. Following the instructions I had been given, I walked through the gate and followed the path to the back of the complex. Several handsome brick buildings surrounded by lush evergreens and hedges rose up on either side, giving me the impression that I was at an elite college in Europe. Now and then, I glimpsed a silhouette through a window but, aside from that, I saw few other people. I assumed that classes were in session and everyone was hard at work, I thought. I turned a corner and saw someone in military uniform striding ahead of me. But after a few more steps, he was gone. I walked downhill for a few minutes, until I saw a guard booth at a fork in the path. I showed my letter from Kimura confirming the appointment, and after the

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guard checked his schedule, he directed me to a two-storey building at the end of the narrower walkway. The building was different to the others at the college: it was designed in the modern style, with a thick concrete exterior and a line of gleaming glass windows along all sides. The foyer was dimly lit and carpeted with grey pile that gave way slightly with each step. Glass cabinets displayed photos of various army personnel, ministers and members of the royal family. The receptionist told me to take a seat. I settled into one of the armchairs, the stiff leather sighing beneath me. After several minutes, I was directed to the second floor. I had pictured Major Kimura as a version of my microbiology professor: dishevelled with wild, unkempt hair. But he was nothing like that. He had a compact, well-defined frame. He was in his late forties, but had the air of someone much older than that. From his carefully combed hair to the sheen of the buttons on his uniform, no detail was out of place. Despite his academic standing, I realised I had been wrong to imagine him to be like one of my other professors; he was every inch the military man. Before I had finished bowing and introducing myself, Kimura called me forward and gestured to the chair that faced him on the other side of his desk. He held my documents in one hand in front of him, and with the other flicked through the layers. The stiff paper crackled, and I was embarrassed at their cheap quality. ‘So, Ibaraki Tomokazu. Top in your class in anatomy and physiology… ah, and microbiology, too, I see. Good.’ He took the bundle in both hands, tapped the bottom edge once on the table and then laid the bundle flat. He arranged his hands in a loose clasp on top of the pile. His fingernails were neatly kept; thin white crescents atop perfectly uniform pink ovals. I tried not to stare at them. ‘Professor Endo says you were one of his best students. Coming from him, I know that is no small honour. You certainly have impressive academic results—they alone are enough reason for me to employ you.’ ‘Thank you, sir.’ ‘If I were to merely take you on as another junior doctor at the hospital, there would be no question—I would give you the job. But I am recruiting for a new research division, one that demands certain qualities in an employee. And these

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qualities I cannot determine from papers alone.’ He tapped the bundle with the tips of his fingers. ‘First, I want to know whether you will be a loyal employee; and second, whether you will exercise discretion. Discretion, Ibaraki—do you understand?’ ‘Yes, sir, of course.’ ‘And how do you suggest I determine that, from our meeting here?’ I lifted my eyes. His gaze was hollow. I opened my mouth, ready to declare my loyalty and discretion, but thought better of it. They would merely be words, and I felt that that was precisely what Kimura didn’t want. After a few seconds, Kimura sighed and leaned back in his chair, turning his eyes towards the ceiling. It appeared my silence had disappointed him. ‘How old are you, Ibaraki. Twenty-four, twenty-five?’ he asked. ‘Twenty-six, sir.’ ‘Twenty-six?’ he asked sharply, turning back to me. ‘My father died when I was seventeen. I had to help my family.’ Kimura’s lips twitched, but his eyes did not change. ‘So, you are twenty-six. I ask myself: what does a twenty-six-year-old know about loyalty and discretion? For most young men, not much. Maybe he is loyal to his family, maybe he has seen his father go to war, seen him come back changed. But discretion? Few at that age have had the chance to understand it—truly understand it, as it’s not just about keeping a secret from one’s friends. Discretion takes time to show itself. How will a person conduct himself in ten, twenty years’ time? That’s what I need to know. But for me, it is almost impossible to judge.’ The interview was not going well. I had hardly said anything, but I felt he had already formed an opinion of me from my appearance and from the papers on his desk, and I was powerless to change it. I thought about pointing out my loyalty to Endo in pursuing a career he had introduced me to, and somehow alluding to the discretion I had had to exercise in the wake of my father’s death, when my family had suffered financially. But then I realised he was right—there was no use trying to prove myself. To attempt to prove I was discreet would itself be an act of indiscretion. Kimura leaned forward and addressed me. ‘Ibaraki, why do you want to work for me?’ I straightened in the chair. I had prepared an answer to this question. ‘Since I

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was in my first year of university I have wanted to work for the Army Medical Hospital. Not only is it at the forefront of scientific developments, it would be an honour to serve His Imperial Majesty—’ Kimura shook his head. ‘No, no—you are telling me why you want to work for the Army, not why you want to work for me.’ I was stumped. I hadn’t thought of an answer as to why I wanted to work under Kimura personally. Flustered, I tried to frame a credible response. ‘Well, because it is my dream to work under such an accomplished leader as you—to learn from your scientific rigour, and to follow your example.’ ‘Yes, that is what I thought.’ His voice was soft. His hands, which had been so delicately clasped before him the entire meeting, spread out flat on my papers in a gesture of finality. ‘That will be all. If I offer you the position, you will hear from me within a month. If you don’t receive a letter, you’ll know you haven’t been given the job.’ I was crestfallen. My well-rehearsed answer hadn’t pleased him. I tried to hide my disappointment as I thanked him for his time and said that it had been an honour to meet him. All the while, I was worried about what I would say to my mother. I got up to leave. ‘Wait.’ I stopped at the doorway and turned. He was looking at one of my documents, frowning. ‘Your father was Ibaraki Shuichiro? The surgeon at Tokyo Hospital?’ I nodded. ‘I knew him. I worked for him when I was an intern. Why didn’t you mention he was your father?’ A change had come over his face. The hard expression of seconds before had opened with curiosity. ‘I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t want to be indiscreet.’ He looked thoughtful. His lips were pressed together, as if they held the germ of an idea.‘Well, then, as I said, you will hear from me within a month if I offer you a position.’ He dismissed me with a nod of his head.

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L OV E DAY 1 9 4 2

The kerosene lamp inside the camp kitchen coated everything in a dirty yellow light. The aluminium plates, bowls and saucepans took on a dark sheen. Even the men who washed, chopped and stirred around me appeared almost black. Pale light crept through the open door and shutters but was too weak to reach the benchtops where we prepared breakfast. We jostled for space in the cramped kitchen. Between the chatter of the men, the burble of boiling water and the rhythmic thump of knives against wood, I caught snatches of a song. The voice of one of the old divers at the stove threaded through the din as he alternatively hummed and sang an old folk tune. ‘No need to work through the night… Thinking of my hometown, I talk to my loved ones in my dreams.’ He ladled beaten egg into the frying pan. It hissed, sending up a cloud of steam. Our row of tents was rostered to prepare breakfast for everyone in the compound once a week. I’d never been much of a cook—in Broome I had only ever prepared simple meals of rice, soup and grilled fish—so I set the tables, served the food and helped with the washing up. Men crowded around the sink in the kitchen, so I went outside to wash three porridge-encrusted saucepans in the troughs next to the bins. Grey light filtered through the blanket of clouds overhead. My mind was still foggy with sleep. I plunged the saucepans into the water and began scrubbing them with a brush. ‘Doctor Ibaraki, right?’ Johnny Chang stood before me, a towel slung over his shoulder and his hands

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in the pockets of his shorts. He smiled. Although I’d seen him a few times from a distance, we hadn’t yet met face to face. ‘Yes. Johnny, hello.’ I wiped my hands on my apron. ‘Didn’t expect to see you here—a doctor rounded up with everyone else. And doing the washing up, no less.’ I shrugged. ‘Well, I’m Japanese. Just like everyone here. No special treatment.’ ‘Yeah, well, I’m not like everyone else here—I’m only half-Japanese, and they still collared me. Got a raw deal, if you ask me. What tent are you in? I’m surprised they didn’t put you in with me. There aren’t that many of us from Broome.’ ‘I only got here a week ago. They put me where there was space. I’m in row eight, tent twelve. With some of the men from the Dutch East Indies—Sumatra, mainly.’ ‘Yeah? You should come to our tent sometime. There are a few of us Aussies. Come and play a game of cards, or something.’ ‘Perhaps. If I have the time.’ I glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone else was watching us. ‘If you don’t mind, I’m on breakfast duty. I have to finish cleaning before headcount.’ He snorted and looked away. ‘Yeah, I know all about that. They’ve got us cleaning almost every day. Kitchen, crap house, tents—’ Johnny’s attitude struck a nerve. ‘Everyone has to help out, Johnny. This is not a holiday, you know.’ His features clouded. ‘You think I don’t know that? I’m more than happy to do my fair share. But they’ve got the boys in our tent doing everything—all the shit jobs that they don’t want to do. Just because we’re not like them. Because we don’t kiss their arse, worship their god, bow to their emperor. Tell me something: is your guy helping you out with the work?’ ‘My guy?’ ‘Your tent leader, what’s his name—friends with the mayor?’ ‘Yamada?’ ‘Yeah, him. Is he doing any of the breakfast duties with you today?’ ‘No. But he is busy with other things. He is organising the canteen—’ ‘That’s what I’m saying. He and Mori make the rules, but only rules that suit them. This camp’s run like a dictatorship, not a democracy. And it’s guys like me

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who suffer.’ I struggled to keep my voice low. ‘I think you are being unreasonable. It’s hard on everyone here. We are all trying to do our best and fit in.’ He threw up his hands. ‘Well, if this is how you want to fit in, you can count me out. I don’t want to keep you from your precious cleaning.’ He turned and stalked away, his footsteps flinging stones against the metal drums of the refrigerator. As I stared at him, my hands wet and my fingernails coated with porridge, I wondered why someone who’d run a restaurant in Broome was so averse to doing chores.

C I stood in the doorway and squinted at the sky. It was almost seven o’clock, but the sun seemed unwilling to make way for the evening. I’d already eaten dinner at the hospital, but I was impatient to return to camp as the entertainment committee were staging their first play—Matsukaze, a famous Noh drama. With the major’s permission, a low stage had been built, and a young man from the Dutch East Indies who’d had some acting experience in Japan had been chosen to play the lead. The hospital gate creaked. Matsuda appeared in the doorway, carrying his pillow and blanket for the night shift. I ushered him inside, keen to take him through what needed to be done so that I could hurry back to camp. He dropped his pillow and blanket on the floor and slumped on the stool. The sky was pastel by the time I reached 14C, with not a single cloud in view. I heard laughter and chanting, but not the restrained chanting that usually accompanied a Noh play. ‘Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!’ someone cried. Inside the mess hall, a throng surrounded the stage. At first glance, I was reminded of summer parties during my university years, when my friends and I would join the other students and young couples that danced and drank next to the Tama river. But this was not the same. A dozen men in the middle of the crowd clapped and sang ‘Kimigayo’, the national anthem. ‘What’s happening?’ I asked someone near the edge of the crowd.

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‘You haven’t heard? We got Australia again. Blasted all their planes. Dozens, they say.’ He beamed. ‘Darwin again?’ Darwin was bombed a few days before my arrival at Loveday, while I was en route from Perth to Adelaide. ‘Not Darwin. Somewhere else up there. I forget the name.’ A chill passed through me. ‘How did you find out?’ ‘The Germans in compound D told the men in the gardening party as they were walking past their fence. We think they have a secret radio. They were the first to know about Singapore, too. You should ask the mayor, he just made an announcement about it.’ Mayor Mori was standing beside the stage, clapping in time to the song. Secretary Hoshi stood next to him. I made my way towards them, weaving through the crowd. The clapping and the chanting rang in my ears. Faces turned towards me with hard expressions, grinning wildly. A hand touched my elbow. ‘Sensei, where have you been?’ Shadows danced across Yamada’s face. ‘At the hospital. I just finished my shift. What’s going on?’ ‘Didn’t you hear?’ Yamada grinned. ‘We attacked Broome this morning. Destroyed all their aircraft.’ The blood drained from my face. ‘What’s the matter? Aren’t you happy?’ I touched a hand to my cheek. My skin felt like rubber, not a part of me. ‘Sorry. I’m just surprised. I didn’t think they would get that far.’ ‘Where’s your fighting spirit, hey?’ Yamada’s grip on my elbow tightened. ‘Aren’t you glad we got the bastards who arrested you? Do you want to stay in here forever?’ I forced a smile. ‘Of course not. Long live the Emperor!’ The words were strange on my tongue. ‘That’s more like it. I know you’re not all posture and politeness like they say.’ He winked. ‘A month more and it could be all over. These Australian fools with their fat bellies and their rusty guns could soon be our prisoners, and they’ll be

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begging us for mercy.’ ‘Were there any civilian deaths?’ I tried to keep my voice steady. ‘Too early to tell. We’ll have to check the newspapers later this week. The mayor’s already talked to the cleaning committee.’ Although our compound was supplied with newspapers each week, all the articles relating to the war were always cut out by the censors. While cleaning the guards’ barracks one day, one of the internees from our camp noticed the guards kept copies of old newspapers in a pile near the latrines. From then on, whenever a cleaning group was sent to the barracks, they always returned with sheets of newspaper with articles about the war hidden in their clothing. Mori stepped onto the stage. The chanting stopped. ‘Today’s victory reminds us of the strength and skill of our great nation. So too does the artistry of our people. We’re lucky to have among us many talented artists who have been practising for weeks to bring you tonight’s production of Matsukaze. Let us continue the high spirits by giving them your full attention.’ I searched for the others from Broome. I couldn’t see Johnny, nor any of the other Australian-born men. I glimpsed one of the divers from Hama’s tent, a young man they called Shinpo. Turned away from the stage, his face held the light that spilled from outside. Our eyes met. He looked away, as if acknowledging me would give his feelings shape. Yamada called out to me, touching the empty chair beside him. I yearned to be someplace else, away from his constant gaze. The flute’s thin, haunting melody snaked around the room, silencing the chatter, the rustling, the creaking of the floorboards. The travelling priest appeared, his wooden mask adorned with tufts of dry grass. My thoughts were with all my friends in Broome—Sister Bernice, Doctor Wallace, Constable McNally, the McDaniels and even laundry owners such as Ang Pok. Surely they would have been evacuated? The uncertainty made me feel sick. At this time of year, Broome would be steamy, a constant heaviness in the air. If it had been before the war, the town would be thrumming with possibility. Some of the divers would have just returned, either disembarking at the port or coming overland from elsewhere in Australia.

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I thought of Sister Bernice in her white habit, her head bent in prayer. The dark line of her lashes forming two perfect crescents. The percussionist tapped out a pattern on his drum, the tsuzumi sounding its distinctive twang. The ghosts of the two sisters appeared, wearing masks that bore the suggestion of eyes, brows and lips in thin black brushstrokes. The figures glided in their long white robes, skirting the shore, circling each other as they lamented their lost love. I tilted my head to the side, away from Yamada and from the light coming into the mess hall. The outline of the shapes on the stage blurred, merging into one another and becoming diffuse patches of light. I was glad for the pocket of darkness, allowing me to hide my tears.

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BROOME 1938

‘That’s Broome there, three miles south-east.’ I looked to where the deckhand was pointing. A pink spur of land crested with green rose out of the milky-blue water. My pulse quickened in my throat. For days, I had been aching to disembark. Ever since we’d set sail from Singapore and navigated the tropical waters of Java, the air thick with humidity, I’d dreamed about stepping off the undulating deck onto the islands we passed. As we’d travelled further south, we left the archipelago and all around us there was nothing but sea, only increasing my yearning to set foot on land. But now that I’d reached my destination, the prospect of disembarking at this alien place—what would be my home—sent a wave of panic through me. The ship turned into the bay, revealing a crescent of rich red sand that bled into the azure sea. The strange clash of colours was like nothing I’d ever seen, beautiful and unsettling in equal measures. As we neared the shore, I made out the township. It looked tiny: a couple of dozen buildings scattered along the shoreline and streets, many as dilapidated as some of the shacks we’d seen in the provincial villages in Java. The jetty snaked half a mile out from the shore, the tops of its wooden stilts exposed to the sun. A two-carriage train sat at the end of the platform. I heard the clang of the anchor being lowered when we were still more than a hundred yards from the jetty. ‘Are we stopping here?’ I asked the crewman. ‘Low tide soon. Captain thinks it’s too dangerous to get any closer. Passengers

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getting off here will be sent over in a lifeboat.’ I bade farewell to the people I’d befriended on the trip—two brothers from Singapore and a gentleman from Ceylon—and joined the eight others disembarking in Broome. We squeezed onto one boat, our luggage stacked between the benches next to our feet. One of the crewman started the motor and we puttered towards the jetty. As we navigated the rolling sea, my trepidation grew. What would the hospital be like? Who would my friends be? Soon, we were close enough to see the crowd standing at the end of the jetty. Many were dressed all in white, evidently the colour of choice in the tropics. The Asiatics wore white collarless shirts and darker slacks, while the Britisher men were dressed in ivory linen suits, and the women wore pale dresses that skimmed their ankles. I spied two men among the crowd: distinctly Asiatic in their colouring and stature yet dressed well enough to blend in among the Britishers. I decided one of them must be Kanemori, the president of the Japanese Association, with whom I’d been corresponding in previous months. He had offered me the position at the Japanese hospital, arranged my transport and would pay my salary. As we drew closer, people’s heads loomed and receded from view as the boat crested and dipped on the waves. We reached the end of the jetty. After lashing the boat to a pylon, two of the crew climbed the ladder, then helped the women up. Our luggage followed, passed from man to man up the ladder, until there was nothing left at our feet. When I finally stepped onto the wooden planks, most of the crowd had dispersed—only the two men and a handful of others were left. ‘Ibaraki-sensei?’ The thinner man approached me. He was wearing a trim white suit and a white hat. His outfit, coupled with his moustache, gave him the air of a movie star. He appeared to be in his mid-forties. ‘I’m Kanemori, president of the Japanese Association. It’s an honour to meet you.’ He bowed deeply and introduced me to his deputy. Hama was a decade or so older than Kanemori, and darker and more heavy-set, like many from the southern prefectures of Japan. He had a broad, tanned face and an easy smile, and after our introduction he immediately picked up some of my bags and loaded them onto the waiting steam train.

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‘Before we go into town, you have to register at the Customs Office. Come, we’ll take you,’ Hama said. As we walked along the jetty, the pleasant vista forced me to revise my initial opinion of Broome. The blue water sparkled all around us and the land ahead swelled with lush greenery. ‘What’s over there?’ I pointed to a huddle of tents and rickety sheds at the top of the beach. ‘Crew camp,’ Hama said. ‘That’s where the lugger crews live during the pearling season. It just started for the year.’ The pink mud of the bay was dotted with the wooden skeletons of boats—pearling luggers still under repair, as Hama explained. At the end of the jetty we turned onto the dirt road, passing several stately houses. They were built on foot-high cinder blocks, with sloping, galvanised-iron roofs and pretty latticed verandahs. ‘These are the European quarters,’ Kanemori told me. ‘We live further down the road in Japtown, where there’s much more to see.’ The Customs Office was a low building a short stroll away. Inside, two Asiatic men who’d been on the boat with me were occupying the two available counters. A third man who’d been waiting on the jetty was running between them, trying to translate for both men at the same time. I thought they were speaking Malay, but I couldn’t be sure. After a few minutes, Kanemori stepped forward to an available counter. ‘This is the new doctor for the Japanese hospital. Name is Ibaraki,’ he said, pointing at me. The white-haired customs official ignored Kanemori and waved me over. ‘Speak English, do you?’ ‘A little.’ ‘Well, there’s a start. Passport and letter of employment.’ The skin of his neck pleated as he looked down at the documents I handed to him. ‘Says here you’re married. Why didn’t you bring your wife?’ Perspiration prickled my forehead. I could tell the truth—why not? Separation was common among Westerners, or at least so I’d heard. ‘She did not want to travel to Australia,’ I said. Not the complete truth, but

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also not a lie. ‘So you won’t see her for two years?’ ‘No. I think not.’ He looked at me evenly. ‘Got any children?’ I shook my head. He turned back to the documents and made some notes, then asked me about my plans when my contract ended. ‘I hope to return to Japan to practise.’ ‘At the same place you were before?’ ‘No, not there.’ My voice must have been sharp, for the official’s head snapped up. I hurried to explain myself. ‘I plan to work at the hospital where I did an internship. My father worked there also. I eventually want to specialise in surgery.’ The official’s brows bunched low over his eyes as he fixed me with a stare. My heart hammered in my chest but he asked no further questions. He picked up a stamp and brought it down onto my passport with a resolute thump. From where I stood, a few feet away from him, I felt a rush of air.

The little train chugged through the streets of Broome, barely faster than walking pace. But I was glad for the view from the open carriage and the cool air on my face. The trees shivered in our wake, glistening in the sun. As Kanemori and Hama pointed out places of interest such as the courthouse and the post office, I began to relax. Broome was a civilised place, after all. The train lurched around a bend. The wide streets and well-maintained buildings of the European quarter gave way to cramped lanes and ramshackle structures made from a patchwork of iron sheets. In this part of town, people were everywhere—men chatting on the dusty verandahs, children playing on the street, a lone woman sweeping the entrance to her shop. ‘This is Japtown,’ Hama said, a smile on his face. I nodded, trying to hide my dismay. It was certainly a poor cousin to the vibrant Japtown of Singapore. ‘The hospital’s that way.’ Kanemori indicated a wide street that forked from the one we were on, seeming to lead nowhere. ‘But we’ll go through Japtown first.’

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We turned a corner again, and Kanemori pointed out the headquarters of the Japanese Association, set back from the street on a small hill. Although the two-storey structure had seen better days, it was one of Japtown’s more handsome buildings, with white galvanised-iron walls and a wide verandah, skirted by a neat green hedge. We looped around the block and I glimpsed a sign for Sun Pictures cinema and the long shady verandah of a hotel. Just before we rejoined the original track, the train jolted to a stop. As we disembarked, I peered down a tiny lane that burrowed between buildings. Clouds of steam issued from an opening in a wall. I heard the clang of metal pots and pans, the hiss of frying food and, beneath the clamour, the swooning melody of a Chinese love song playing on a gramophone. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed a figure leaning against the wall—a broad-shouldered young man with a dark crown of hair. He appeared to be watching me. ‘This way, sensei,’ Kanemori called. I turned and followed him. The Japanese hospital was a short walk from Japtown, past a row of houses and a large vacant lot. Away from the coast, the air was still and thick with humidity; sweat beaded my forehead and chest. The hospital was the last building on the street, next to the dusty expanse of the aerodrome and the racing track. It resembled the houses I’d seen in the European quarter, with a sloping iron roof that was tinted orange from the dirt and a white lattice screen enclosing a wraparound verandah. Outside, the sun bathed the building in pristine light, but once we were inside I saw that dampness clung to everything. Paint flaked off the ceilings and walls like dead skin and dark spots of mould clung to crevices. Kanemori scratched his head in embarrassment. ‘I’m sorry about the state of the hospital,’ he said. ‘The last physician, Doctor Abe, left five months ago, and the place has been empty since then. We decided to close it down during the wet, when most of the divers left town.’ He paused and brought his face close to a wall, extending a finger to touch a dark spot. ‘The rain just ended, which is why everything here is so damp. We had a particularly bad wet season this year.’ We passed through a small anteroom into a larger space with three small windows that opened onto the verandah. It was very dim. Hama unlatched one

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of the windows, letting light in. The floor and walls were made of a dark wood unfamiliar to me. Two cabinets sat at the entrance and eight single beds filled the rest of the space, jammed so closely together there was no room to move between them. A counter with a sink lined one wall. It was referred to as ‘the hospital’, but the ward was barely larger than an office and had only basic equipment. I would be the only doctor in attendance. ‘The beds are on the verandah for most of the year,’ Hama said, perhaps noticing my apprehension. ‘Everyone here sleeps on the verandah, if they can—with a mosquito net, of course. Much better than being cooped up inside during summer. You’ll want to sleep out there, too.’ My living quarters were on the other side of the anteroom at the back of the property: a bedroom that was half the size of the ward yet equally dank, and a small kitchen with a sink and an icebox. Hama explained that ice could be delivered each day for a fee. ‘But I usually eat in town,’ he said. ‘Yat Son’s the place to go. You should try their delicious long soup.’

C Over the following week, I started to get the hospital in order. As well as cleaning the hospital from floor to ceiling, I had to check all the equipment and buy new supplies. Kanemori brought a young nun from the nearby convent to meet me. She was dressed from head to toe in white, save for her black-stockinged legs. I pitied her her outfit in the unrelenting heat. ‘Sister Bernice will be your nurse at the hospital,’ Kanemori explained. ‘The sisters of St John of God have helped us a great deal in the past.’ ‘Doctor,’ she said, momentarily dipping her head towards me. There was a sharp line where the stiff edge of her white habit met her hair. When our eyes met I was struck by her clear gaze. Kanemori also brought two young Japanese lugger crew to help, and together we scrubbed the walls, sanded back the paint and added another coat where needed, and sponged the mattresses with a peroxide solution and put them outside in the sun to dry. The Japanese hospital was once more as bright and airy as

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the landscape outside.

C Sister Bernice and I reached an understanding from very early on that we would not engage in idle conversation as part of our working relationship. She took to the work very quickly, so that after the first few months of her training there was hardly any need for us to talk at length. Aside from our morning greetings, brief discussions about the progress of a patient and my thanks to her at the end of the day, most days would pass with only minimal verbal exchange. To many this might seem strange, but for me it was a relief to be able to work unencumbered, and also because in those early days I was not as confident speaking English as I later became. I do not mean to give the impression that Sister Bernice was unapproachable or that her manner was cold, for she in fact displayed warmth and kind-heartedness in so many ways. She brought me a cup of black tea every morning, even though on many occasions I told her it was not necessary. In winter when I sat in the anteroom and the afternoon sun shone through the window into my eyes, she was always quick to draw the curtain. And, although she was always quiet around me, whenever a patient was in her care she readily conversed with them, her soft voice putting the patient at ease, sometimes lifting high into laughter. The more I think it over, the more it seems that whenever it was just the two of us in the hospital Sister Bernice always took great care to modify her behaviour to suit me, and for that I am truly grateful. Indeed, it is one of the greatest services an assistant can give. Sister Bernice wasn’t reticent by nature—her conversations with the patients were proof of that—but if I didn’t have a patient to attend to, I spent my time consulting books and journals while she busied herself in other ways. In her first month she spent a lot of time cleaning and re-ordering the files until, one afternoon, I asked: ‘Would you like a book to read? I have several novels in English in my room.’ She stopped polishing the instruments. A fan whirred behind her and lifted the edge of her habit. ‘A book? I didn’t think it right to read while at work. I didn’t

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think it was professional.’ ‘Professional? Please, do not worry about that. You can read when you are not with patients. You may read anything you like. Shall I bring some of my novels?’ ‘Thank you, Doctor, but that isn’t necessary. I have my own.’ The next day, I left a few of my English books on the counter, anyway—a leather-bound collection of the poems of Blake that I’d studied during university, an unread copy of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, of which I’d only read the first chapter—and I was pleased to catch sight of Sister Bernice a few days later with her head bent over the latter title. I often glimpsed her in a chair near the entrance of the ward, but on the rare day when the temperature was cool she’d sit on the window ledge at the opposite end of the room. If I turned my head while at my desk in the anteroom I could see her there, the sunlight pouring over her. The first time I saw her like that, I gasped and Sister Bernice looked up. In an instant, I knew my mind had played a trick. The association caused me great anguish at the time, but it doesn’t shame me to admit it now: seeing Sister Bernice on the window ledge, her habit catching the light, made me think of my wife, Kayoko, on our wedding day. The wataboshi plumed over the back of her head in a circle of white. The smooth silk crumpled around her elaborate hairstyle. On the morning of our wedding I had been so nervous I hadn’t stopped to take in the beauty of my bride. It wasn’t until the san-san-kudo ceremony that I finally had my chance. Kayoko took the sake cup from me, sipping the customary three times. A soft shadow from the wataboshi fell across her eyes and nose, framing her lips, and on the final sip she lifted her eyes. Her red lips framed within that triangle of light, her eyes lifting to mine—oh, what a glorious sight!

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TOKYO 1934

Kayoko was the daughter of one of my father’s old school friends from Kanagawa. Apparently I had met her once or twice when I was a child, although I had no memory of it. My mother mentioned her over dinner one night. ‘I visited the Sasakis today. We had lunch together,’ she said. ‘Their daughter plays the koto very well. Her name is Kayoko. Do you remember her?’ We were eating mackerel and vegetables braised in vinegar. I paused, a flake of fish between my chopsticks, suspended above my bowl. Nobuhiro looked at me and smirked. At sixteen, he was the youngest in our family and never missed a thing. I remembered I had been about his age when our father had died, and I moved from my place at the side of the table to the head. Now, Mother faced me at the opposite end, silver threads in her black hair gleaming in the light. I shook my head in response to her question. ‘No? You don’t remember playing with her on the beach? Maybe you were too young,’ she said. ‘She is very talented, in any case.’ She lifted her soup bowl to her mouth and a puff of steam rose up like a cloud on a windy day. For all her casual affectations, my mother’s intentions were clear. A knot formed in my chest. But I knew protesting would be futile. I was twenty-six and no longer a student. Many of my friends had already married, and even my sister, Megumi, younger by me than two years, had recently married. I brought the fish to my mouth and chewed. After a few seconds, I forced myself to swallow.

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C About two weeks later, on a Sunday morning, my mother and I boarded a train bound for Shonandai, a seaside town about an hour away. Mother was wearing a formal kimono of falling leaves of yellow and white against an orange background and a red obi that was accented with gold. I had never seen it before and realised it must be a new purchase. The Depression was finally over, and silk was widely available again—I recalled my mother mentioning that the kimono shops in Tokyo had new stock for the first time in years. I was surprised she had bought a new one, as we had little money to spare—my intern’s wage amounted to very little, and Nobu was still at home. Even the cloth chrysanthemum Mother wore in her hair was made of silk. We got off at Yamato to change to a local line. While we waited on the platform I noticed a poster on the wall of the stationmaster’s office. ‘Sun of a New Nation’ it read, featuring two smiling farmers: a Chinese holding a sickle and a Japanese with his angled tilling fork. It was typical of the posters one usually saw in provincial towns. The government was encouraging Japanese to immigrate to Manchukuo, and farmers were given land if they did so. I’d heard reports on the radio about the Imperial Army and the success of the new colony in Manchukuo. Our train came, and we travelled a few stops before alighting and walking the short distance to the Sasakis’ house. My mother stopped to straighten my hair and tie before knocking on their door. Mr Sasaki opened it, and my hazy recollection of him sharpened at the sight of his smiling face. He was much greyer and smaller than I remembered, but I recognised him as the kind ‘uncle’ who used to piggyback me when I visited their house. Mrs Sasaki appeared beside him and bowed deeply. ‘Ah, Tomo-kun. Look how big you’ve become!’ Mr Sasaki said, and ushered us into the living room. The Sasakis had lived in the same family home for almost thirty years. It was spacious and immaculate, yet showed signs of wear: the wooden floorboards dipped in certain places. But it was a distinguished home, far nicer than ours. Mr Sasaki owned a small accounting practice, and business had been steady.

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In the living room, we had a view out to the foothills of Mount Fuji. Mrs Sasaki had not entered the room with us—I could hear her preparing tea elsewhere in the house. I did my best to keep up with the conversation. ‘So your mother tells me you’re at Tokyo Hospital. That must be exciting.’ Mr Sasaki leaned back on one outstretched arm as he sat on the floor cushion. ‘Yes. I’ve been there for ten months now. It’s difficult, of course, but rewarding.’ ‘What are your plans for next year?’ ‘I’m not certain yet. I’m still waiting to hear back from interviews—’ I glanced at my mother to see if it was appropriate to mention it, but she didn’t return my look ‘—but I hope to stay in hospitals, or otherwise go into research.’ ‘Research? You mean back at university?’ ‘Somewhere more specialised than that, but yes, like a university.’ ‘One of Tomokazu’s university professors recommended him for a research position,’ my mother explained. ‘He has always enjoyed research.’ I heard footsteps and the sound of a tray being placed on the floor outside the room. The sliding door moved back. I had expected to see Mrs Sasaki, but instead a young woman wearing a mauve kimono appeared. She brought her forehead down to the tatami before entering the room, then stood up and carried in a tray of tea. I looked away, suddenly stricken with shyness. ‘Tomokazu, this is my daughter, Kayoko. You met once or twice when you were children. Perhaps you remember her?’ I was relieved I didn’t recognise her, as it allowed me to see her in a fresh light. She had a long, oval face with eyes that were a little too close together and shapely brows. She was not breathtakingly beautiful, but her skin was smooth and she had a pleasing countenance. She smiled as she served the tea, no doubt aware we were all looking at her. ‘Yes, I do remember Kayoko—I think we played together on the beach. Wasn’t that here at Shonandai?’ I said, feigning recollection to avoid offence. She laughed—a breathy sound that seemed at odds with her well-defined features. Mrs Sasaki entered the room, bringing a tray of dried fruit and sweets. She and Kayoko joined us at the table, with Kayoko sitting directly to my right. My mother asked Kayoko about her background, and through their conversation I learned she

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had completed secondary school at one of the most prestigious schools in the area. After she had graduated she had done a bookkeeping course in order to help her father at his practice. While questions and answers were batted back and forth, I found myself unable to look at her, perhaps because I was aware of how closely we were being watched. My mother turned to me. ‘Don’t you want to hear her play, Tomo?’ I looked at her blankly. ‘The koto,’ she prompted. ‘Oh. Yes, of course.’ ‘Kayoko, would you mind?’ Mr Sasaki said. Kayoko rose and left the room. She came back carrying a long object wrapped in black cloth. She set it on the tatami and untied the string. The cloth fell away to reveal the wooden instrument shaped like an elongated washing board, with white strings and bridges evenly spaced along its surface. Kayoko fastened the picks to her fingers, and gently plucked the strings several times to tune it. I could watch her comfortably now, without others’ gaze on me. She kneeled at one end of the instrument, bowed and then leaned over the strings, spreading her arms along their length. As the fingers of her right hand plucked the strings, those on her left compressed them. The tune was lilting and mournful, and reminded me of the songs my mother sang to me as a child—songs of loss and lament. But the rhythm gradually quickened. I was surprised at the vigour with which she commanded the instrument, the strength she poured into her playing. Her arms jerked to and fro, her fingers snapped the strings. I could see her clearly now. Her talent and passion were apparent, and the strangeness of her laugh that had bothered me before quickly faded away.

C Major Kimura offered me the position, much to my surprise. My mother was particularly pleased, and wasted no time in telling family and friends of my achievement. I finished my hospital internship at the start of the new year and immediately began at the new research unit, which was called the Epidemic Prevention Laboratory.

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The research room was located in the basement of the building in Shinjuku where I had had my interview. On my first day, a man named Shimada greeted me in the foyer. He was tall and thin, with a prominent Adam’s apple that moved up and down as he talked. I wasn’t certain of his age; he looked young, but had the sort of mannered effeminacy more typical of someone at least a decade older than me. He was a junior professor of microbiology at Tokyo University before being engaged by the Army Medical College on this project. He led me past the reception desk and down a flight of stairs to the basement. We entered a brightly lit passageway with doors and corridors leading from it. As we navigated the maze, Shimada pointed out the bathroom facilities and the tearoom, before showing me to the locker room. ‘Before you go into the laboratory, you must come here and change into the uniform first,’ Shimada said, holding up a white coat and cotton trousers. ‘They are laundered and disinfected after every shift, so outside pollutants don’t interfere with our experiments.’ Shimada and I removed our slippers and changed into the uniform before returning to the corridor. A door opened ahead of us, and a tall man emerged, one hand hooked inside the pocket of his coat. Shimada greeted him, then turned to me. ‘This is the laboratory for the senior researchers. You’ll be working with them on bacterial growth. There’s another laboratory on the other side of the building that mainly deals with specimen analysis. I can show you later.’ He stopped outside a heavy metal door with a thick rubber seal. ‘And this is the laboratory where you’ll be working.’ The door opened onto a small corridor with a disinfectant bath in a large metal tray on the floor. There was a similar rubber-sealed metal door at the end of the corridor. Following Shimada’s lead, I walked through the bath, dried my feet on a towel, put on a new pair of slippers and opened the door that finally allowed me to enter the laboratory. I was accustomed to following procedures to maintain hygiene, but I had never before encountered such stringent methods. The room was larger than I had expected, with a central workspace and wide benches that ran along two of the walls. Half a dozen shiny microscopes were lined up along the benches, with stools positioned neatly beneath them. At the far end of the room was a glass cabinet containing dozens of flasks, test tubes, funnels and Bunsen burners. There were charts—both hand-drawn and typed—pinned up

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around the room and various other equipment, some of which I recognised, but others I had never seen before. Two men were already in the room: one was bent over a microscope and the other was at the sink. They looked up when we entered, but quickly went back to their tasks. I later found out their names: Nomura and Ota. They were researchers who’d started in the laboratory about a year earlier. Although we were of a similar age, they kept to themselves. In the first few months, the little information I gleaned about them was that Nomura had been in the year below Shimada at Tokyo Imperial University and Ota had studied medicine at Kyoto Imperial University. Even when we were in the tearoom together they said very little, and after several early failed attempts at conversations with them, I gave in and learned to appreciate the silence. I wondered if Nomura and Ota’s reticence was what Kimura had meant when he’d talked about ‘discretion’. My duties were simple at the start: I grew bacteria for the senior researchers to develop vaccines. Although I was familiar with culturing bacteria from my student days, the equipment at the laboratory was new to me. First, I had to prepare the agar solution in a huge boiler, then sterilise the medium in autoclaves. After distributing the solution into cultivation trays and moving them into cooling chambers, I inoculated each one using a sterilised loop. I finally shifted the trays into incubators that were apparently designed by the head of our unit, Lieutenant Colonel Shiro Ishii. I grew various types of bacteria, including typhus, yellow fever, botulism and anthrax. Due to their virulence, I was required to wear rubber gloves and a mask at all times. ‘One wrong touch and you could die,’ Shimada had said. My greatest challenge was keeping up with the demand. As the months passed, the researchers requested greater amounts of bacteria, so I was often forced to work late into the night. The cultivation was on a scale I’d never seen before. About six months into my new role, we hired a new junior, a twenty-three-year-old named Yamamoto Daisuke, who had graduated from Kyoto. Yamamoto’s mother was a cousin of Kimura, and his family ties had helped get him the job straight out of university. We got along well—Yamamoto was affable and efficient, and he also thought Nomura and Ota were strange. Like me, he had played baseball at university, and we spent much of our time in the tearoom discussing the players

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in the American league. There was another reason why Yamamoto’s arrival was a welcome change: he took on my role of growing the bacteria, and I was given more senior responsibilities: analysing samples from infected animals. I was grateful for the opportunity for more intellectual rigour, and I hoped the new role meant my working hours would be curtailed. Since my visit to the Sasakis’, I had begun to think seriously about finding a wife. For that, I needed more free time.

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L OV E DAY 1 9 4 2

In early April the weather finally started to cool. For the first time since my arrival I woke not covered in sweat. When I walked to the toilets, the ground was damp with dew. The landscape beyond the fence looked like a scene from a picture book: a bright sky dotted with fluffy clouds above a sweep of yellow-green grass and orange dirt. At night we relaxed in our tents, sharing cups of sake that had been secretly brewed beneath the ablutions block. Although I enjoyed the mild autumn weather, I was mindful of the effect on the patients at the infirmary. Even though I wasn’t in charge of the TB ward, I always monitored it during my shifts. Hama’s condition had improved; he had the strength to sit up in bed. But he still had a persistent cough, which worried me. The cooler weather at least softened the blow of adding more people to our tent. New internees arrived from time to time, sometimes just a dozen or so, at other times more than a hundred. Internees were also transferred to other camps—often for no obvious reason than to satisfy the whims of military administration, which were a mystery to us. More and more tents were added to the rows that stretched across the dusty flank of our compound. When there was no more space, we were told to increase the number of people per tent from six to eight. This triggered complaints about the cramped conditions, but we were told nothing could be done until permanent huts were built. The materials were said to be arriving soon. The cooler weather at least softened the blow of living in such close quarters. As I was the seventh member of our tent, we received only one new person: Hayashi, one

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of Yamada’s acquaintances from Sumatra, who’d agreed to shift from another tent so that three new internees could move into his former tent. One of the new internees was a young half-caste who immediately fell in with Johnny’s crowd. Tall, thin and pale, he was easy to identify among the gang, with his distinctly Asiatic eyes in contrast to his prominent nose and forehead. He would have been considered handsome, if not for his weak mouth, which seemed to swallow itself in one thin, expressionless line.

C At headcount one morning, Major Lott announced there would be a film screening later that week. ‘The Red Cross has kindly donated a projector to the Loveday internment group, and this Sunday night a representative from the Kraft Walker company in Adelaide will play a reel for the enjoyment of the internees in 14C. I’m told the films will be educational in nature. Mr Mackenzie will be travelling all the way from Adelaide to do this on his own time. I trust you’ll make him feel welcome and treat him with the respect he deserves. It should be an enjoyable evening and, if all goes well, Mr Mackenzie may be kind enough to make the trip again.’ The screening became the talk of our compound. One old New Caledonian who’d spent most of his life in the mines hadn’t even heard of films, and we had a difficult time trying to explain to him what they were. ‘Moving pictures,’ was how it was best described by someone in his tent. I’d been fortunate enough to see a few pictures at the local cinema in Broome, where the sea was known to creep in during king tides and lap at the audience’s feet. I was delighted by the vaulted iron roof that ended abruptly, open to the stars. Throughout the movie, I was aware of the chatter of my countrymen, the soft beat of wind as the Britisher women in the row behind me fanned themselves, and the laughter of the native Aboriginals from the back and sides of the space. A few days later, Mr Mackenzie of the Kraft Walker company arrived at camp as the sun hovered on the horizon. He wore shorts and knee-length socks over his gangly legs. His cheeks were deep red and balled when he smiled. I had been

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asked to translate during his visit, so I joined Mayor Mori, Yamada, Mr Mackenzie, Major Lott and two other officers on a tour of our compound. We pointed out the kitchens, the canteen and the shadehouse we’d recently built for the craftsmen. Mr Mackenzie picked up a half-woven basket. ‘It’s made from grapevines,’ I said. ‘One of the men from Okinawa made it the way he would in his village.’ ‘How remarkable,’ he said, bringing it close to his face to inspect the tight weave. Major Lott stepped forward. ‘They’ve also got some lovely gardens and a Buddhist altar. Why don’t you show Mr Mackenzie that?’ So we led the group between the tents to the outer fence, where the earth was dark inside the vegetable plot. Further along, a thicket of bamboo had been planted to create a windbreak. On the other side of it, a line of grass and flowers created a border, opening into a stone-hedged path that led to the altar. The grounds had greatly improved since my arrival, due to the efforts of a dozen keen gardeners. The altar was now painted and raised on a mud-brick platform, inlaid with hundreds of stones. Mr Mackenzie gasped. ‘The Japanese made all this?’ ‘Yes, and in only two months,’ Major Lott said. I’d heard rumours Lott was a school teacher before he became head of our camp, and one could see it in his stringent manner and the way he admonished us for not cleaning our tents properly, as if we were schoolboys. So Lott’s pride in our work took me by surprise. ‘The gardeners collected the plants and materials from the area around camp, when they were working outside the fence,’ I said. Mr Mackenzie gestured to the path leading to the altar. ‘May I?’ ‘Of course,’ I said. He walked up to the altar and bent over to inspect the painted roof and the intricate woodwork beneath the eaves. ‘Well, I’ll be. My, oh my.’ He straightened up and turned to take in the entire sweep of the garden. ‘Just wonderful. Never seen anything like it. And to think, you did this in two months, with what you found near camp? Most Australians could learn something from what you’ve done here.’

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The sky was tinted lavender as we wandered towards the entrance to our compound. Two white sheets were tied to the fence, their edges flapping in the breeze. A few hundred internees were already sitting on blankets that fanned out around the screen in a rough semicircle, hemmed in on one side by the fence and on the other by a row of seats facing the screen. Voices rang out. Secretary Hoshi rushed towards us, his face red. ‘I tried to get them out of the seats, but they wouldn’t move!’ Five silhouettes occupied the seats reserved for Mr Mackenzie, the army personnel and us. I didn’t need to see their faces to know who they were: Johnny and his gang. Mori’s expression turned stony. ‘Yamada, get rid of them—quickly.’ He turned to me. ‘Stall the group so they don’t see what’s happening. We can’t have them knowing about the trouble with the haafu.’ ‘What’s going on?’ Lott demanded. I took a deep breath. ‘Before we start the film, there’s something else we wanted to show you… The vegetable plot. We’ve planted some tomatoes, pumpkins and celery.’ ‘But that’s back near the altar,’ Lott said. ‘We’ve already seen that.’ ‘Yes, but there are some other plants Mr Mackenzie might be interested in—’ A squall of voices sounded from the direction of the seats. Lott swung his head. ‘What in the devil is going on? Orchard, see what’s wrong, will you?’ Lieutenant Orchard jogged towards the commotion, his long legs scissoring. ‘So, shall we go to the vegetable garden?’ I prompted. ‘No, no. We’ve already been there,’ Lott said. Mr Mackenzie smiled. ‘I don’t mind.’ ‘It’s getting dark,’ Lott said. ‘Mr Mackenzie needs to set up the projector soon. You’ll have to show him the vegetable plot another time.’ I hung my head as we walked towards the seats. Johnny was sitting with four others near the projector. I recognised the stout bodies of Paddy Ahmat and his younger brother Eddie—the half-Thai brothers from Perth and Johnny’s constant companions. To their right was Ken Takahashi, the Japanese teenager born and

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raised in the Dutch East Indies by Japanese parents. The new haafu, whose name I didn’t yet know, sat next to Ken. He slouched in his seat, eyes darting between Yamada and Hoshi, who stood silently in front of them. Yamada clenched his jaw, a line of shadow appearing along his cheek. ‘Johnny Chang. Should’ve known. What’s the problem this time?’ Major Lott said. ‘No problem, no problem,’ Hoshi said, waving his hands in front of him, as if he was shooing away a fly. ‘They won’t get up,’ Lieutenant Orchard said. ‘These are the seats for Mr Mackenzie and us, and they won’t get up.’ ‘Oh, no need to worry about me,’ Mr Mackenzie said. ‘I can stand up. I’ll be at the projector most of the time, anyhow.’ ‘No!’ Mori’s voice was shrill. Everyone turned to him. ‘You are our guest. You must sit. We have seat for you.’ ‘Settle down,’ Johnny said, standing up. ‘I’m more than happy to give up my seat for him.’ He walked towards Mr Mackenzie, hand extended. ‘Johnny Chang. Nice to meet you. I want to thank you for coming all this way. If only there were more people here at camp like you, being locked up would almost be pleasant. Please, take my seat.’ Mr Mackenzie laughed. ‘Why, thank you. Australian, are you?’ ‘Australian born and bred. Lived in Broome all my twenty-seven years.’ Mr Mackenzie’s features clouded. ‘Then why…?’ He glanced at Lott. ‘Then why am I in here? Good question. I’m an Australian citizen, just like you. Only my mother’s Japanese. But I was arrested—’ ‘Now’s not the time, Johnny,’ Lott said. ‘Everyone’s waiting for Mr Mackenzie to start the film. If you want to air your grievances, you have Doctor Morel of the Red Cross for that.’ Johnny drew his lips in tight. Major Lott took Mr Mackenzie by the arm and led him to the projector. ‘A lot of these half-breeds are upset about their internment. But we didn’t make the decision, we just have to uphold the law. It’s not up to us to decide who’s a security risk and who’s not…’ Johnny’s behaviour had almost ruined the evening. Mori and Yamada would

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not let him off lightly for the disgrace he had caused. I took a few steps towards him, about to say something in reproach, but then I realised an argument was just what Johnny wanted. Instead, seeing one of the carpenters standing nearby with a gift for Mr Mackenzie, I moved towards Mori to get his attention. We approached Mr Mackenzie as he was bending over the projector. I cleared my throat. ‘Mr Mackenzie, the Japanese of 14C would like to thank you for coming such a long way. We are grateful for the kindness of Australians such as you. As a token of our appreciation, we would like to present you with this gift.’ Mori stepped forward. He held out the wooden box and bowed deeply. Mr Mackenzie accepted the box and opened the lid. He brought out a carved wooden chess piece, the cross-topped shape of a king. ‘A chess set. An entire chess set. Goodness, I’m touched.’ He brought a finger to the corner of his eye. ‘Did you make this?’ he asked Mori. ‘Mr Sawada here did most of the work.’ I motioned for Sawada to step forward. ‘Thank you, thank you,’ Mr Mackenzie said, shaking Sawada’s hand. ‘What a wonderful present. I’ll show it to everyone in the office. And my children will be delighted.’ Sawada smiled sheepishly and asked me to translate for him. ‘He says it’s only small. If he had more time, he would have made you something bigger.’ ‘No, no. This is perfect. I can’t believe how intricate the pieces are. I’ll cherish it.’ ‘People from the Red Cross have visited us in the past, but you’re the first outsider to come. It means a lot that an Australian would do this for us,’ I said. Mr Mackenzie nodded. ‘I wish I could do more. It doesn’t seem fair you lot are locked up in here, just for being Japanese.’ As Mr Mackenzie returned to setting up the projector, we looked for a place to sit. The haafu had shifted along the row so that Major Lott and the two officers could sit next to Mr Mackenzie. There were two empty seats at the other end. ‘I’m not sitting next to them,’ Mori hissed. ‘We’ll sit on the ground. I don’t want a fuss. The formalities are over, anyhow.’ The internees made space for us on the blanket, and with a whirr and a flash of

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light, the film finally started. Some of the internees cheered. A kangaroo appeared on the screen, silently scratching through undergrowth, the slender feet of a joey poking from her pouch. There was hardly a sound except for the bluffing of the sheets as they caught in the wind and the occasional gasps and laughter from the audience. I looked back at the row of seats. Johnny’s arms were crossed in front of his chest. In the flickering light reflected from the screen, I saw his narrow eyes and the hard line of his mouth. The new internee appeared small beside him. His shoulders were drawn inwards, his hands pressed together and tucked between his legs. He watched the screen with such concentration I doubted he was enjoying the experience at all. I pitied him for having been swept up in Johnny’s trouble so soon.

C Darkness crowded the corners of the orderly room as I sat on a chair. Grey light shone through the window; the sky was the colour of steel. The weather had put me in a sombre mood. I was thinking of Tokyo; of the cold empty mornings of my last weeks there before I had left for Australia. Shiobara walked into the room. ‘Excuse me, Doctor, would you mind coming to my ward? There’s a new patient with an injury.’ The new half-caste who’d been sitting with Johnny the night of the film screening was at the front of the ward, holding his forearm as if he were cradling a child. ‘Are you Doctor Ibaraki? Johnny said I should see you.’ I was suspicious of Johnny’s motives in giving my name, but I inspected the young man’s wound. A purple-red bruise spread from his forearm to his bicep. A gash furrowed his elbow, the flesh around it red and swollen and crusted with purulent exudate. ‘What happened?’ ‘They just… attacked me.’ ‘Who?’ ‘These four men. I was sitting in the mess hall after lunch, trying to write a letter, and they came and told me to leave. They spoke in Japanese, so I didn’t know

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what they were saying at first, so I didn’t move, and they just started yelling at me and grabbed me. One of them hit me with a tent pole. That’s how I got this.’ He nodded at the wound on his arm. I was surprised by what he said. Our camp was populous but everyone seemed to get along well. Mayor Mori saw to it that everything ran smoothly. I wondered if the altercation had anything to do with the stand-off at the film night. I’d heard several people complaining about the behaviour of the haafu that evening. I thought about pointing out the importance of maintaining face, but a lecture was not what he had come to me for. ‘When did it happen?’ ‘Today, right after lunch. I thought I could leave it, but the cut blew up. Now I can hardly move my arm.’ I took my time inspecting him. Building rapport with a patient had never been something at which I excelled. In Broome I had always relied on Sister Bernice. She only needed to speak a few phrases in her low voice to put a patient at ease. ‘It’s badly bruised, but it’s not broken,’ I said. ‘The wound is infected. I need to clean and dress it.’ I turned away to get the iodine and gauze. Someone shifted in their bed and coughed. Outside, the high-pitched squeal of a train could be heard—it must have been the cargo train bringing supplies from Barmera. ‘I’m sorry, I do not know your name.’ ‘Peter Suzuki,’ he said. ‘But you can call me Pete.’ ‘Are you new to camp?’ ‘Yeah. Got here last week from the camp in Liverpool. I thought it would be better here, but…’ His face contorted. At first I thought he was wincing in pain, but as he began to draw noisy, stuttering breaths, I realised he was crying. Head bent, he massaged his brows with the fingers of his uninjured arm. ‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘Been a tough year. I’ve been transferred all around the place. I shouldn’t even be in here. I was in the AIF, did you know that? Did eight months in the survey branch before I was kicked out because I’m Japanese, even though I’ve lived here since I was six months old. First that, then they lock me up in Liverpool, and now this. Everything… it’s all gone to hell.’ He covered his face with his hand and

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sobbed, although he hardly made a noise. His shoulders trembled. I began disinfecting the wound. Pete flinched when I touched him. His skin was hot, like the kaichu kairo pocket warmers I sometimes used in Japan. I unrolled the length of bandage and slowly wound it around his arm, careful not to knock the gauze. ‘Don’t worry, you will fit in here soon,’ I said. ‘I know from my own experience. It was difficult to meet people at first, but now I have many friends. You will, too.’ ‘It’s different for you. You’re Japanese.’ He pressed his palm into his eyes. ‘Did you report it to someone?’ ‘Just the guard at the gate. He said I should file a report with an officer.’ ‘Why don’t you say something to Mayor Mori? He could give a warning. He’d want to know about this, anyway. Or maybe Yamada can help. He’s the leader of my row.’ ‘Yamada?’ Pete’s head jerked up. The skin around his eyes was pink and swollen. ‘That’s the name of one of the guys who attacked me. Johnny said so. I recognised him from the film night. He was one of the men who was standing in front of us when we were in the seats.’ I let go of his arm. ‘Not Yamada Denkichi.’ ‘I don’t know his full name. Short guy, grey hair. The one who stood right in front of us. You were there, weren’t you?’ ‘Yamada Denkichi is a very good friend. He would never do something like that. He was the one who introduced me to everyone when I first arrived here. You must be mistaken.’ He shook his head. ‘No, it’s him. The same Yamada. About fifty, tanned. I recognised him from the other day. Johnny told me his name. Said he’d had run-ins with him before. Said he was the worst of them.’ All at once it became clear: this was part of Johnny’s plan to create havoc at camp. Due to jealousy or some personal vendetta, Johnny wanted to bring down the leaders of our compound, and he had somehow convinced Pete that Yamada was to blame. For all I knew, Pete might have inflicted the wound on himself. ‘“The worst?” Johnny told you that? I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe Yamada

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would attack another man. It is Johnny Chang you should be careful of. Do not let him influence you.’ Pete stared at me without blinking. I heard the whistle of his breath through his nose. I grew uncomfortable under his gaze and reached for his arm to finish bandaging it. He finally spoke. ‘I’m not lying. I know you don’t believe me, but I’m not.’ His voice quavered. Although I sympathised with him, I said nothing. I hoped he would recover from the setback and find some better friends at camp. In silence, I wound the remaining length of bandage around his forearm and tied a knot at the end.

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BROOME 1938

Something was calling me from the darkness—a pattern that roused me from slumber. I raised my head from the pillow, and the sound condensed. A tap tap tap on my door. ‘Hey, Doctor! You home?’ I heaved myself from bed and shuffled to the entrance. A young man I vaguely recognised stood on the other side of the door. Was he Japanese, Malay, Chinese? It was difficult to judge from his broad shoulders, his nut-brown skin and the sharp angles of his face. ‘There’s been a fight at the Roebuck.’ His Australian accent caught me by surprise. ‘Some Japs and Malays got stuck into each other. One got his face cut up. McNally and I brought him here in my car. The other one’s walking over with the inspector and Rooney. Can we bring the first one in?’ ‘Yes, of course.’ I touched a hand to my rumpled nightshirt. ‘Bring him into the ward. I’ll be there in a moment.’ I hurried to the closet and changed into a smock. I washed my hands and cleared a space around one of the beds. Constable McNally and the young man who’d knocked on my door shuffled into the ward, swearing under their breath as they carried the patient by his arms and legs. He slumped in their grip, insensate as they manoeuvred him onto the bed. I paled at the sight of his injuries. He was coated in blood, still bleeding from the cuts on his face and his neck. I could hardly make out his eyes through the

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swelling on his face. Panic gripped me. I turned to the young man. ‘Could you go to the St John of God convent and ask for Sister Bernice? I’ll need her help.’ ‘At this hour?’ ‘Please.’ ‘I’ll try, but I can’t promise anything. The nuns won’t be happy to see me at this time of night.’ I tried to calm my racing mind, praying my training would come back to me. In the two months I’d worked in Broome I’d performed only a few minor operations, such as resetting broken bones, sewing cuts and removing abscesses. The biggest emergency had been a diver with caisson disease, and treatment required little skill on my part: there was an old decompression chamber on the grounds of Doctor Wallace’s practice, and we placed the diver inside for twenty-four hours, repeating the process until his symptoms disappeared. I asked Constable McNally to assist me until the sister’s arrival. McNally held the patient down while I swabbed his cuts with a mixture of alcohol and iodine. As soon as I touched him, the patient screamed, his mouth wide open, back arching in pain, as if a current ran through him. When he settled again, I stemmed the bleeding on his neck with wadding. The distant hum of voices cut through the stillness of the night. Footfalls on the verandah steps. The creak of floorboards. And then Inspector Cowie and Constable Rooney appeared, gripping the shirt of a young man. I smelt alcohol on his breath when I inspected him. One side of his face was swollen, but I recognised him as one of the divers who often hung around the boarding houses in Japtown. He cradled his right arm to his chest. I addressed him in Japanese. ‘Your arm. Show me.’ He turned his hand towards me. His knuckles were cut and grazed. Blood pooled in a deep laceration on his palm, but his wrist was unaffected. I directed him to a bed against the wall. I went to the kitchen to fetch some ice. Inspector Cowie was hovering near the doorway, his face creased with concern. ‘The other one—the Malay kid—he doesn’t look good. Shouldn’t you start stitching him up?’

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‘I—I’m waiting for the sister. I need an assistant.’ ‘What if she doesn’t come?’ I blinked. If she didn’t come, who would help me? I’d have to ask one of the constables. But they wouldn’t have the sister’s grace, nor would they be able to calm the patient like she could. I nodded, gave the ice to the Japanese diver, then started assembling instruments for the operation. My hands trembled as I thought of the last operation I’d been involved in in Japan, and its disastrous outcome. I was about to begin the procedure, when I heard the rumble of a car along the road. Two doors slammed, then Sister Bernice walked into the hospital, her habit as smooth and neat as if it had just been pressed. I exhaled with relief. ‘I came as soon as I could,’ she said, moving towards the sink to wash her hands. ‘The cuts are non-arterial, but he is still losing blood. We should operate at once,’ I said. ‘Are you ready?’ ‘Ready.’ Her brow furrowed in concentration. McNally crossed to the other side of the room to assist Cowie in questioning the Japanese diver. Sister Bernice shifted to one side of the table to hold down the patient’s arm. I threaded the needle then dipped it in alcohol. ‘The neck first,’ I said, and Sister Bernice removed the wadding, then guided the patient’s face to expose his neck. Bright red blood spurted from the wound. I brought the needle close and then stopped. My hand was trembling. My mind was a jumble of images. A swollen node. Black dots on a child’s belly. I was unable to go on. ‘Hold his arm,’ Sister Bernice said. Then, without a word, she took the needle from me, leaned forward until her face was inches from the patient’s, pursed her lips and in one movement pierced the skin and brought the needle through it. The patient wailed, a sharp sound like the cry of a child. He sobbed in a language I didn’t understand, writhing under my grip. ‘Shhh, I know it hurts. But it will be over soon. Shhh,’ Sister Bernice said. Anguish contorted the young man’s face but he was quieter as she continued to sew. She tied a knot and cut the thread. Hearing the patient cry out had unlocked something within me. I blinked, now fully aware of the situation.

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‘Thank you, Sister. I will do the next.’ She nodded and gave me the needle, then stood behind the patient, placing her palms on either side of his head. She continued to whisper to him as I tended to his remaining cuts. I took a deep breath and drove the needle through his skin. He grimaced but didn’t utter a sound, soothed by her voice. My unease had entirely disappeared by the time I treated the Japanese diver. The cut on his palm required stitches and his sprained wrist needed a sling—all relatively simple procedures, but they took longer than expected on account of his agitation. ‘How dare he?’ he said in Japanese, leaning forward until he almost toppled off the bed. Liquor laced his breath. ‘She’s my girl. How dare he.’ I assumed he was referring to one of the girls at the boarding houses. Although no one else in the room could understand him, I was embarrassed by his behaviour and frustrated by his constant movement, so I rather tersely told him to be quiet. He snapped, ‘You? What do you know about love?’ I looked up. His stare cut to the deepest part of me. I didn’t address him again. When I’d finished treating both patients, the constables walked the diver back into town to the police station. Before the inspector left, he thanked the sister and me, then turned to the young man with the car. ‘Johnny, you’ve been a big help. With the patrol car in repair, I don’t know what we would have done without you. If you can’t get those blood stains off the seat, let me know. We might be able to reimburse you.’ Johnny batted his hand in front of his face. ‘The seat will be fine. It’ll add character. But next time one of your boys stops me for speeding, how about we call it even, eh?’ He winked. The inspector laughed. ‘Yes, well, we’ll see…’ The Malay patient’s condition was still critical, so I set up a bed in the anteroom for myself. Johnny offered to take Sister Bernice home. She insisted on cleaning and putting away all the equipment and supplies before she left, even though I told her she needn’t do so. When I followed them outside and saw Johnny’s brown Dodge Tourer I realised who he was: he had a taxi business in Broome. I’d often seen him driving down

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Carnarvon Street or ferrying passengers from the jetty. His family ran the popular Yat Son noodle shop in Japtown. He turned to me before he reached his car. ‘I’m Johnny, by the way,’ he said, holding out his hand. ‘Tomokazu Ibaraki. Pleased to meet you.’ ‘You’re new here, aren’t you?’ he said. ‘I remember the old doctor—he came with his wife and two kids. But it’s just you now, right?’ ‘Yes, that is right.’ I looked away, into the darkness beyond the street. ‘This kind of thing doesn’t always happen—tonight’s fight, I mean. We haven’t had trouble like this for years, maybe because numbers are down. During lay-up there’s sometimes a spat. Some divers think they can treat the others like dirt. But they’re not all like that.’ ‘Is that what happened tonight, with the Japanese diver and the Malay?’ ‘I’m not sure. Someone said they were fighting over a girl. But everyone usually gets on with each other—Japs, Malays, Chinese, blacks and whites.’ He placed one hand on his chest. ‘I’m proof of that.’ Darkness blanketed the landscape, but the first cries of the dawn chorus sounded from the dunes. A kookaburra’s stuttering call broke out. I moved to the other side of the car and opened the door for Sister Bernice. ‘Are you sure you’ll be all right?’ she asked. ‘I can come in tomorrow if you’d like.’ I never asked her to come in on the weekends, and certainly not on a Sunday. ‘No, thank you, Sister. That’s quite all right. You were remarkable today. I could not have done it without you.’ ‘You trained me well.’ She smiled. I hesitated. ‘About the operation… I do not know what happened to me at the start. It has been a long—’ ‘There’s no need to explain. These things happen. You finished the job all the same.’ ‘Yes, well, thank you. Now, please go home and rest.’ She turned around and climbed into the car. As they drove away, she smiled and gave me a brief wave. I remained in the street for a minute after they’d left, listening to the chortle of a magpie. I thought I could make out the distant roar

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of the sea. I was tired, but my body felt strangely light.

C August was the month of the Bon festival in Japan. Honouring the spirits of the dead was the last thing I expected to do in Broome, but I soon discovered it had considerable cultural importance in town. President Kanemori was the first to tell me about it. ‘It’s going to be a big one this year—it coincides with the full moon, so we’re going to release the lanterns in the bay.’ The festivities took place in a small clearing near Roebuck Bay, right next to the town beach. On one side, mangroves clustered the shore in a sticky embrace, and on the other, waves crashed against the rocky outcrop that protected the beach. I arrived just after sunset, in time to see the sky turn from pink to mauve to blue, and in the gathering darkness I wandered through the crowd. A young man with an iron griddle was selling taiyaki. Next to him, a group of divers squatted on the ground, taking bites of the fish-shaped cakes. Young girls in kimonos seemed to be everywhere, the full-blood and half-caste daughters of laundrymen and divers. Until that night I hadn’t realised how many beautiful Japanese girls there were in town. I weaved my way through the crowd, stopping to chat to Hama. President Kanemori nodded at me, but he was talking to Captain McDaniels and his wife. I moved away from them, towards the edge of the bay, hoping to catch the moonrise. In the darkness I could barely make out the muddy flats of the bay. I looked for the first signs of the moon. As I waited at the water’s edge, a small crowd gathered around me. After a few minutes, a blot of colour appeared on the horizon, a rust-coloured stain above the water. Another minute or two passed, and the stain grew larger and brighter. A little girl standing near me cried, ‘Look, Mama, I think I see it!’ A sliver of orange peeped above the horizon. ‘Yes, that’s it!’ someone else cried, and people began to jostle each other to have the best view. We watched the orange light grow in size until it was a semicircle that cast long shadows across the bay. The moon grew fuller and paler, shedding its colour as it climbed the sky. Soon it was a perfect white sphere. I stayed there for a long time, looking out at the sea,

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the stars and the sky, while those around me gradually peeled away. The shadows on the exposed mudflats, which resembled a rickety staircase, gradually diminished, until the moon was high in the sky, casting a cold distant light. I wandered back to the clearing to catch the toronagashi on Town Beach. A small crowd had already gathered on the shore. Some people held paper lanterns in their hands. I turned my head, and saw Sister Bernice in a group of St John of God nuns, standing on the edge of the wharf that overlooked the beach. Although I’d grown accustomed to seeing her every day, now it was as if I saw her for the first time. Our eyes met. She raised her hand in greeting. I smiled and bowed. She beckoned me over. ‘Doctor Ibaraki,’ she said. ‘We were just wondering if we could find someone to explain the significance of the lanterns, and then I saw you.’ She introduced me to the other nuns. Two of them were about Sister Bernice’s age, while the other two were older. ‘Did you come by yourself?’ one of the younger nuns asked, studying me with her pale eyes. Perhaps sensing my discomfort, Sister Bernice spoke before I could answer. ‘The lanterns—could you tell us what they mean?’ ‘They represent the spirits of the dead. At this time every year our ancestors return to visit us. To guide them back to the other place, we release lanterns on water. It is especially important for those who died in the past year.’ ‘Are you going to release any lanterns this year?’ the young nun asked. ‘Sarah!’ Sister Bernice scolded. I laughed. ‘No. Fortunately, I do not need to release any this year. I did that long ago.’ Sister Bernice’s gaze lingered on me. ‘Look—there’s the first one now,’ I said, pointing to a light on the shore. ‘Can we go closer?’ Sister Sarah asked. The two older nuns stayed on the wharf while I escorted Bernice, Sarah and the third young nun, Agnes, along the beach. We watched the line of people taking turns releasing their lanterns into the ocean, fragile ships aglow with candlelight. Some were swallowed by darkness soon after they left the shore, their candle

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extinguished early by poor design or a strong gust of wind; but most made it past the heads still alight and drifted far away until they were tiny pinpricks of light. After a while, bobbing lanterns blanketed the ocean as far as the eye could see. Sister Bernice and I stood a little way behind the other nuns, pointing out lanterns that caught our eye. She liked ones of unusual shape or colour; I preferred small, sturdy ones that were sure to go far. I explained to her how I made them as a boy: with bamboo and string and old sliding screen paper. ‘They were terrible,’ I said. ‘They always sank or tilted. One even caught on fire. But each year I became better at making them, until finally, the year of my father’s death, I made one that lasted the journey from the top of the river to the bend.’ She nodded. ‘It’s a lovely tradition. I wish I had done something like that when my parents died.’ ‘Oh?’ I knew she had family in Geraldton, so I didn’t think her parents were dead. ‘A car accident. When I was young. My mother’s sister’s family brought me up.’ ‘I’m sorry.’ And because I did not know what else to say, I looked out to sea. We said nothing further as we watched the surface of the water dance with light. Standing in silence by the shore, I felt closer to Bernice than I ever had before.

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L OV E DAY 1 9 4 2

At camp, I emerged from the darkness of the kitchen into the glare of the midday sun. My hands were wet and numb, having been immersed in cold water for lunchtime dishwashing duty. I sensed movement to my right. The bobbing white habit of a nun. But it was only someone’s laundry—a white shirt flapping in the breeze. As I walked towards my tent, I heard a cheer coming from the quadrangle. I moved closer and a knot of figures unbraided and scattered. Someone in the middle of the group stepped forward and laughter erupted. It was Ebina, one of the men from Batavia who was also an orderly at the infirmary. His arm circled the air. Thirty feet away someone swung a bat, then dropped it to the ground with a hollow clunk. ‘Ganbare, ganbare!’ one of the men called, and the batter began to run. The first baseman was on the ground, scrambling to grasp the ball. He jumped up and ran back to his base a second before the batter reached it. The baseman raised his arms and cheered. The batter doubled over, laughing. ‘I’m too old for this. I can hardly breathe!’ he said, his chest heaving. ‘Well, you’re in better shape than this ball. Look—it’s already falling apart,’ the baseman said. A bundle filled his hand. ‘At this rate, we’ll need a new one for every play.’ ‘Ibaraki-sensei,’ Ebina called, waving me over. ‘Want to join the game?’ I shook my head. Although baseball had been one of my favourite pastimes as a youth, it had been a decade since I had picked up a bat. At university, I had

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sometimes played catch with the other students on the grassy slope near the medical wing. If the weather was good, we walked across to Ueno Onshi Park to hit a few balls. The sun on our faces, the smell of the leather mitt—the simple joys of those days. Once we started our internships, however, we no longer had time to play. By the time I was married and working full-time, I rarely thought about baseball. The Japanese in Broome never played. The pearling crews unwound from the physical demands of their work in other ways: drinking, gambling and visiting the boarding houses. ‘I’ll just watch,’ I said. ‘It’s been a long time since I played.’ ‘It’s been a long time for us, too. Can’t you tell? We can’t even remember how far the pitch is from the home plate.’ ‘Well, in the major league it’s sixty feet away… But obviously you wouldn’t need to replicate that here.’ Ebina’s face creased into a smile. ‘So you do know how to play! Come on, sensei, why don’t you have a go? We’re a few people short of a team. We could use someone who knows what they’re doing.’ I shifted uneasily on my feet. ‘It’s just for fun,’ the first baseman said. ‘Here, look at our ball. We’re not going to get very far with it, anyway.’ He threw it to me and I caught it. It was surprisingly heavy. Wound strips of fabric formed a misshapen sphere, much like a dense ball of string. The ragged fabric ends peeled off like dead skin. ‘There’s a stone at the core. We got the roundest one we could find. Then we covered it in fabric strips taken from some of the kitchen cleaning rags—and one of Ebina’s old shirts.’ The baseman smirked. ‘Here, let me show you,’ Ebina said, taking the ball from me. He hurled it towards the ground. I expected it to land with a thud, but it bounced once, twice, before landing several feet away. ‘It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we have. And there’s only one—we don’t even have enough material to make a second one! And here, look at our bat—’ Ebina gestured to the catcher. He came trotting towards me, holding out the bat for me to inspect. It was a crudely-hewn piece of pale grey wood that tapered at one end. The surface had been lightly sanded but was full of bumps.

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‘It’s a branch that one of the men dragged in from the vegetable gardens,’ Ebina said. ‘We asked one of the carpenters to make us a better one, but he hasn’t found the right type of wood yet.’ Seeing them play baseball with their meagre equipment made me think of the divers in Broome, who entertained themselves with ease when they came back to land after weeks at sea. When I walked through Japtown on my way to a meeting of the Japanese Association, I would see them crouching in laneways and conversing, or leaning against the verandahs of the boarding houses, passing a cigarette among them. I’d glimpse them through the windows of the Roebuck, glass in hand, faces red. They were my countrymen, but the way in which they conducted themselves was almost alien to me. To be a diver was to never be alone. ‘Why not have a hit?’ Ebina urged. ‘No. I won’t be any good.’ ‘Come on, sensei. Just one ball,’ said the catcher, holding out the bat to me. A few others voiced their support. ‘Oh, all right, then. But I warn you, I haven’t played in years.’ The men clapped and cheered in support as I walked up to the plate and aligned my body. Ebina gathered himself on the pitcher’s mound. ‘Ready?’ I nodded. The ball came towards me much slower than expected. It was slightly wide, and although I was tempted to reach out and tap it, I refrained from doing so, knowing that the hit would be weak. Restraint, after all, is the secret of any good sportsman. It hurtled past my shoulder, turning slowly. I wondered if Ebina had meant to give me a slow ball. But as he wound up for the second pitch, the concentration was clear on his face. The second ball came surer, faster, and I steeled myself for a hit. I swung hard, but too soon, connecting with the ball at the end of my swing, so that there was little force to propel it. The ball bounced once, then landed in a fielder’s cupped hands. I had only taken a few steps away from the plate, when he threw the ball to first base. I laughed as the baseman stretched out his arms. In less than a minute, I was out.

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C I finished my shift at the infirmary at seven o’clock and began the long walk back to the compound. When I’d first started at the infirmary, the sun set right in front of me, the horizon ablaze with orange and red, wispy pink clouds streaking the sky. I paced myself on these walks, enjoying the spectacle that seemed staged just for me. It made me think of the time I’d first stepped off the ship in Broome as a twenty-nine-year-old, overwhelmed by the hugeness of the sky. Even during the wet, when dark clouds hung low week after week, I never grew accustomed to its size. But the days were becoming shorter, and now only a thin line of orange could be seen above the horizon. The rest of the sky was the colour of ink. Sometimes I looked across the road to 14A and saw the Italians leaning against the fence or standing in the quadrangle. They would wave and yell, ‘Medico! Medico!’ at me as I went by. But as I walked towards the gate tonight, there was not a soul in sight. The guard let me back into camp. I was aching for a shower. My shift had not been particularly difficult, but I was tired. The weeks were catching up to me. I hadn’t taken more than a dozen steps away from the gate when a figure appeared from behind the nearest row of tents. I recognised the rolling gait before I saw his face. ‘Hey, Doc.’ ‘Johnny. What do you want?’ I hadn’t seen him since the film night and was immediately on guard. ‘I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all week. I was beginning to think you were avoiding me. Look, I know we probably haven’t got off to the best start here, but I wanted to ask you a favour.’ ‘A favour?’ He took a deep breath. ‘It’s about the baseball. We want to play, too. The Australians deserve a go, just like everyone else.’ ‘I don’t understand. Why can’t you make your own team?’ ‘Don’t you think I’ve tried? I’ve got six other blokes who want to play, but no one else wants to join our team or play against us. I swear the mayor has told

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everyone to steer clear of us. Has he?’ I shook my head. ‘Johnny, not this again.’ ‘What? We’re outcasts in here. Can’t you see that?’ The half-castes and Australian-borns had formed a clique, sleeping in tents a little way from the others, eating at a separate table and doing different chores. Even when they worked outside the camp grounds, they didn’t have to wear the maroon uniforms that everyone else wore. They spent their time chatting to the guards and officers, which didn’t help their reputation in camp. If they were outcasts, they were outcasts of their own making. ‘All I want you to do is make a suggestion to Mori. Convince him to start a baseball competition that gets every tent involved—a big, inter-compound competition. First the different teams in each compound play each other, then the winning team plays the winner of 14B. Mori won’t listen to us. You’re a doctor. He respects you.’ I shook my head. ‘I am not sure I could convince him,’ I said, thinking of my failure to delay Major Lott and Mr Mackenzie on the night of the film. ‘Just try. Come on, what harm can it do?’ ‘You forgot Major Lott—he will have to approve the competition. He will have final say.’ ‘Lott will love it. Commander Dean’s been going on about internee morale and sports and this and that. The baseball comp will fit right into that. Plus, I can sweet talk McCubbin and some of the other officers. They’re bored out of their brains here, too. The comp will give them something to look forward to.’ I hesitated. Although I took issue with Johnny’s attitude, it was a good idea. But I didn’t want to be seen as his ally. Wind stirred the trees, making them whisper to each other. ‘I can try,’ I said. ‘But I cannot promise anything. I might have more luck approaching Yamada first.’ Johnny curled his lip in disgust. ‘Not that bastard. Not after what he did to Pete.’ I bristled at the slur. ‘If you want my help, stop spreading lies about Yamada. He is the deputy mayor and a good man. You must treat him with respect.’ Johnny’s eyes flashed. ‘Lies? What lies? Yamada kicked Pete out of the mess hall and hit him with a steel pole, and now Pete’s so hard up he can’t work. Yamada’s

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a thug. People like that don’t deserve my respect.’ ‘Yamada would never hit Pete. It is all a misunderstanding. Or perhaps it is a lie. I would not be surprised if someone in your group said it was Yamada, just to hurt him. If you don’t change your attitude, you cannot expect my help in the baseball competition.’ Johnny stared at me. ‘Christ almighty, what’s wrong with you?’ A gust of wind lifted a layer of loose dirt and blew it between us. I held my hand to my mouth and coughed, but Johnny didn’t move. The directness of his gaze put me on edge. When he finally spoke again, his voice was strange. ‘You know, I used to like you in Broome. Some of the divers didn’t. They thought you were odd. The way you didn’t talk to them in hospital, letting the nun do all the talking—they thought you acted all high and mighty. Even Captain McDaniels thought you were strange. What was the word he used? Aloof. I heard him say it to Mrs Dunn once. Mrs Dunn was asking why you didn’t come to all the parties like the previous doctor. McDaniels said it was because you were aloof. But I thought you were a decent bloke. You were quiet but you didn’t stick your nose into anyone else’s business, which I liked. But now I see you’re just a coward—like the rest of the Japs here.’

C In the corridors of my family home, I followed a woman with long, dark hair. She was my mother, in her silver obi that flashed in the light. Then she was Kayoko, in her colourful wedding kimono patterned with swooping cranes. I strained to see her face behind the curtain of dark hair. The hall stretched before me, impossibly long. At the end was a door leading to the storage room of the laboratory where I worked. Don’t go there, I called. Kayo, wait! But she couldn’t hear me. I tried to run ahead, but I didn’t go far. Helpless, I watched as she put her hand on the door knob. And then— ‘Sensei, sensei. Are you awake?’ The hand on my shoulder shook with startling firmness. I blinked. A black shape

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loomed above me beneath the canvas roof of the tent. For a moment, I thought it was Kayoko, her hair in a loose bun. ‘Yamada-san—is that you?’ I asked. Yamada’s hair formed unkempt peaks at the top of his head. ‘An officer wants you. There’s a problem at the infirmary. Can you go with him now?’

I shivered. Cold wind pierced the heavy woollen fabric of my coat. Officer McCubbin buried his hands in opposite armpits as he walked, his rifle bumping against his back. ‘This Suzuki fella, we think he tried to kill himself. Tried to cut his wrist with glass,’ he said. My breath caught in my throat. ‘Suzuki? Not Peter Suzuki? Pete?’ ‘Yeah, that’s him. Know him, do you?’ ‘He came to see me at the infirmary the other day.’ I was stunned. Pete had been upset when I’d seen him at the infirmary, but I hadn’t detected any deeper malaise. ‘Yeah? What for?’ ‘He’d hurt his arm. A minor injury.’ ‘Yeah, well, he’s a bloody mess now. Someone from his tent found him in the ablutions block, so he grabbed me and we carried him to the hospital at HQ.’ Images floated up from somewhere deep. A blood stain on wet clothes. ‘What is his condition?’ ‘Hard to say. I think he’ll survive, but I can’t be sure.’ ‘Is he conscious?’ ‘Yeah, but a bit out of it. When we picked him up he was telling us to stop. The commander’s worried because it’s the third suicide attempt by a Japanese since January. Any more and the authorities will be asking why.’ ‘Three?’ ‘There was a New Caledonian in 14B who bit off his tongue, the New Caledonian in this camp, and now Suzuki.’

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‘The New Caledonian in this camp?’ ‘Yeah, the one who actually died. You don’t remember? He ate a packet of rat poison from the kitchen. Someone found him the next morning. This was back in February, I think.’ ‘It must have been before I arrived.’ I was unfamiliar with the nuances of treating a suicidal patient. Although suicide was common in Japan, failed attempts were rarely treated in hospital. It was usually a private affair. ‘Powell, the medical assistant, is looking after Pete because Doctor Ashton is out of town,’ McCubbin said. ‘Then I remembered you were a doctor. From Broome, is that right?’ McCubbin peered at me. One of his eyes wobbled outwards. A triangle of sandcoloured hair was visible on his forehead beneath the peak of his military cap. He was younger than most of the other officers, some of whom were veterans of the First World War. ‘I worked at a Japanese hospital in Broome for several years, until I was interned.’ ‘There was a Japanese hospital in Broome? Just for the Japanese?’ ‘Not just for the Japanese—we treated others, of course: Malays, Manilamen, the local Aboriginals and sometimes the Britishers.’ ‘They brought you all the way out from Japan to work in Broome? Christ, you must be good.’ ‘To be honest, the salary was only modest. But I was still young, with little experience. And I wanted a change.’ He nodded. ‘Now there’s something I can relate to. Wanting a change. That’s why I joined the army when I was eighteen. I grew up in country Victoria. Couldn’t wait to get out, see the world, do my bit for the country. I was posted in Egypt for a few months, but that’s how I got this bung eye.’ He pointed at his lazy eye, and pulled his scarf aside to reveal a purple-red scar that ran from his nose to his cheekbone. McCubbin continued talking about his injury, and the horrific wounds he saw while a patient at a hospital in Cairo. I nodded but didn’t say anything. I wanted to arrive at the infirmary as soon as possible. The wind lulled, amplifying the tread of our feet. Our strides were out of rhythm;

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his long, loping gait kept a steady pace against my staccato steps. Here and there stubborn weeds had forced their way to the surface of the dirt road; they held drops of dew that shone like glass beads under the floodlights. Before long, we reached the birdcage gate, then continued along the road to HQ. Inside the army hospital, Johnny was leaning over Pete’s bed, but when he saw me he stood up and crossed his arms in front of his chest. We locked eyes. Lieutenant Powell, the medical assistant, touched his fingers to Pete’s neck to take his pulse. Then he stepped back to allow me to inspect Pete. Pete’s eyes were closed. He cradled his right wrist to his chest, the elbow still bandaged from his prior wound. The front of his shirt was splattered with blood. ‘Pete,’ I whispered. His eyelids flickered. He stared at me with glassy eyes, then turned his head aside. I gently lifted his arm and eased away the blood-soaked wad of gauze. A shard of glass was lodged at the base of his wrist. Blood caked the edge of the wound at one end, forming a bridge between skin and glass; at the other end, bright red blood bubbled. I quickly replaced the gauze. ‘What do you think?’ Powell asked. If I had been at the hospital in Broome, I would have made preparations for surgery straight away. But at camp, I wasn’t sure. ‘He has severed a peripheral artery. It’s deep, but a clot has started to form. If I try to remove the glass, he could lose a lot more blood. I think it is too dangerous to operate here. He should go to the hospital in Barmera. In the meantime, I’ll dress the wound.’ Johnny snorted. ‘Some doctor you are…’ ‘Pardon?’ ‘That’s all you’re doing, dressing the wound? Pete could die in the next few minutes and all you want to do is slap a bandage on him? Oh, but I forgot: you’re the reason he’s in here, anyway.’ McCubbin had been standing near the entrance to the ward so quietly I’d almost forgotten he was there. He stepped towards us. ‘Cut it out, Johnny. We don’t need another scene from you.’ ‘What? It’s true,’ Johnny said. ‘Pete was different after he went to the infirmary.

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Said the doc thought he was lying about what happened. He came back even more upset; he didn’t want to talk to anyone. And then tonight he goes missing and turns up on the floor of the shower block with his wrist cut up.’ The air in the ward was heavy. I opened my mouth, then closed it. I glanced at Pete, but he was still turned away from me. McCubbin checked his watch. ‘How about we quit fighting and take him into town. I’ll get a truck from HQ. Sound okay?’ I nodded, glad for the suggestion. Lieutenant Powell and I began to dress Pete’s wound. All the while, I was aware of Johnny’s presence nearby, like a shadow that fell over me. Hours later—long after we moved Pete into the truck—I returned to camp and lay awake in bed, unable to forget what Johnny had said.

C The materials to build sleeping huts finally arrived, and not a moment too soon. The temperature had dipped sharply in previous weeks. At night, once the sun sank below the horizon, we huddled in our tents with the canvas closed, playing hanafuda and shogi until it was time to sleep. In the morning, frost coated the tent ropes in lines of crystal beads. Building the fifteen huts required a major camp reshuffle. Although there were several dozen trained carpenters and ship builders in the population, dozens more men were needed to complete the task. Able-bodied men were asked to work at the rate of a shilling a day, to be paid from the profits of the canteen. At the infirmary, I was sorry to lose Shiobara to the hut building project. He had been an attentive orderly, and had seen to it that I found my way around the infirmary. Hayashi, Yamada’s friend from Sumatra who’d moved into our tent, agreed to start working at the infirmary in his place. Although training Hayashi kept me busy during the long shifts at the hospital, whenever I was cutting the hard loaves of bread or washing the patients’ dishes, I found myself thinking of Pete. The operation had been successful, we’d heard, and he was recovering in Barmera hospital. The news brought me great relief, and I felt vindicated in my decision to send him to Barmera, where he was no doubt

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receiving very good care. But I couldn’t shake the feeling I was to blame for Pete’s attempt to take his life. As much as I told myself Johnny’s accusation was just an emotional reaction, the incident continued to weigh on me. There was no one I could turn to for advice. My closest friend at camp, Hama, was far too ill to listen to my troubles. Lying in bed at night, I turned over the possibilities in my mind. Could Yamada have been the one who hurt Pete? It seemed ridiculous. I felt it more likely that in his compromised mental state, Pete had misidentified Yamada, or perhaps he’d deliberately hurt himself and somehow convinced himself it was Yamada’s doing. His recent self-harm certainly attested to that possibility. I could raise the topic with Yamada, but the thought of doing that made me uncomfortable. If only there was a way to ask him indirectly. Then I remembered the executive meeting the next day—it was held in the mess hall every Wednesday after lunch. I had attended in my first week to familiarise myself with the executive members and the running of the camp, but since I had started working at the infirmary I’d had no time to attend. Pete’s attempted suicide would surely be discussed, and I could see Yamada’s reaction for myself, and hopefully clear up any doubts I had, once and for all. I finally drifted into sleep. I dreamt I was searching for oysters on the ocean floor. My gloved fingers were clumsy as I felt for the shells among the sand and reeds. I felt a tug on my line, the signal for me to surface, but I pushed on. I kept seeing something beneath the surface, a glimmer of white, but no matter how much I sifted and scraped away the sand, I couldn’t find the shell.

C I stepped into the mess hall, momentarily blind in the darkened space. The air was sweet with the scent of curry, the lingering remains of lunch. I heard a voice ahead, speaking in a monotone. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw the head of the news committee, Nishino, standing at the back of the hall, reading from a piece of paper in his hand. Tables and chairs were arranged in rows around him, occupied by about two dozen people. ‘… Australian–American forces in the Coral Sea. The Japanese side, led by Commander Inoue, invaded and occupied Tulagi before launching an airstrike

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against Allied forces.’ News of a battle in waters northeast of Australia near New Guinea had circulated around camp earlier in the week, so everyone listened intently. I was hoping to slip in unnoticed, as it was not my custom to attend the weekly committee meetings, but as I moved away from the door, my shadow danced across the floor. Yamada’s head snapped up; he saw me. He sat with Mori and Hoshi at the front of the room. Mori’s hands were clasped on the table before him, head down as he listened. Secretary Hoshi scribbled notes. ‘Total Japanese losses included one aircraft carrier, one heavy cruiser and two destroyers, plus eight more ships were damaged. One article noted Japan lacks the facilities to build new warships, so every loss is worth double. Reports on Saturday stated that after five days of action, the battle temporarily ceased on Friday, with Japan retreating. They’re expected to return soon in greater strength, with the aim to take either Australia, New Caledonia or the Solomon Islands.’ There was silence as Nishino finished and looked up from his notes. I was surprised by the news of Japan’s losses: prior to this, Japan had seemed unstoppable, with victories in Singapore, Burma, the Philippines and Broome coming one after the other. ‘Are you sure you translated that correctly—Japan retreated?’ Mori asked. ‘Yes, sir. The reports stated Japan was repulsed.’ Mori frowned. He whispered in Hoshi’s ear. ‘Well, how many ships did they lose? Why didn’t you include that?’ Yamada asked, leaning forward in his seat. ‘None of the articles specified the number of Australian or American losses. Only that they were comparatively light… Although a recent report from Tokyo said bad weather prevented a Japanese victory.’ ‘That’s a lie!’ Old Imagawa, the leader of row eleven, thumped his fist on the table. ‘We wiped out their fleet, just like in Java. One of my men said the Germans heard it on the radio. Japan would never retreat—we fight until death!’ Nishino ducked his head. He studied the notes in his hand, as if re-reading them would provide a different meaning. Mori spoke up. ‘Yes, the Australian newspapers must be lying. They can’t be

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trusted. I recommend you don’t post these translations on the board in the recreation hut. It will only cause confusion and distress.’ Nishino looked alarmed. ‘But people will ask us where they are. There’s always a line of people waiting to read them on a Wednesday afternoon. What will I say?’ ‘Tell them the enemy is writing lies that aren’t worth reading. Tell them the newspapers can’t be trusted. All those in favour of withholding translations this week?’ Two-thirds of the room raised their hands. Nishino sat down and stared at the table with troubled eyes. I pitied him, although I wasn’t surprised at the response in the room. Had it been me, I would have avoided translating the articles in question. It is better to be discreet and present a partial truth than risk conflict. Discussion moved to the progress of the building of the huts. The project leader explained they were already behind schedule. Not all fifteen buildings would be completed by early June, as planned. A lengthy discussion followed about how we’d cope in tents in winter, the possibility of increasing labour numbers to quicken construction, who’d be moved into completed huts first and the logistics of shifting them. It took up so much time that I wondered whether we’d cover anything else. I looked at my watch: forty minutes had passed. But before long the conversation dwindled and Mori looked up. ‘We don’t have much time, but any other news?’ he asked. At the back of the group, Umino, the leader of row two, raised his head. ‘We haven’t yet talked about the attempted suicide by one of my members.’ ‘Ah, yes. The half-caste, Suzuki,’ Mori said. ‘Please describe the incident for our records.’ ‘Actually, I noticed Doctor Ibaraki in the room. Maybe he could explain, since he was at the infirmary that night.’ Put on the spot like that, I was stunned. Everyone looked at me, including Yamada. Then he smiled, his eyes full of curiosity. Seeing him like that, I was reminded of how kind he could be, and it put me at ease. ‘Yes, of course. I was woken in the middle of the night, maybe one or two o’clock. An officer asked me to come to the hospital at HQ to tend to a critical patient, as Doctor Ashton was away. Upon my arrival I found Suzuki weak yet conscious, suffering considerable blood loss. He’d been found in the ablutions block, having

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cut his wrist with glass. Luckily, the piece of glass in his wrist stemmed some of the blood flow. I deemed it too risky to perform the operation at HQ, so the officer took Suzuki to Barmera hospital, where they operated on him.’ ‘How is his condition now? Stable?’ Mori asked. ‘Yes, stable, I believe. But Doctor Ashton or his assistant, Powell, would know best.’ ‘And in your opinion, it was definitely a suicide attempt?’ ‘I believe so, yes… But he’d also come to the infirmary earlier that week with a badly bruised arm. He said he’d been beaten by a group of men at camp when he was in the mess hall.’ I hadn’t intended to bring up the alleged beating in front of Yamada, but it seemed appropriate, given the context. What harm could there be in mentioning it? My eyes flicked to Yamada, and I was surprised to discover his expression had changed. His eyes were narrow and his lips were puckered in something like a scowl. ‘But how is this connected to his suicide attempt?’ Mori asked. ‘Are you saying you think these men who beat Suzuki tried to kill him, too?’ A pause. ‘Sensei, did you hear me?’ I had to drag my eyes from Yamada. ‘I’m sorry. Do I think the men tried to kill Suzuki? No, not at all. Suzuki admits he cut his wrist. I just wonder if the beating contributed to his despondency and his attempt to take his life. Shouldn’t someone investigate?’ ‘Only if he makes an official complaint. Unfortunately we don’t have the resources to look into every dispute we hear about. And with the population increasing, it will only become more difficult. Just to clarify, sensei, did Suzuki appear despondent when he saw you at the infirmary?’ ‘In hindsight, I suppose there were signs of mild depression, but not enough to cause alarm. He came to see me about his arm, not his mental state.’ ‘But if what you say is true—that you didn’t notice anything particularly unusual about Suzuki’s state of mind when he came to see you about his bruised arm—you can hardly draw a link between that and his subsequent suicide attempt, can you? I mean, if a doctor can’t detect mental instability, who can?’ I shifted in my seat. Mori’s gaze bore down on me, like a light exposing my flaws. The silence expanded.

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‘Well, he did cry when he saw me at the infirmary,’ I said softly. If Mori heard me, he made no indication of it, bundling the papers on the table before him. ‘Thank you for your concern, Doctor. If Suzuki decides to lodge a complaint, we will look into it more fully. Now, as we’re running out of time, I’d like to get on to other matters.’ The meeting moved on to a discussion about a ceremony to mark Navy Memorial Day on the twenty-seventh of June. I was so consumed by the change that had come over Yamada when I’d mentioned Pete’s beating that I lost track of time. Was he guilty of hurting Pete, or just angry that I would dare to take an interest in the haafu? It was only when Mori called for any final points to discuss that I remembered Johnny’s request. I raised my hand. ‘I have a proposal regarding baseball. Do we have time to discuss it now?’ ‘If it’s quick. What do you have in mind?’ ‘After only a few weeks of practice, we now have three full teams: the team from Batavia and Menado, which I’m a part of, the team from Sumatra and Surabaya, and the New Caledonians and divers from northern Australia. Others at camp are interested in joining, too. And from what I’m told by the orderlies at the infirmary, B compound have their own baseball teams, too. This made me think: perhaps we could start an inter-camp competition? The winners of our camp could play the winners of B camp. That way, we could get both camps involved.’ ‘That’s a good idea,’ someone murmured. ‘I appreciate your enthusiasm, sensei,’ Mori said. ‘But how will we ever convince Major Lott to allow us to move between camps? He’s very averse to risks, as you know.’ ‘Yes, but I hear Commander Dean encourages sports—anything to counter boredom, which he thinks leads to unrest. We could partner with 14B and take our proposal straight to the commander.’ Mori shook his head. ‘No. I don’t want to risk angering Major Lott by going straight to the commander. He could make things difficult for us.’ I slumped in my chair. No one said anything for a moment.

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‘Perhaps we should just start with a competition within our compound,’ Yamada said. ‘Then, Ibaraki-sensei, through your contacts at the hospital, tell the interested parties in 14B to start their own competition. With any luck, once Major Lott sees the enthusiasm for the competition, he’ll allow the two camps to play each other. And if not, we’ll keep it as a competition within our own camps.’ Mori nodded. ‘That sounds reasonable. Does anyone have any comments or objections?’ I searched the faces of the men around me. ‘Shall we vote? All in favour?’ Almost everyone in the room put their hand up. ‘All against?’ There were no hands in the air. ‘Good. Motion passed. Ibaraki-sensei, I trust you can take it from here?’ I nodded, glancing at Yamada. He exuded calm benevolence once again. The reversion was so complete that I wondered if his previous expression had just been my eyes playing a trick.

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JA PA N 1 9 3 5

Kayoko and I had our first rendezvous on SETSUBUN, the last day of winter. Wanting to avoid the crowds that would flock to the larger shrines and temples for the day’s festivities, I suggested a visit to an old temple in Kita Aoyama. It was a charming temple I had stumbled on some months previously, featuring a dramatic, double-eaved roof. The grounds were compact yet meticulously manicured, with camphor and zelkova trees in abundance. I arrived early and waited for Kayoko at the entrance. At my mother’s insistence, I had worn a hakama over my kimono, an outfit reserved for only very special occasions. ‘She’ll be wearing her best kimono—it would be rude not to do the same. Besides, it’s setsubun,’ Mother had said. Not used to wearing the sandals that cut between my toes and the heavy silk skirt that swished around my legs as I walked, I was glad for the opportunity to stop walking. It was a cold, bright day. Sun shone through the canopy of leaves and threw dappled patterns at my feet. From somewhere within the temple, I heard the low beat of a drum. People strolled along the stone path in groups of twos, threes and larger family groups. Children ran ahead of their parents, excited at the prospect of tossing beans to ward off evil spirits. In my hakama, I felt out of place. Although there were several younger men in kimono, I was the only man of my generation in more formal attire. I fretted about the impression I would make. Would I seem a traditionalist to Kayoko? I cursed myself for listening to my mother.

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Before long, Kayoko came towards me. As she neared, she smiled shyly. She wore a kimono of the softest peach, a grey haori on top of it and elaborate cloth kanzashi in her hair. I breathed a sigh of relief. She was dressed as formally as I was. ‘Kayoko, it’s a pleasure to see you,’ I said, bowing stiffly. She murmured a greeting, dipping her head. Neither of us said anything for a moment. She glanced towards the temple. ‘Shall we go in?’ As we walked along the path, I inquired about her parents; she asked about my family. She described the snow she had seen from the train to Tokyo. Two military officers passed us. The insignia on their khaki jackets indicated they were captains, and I was reminded there was an elite army training facility nearby. Silence fell between us as we passed under the stone gate and into the grounds of the temple. ‘Did you do the mamemaki this year?’ I asked. Kayoko laughed. ‘Father wanted to, but I told him I was too old to be throwing beans while he danced around like a devil. I must admit he looked rather sad when I said that. Sometimes I think he wants me to remain a child. They both do. They forget I’m already twenty-two, and almost ready for—’ her eyes darted towards me ‘—marriage.’ I remembered Kayoko was the Sasakis’ only child. Perhaps that was why they had often invited our family to outings to the beach, to give Kayoko someone to play with. As Kayoko talked about her family, I began to relax. Her koto performance had suggested an unapproachable personality, but she was much more amiable than that. I had a hazy memory of the tomboy who used to run along the shore with Nobu and me, even when Megumi preferred to stay with our mother on the dunes. We reached the area in front of the main hall, where several dozen people congregated. The space thrummed with activity. On one side of the elevated cloister, a taiko drummer performed, rhythmically striking the wide skin of his drum, while on the other, a performer in red and black robes and a devil’s mask danced and writhed for show. The crowd in front of the hall threw beans at the devil, calling, ‘Out with the devil! In with good fortune!’ It was fun for a while, watching the devil’s antics and the children screaming in delight, but I sensed Kayoko growing restless, so I suggested we take a walk along the alley at the back of the temple.

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The alley was one of the reasons I had suggested this particular temple. About twelve-feet wide and lined with various stalls, it provided the perfect setting for our first outing—quiet enough to carry on a conversation, yet providing enough distractions to fill any awkward silences. We wandered past the stalls, savouring the smell of grilled food. Taiyaki sizzling on an iron griddle; yakiniku skewers, sardines and squid scorched over hot coals. I stopped to buy some squid for me and taiyaki for Kayoko. We were discussing our recollections of our childhood encounters when two girls sauntered past us, making everyone’s heads turn. They wore pale, wide-brimmed felt hats and wide-legged trousers—the type favoured by American movie stars. One of the girls had her hair cut short, very short, with a sharp fringe framing her face. Among the dozens of women clad in colourful kimono, the two modern girls certainly stood out. I had seen this type of western clothing on women in fashionable districts such as Ginza, although the trend seemed to have diminished in recent years. I’d never seen it worn in an alley behind a temple before. Without thinking, I opened my mouth. ‘Those girls should know better than to flaunt themselves like that.’ ‘Like what?’ Kayoko’s face was turned towards me, her eyes full of curiosity. ‘Well, I mean—the modern style. The way foreign women dress.’ A smile played on her lips. ‘Is there something wrong with the modern style? I’ve worn it myself in the past, you know.’ I blanched, aware of how conservative I must have sounded. ‘No, I’m sorry. There’s nothing wrong. I just thought, in this situation… Anyway, it was a silly thing to say. Shall we keep walking?’ ‘But it’s setsubun,’ she said. ‘Surely, today of all days, they can dress up how they want?’ I had forgotten that on setsubun, when spirits came close to the living and the world was thrown into disarray, there was a tradition of role reversal. Girls sometimes dressed as men or wore their hair like older women. Still, I couldn’t deny something bothered me about the girls. I was about to say as much, when I heard a commotion behind me. Someone shrieked. I craned my neck to look past the small crowd that had gathered a dozen feet

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away. I heard a scuffle, someone shouting. Then I saw them: the two army officers who’d passed us earlier faced the two modern girls. One of the officers, his cap pushed back to reveal his red face, gripped the arm of the girl with the short hair. Her hat was gone, presumably dropped to the ground or snatched away. ‘You want to dress like foreign whores, do you?’ the officer shouted. ‘Well, do you? Answer me!’ The girl’s eyes were wild with fear. She stood stiffly in the officer’s grip, unable to speak or move. Her friend sobbed behind her, hands over her mouth. Everyone else was quiet. In the lull, the sound of the sizzling meat and distant taiko drumming swelled like a surging heartbeat. ‘Are you hypocrites, like the foreigners you admire? You must be, if you call yourself Japanese yet dress like this.’ The officer shook the girl’s arm. Her body quaked. Before I realised it, Kayoko had made her way past me. I called to her to wait, but it was no use. I watched the back of her head, adorned with tortoiseshell combs and silk flowers, move between the people who had stopped to stare. There was nothing I could do but follow. I had almost reached Kayoko when I heard her voice. ‘Sir, these girls are just young. They mean no harm. I’m sure their clothes are just play for setsubun.’ The officer spun around. He glared at Kayoko, then me. ‘The young girls of Japan are our biggest problem. They drink and smoke and dress like the foreigners they idolise—the very same foreigners who mock us from across the seas. These girls shame the Emperor. They’re a disgrace to our nation.’ ‘That may be so,’ Kayoko murmured, lowering her gaze. The officer said nothing for a moment as his eyes roamed over Kayoko. Then he spoke more calmly. ‘You look like a respectable young lady. Perhaps you could teach these girls a thing or two about how Japanese women should behave.’ With Kayoko in her finest kimono, and me in my hakama, we must have looked a very proper couple. He turned to the girls. ‘Next time I see you smoking or wearing such trash, I won’t be so kind.’ He dropped the girl’s arm and, signalling to his friend, stalked away. When the officers were out of sight, Kayoko whispered to the girls, ‘Go home quickly, before they come back.’

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The girl who was crying nodded. She tugged at her friend’s arm. ‘Come, Aya, let’s go.’ Still dazed, the short-haired girl stooped to pick up her hat from the ground. It was crushed and covered in dust. The girls walked away.

C Kayoko’s poise during the affray at the temple left a lasting impression on me. Our bond strengthened in the following weeks. We met at coffee shops and parks, talking freely about our views and dreams. She didn’t believe husbands and wives should keep secrets from each other, and she wanted children—‘at least three’—as did I. With each encounter, I felt surer we’d be happy as husband and wife. I often thought back to our conversation about the modern girls—how she had defended them. She was self-assured, yet sensitive to others. One Sunday, after I’d returned from a trip to Ueno Zoo with Kayoko, Mother stopped me in the hallway. ‘You’re not married yet. It’s not right for two unmarried people to spend so much time together—people will start talking,’ she said. ‘And besides, if you keep this up, when you do get married you’ll have nothing left to talk about. Your father and I were engaged for a year and we only saw each other four times in that period. It made the first year of our marriage all the more enjoyable, being able to learn so many new things about each other.’ I proposed three weeks later in Shinjuku Gyoen, as sakura blossoms were starting to unfurl on the boughs of trees. Kayoko, her eyes filled with tears, simply nodded. Mother was overjoyed, yet a little surprised—I suspected she didn’t think I’d warm to the idea of marriage so quickly. We planned a wedding at her family home in early autumn, when the surrounding hills would be covered in green and golden leaves. The ceremony took place at a neighbourhood shrine near Kayoko’s home, where she’d had her shichi-go-san ceremonies as a child. We knelt inside the sanctuary, with the priest before us and our families on either side. Gold-panelled folding screens encircled the room, casting everything in a rich light. I was so nervous that my hands shook as I poured the sake. Kayoko put her hand over mine to steady

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it. Her wataboshi caught the light, framing her face like fire. Afterwards, we greeted guests at the Sasakis’ house. More and more arrived, until a line of people spilled out the front door. With caterers weaving among the visitors, the house, which had seemed like a mansion when I was a boy, suddenly felt small. Mr Sasaki made a touching speech in honour of his only child, describing Kayoko’s many talents and her deep compassion. ‘She brought light into our lives almost twenty-three years ago, and continues to do so with each new person she meets.’ He also spoke very kindly about me. ‘I have known Ibaraki-kun since he was a boy, when our families spent much time together at the beach. Whether making sandcastles or pursuing a medical degree, he is steadfast to the very end. Now that he and Kayoko are joined together, I know they will have many happy years ahead.’ My mother glowed with pride. That much I remember. Everything seemed to pass in a blur: drinking endless cups of sake with my friends and colleagues, laughing when someone slipped on a step, white envelopes being pushed into my hand. And of course my beautiful bride. As she walked beside me along the path at the shrine, I stole a glance at her face: beneath the bold sweep of her black-lined eyes, her red lips trembled slightly. Despite her outward composure, she had a deep fragility. I vowed to protect her for as long as I was alive.

C One day, after I’d been working at the laboratory for almost a year, I was called into Shimada’s office one day. Nervous at being summoned, my fears were allayed when Shimada greeted me, smiling. ‘Major Kimura and I have been discussing the performance of our technicians. The quality of your work and your commitment to our unit has not gone unnoticed. You have a promising career ahead of you, as long as you maintain your focus,’ he said. He handed me a letter. After leaving Shimada’s office, I read it and was thrilled to discover I was to receive a considerable salary raise before my first year was over. In previous months,

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disaffection had been growing within me like mould, and I’d begun to fear I had chosen the wrong career path, and wonder whether I was better suited to practice rather than research. But the money and Shimada’s praise swept away any doubts and revived my spirits. I approached my job with renewed determination, reminding myself mundane laboratory work was essential to the advancement of medical knowledge. With my increased salary, and some help from Kayoko’s parents, we were able to buy a small twelve-tsubo house in Setagaya. The house had been occupied by an elderly couple who’d let it fall into disrepair—soot blackened the kitchen walls, the bamboo shutters had rotted off their hinges and the tatami was so worn in places that its broken fibres pricked our feet—but the foundation was stable and it was well located in a quiet street. It also faced south, so that natural light filled the sitting room from morning till sunset. We were lucky to have our own bathtub, despite the mould that darkened the cypress slats; we wouldn’t need to visit the local bathhouse, like so many of our neighbours had to—one of the main reasons Kayoko had wanted to live there. We moved into our new home early in the new year and started on repairs straight away. There were doors to be measured and mats to be ordered. We bought new shutters and installed latches that stopped them from banging in the wind. We replaced our fence with new bamboo stalks, binding them together with rope. We scrubbed the soot from the kitchen, the mould from the bathtub and the grime from the kitchen and bathroom floors. Kayoko took to the work with a vigour I’d only seen when she played the koto. She insisted we do everything ourselves. ‘It’s our first house—it should be just the two of us. We’ll feel more proud this way.’ She could be sentimental about such things. We were lucky to enjoy an early start to spring as we set about refurbishing our home. As the ice melted on the eaves, Kayoko and I let our inhibitions fall away. During the first few months of our marriage, when we’d lived in my family home, we’d been too aware of ourselves. Around my mother and my brother, our roles as new husband and new wife came to the fore. Kayoko and my mother prepared meals in the kitchen, although Kayoko always ate last. A pillow of silence surrounded us that took away the words we really wanted to say. But in the new

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house, with only each other to answer to, we found our more natural state. When I left for work one morning, she was kneeling in the sitting room, surrounded by rolls of rice paper as white as fresh snow. She trimmed a sheet, cutting it to size to replace the torn and yellow paper on our sliding doors. ‘I’ll help you put them in place after I come home tonight,’ I said, knowing how difficult it was to do alone. She looked up. A wisp of hair had escaped from her bun and fallen over one eye. Her lips were pressed together in concentration. She gave a small nod. She was beautiful like that. It was a long walk to the train station, but I didn’t mind. Green buds were unfurling on trees and early sakura were in bloom, their pale petals as frail as wet paper. I caught the two-carriage train into town, and squeezed in with the other workers in a jumble of elbows and legs. At the laboratory, I spent the day examining blood samples of mice specimen. Although the pathogen being tested was codenamed in the documents I received from Shimada, I recognised the serotype as that of Typhimurium. I thought it was odd we were studying the effects of typhoid fever, as a vaccine was already available, but I was too preoccupied thinking about what needed to be done at home to give it much thought. I returned home that night, expecting to find the house in disarray, but the door at the end of the hallway glowed white. Even in the dark I could tell that the rice paper had been replaced. I eased the door open and stepped into the sitting room. The sliding door that led to the kitchen and the one that opened to the bedroom were also lined with fresh paper. The only sign of the task undertaken that day was a neat pile of paper in the corner of the room. A savoury scent drifted from the kitchen. Miso, konbu and meat—some kind of stew. I brought my face close to where the edge of the paper met the wooden frame. A perfectly straight line of white. ‘You did this by yourself?’ I called out to Kayoko in the kitchen. A shadow filled the doorframe, the ghostly echo of my wife. Then she appeared before me, face flushed pink from the heat of the kitchen, more beautiful than ever. She held a steaming bowl of pork soup in her hands. Sliced shallots flecked the surface. ‘Of course. Why? Didn’t think I could?’

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‘No, I just…’ I glanced around. The new paper in the doors brightened the entire room, despite the frayed tatami underfoot. ‘Well, yes, I suppose I am a little surprised. You’ve done such a good job, I thought someone must have helped you.’ ‘Never underestimate your wife,’ she clucked, and started to move past me towards the table. I caught her waist playfully. ‘Don’t—the soup!’ she cried, but when I pulled her close I could see she was smiling.

C We purchased a new set of tatami for the sitting room and our bedroom, and they were delivered in two great stacks that crowded our entrance. I wanted to ask my brother or her father to help install them, but Kayoko refused. ‘Just ourselves the first time—remember? For our next home we can get their help.’ So over one weekend the two of us pulled out the old tatami mats, stirring up clouds of dust. Kayoko’s strength almost matched mine as we hauled them outside and deposited them in a pile at the back of our house to dry out in the sun. We hoped to sell them to the tatami supplier for a small amount. We swept the floor and opened the windows, allowing the breeze to fill the room. After a few hours, we closed the windows and swept again, then carried the mats one by one into the room. I was surprised by Kayoko’s deftness as we guided them into place, she taking charge and slotting them tightly into the corners. She used a metal length to flatten the edges, just as I had seen the tatami supplier do at my mother’s house when I was a boy. I wondered where Kayoko had learnt to do that. After we had installed the very last mat, she trod barefoot across the edges of each one, arms out, like a maiko learning to dance. My talented wife, who never ceased to amaze me, tipped her head back and laughed, then continued her nimble dance.

C During the first two weeks of spring, Professor Shimada was scarcely in the laboratory to supervise us. It didn’t bother us, as we’d all been at the laboratory long

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enough to be able to work independently, and it was a relief to carry out our experiments at a more leisurely pace. When Shimada did come down, his eyes would dart about the room, seemingly without taking anything in. His hands worried the sides of his coat. One time he entered the laboratory moments after Yamamoto had broken a beaker. Yamamoto was stooped over, sweeping up the shards of glass. ‘You broke another beaker? Idiot! Do you know how hard it is for me to get these supplies? Stupid, stupid boy! You’re paying for this out of your own salary.’ Shimada looked at the rest of us, his face dark with rage. ‘That goes for all of you. From now on, anything you break, you have to pay for. I keep an inventory, so anything you break—’ He caught his breath. His eyes shifted from face to face. Then he turned and left the room. I moved to Yamamoto, taking the dustpan and brush out of his hand and sweeping up the remaining mess. ‘Don’t worry about him. Something must be on his mind.’ ‘Have you noticed how often he’s up on the top floor these days?’ Nomura said, staring at the closed steel door. ‘Something big’s happening.’ ‘A restructure?’ I suggested. ‘Maybe. I just hope we’re not going to lose our jobs.’

C Later that week, we were called to a meeting in the training room on the top floor. Poor Yamamoto was convinced it had something to do with him breaking the beaker. Although I did my best to persuade him otherwise, considering Shimada’s strange behaviour of late, I wasn’t sure. A dark wooden desk stood at the front of the room. Its heavy base and bevelled edges were distinctly European in style. We gathered in a rough arc around it, with Kimura and Shimada facing us on the other side. The room’s empty space yawned behind us, yards of untouched carpet and rows of folding chairs stacked neatly along the walls. Through the windows I saw a thick bank of clouds. The overcast day threw sombre light on the left side of Kimura’s face. He stood before us, the span of his uniform echoing the broad planes of his face. Shimada appeared smaller

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beside him, even though he was actually the taller of the two. He looked down, the skin at his jaw drawn tight. This wasn’t just a restructure, I realised, it was something bigger than that— Shimada couldn’t even look at us. I glanced at Nomura, who held my gaze, as if he, too, realised the gravity of the situation. ‘You must be wondering why we called you here today,’ Kimura said, placing a folder on the desk. He drew his hands behind his back. ‘We have exciting news that affects everyone in this unit. From next week, our primary research focus will change. Instead of solely engaging in bacteriological development, our attention will shift to specimen analysis. We’re entering a new stage led by our chief, Lieutenant Colonel Ishii himself. He personally chose our unit to undertake this new area of research due to the outstanding diligence of our personnel.’ I sighed with relief. So it was a restructure of sorts, that was all. ‘But with our new responsibilities comes a new set of concerns. Issues of duty, loyalty and prudence—or what I call discretion.’ Kimura’s eyes met mine. I wondered if I had done something wrong. ‘Confidentiality is our number one priority. The work we are about to undertake has worldwide significance, as we are the first country to do this kind of research—I want you to keep that in mind at all times. ‘Neither I nor Shimada has ever doubted your loyalty up till this point, but the new responsibilities may place certain, shall we say, strains on some of you.’ Kimura reached out and flipped the folder on the desk open. ‘That’s why it’s necessary for you to sign a new confidentiality agreement that replaces the existing contract. You can’t talk about your work to anybody—not your spouse, your parents, your friends, your children, not even to each other. Doing so will put the entire unit at risk, indeed the entire army. Your actions could affect those who serve the Emperor now and in years to come. Do you understand the importance of this?’ He leaned forward and stared at each of us, as if searching for the smallest glimmer of dissent. ‘Yes, sir!’ we said. I thought of my brother, Nobuhiro, who had just turned eighteen, and wanted nothing more than to serve the Emperor in battle. My discretion would be for his sake. ‘Good. Any breach of this agreement will have serious ramifications. Not only will it result in your immediate dismissal, but your medical licence may also be

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revoked. Professor Shimada, do you have anything to add?’ Shimada drew a deep breath. He unclasped his hands and lifted his eyes. His voice was soft. ‘As Major Kimura said, it is a groundbreaking area of research. Although the work will be challenging, the overall benefit to medical science is undeniable. We’re asking for your full involvement in this matter. So I urge you all to sign the new agreement. Are there any questions?’ ‘Could you tell us more about the project?’ Ota asked. ‘At this stage, no. But if you do not wish to sign the agreement, we may be able to find a role for you elsewhere in the department.’ The room was silent. I don’t think any of us wanted to move to another unit; it would surely result in our demotion. Despite the strange situation, I did not even consider not signing the contract. I had been waiting for an opportunity such as this and was delighted we had been chosen for the project. Shimada glanced at us, but he seemed unable to hold our gaze. I wondered why he still appeared so troubled. ‘If there are no further questions, please take a contract and either return it to me by the time you leave today or speak to me if you have other plans. I’ll be in my office for the rest of the day.’

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BROOME 1939

Soon after the start of my second pearling season in Broome, I received an envelope in the mail. In elegant, cursive script written on smooth rice paper, I was invited to attend an afternoon garden party at President Kanemori’s house, to ‘celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan’. The fluid lines of ink slipped down the page. ‘Tenchosetsu is celebrated here, too?’ I asked Hama when he visited me at the hospital the next day. ‘Oh, yes, it’s a big deal. We host a ceremony at the Japanese Association, and there are parties all over town. I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it yet. The Japanese businesses close for the day—even the divers at sea get the day off,’ he said. Over the following two weeks, I heard about tenchosetsu almost every day. Some of my patients talked about the parties they were going to attend. Doctor Wallace wanted to know if I intended to close the Japanese hospital. Umeda, the shop assistant at Tonan Shokai, urged me to display the Japanese flag at the hospital for the occasion. Before long, I had agreed to help Hama and Kanemori set up the association headquarters and greet guests on the day. The holiday took place on a mild late-April day, with a southerly that brought cool relief for the first time that year. As I walked through Japtown, I witnessed the first stirrings of life. Ah Wong emptying a pan of dirty water in a side alley. Mrs Tan sweeping the front verandah of her store, her youngest child crouched in the doorway watching her. All the Japanese businesses were shut, their verandah

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railings or front doors proudly displaying the Japanese flag alongside the Union Jack. The Japanese Association’s headquarters had been rejuvenated since my last visit, with a new coat of paint on the latticed verandah and the hedge at the entrance trimmed. Inside, the assortment of tables and chairs that usually filled the meeting room were gone, save for one long cloth-covered table against a wall and a clutch of seats in one corner. A rug I’d never seen before graced the centre of the floor. Bird of paradise stems in white vases framed the portrait of the Emperor on the mantelpiece. I joined Kanemori, Hama and several others in setting out glassware, jugs of lemonade and chilled tea. I stood at the entrance to greet guests as they arrived. Most were Japanese Association members—long-time residents of Broome with standing in the community—and their families. The wives and daughters, who so rarely wore kimonos around town, appeared in their finery—autumnal red and yellow silk panels and gold-stitched obi. Several of Broome’s white population also attended—master pearlers such as Captain Kennedy and Captain McDaniels, Magistrate Reynolds and Sam Male, acting honorary consul for Japan. Although I’d had the honour of attending parties hosted by the master pearlers before, I realised for most of our members, tenchosetsu offered one of the few opportunities to mingle with the upper echelons of Broome society. President Kanemori moved to the front of the room and stood beside the image of the Emperor and the bird of paradise stems, and it struck me that the spearshaped orange and blue petals perfectly encapsulated Broome’s hostile beauty. He spoke in Japanese first, then in English, about the Emperor’s wisdom and strength as a leader, illustrated by how far and wide his loyal subjects had spread, including to places such as Broome. ‘His courage and devotion fuels the prosperity of our great nation and Greater East Asia,’ Kanemori said, but he omitted this sentence in English. He concluded by inviting everyone to toast ‘the continued friendship of Japan and Australia’. Mr Male also gave a short speech, highlighting the contribution of the Japanese community in Broome and the long-standing respect it had commanded. The gathering lasted a couple of hours, then guests slowly disappeared, returning home to escape the heat of the day before continuing to other parties. To my

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surprise, I was one of the last people left, and there was only just enough time for me to walk home, change out of my suit, bathe and put on a white cotton shirt and white trousers, before departing for the Kanemoris’. The Kanemoris lived near the Japanese hospital in a large house similar in style to the master pearlers’ bungalows, with a sloping, galvanised-iron roof and timber walls. An open verandah encircled the house, and it was within that shady refuge that at least a dozen people were mingling and lounging in chairs when I arrived. I greeted Mrs Kanemori, who looked smart in her long skirt and silk blouse, a pearl brooch at her throat. Hama, already flushed with alcohol, pushed a drink into my hand; the lime and gin cocktail slipped down my throat easily. Koepanger waiters weaved between us, bearing trays of crab sandwiches, cold prawns and shucked oysters. A table near the steps that led to the back garden was laden with plates of chopped mango, pawpaw and stuffed kingfish. I was surprised at the food. I’d eaten at the Kanemoris’ several times before and had always enjoyed Mrs Kanemori’s traditional cooking—she prepared dishes such as glazed eel on rice and cold noodles with pork, egg and cucumber; meals I sorely missed from home. I realised the Kanemoris had catered to the Western palate on this occasion. Yet none of the white men at the ceremony had come to the party. Indeed, the guests on the verandah were almost entirely Japanese or at least half-Japanese, save for the Chinese wives of a few of the men. The crowd on the verandah grew, and I found myself conversing with people I’d only exchanged cursory greetings with before. I talked to the new clerk at the Japanese grocery store, Kato, and his wife, who’d recently arrived from Japan. I discovered they were expecting their first child. ‘And what about you, Doctor? Do you have any children?’ Mrs Kato asked. ‘No,’ I said. ‘Unfortunately, I don’t.’ And for once, I didn’t feel uncomfortable admitting so. As the sun waned, guests began to spill into the garden at the back of the house, clutching their lukewarm drinks as they gossiped beneath the frangipani tree. Two young girls crouched on the ground inspecting the dirt, their yukata hitched to their knees. Crisp clouds tumbled across the sky, and I thought how fortunate I was to be in Broome. By that stage, I’d had four or five drinks—more than I’d had

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in a while. But instead of feeling tired, as I usually did when I drank, the alcohol suffused me with a pleasant warmth. I gazed at the garden for quite some time. When I turned back to the verandah, I realised many guests had gone. Only the men who came without their wives remained: Hama, the old tender Minami, some of the laundry owners and young taxi driver Johnny, whom I’d met the night of the fight between the Japanese and the Malay. He knew enough Japanese to socialise with the remaining men. Even Mrs Kanemori was nowhere to be seen. I took the opportunity to slip away. The sky was pink as I started walking home. Wagtails flitted across the sky. Mid-journey, I turned into Carnarvon Street. In my merry state I had a sudden thirst for one of Ellies’ special lemon drinks, which Hama had introduced me to soon after I’d arrived. In large glasses about the length of my head, snowy mounds of shaved ice were topped with a lemon concoction, just sweet enough to temper the citrus tang and the frosty hit of ice. Slurped through long straws, it provided a delicious respite from Broome’s heat. I wandered along Carnarvon Street, my focus on the uneven, pebbly surface. The streetlight flickered on, and I was suddenly conscious of all the young people around the entrance to Sun Pictures, talking and laughing as they strolled in couples and groups. I headed towards the open door and yellow lights of Ellies. William Ellies himself was behind the counter, green eyes twinkling as he smiled at me. Ellies, as he was always called, was much loved in Broome for his cheerful nature as well as for his refreshing drinks. He knew nearly everyone in town by name, and hearing him say, ‘Good evening, Doctor Ibaraki. Something to quench your thirst?’ in his melodic Ceylonese accent was enough to banish any feelings of isolation. His long brown fingers circled the rim of a glass as he dried it with a cloth. I stared dumbly at the menu on the wall behind his head for a few moments, my mind blank. Then I realised someone was calling me. ‘Doctor? Doctor?’ Sister Bernice stood a few feet away from me, her face aglow in the soft light. She looked like an angel. ‘Sister! You’re here.’ I instantly regretted saying such a silly thing, but she laughed, her eyes crinkling. ‘Yes, I’m here. I came with Sister Agnes to get a lemon drink. Are you doing the same?’

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Ah, the lemon drink—that’s what I wanted. ‘Yes. I was just on my way home from Kanemori’s… Sister Agnes—where is she?’ I swung around, trying to catch sight of the sister’s stiff white habit among the thin cotton shirts and floral dresses inside the cafe. ‘She just left. She’s on night duty at Doctor Wallace’s. I was about to leave, too, until I saw you. How was the holiday today?’ ‘Tenchosetsu? Oh, it was wonderful. I did not realise what a big event it is here. At least fifty people came to the ceremony, and President Kanemori and Mr Male spoke. After that, I went to a party at Kanemori’s house. There was so much food. I met Mr Kato’s wife. Do you know him? The young man who works at Tonan Shokai…. What is it? Is something wrong?’ She was smiling strangely. ‘No, I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve never seen you so excited before.’ Blood rushed to my face. I realised I’d been babbling—the alcohol had loosened my tongue. Perhaps sensing my mortification, she hurried to put me at ease. ‘No, it’s fine, really. I’m glad to hear you had such a good time today. You should take time off more often—you obviously needed a break.’ I nodded and said she was probably right. ‘Anyway, I should be going. Sister Cecilia will be wondering where I am,’ she said. ‘Wait, I’ll walk with you.’ ‘But aren’t you going to order something?’ I’d completely forgotten about that. I glanced at Ellies, who lifted his eyebrows and smiled—an expression so serene it revealed nothing. ‘Actually, I am not very thirsty. I only came here to stretch my legs. It’s such a nice night.’ ‘Well, in that case…’ She inclined her head and moved towards the door. Outside, stars were beginning to emerge. The sky was bruised, a purple blush that leaked into the horizon. Bats crowded the expanse on their nightly migration from the mangroves of Roebuck Bay in search of food. They flew so low I could hear the flap of their wings, could smell their pungent odour. We strolled down Carnarvon Street, away from the crowds outside Sun Pictures.

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Although Sister Bernice and I had spent many hours at the hospital alone together, I realised the two of us had rarely interacted socially before. I was relieved when she spoke first. ‘When you were growing up in Japan, did you ever think you’d end up in a place like this?’ I laughed. ‘Never. I did not even know about Australia until middle school. Even Tokyo seemed like a long way then. To think—a Japanese hospital in Australia?’ I shook my head. ‘When I was a child in Perth, my mother used to take me to Kings Park. I loved watching the boats on the Swan River, and I always imagined they were sailing to Africa, because of a silly book I’d once read. I thought: that’s where I’ll go, one day.’ I was touched that she would share memories of her mother. She had never revealed such things before. We approached the Roebuck Bay Hotel. Chatter and the bitter scent of cigarettes filled the air. I recognised some of the pearling lugger crewmen leaning against the verandah. Lugger crews were paid their annual wages at the beginning of the year and, according to Kanemori, many drank and gambled away everything in the first few months of the season, which was why Japtown boomed at this time of year. It was always the young ones, especially the Japanese and Malay divers, who fell into that trap. They’d return to their homes in December without a cent in their pockets. Sister Bernice continued speaking of her childhood in Perth, where she’d roamed the bushland at the back of her family’s house and spent summers at the beach. Not wanting to interrupt her, I touched her upper arm and guided her across the road, steering her away from the hotel patrons spilling onto the street. She stopped talking. When I looked to see why, her face was closed. Her right hand covered the place on her arm that I had touched. We walked in silence for a few moments. ‘Look,’ Sister Bernice said suddenly and walked ahead. She stopped in front of a large boab tree and placed her hand on its bloated trunk, as if feeling for its pulse. She looked up through its sparse canopy of glossy green leaves. ‘It still has some fruit.’ I joined her beneath the tree and followed the direction of her gaze. Several

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brown nuts the size of my fist dangled from the uppermost branches. ‘Did you see it flower during the wet?’ Sister Bernice asked. ‘You must have. Did you?’ My first thought was that I’d missed it—I recalled a lush green canopy, but little else. But then I remembered something. ‘Actually, yes, I think I did. Walking home from the Japanese Association one evening I saw white among the leaves. I thought it was birds.’ Bernice nodded. ‘That was the flowers. They open for the first time at night, as if they have a secret. And they don’t last long—only one or two days. But they’re beautiful and have the most wonderful perfume. I always look out for them. When I first arrived in Broome I wasn’t sure if I would stay. The sisters were kind, but everything else about the place—the heat, the humidity, the remoteness—I couldn’t stand. But then I was out walking one night and I saw flowers bloom on this tree. I was reminded that God watched over me, even in places as distant as Broome. So I decided to stay.’ I smiled. I looked up through the gnarled branches to an inky patch of sky. For the first time since I’d arrived in Broome, I felt as if a weight had been lifted, releasing me from the past.

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L OV E DAY 1 9 4 2

At the infirmary, I stood in the orderly room compiling an inventory of the supply cabinet. I wanted to be sure we had the basics in a case a second emergency occurred when Doctor Ashton was unavailable. I glanced up. A tall figure filled the doorway. ‘Officer McCubbin,’ I said. ‘Is anything wrong?’ ‘I think you better come outside.’ He stepped back from the doorway and gestured down the hallway. My blood ran cold. ‘Pete. Is it Pete Suzuki? Did something go wrong?’ Perhaps he’d developed an infection after the operation at Barmera hospital and died. Such occurrences were not uncommon. I would be called into question over his death. After all, I had seen him just before he cut himself, and it was my decision to send him to Barmera. McCubbin shook his head. ‘No, Suzuki’s fine. It has nothing to do with him. Come outside, and I’ll tell you.’ I followed him along the dark corridor. I had the feeling I was in a dream, being led towards something I didn’t want to see yet unable to stop it. Outside, the landscape was gilded by the afternoon light. The buildings were the same colour as the houses in Broome just after a storm. The sky yawned. Its emptiness was overpowering. McCubbin squinted against the slanting light. He took off his khaki cap and held it to his chest. His face was tight. ‘A telegram arrived for you the other day. The censors… they thought you

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should know. Major Lott approved. He asked me to tell you. Anyway, you can read it for yourself.’ He reached into his breast pocket and removed a yellow slip of paper. ‘I’m so sorry.’ I took the piece of paper and unfolded it. In blue typed ink, the message read: ‘Brother Nobuhiro killed in action in Philippines. Funeral Thursday. Letter follows. Mother.’ I read it again. The typed English letters were so unlike my mother’s writing that I initially thought was it was a hoax. Someone was playing a trick on me. One of the officers, perhaps McCubbin himself? Someone had underlined the words ‘brother Nobuhiro’ and ‘Funeral Thursday’ in red pencil, and written beneath the message: ‘Inform recipient due to proximity of date?’ As I stared at the words and the date stamp of 15 May 1942, I realised it must be true. No one would play a trick so cruel. I jerked my head up. McCubbin was saying something. ‘I’m so sorry. I know how you feel. I lost a lot of good mates in Egypt. Not my brother, but still… Will you… will you be all right?’ His eyes searched my face. ‘The funeral. It says it’s on Thursday. Is that tomorrow?’ I was aware of the flatness of my voice, but it was all I could muster at that point. ‘Yeah, tomorrow. The telegram came Friday. You can send a reply telegram if you want. The Red Cross covers you for two a year.’ I must have given him a strange look, for when he next spoke, his voice was softer. ‘Or maybe you need some time alone?’ ‘Yes. I think I’d like to be alone.’ He nodded. ‘Good idea. Take it easy. I’ll tell the boys in the infirmary you’re not feeling well…’ I started walking away before he had finished speaking. I can’t remember how I got to the compound gate. One moment I was walking westwards with the sun in my eyes, and the next I was standing behind the guard. I heard the clack of the metal as he unlatched the gate. I followed the path, instinctively heading towards my tent and the main buildings of camp. I heard a loud crack and the cry of voices, and I realised a baseball team was practising in the quadrangle. If it was the Australian team, they would surely

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call out to me when I passed them. I veered off my route and turned towards the perimeter fence. Here, the path was shallow and indistinct. Pebbles and dry leaves that had blown into camp mixed with the loose earth. My feet knew their destination before my mind was conscious of it. After I had walked a short distance, I realised I was moving towards the altar located at the rear of the camp, away from the kitchen and mess hall. Of course. The altar and the garden were the perfect places to find solitude. When I was almost at the garden, I saw a familiar figure on the path ahead. I stiffened. Ever since the executive meeting, something had changed between Yamada and me. We no longer sat next to each other at mealtimes, or played games inside the tent before we went to bed. I had no proof that he had hurt Pete, but I was wary of him, and I think he sensed that. ‘Doctor. I thought you were working at the infirmary today.’ Yamada glanced at his watch. ‘I was. I finished early. I was just about to visit the altar.’ ‘The altar?’ He looked at the telegram I was still holding in my hand. Without thinking, I held it out to him. As I watched the change come over his face while he read the message, I regretted having given it to him. Nobuhiro’s death, so soon after it had happened, should have been something I kept close. Yamada returned the piece of paper to me. His expression was grave. ‘Your brother’s death must be hard to bear. But you should be proud. He died fighting for the Emperor. He sacrificed himself to save thousands of others. Because of him, we will continue to grow and prosper as a nation. Try not to think of his death as a loss, but as a gift. His spirit will be honoured for his bravery.’ I nodded and thanked him for his words, but after I moved away from him and continued towards the altar, my chest felt hollow. Yamada’s platitudes about Nobuhiro’s bravery did nothing to quell my distress. My only brother was dead. It would never be anything other than a loss to me. Someone was working in the garden, his back bent over the bed of flowers planted next to the bamboo thicket. I walked past him and stopped in front of the altar where he couldn’t see me. I kneeled and prayed. Images of my youth came

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to mind—the times I had carried Nobu on my back when he was a boy. I had last seen him six years earlier, when he was about to leave home to begin his military training. He had looked taller and stronger in his uniform, the khaki jacket stretched across his chest. ‘Look at you, all grown up,’ I had said. I hadn’t sent him a single letter while he was posted overseas. Now he was dead. As I kneeled before the altar, praying for his soul, something kept bothering me. A phrase Yamada had uttered kept repeating in my head. It nagged at me, like a pattern tapped upon my soul. He sacrificed himself to save thousands of others.

C The next day, I rose before the others in my tent had stirred. I decided to roam the perimeter of the camp, as I had the first morning after my arrival. Although the sun was yet to emerge above the horizon, the sky was turning paler in the growing light. It promised to be a fine late-autumn day. Our compound was scheduled to go on an excursion to the river that afternoon—the first outing we’d ever had. Major Lott had announced it at headcount the previous week. ‘As a reward for 14C’s consistent good behaviour, the commander has granted you a trip to the river,’ he’d said. There were murmurs of excitement. ‘But before you get ahead of yourselves, there are a few things you should know. The river is a two-and-a-half-mile walk from here. Older or weak internees may not be able to walk this far. We want to avoid any risks, so if there’s any doubt, stay behind at camp. Second, we expect all internees to be on their best behaviour. As this is one of the few occasions you’ll be allowed out in public, it is imperative you present a good front.’ Lott scanned our faces. ‘I have spoken favourably of the behaviour of the Japanese at Camp 14C to many members of the community, so it would do me personally a great disservice if any of you disappoint me. Is that clear?’ Last night, I had vowed not to go. I was still reeling from the shock of Nobuhiro’s death and didn’t want my emotions paraded in front of everyone. But as I circled the camp in the gathering light, my feelings changed. If I was left alone at camp without any distractions, I feared my thoughts would turn dark on the day of my brother’s funeral. In any case, only Yamada and a few others in my tent knew

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about my loss, and I hoped they had the good sense not to question me about it. At the appointed hour that afternoon, I joined my fellow internees assembling at the gate. It was a sight to behold: hundreds of men formed a sea of red, as we were all dressed in the maroon uniforms we were required to wear outside camp. Although I had seen my colleagues in it dozens of times when they went outside to work in the fields, standing among so many similarly dressed men gave me the queer feeling of being a mere copy of an internee. My unease was evidently not shared by those around me: the red uniforms seemed to be a source of amusement, as many of the larger internees struggled to fit into the standard small sizes we had been issued. They laughed and gleefully prodded the exposed ankles and bellies of their larger friends. I heard a voice behind me. ‘Doctor Ibaraki, there you are! We’re over this way.’ Hayashi beckoned to me. I followed him along the line of men and found the rest of my group gathered in two neat lines. ‘We wondered whether you would come today.’ I pursed my lips. I was sure Hayashi knew about Nobu’s death; he and Yamada were good friends, plus he had been working at the infirmary when I’d received the news. Still, Hayashi was not one to gossip. I felt I could trust him. ‘I decided there was no use sitting around. And you managed to get a day off from the infirmary?’ Hayashi nodded. The orderlies had recently stopped working at night, as the twelve-hours shifts had proved too much along with our other duties at camp. The army had agreed to roster one medical assistant at night. I joined the throng filing out of the camp. As we passed through the birdcage gate and exited on the other side, two soldiers marked off our names on a list. We started walking towards the river in a long line, two abreast, guided by a dozen officers on horseback. We had never left the camp before in such large numbers, and the strangeness of the situation was not lost on the men around me. They chattered like schoolchildren on an excursion. Soon, though, the tread of our many hundred feet stirred up a cloud of red dust that made talking difficult; the conversation ceased as we were forced to cover our mouths and noses with our hands. The route we took to the river was one I had never followed before. We walked through coarse sun-bleached grass, green low-lying scrub and past the distinctly

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feminine silhouettes of the genus of eucalyptus tree that was native to the area. ‘It’s called a mallee tree,’ an officer had told me one day when I was working in the vegetable garden. I had wandered a dozen yards from the garden to inspect a tree, trying to pinpoint how it differed from the eucalypts I was used to seeing in Broome. ‘See the bulbous root at the base that all the branches are growing from? That’s what makes it a mallee. Some of them start off as single-trunk trees, like this one,’ the officer gestured to a similar tree that stood tall among its peers, ‘but if it’s hit by bushfire it grows back from the root with lots of branches, like all the others here. It’s a tough tree. Drought, bushfire… it’ll survive almost anything.’ And as I’d listened to the officer’s explanation I was struck by the ingenuity of the tree in its ability to regenerate and create a new shape better suited to its environment. Gazing at the mallee trees as we walked to the river, I once more admired their inconspicuous quality, the grey-green leaves that stirred so gently in the breeze. Taking a wider perspective, I realised that every element of the landscape—from the grass and trees to the pebbly earth—seemed at pains not to outdo the others, and it struck me as a very noble quality indeed. We turned a corner and something sparkled in the distance. The track opened up to a grassy clearing where straw-coloured spinifex murmured. Beyond it, the river glittered in the sun, so wide and still it resembled a lake. The hollow trunks of dead trees haunted its edges like lost people. At one point where the grassy clearing met the water, the lip of the riverbank had crumbled and ochre earth spilled over the edge. Beneath the deep blue sky, the river formed a grand setting. ‘Look at the water here—it’s so blue!’ someone said. ‘Is that a rowboat on the other side?’ I looked to where the man was pointing and realised he was right: at the far side of the river, some two hundred yards away, was a small rowboat containing three people. The two figures at one end of the boat appeared to be women, the neat shapes of their bodies crowned by the pale blur of sunhats. The larger person at the oars must have been a man, and from the frantic reach and pull of his arms I saw he was hastily rowing away from us. We must have been a frightening sight: hundreds of men in red, fanned out along the riverbank. Seeing such a large group of local men would have been daunting enough, let alone several hundred internees.

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The officers on horseback had assumed positions at two points about a hundred yards apart, marking the boundaries of where we were allowed to roam. The officers gazed at us, their faces blank like the glassy surface of the water, rifles taut across their backs. As the others in my tent began spreading blankets on the ground and unpacking sandwiches they had brought from the mess hall, I wandered to the water’s edge. The river moved lazily before me, but further downstream the surface was ruffled where it narrowed into a bend. If I closed my eyes I was transported to Broome, where I used to stand on the rocky headland of Town Beach. I had often wondered what it was like for the divers, who had to work alone for hours on end in their subterranean world. Was the silence a comfort or a terror to them? After my arrest in Broome, I had been interned in the town gaol with a group of four divers. Although I had seen these men dozens of times, and had treated one or two at the hospital, I rarely socialised with them, so gaol presented the first opportunity for a conversation. We were some of the last to be arrested, so on 31 December we were still waiting to be transferred to a camp. The officers had been kind enough to share their beer for the New Year’s Eve celebration, and the five of us sat in a circle on the cell floor, talking by candlelight. Our talk turned to the jobs that had lured us from Japan to such a remote location. The other four men all came from small fishing villages on the Wakayama coast. ‘And what about sensei? What happened in Japan to make you give up such a prestigious job and take up a position in Broome?’ one of them asked. I was filled with unease, but there was no way he could have known the reason for my departure. ‘It was hardly a prestigious job—I was only a junior doctor,’ I said. ‘And the offer in Broome came at a time when I had a strong desire to see the world, and I thought the experience of running my own hospital would serve me well. And it has, of course—I’m now an expert in caisson disease… and in stitching up drunk divers.’ ‘And getting into fights, too!’ someone said, referring to the bruise on my face. I brought a hand to my cheek and winced, thinking of the blow that had knocked me unconscious. The men around me laughed, except one, a boy of only eighteen, who asked:

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‘What’s caisson disease?’ ‘It’s a condition that afflicts divers when they come up to the surface too quickly, causing joint pain, headaches and dizziness,’ I said. ‘It is extremely painful, as I’m sure Asano can confirm.’ Asano nodded. Although he was only in his forties, he had retired from diving a few years earlier due to complications arising from decompression sickness. He had come to me at the hospital several times about his chronic joint pain. ‘I was unlucky—I had it in my very first month of diving,’ Asano said. ‘I started on a second-rate boat, apprenticed to an arrogant first diver who didn’t want to teach me. He never explained what would happen if I didn’t spend enough time decompressing on my way up. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way. After a long day of diving, I was too tired and hungry to come up in stages, and rushed up to the surface. I got onto the deck okay, but as soon as I removed my helmet, my head felt like it was about to split apart, my vision blurred and I passed out. When I came to I was thirty feet under and it was pitch dark. I didn’t realise I’d been down there for hours and it was already night—that they’d put me down there to help me decompress.’ Asano rubbed his arm and stared at a point somewhere behind us. When he continued speaking, it was as if he were seeing not the scene before him but the distant shapes of his past. ‘Waking up down there was the most frightened I’ve ever been. I didn’t know where I was at first—whether I was underwater, on the boat or on land. I wondered if I was dead. But the air tube was there, I could hear the hiss of it being filtered in. And I began to smell it, too. They were cooking dinner up on the deck, and the scent of fried fish and onions came to me through the tube. When I smelled that, I knew I was alive.’ Now, from my own position at the edge of the river, I thought of Asano waking up in the darkness of the ocean. I considered the slender divide between our perceptions of life and death. And how one life could be valued over another. Behind me, I heard laughter. I turned to see Hayashi and Yamada doubled over, giggling like prepubescent boys. The contents of Hayashi’s sandwich had spilled onto his lap. I narrowed my eyes. Perhaps because I was still upset by what

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Yamada had said about my brother’s death, something hardened within me to see them so carefree.

C Tuesday was my day off from the infirmary, a chance to relax and catch up on my chores. I wanted to write a letter to my mother regarding my brother’s death, plus I had offered to help Secretary Hoshi with a translation. It was also the day Pete was due to return to camp. I’d found out from Lieutenant Powell that he would be transferred to the infirmary in the morning. ‘In a few more weeks, his wrist will be fully healed, but his mental recovery will take longer,’ he’d said. ‘Just between you and me, he’s pretty heartbroken about having to return to camp. I was afraid he’d cut his other wrist, he was that upset. HQ are allowing him a few concessions—privacy, a few books, that sort of thing.’ As I sat on my bed, with the documents to translate spread out before me, I couldn’t stop thinking about Pete. When the hands on my watch reached eleven-thirty, I pushed aside the papers and headed to the infirmary. Hayashi sat at the front of the ward. His hands were clasped on the table before him, elbows butterflying open a book. Behind him, beds stretched back in two long rows. Patients lay or sat on their beds, in various states of fitful rest. One man swaddled in blankets lay on his side at the edge of his bed, staring at the floor. Another patient sat upright, turning over his hands while inspecting them as if searching for clues. Although the air was crisp, his shirt was wide open. No one spoke and hardly anyone moved. The scene was like a photograph, preserving the strangeness of the moment. Hayashi looked up. ‘Sensei—didn’t think you were working today.’ ‘I’m not. I heard Suzuki was back. I wanted to see him.’ ‘Suzuki? You mean the boy?’ Hayashi frowned. He inclined his head towards the back of the room. In one corner, two sheets had been hung from the ceiling to create an enclosure. Through a gap between the edges of the sheets I could see a bed. A rumpled sheet rose and fell around the contours of a body. ‘Didn’t know you were friends with him.’

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‘He came to the infirmary to see me a few weeks ago. I’d like to check on him, that’s all.’ ‘Well, the officers who brought him back said he needed rest and shouldn’t be disturbed. That’s why they put up those sheets. For some reason, Suzuki gets special treatment. But I don’t mind, as long as you make it quick.’ I nodded. ‘I won’t be long.’ I made my way down the corridor, trying not to make eye contact with the patients who followed my movements. A light breeze entered the room, stirring the suspended sheets so they gently swung back and forth, slightly off-kilter in their timing. As they moved, the triangle of empty space between them widened and narrowed, altering my view of the bed. It was as if I was looking through a kaleidoscope—one moment I could see a sheet that covered a leg, the next an arm and then a fleeting glimpse of a chin. I stopped just before reaching the suspended sheets. They continued to flutter before me like noren on a summer’s day. The subtle movement seemed grand in that otherwise still space. There was something very soothing in the motion of the sheets—ebbing upwards and outwards, never still—yet it also seemed false, a kind of trick, and I felt that if I allowed the sheets to touch me something would change: I would be drawn into that enclosure with its own rules of movement, breath and time. The current of air left the room almost as swiftly as it had entered, and in the lull that followed I was able to see him clearly for the first time. He was lying on his back with his head tilted away from me, angled in a manner that accentuated the sharp line of his jaw. I could just see the dark edge of one eye. In the absence of movement in the air, the kaleidoscopic illusion also disappeared. Framed within the now-still sheets, he appeared inanimate. A rectangle of light from a window fell diagonally across him, illuminating part of his torso and jaw, as if he were a statue hewn from two different stones. A patient coughed behind me, a rasping sound. I continued to watch. But Pete was so still I could not even detect a rise and fall in his chest. My unease grew. It wasn’t unusual for a seemingly stable patient to die suddenly. And he certainly wouldn’t be the first to pass away at camp—there

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had been at least six deaths since I’d arrived, mostly elderly internees. As I recalled those patients and the wretched circumstances of their deaths, I began to tremble with regret. Pete had confided in me, and I hadn’t listened. I was horrified to think my insensitivity could have led to his death. I lifted my hand to pull aside the sheet and step inside when the slightest of movements stopped me: Pete’s lids flickered a fraction. He was watching me from the corner of his eye—and not in a sleep-like reverie, but in a fully lucid state. And although I could barely see the wet glint of his eye, his gaze seemed absent of reproach—and that realisation almost made me weep.

C I heard the whack whack whack of the builders long before they came into view. As I walked down Broadway, I passed the intersection at the middle of camp. Beyond the fence to my left, I glimpsed the wooden frame of a sleeping hut, its crossbeams hanging like the ribs of a great whale. Builders clung to its roof and sides, hammering, sanding and measuring. Behind them stood a nearly completed hut, its roof and four sides clad with galvanised iron. Only the windows were missing, leaving dark rectangular holes like the eyes of an empty soul. A team was practising baseball in the area near the gate. As I neared, I recognised Johnny and the other members of the Australian gang: Paddy, Eddie, Ken, the young half-caste Sam Nakashiba and Australian-born Andy Makino. Three other men I didn’t recognise were scattered around the diamond. Johnny was at the pitcher’s plate. He lifted his head when I entered the compound, and signalled to the others for time out. We hadn’t seen each other since our disagreement over the baseball competition a week earlier, and I was apprehensive about confronting him again, but he was smiling as he walked towards me. A lock of black hair stuck to his shining forehead. ‘Hey, Doc. You got a sec?’ He wiped his hands on his trousers. ‘I just wanted to thank you for organising the baseball comp. It was you, wasn’t it?’ Johnny cocked his head to the side. When he did so, he reminded me of the young man who used to wait outside the hotels in Japtown, full of energy as he peddled his taxi service

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to the pearling crews who stumbled out late at night. ‘It was your idea. All I did was suggest it at the meeting. I realised it would benefit everybody.’ I inclined my head towards the other players. ‘So you’ve already formed a team?’ ‘Sure have. All the boys are keen for it, plus we found a couple of Formosan fellows who said they’d have a go. And there’s a new Aussie kid who just arrived from Hay camp who’s really good. The skinny one over there, Fred.’ A tall darkskinned figure kicked the ground with the toe of his shoe, sending up a small cloud of dust. ‘All the camp rejects, I guess.’ I laughed. ‘Well, I’m glad you found some fellow “rejects”, as you say.’ Johnny pushed his hair off his face, leaving a smear of orange dust on his forehead. ‘I also wanted to say I’m sorry to hear about your brother. McCubbin told me. That’s really tough. I lost one of my sisters a few years ago, so I know how you feel.’ I nodded. Although I was upset McCubbin had told him, I appreciated Johnny’s kind words—especially after Yamada’s insensitivity. We were silent for a few moments, then Johnny’s face brightened. ‘Did you hear? I might be leaving.’ ‘Oh?’ I tried to maintain an air of nonchalance, but my mind raced with the possible reasons for Johnny’s departure. Was he being released? Or being transferred to another camp? ‘I just found out my appeal has been scheduled in Melbourne. I’m going down there in July. Could be my ticket out of here. My lawyer says I’ve got a good chance because I’m Australian-born. I should never have been put in here in the first place.’ My heart sank. It seemed that just as Johnny and I had a chance to make peace, circumstances would take him away. With few other friends at camp, I selfishly wished Johnny would stay. But I smiled and wished him luck. ‘Did you hear Pete is back from Barmera hospital?’ I said. ‘I saw him in the infirmary today. He is still very weak, but he should make a full recovery.’ ‘Poor guy. He must’ve been in a state to have done something like that to himself.’ Johnny shook his head. ‘Being locked up in here will do that to you. If I didn’t have my appeal coming up, I could wind up that way. I might drop in to

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see him next week.’ ‘I’m sure he would like that.’ ‘Anyway, I should get back to the game. We need all the practice we can get if we have any chance of winning against the Batavia team. I heard they’re good. But I just wanted to say thanks. You really helped us out.’ He held out his hand. His palm was rough against mine. We parted, but after a few steps I heard him call out to me. ‘By the way, some of the guards are letting us use the tennis courts at the duty guard camp. You should join us one day.’ The sun shone through the clouds, making me squint. The tap tap tap of the hammers rang out as the builders knocked the structure into place. ‘I’d like that,’ I said.

C Morning light streamed through the open windows of the ward, making everything appear pristine. The patients, many still half asleep, lay in their rumpled sheets with skin scrubbed clean by the trick of light. In the corner, the sheets suspended from the ceiling glowed like a lantern. I approached the enclosure with trepidation, as I had each day since Pete’s arrival. He lay on his back in silent repose, head turned towards the window within his partition. The awning-type shutter swung outwards from a top hinge, revealing a rectangle of sky. I studied Pete for a second or two—just long enough to see the subtle rise and fall of his chest—before creeping back to the entrance of the ward. Hayashi was watching me from the doorway. ‘Does he ever get up?’ I asked. Whenever I checked on Pete, his face was turned towards the window, drinking in the light that shone through. Even late in the evening, at the end of my shift, he was always the same: face angled towards the window, like a flower that bloomed at night. ‘Sometimes I think I hear him moving behind there, but it’s hard to tell. You should ask Powell. Maybe he gets up at night. Maybe he’s like those animals we saw on the documentary film. What was the word? Nocturnal.’ I began visiting Pete’s bedside every day to change the dressing on his wrist. A

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crust had formed over the wound and its edge was still wet when he first arrived, but it dried after a few days. Finally, the skin around the wound contracted, and the dark crust began to flake away. But Pete’s disposition remained the same. He stared at the window all day, displaying little inclination to move or speak or even eat. I made feeble attempts at conversation. ‘How are you feeling?’ I asked. Sometimes he nodded, but mostly he said nothing at all. I offered to get him some books, but he said he didn’t feel like reading. I asked him if his family knew of his condition, but he shrugged. If I managed to engage him for a moment, as soon as I finished talking, he always turned back to the window, seeking out the light.

C The following week, Johnny appeared at the entrance of the orderly room while I was eating lunch. For a moment, I thought it was Hayashi or one of the other orderlies calling me to inspect a patient. Then I noticed the broad shoulders, the shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows and the dirt caked on his forearms. ‘Pete here? McCubbin said I could see him after I finished my shift in the gardens today.’ ‘He’s in the general ward, in the corner behind the sheets. Here, I’ll show you.’ I led him down the corridor to the other building. Before we entered the ward, I turned to him. ‘You can go in and see him, but I have to warn you: he is still unwell. He is distracted and he rarely speaks. But a visit from a friend may help.’ We walked past the beds to the end of the ward, and I pulled back one of the hanging sheets. Pete was on his side, staring at the window. It was sunny outside, and the sheets around the bed reflected the light. Framed like that, Pete’s slight figure took on a childlike purity. ‘Poor bugger,’ Johnny said. Then he stepped into the space and moved to the far side of the bed, positioning himself between Pete and the wall. He leaned down. ‘Pete, old boy. It’s me, Johnny. How you been? Doing okay?’ Johnny bent down even further, staring into Pete’s face. I held my breath. ‘Johnny,’ Pete murmured. ‘I’ve been worse.’ Johnny broke into a smile. ‘Good, mate. I knew you were all right. Paddy, Eddie,

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Sam—all the boys have been thinking of you.’ He lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘Mate, I know it’s tough being in here, all this shit we have to put up with, but we’ll get through it. Before you know it, we’ll be home.’ Johnny continued speaking, describing the competition he’d had with the others to determine who could clean the lavatories the fastest, and the corners of Pete’s mouth twitched into a smile. As I listened, a feeling of shame came over me. My past failings as a doctor became clear—not just with Pete, but also in Broome and in my previous experience in Japan. I had been wrong to leave the kindness of the human touch to Sister Bernice and others. In keeping my silence, I hadn’t exercised the very quality that makes us human: our capacity to understand each other.

C That afternoon, the sky darkened as the wind picked up, lifting dirt and other particles into the air. Sunlight peeped through the clouds and mingled with the agitated dust, making the world outside opaque. I closed all the windows in my ward. The wind grew stronger until I could hear it howling around the infirmary. Stones struck the galvanised-iron walls and clinked against the windows. I checked each of the patients in the TB ward as their symptoms could flare up on a windy day. Fortunately, they seemed unaffected by the squall outside. I went to the orderly room to fetch my coat, as the temperature had dipped. Something caught my eye when I glanced through the window. A figure stood in the infirmary grounds near the perimeter fence, about a dozen yards away. I realised it was Pete. Clutching a cloth over his mouth, he gazed through the fence at the sky. Dust whirled around him and the wind teased the edge of his jacket and sifted his hair. I heard footsteps behind me. ‘Is that…?’ Hayashi exhaled. ‘What’s he doing out there?’ ‘I’ll go get him.’ Hayashi gripped my arm. ‘No, just leave him. It’s the first time he’s left his bed. It’s what he wants. Just let him be.’ ‘But he could get sick out there.’

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‘Not any sicker than he is now.’ And so Hayashi and I watched him for the next few minutes as he stood alone, staring at the sky. He adjusted his grip on the cloth at his face, switching to the other hand. The wind tore his jacket open and he hugged it to himself. Other than that, he was motionless, is face lifted towards the heavens. The light grew weaker as the sun disappeared behind a bank of clouds. The sky turned a murky brown. Finally, he turned around and shuffled back inside.

C The internees in our compound began moving into completed huts in late May, just as the nights turned bitter. Icy winds cut through our clothing and knifed our skin. When we ate dinner inside the mess hall, our breath unfurled in translucent puffs. In the mornings, icicles clung to the sides of the trough outside the kitchen, and the water that issued from the taps stung our hands and turned them red. Elderly internees were shifted into the huts first. The order for the remaining spaces was determined by a lottery. Our row of tents was unlucky: we would be one of the last to move into the huts. A few people grumbled but nothing could be done. We huddled close inside the tent and bundled up in extra blankets. Many nights I woke shivering, dreaming of the balmy evenings in Broome. Although the nights were frigid, the days were sunny and crisp. It was perfect weather for the baseball competition, which was now underway. Our team was knocked out in the first round, losing to the rubber-industry workers from Surabaya. Ebina was disappointed, having cultivated ambitions of making it to the finals, but I was relieved. Although I’d had fun during practice, I didn’t enjoy the pressure of competition or being the focus of attention. I had a shift at the infirmary the day Johnny’s team was scheduled to play its first game, but I returned to camp in time to catch the final inning. The match had attracted an enthusiastic crowd. People lined the fence, huddled so tightly they looked like plates of armour. Every so often there would be a cheer, and a chink in the armour would appear, offering a fleeting glimpse of the pitch. I spotted Nagano—one of the elders in my hut. Although in his mid-seventies,

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Nagano was sprightly and often volunteered to do chores older internees were exempt from. He stood on tiptoe, trying to peer over the heads in front of him. ‘Who’s winning?’ I asked. ‘They are,’ he said, pointing a gnarled finger at Johnny’s team, ‘but not for long, I hope.’ The Australian team were standing near the perimeter fence, waiting to bat. Johnny stood with one foot bent against the fence, smoking a cigarette. Sam and Eddie were stretching. A murmur coursed through the crowd as the next batter approached the plate. I recognised Fred, the new internee Johnny had pointed out to me. Fred’s high-bridged nose and wide-set eyes bore little trace of Japanese physiognomy, making him the subject of gossip at camp. ‘He isn’t even Japanese,’ Yamada declared one night over a cup of sake. ‘He’s part-Indian but has some distant relatives who are Japanese.’ Fred’s limbs were long and ungainly, but when he stepped up to the plate, his legs, torso and arms fell into perfect alignment. The bat seemed light in the unbroken grace of his arms. The first ball was low as it hurtled towards him. He flinched but didn’t take his gaze from the pitcher. The second ball came so fast I didn’t see it. Fred swung and I heard a loud crack. Johnny’s team exploded—clapping and cheering so loudly it masked the hum of discontent from the rest of the crowd. ‘The kid’s a genius! A genius!’ Paddy yelled, his words cutting across the empty space of the pitch. Nagano tutted. ‘What a shame—to lose to these fools.’ Fred jogged lightly onto home base. His teammates flocked to him, ruffling his hair and slapping him on the back. Johnny took his hand and raised it high. He scanned the crowd, grinning. We made eye contact. He waved to me across the field and yelled: ‘Did you see?’ Although I was mindful of Nagano and the other men from my hut watching me, I couldn’t help but smile back.

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BROOME 1940

In the final months of the year, the atmosphere thickened. The air became so warm and heavy that droplets seemed to hang in midair. Grey clouds blanketed the sky and the sea turned the colour of steel, waves breaking the surface in foamcrested peaks. Broome’s inhabitants always abandoned the town in those last, dying weeks. Kanemori returned to Japan with his family, as he did every year. Only Hama stayed to protect the Japanese Association building from dampness and tame the dark tangle of vegetation that sprouted during the wet. I’d heard he had a wife and grown children in Japan, although he never spoke of them. The master pearlers’ families headed south to cooler climes, and most of the pearling crew left, returning home by ship or journeying to Singapore in the hope of finding temporary work until the season began again. Only the long-term residents and those lucky enough to find employment maintaining the master pearlers’ gardens remained. Fewer birds and insects seemed to crowd the air—they, too, had the good sense to go elsewhere. I was also headed south that year. I had arranged to stay with some family friends in Melbourne for a few weeks. Time and money permitting, I hoped to make my way to Sydney, too, to see the harbour I had heard so much about. In my first year in Broome, I had mistakenly decided to stay in town during the wet. Out of some sort of misplaced nostalgia for my boyhood summers in Japan, I ached for the familiar feeling of dampness on my skin. But after experiencing

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the endless hot, sticky days and sudden downpours, with barely a soul around to share them with, I vowed not to do the same again. At the end of my second year, I took a ship to Perth to escape Broome during the hottest weeks. I stayed at a boarding house on St George’s Terrace and spent my days wandering the city’s streets. I relished the arrival each day of the ‘Fremantle Doctor’—the locals’ name for the cool breeze that swept in during the afternoon. From the green heights of Kings Park I watched the Swan River below me, and thought of Sister Bernice looking out at the same view, dreaming of Africa. This year I planned to go further afield, to the eastern states. Perhaps the following year I would have the courage to return to Japan. In my absence, the hospital would be shut for eight weeks, and so Sister Bernice and I began to put everything away. We stripped the beds, stacked the furniture and placed the equipment in the cabinets to gather dust, an unravelling of the previous two years. One evening, as I stood at the cabinet updating the equipment inventory, I reflected on all I had achieved since first arriving in Broome. I had moved to another country, trained an assistant and more or less gained the trust of the community. Most people—even the master pearlers—knew me by name. Thinking back to the state I’d been in when I’d left Japan, I realised how far I’d come. At eight-thirty, the door creaked behind me. I heard the tread of Sister Bernice’s feet. ‘Good morning, Doctor,’ she said, her voice unusually vibrant. ‘Good morning, Sister.’ She always spent Christmas with her relatives in Geraldton, two days south by ship. She was due to depart the following Saturday. Her cousin was about to go to war in Europe, so it would be an extra special gathering this year. I heard rustling as she rummaged through her bag. Moments later, she was beside me. She placed something on top of the cabinet in front of me: a small package, wrapped in white and tied with a piece of string. ‘Merry Christmas,’ she said. My heart sank. ‘A present? Oh, you shouldn’t have. I wish I’d known…’ ‘Before you go on, I didn’t actually buy you anything. It’s just something of mine I thought you might like. And Christmas is an Australian tradition, not a

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Japanese one, so you need never buy me anything. In fact, I’d be appalled if you started buying Christmas gifts because of me. This is just a present I thought of at the last minute.’ ‘It’s very kind of you, Sister. Thank you so much.’ ‘Aren’t you going to open it?’ I remembered the difference in our traditions: Westerners liked to open presents in the presence of the giver. I untied the string and turned the present over in my hands. The wrapping fell away to reveal a book with a faded blue cover. ‘Ah, Middlemarch,’ I said. ‘Have you read it?’ ‘No, I haven’t. But I have heard it is very good.’ ‘It’s one of my favourites. Although I haven’t read it in a few years now. There’s a young doctor in the book who arrives in a country town, and it made me think of you. Not that you’re anything like Doctor Lydgate,’ she added quickly. ‘I just thought you might like to read it while you’re away.’ ‘Thank you, Sister. I look forward to reading this on the ship. My first Christmas present. I shall always remember it.’ She smiled. I decided I would get her something in the eastern states as an omiyage from my travels—that was a Japanese tradition, at least. ‘I almost forgot. I meant to return this to you a while ago.’ She placed another book on the cabinet. It was my old copy of Robinson Crusoe, with its cracked cover featuring a shabby, bearded man and its pages that had turned the colour of cognac over time. ‘I took it home with me and forgot to bring it back. I hope you don’t mind,’ she said. ‘Not at all. Did you enjoy it?’ ‘Yes, I did. Actually…’ She smoothed the back of her habit with her hand. ‘I couldn’t help but notice the piece of wood inside the front cover. Is that something from Japan?’ I frowned and picked up the book. Inside the cover, slotted against the spine, was a tag—a wafer-thin piece of wood about the length of my thumb. The character ko, for child, was inscribed on the surface, along with the numerals 1718. It still

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had its loop of yellowed string. The knot at the end had left an impression on the page behind it: a small indentation, like a scar. I snapped the book shut. ‘Where did you find this?’ ‘Inside the front cover, as I said.’ ‘Well, it shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have put it there. It was a mistake. You never should have found it.’ I walked into the anteroom. Sister Bernice came in just as I was putting the book and the wooden tag in my desk drawer. ‘Yes?’ I snapped, irritated she’d seen where I’d put it. She flinched. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you… Are you all right?’ ‘I just… I don’t like you intruding into my life. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m very busy right now.’ She blinked several times. I thought I saw her lower lip tremble, but I couldn’t be sure. She nodded slowly, then, without another comment, left the room.

C Sister Bernice didn’t come to work the next morning. Her absence angered me at first. To fail to show up because of a minor confrontation—she obviously had less mettle than I’d first thought. But as the hours passed and she still did not arrive, I began to see that the blame lay at my feet. I had overreacted when she’d innocently asked about the tag. She couldn’t have known its significance to me. Throughout the humid morning, patients came and went. One old tender who visited the hospital regularly due to chronic joint pain asked after Sister Bernice. ‘She’s not feeling well,’ I mumbled. He was so concerned he said he’d return with a present for her later. As the day wore on, I began to believe my own lie and grew worried about her wellbeing. Perhaps she was ill—perhaps my outburst had triggered something. That afternoon, I closed the hospital early and walked to the convent. I stepped onto the latticed verandah and rang the brass bell at the front door. When the Mother Superior appeared, I asked to speak to Sister Bernice. ‘Sister Bernice isn’t here. She left for Geraldton this morning.’

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‘Geraldton? Already? I didn’t think she was leaving for another few days.’ My outburst must have affected her deeply. ‘When will she be back?’ ‘She didn’t say—she said it was an emergency. I’m sorry, Doctor, I thought she told you.’ Mistaking my dismay for alarm at losing an assistant, she continued, ‘I could send someone else to help you. Sister Antonia may be available.’ ‘No, that’s not necessary. I didn’t think… Anyway, if Sister Bernice contacts you, please give her my regards.’

C I became depressed at the thought that my careless behaviour had driven Sister Bernice away. As I stared at the ocean from the ship’s deck during the long journey to Melbourne, she consumed my thoughts. What if she never came back? I brooded over that for a long time. Even after my arrival in Melbourne, as I took a tram along Flinders Street and strolled the boardwalk at St Kilda Beach, her abrupt departure continued to play on my mind. ‘Tomokazu, is something wrong? You’ve been quiet all week.’ Mr Amano, my uncle’s friend, cupped a hand at his brow to shield his eyes from the glare. The sea sparkled behind him. He and his wife had generously opened their home to me and guided me around Melbourne. I had enjoyed my time with them, so I was dismayed to discover my preoccupation had been so evident. ‘I was just thinking about the hospital. I hope no one needs me while I’m away.’ I vowed to put the incident behind me so I could make the most of the rest of my stay. But as much as I tried, I couldn’t forget. Instead of visiting Sydney, I decided to return to Broome two weeks early. As the ship swung into the bay, my heart swelled at the sight of the milky blue water and the distant pink-red sand. For the first time, I realised Broome was my home. The hospital was just as I’d left it, save for the spots of mould inside some of the cupboards and on the walls. I stood in the centre of the ward and looked around me. The bare metal beds with their spring-coil ribs underscored the emptiness of the room. As soon as the weather stabilised, I would dry the mattresses in the sun.

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I was relieved to hear from a shopkeeper in Japtown that Sister Bernice had returned from Geraldton. ‘She was walking past here the other day,’ he said. The next day, I went to the convent, carrying a present I had purchased on my travels: a teacup and saucer painted with a spray of yellow wattle. My shirt was clinging to my chest by the time I crunched along the convent’s gravel path. I rang the bell, and Sister Bernice herself came to the door, surprise etched on her face. ‘Doctor! I thought you weren’t returning for at least another week. I would have come to the hospital, had I known you were back.’ She reached up to tuck a lock of hair beneath her veil. It was a joy to see her again. ‘I came back early—I was worried about closing the hospital for so long. But that is not why I am here. I wanted to give you this.’ I held out the boxed present, wrapped in brown paper. ‘Something from my trip to Melbourne. It is omiyage, as we say in Japanese.’ She gingerly took the package, staring at it as if it were something strange. ‘Oh, a present. Thank you.’ She held it close to herself without opening it. Her eyes darted away from mine; she seemed unable to hold my gaze. Silence stretched between us. ‘How is your family in Geraldton? Mother Superior said there was an emergency. I hope they are well?’ ‘Yes, thank you. One of the children was sick, but it wasn’t as serious as they first thought.’ ‘And your cousin?’ ‘Harry left in January. We haven’t heard from him yet.’ Her reserved manner suggested that my rebuke was still fresh in her mind. ‘Sister, before you left, what I said to you at the hospital… I didn’t mean to—’ ‘There’s no need to say anything, Doctor. It’s all in the past now. I think we can forget what happened and move on.’ A smile brightened her face. I exhaled with relief. I wanted nothing more than to put the matter behind us so we could return to our former ways. Sister Bernice came back to the hospital the following week. Together we scrubbed the mould from the walls and aired the mattresses. When sorting through the patients’ files, she was as nimble and efficient as ever. But for all her outward

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calmness, I sensed something had changed. She still conversed with me and brought me tea whenever she made some for herself—although I never saw her using the cup I gave her, which pained me—but there was a coolness to her now. She had closed a part of herself to me.

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L OV E DAY 1 9 4 2

Pete’s disposition improved each day after Johnny’s visit. When I checked on him inside his enclosure of sheets, I often found him sitting up, reading a book. Sometimes he paused to look out of the window, but he was no longer drawn to it like before. He began to smile when he saw me, and responded to my questions about his health. Eventually, we started to talk while I changed the dressing on his wrist. I asked him about his family. He told me his elder sister, Emmy, was interned at Tatura Camp in Victoria. Their father had died years ago. Their mother was the only one left at their home in Sydney. ‘Ma’s at her wit’s end with me and Emmy locked up. We’re all she’s got. Her health’s not good—she has bad asthma. With the stress of our arrests, I think it’s got worse. She’s been writing letters every day—to me, to Emmy, to our friends and to the director-general of security to ask for our release. I’m worried something will happen to her while we’re not there. To make things worse, now that I’m in here, this girl I’ve been keen on for a while has finally asked about me. She wants to write to me. Mum told me in her last letter.’ ‘Why is that bad? Don’t you want to hear from this girl?’ He sighed and slumped, jerking his arm. The bandage slipped out of my hand. I scrambled to catch the edge. ‘Of course. But she thinks I’m still in the AIF. That’s why she wants to write to me. She thinks I’m off fighting the Japs somewhere, like all the other brave men. Instead, I’m locked up as one of them. I can’t let her find out I’m in here—I

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just can’t.’ His voice quavered and I thought he might cry. I empathised with his unfortunate situation: wanting to tell this girl the truth yet being unable to do so. But I couldn’t offer any advice. My handling of my own circumstances had been a failure. He lifted his head, and I was relieved to see he had regained his composure. ‘What about you? Do you have a wife?’ ‘Sorry?’ I stiffened. ‘A wife. Someone special you write to from here.’ ‘I, ah… Yes, I do. I’ve tried to write to her a number of times, but I’m not sure if she got my letters. The war, you know…’ I reached behind me for the scissors. My fingers were thick as I struggled to knot the end of the bandage. Pete didn’t say anything more, but I felt his gaze on me the entire time. When I was done, I excused myself and swiftly left the room.

C While on my rounds that afternoon, I stopped into the tuberculosis ward. Hama was sleeping, the hollows on his neck deepening with each breath. Sunlight streamed through the window and touched the corner of his bed. Seeing him there, so frail and alone, made me wonder about his family in Japan. If he died, who would tell them? I was filled with regret for never having asked about them. I thought about the situation with Kayoko. I had sent her two letters from Broome, telling her of the new life I had begun in Australia, but I never got a reply. After that, I gave up, convinced she never wanted to hear from me again. But perhaps I had stopped writing too quickly. Perhaps I had not written what she wanted to hear.

C When I checked on Pete the next morning, he was again sitting up in bed, reading. A pile of letters, probably from his mother, was tucked beneath his pillow. The

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window was open and a breeze stirred the hanging sheets. When I asked him how he was, he didn’t reply; he simply extended his arm so that I could change the dressing. I sensed a divide had opened up between us, but I didn’t know how to close it. I breathed heavily as I fumbled with the bandages. ‘Pete, yesterday, when you asked me about my wife…’ His gaze flicked up to mine. ‘It is hard for me to talk about it, but my wife and I... we are separated. I have not heard from her in years. We had a misunderstanding in Japan. She wanted me to help her, to share her pain, but I had my own problems. I wasn’t there for her. I wish I had said more to her before I left. That is my greatest regret. So I urge you to write to this girl you like and share your feelings with her.’ He was quiet for a while. We were just a few inches apart, and I sensed him studying my face. Then he turned away and spoke into his chest. ‘It’s not that easy. How am I to write to her from here?’ ‘Send the letter to your mother. She can pass it on.’ ‘And have my mother read my sweet nothings to Isabelle? I’d rather not. Besides, how am I going to write with this?’ He held up his bandaged wrist. The loose end began to unravel. I took his arm and pushed it back down onto the bed. ‘Let me write it, if you want. Tell me what you want to say to her and I’ll write it down.’ He chewed his lip as he thought it over. ‘Can you write English? Are you good, I mean?’ I laughed. ‘These days, I write in English better than in Japanese. It is not perfect, but I will do my best.’ He eventually agreed to my suggestion. I stepped beyond the sheets to get a chair, passing Hayashi at the front of the ward. He looked at me quizzically, his gaze following me as I pulled a chair into Pete’s enclosure. I set it beside his bed. ‘A little closer, please—I don’t want anyone else to hear,’ Pete said. I moved the chair till it was almost touching his bed. He gave me a pad and a pen and a book to lean on. He inched towards me until he was lying on his side on the edge of his bed. I looked at him, waiting for his cue. ‘Dear Isabelle,’ he whispered.

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‘Sorry—her name: how is it spelled?’ ‘I-S-A-B-E-L-L-E.’ I nodded. ‘As you are no doubt aware, my feelings for the past seven years have been sincere, and I believe—no, I trust—’ He paused, struggling to find the right word. ‘I hope?’ He smiled. ‘Yes, “hope”—and I hope you have not regarded my attention towards you unfavourably. Recently, my circumstances have not allowed me to improve our friendship. It is my wish it will one day blossom into something deeper and long lasting.’ I was scribbling frantically to try to keep up. I would have to write it out again neatly later. ‘When I left Sydney a few months ago, I was more or less under a cloud, and consequently I have not written to you during my absence. I am sorry to say that I cannot currently meet you in person. However, it would bring me great joy if you would consider a relationship with me in the future.’ He paused. ‘What do you think, is that okay?’ I took a few moments to read over the lines. Pete shifted, waiting for my response. What would I say if I was writing to my wife? Something true to my feelings. I would talk about our memories, our shared lives. ‘It is slightly formal, perhaps. Could you remind her of something you did together in the past?’ He nodded, sucking on his bottom lip as he narrowed his eyes, trying to call up a memory. ‘I’ve known her for a long time. We practically grew up together. She lives on my street. I have so many memories of her. The problem is finding the right one.’ ‘Think of the happiest memory. The first one that comes to mind.’ He thought. ‘I was at the Roxy one night when she came up to me. She would have been nineteen. Said she’d heard I’d joined the AIF and wanted to wish me the best. I was over the moon. We talked a bit—she told me about her job as a typist and her mother, who’d fallen ill. She seemed to have grown more beautiful since I’d last seen her. I kept looking at her all night. My boys said I was making a fool

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of myself. They were probably right.’ He laughed, breathing out noisily. ‘At the end of the night, I wanted to go up to her and ask her out, but I didn’t have the guts. Next thing I knew she was leaving—she was at the door and her friend had walked out ahead of her, but Isabelle stopped and looked around. I was praying for her to look at me, and she did—she gave a little nod and a wave goodbye. I should’ve gone up to her, said something then, but I didn’t. I’ll always regret that.’ It was quiet in the infirmary. I wondered if the other patients had been listening; if they had, they would’ve caught only fragments—the odd phrase further limited by the few English words they knew. Sitting close to Pete, with a pad of paper and a pen in my hand, made me think of nights at home in Tokyo, going over my English and German medical terminology with my wife. ‘Sensuibyou,’ she said, holding one of my heavy textbooks close to her chest as she sat on a cushion on the floor. ‘Caissonkrankheit,’ I said. ‘Caisson disease.’

C The last of the sleeping huts were completed in late June, and we moved into them soon afterwards. The shift brought several changes at camp. Until then, my daily life had been synchronised with the seven other men in my tent: we had slept, eaten and done chores together under the direction of Yamada, our leader. But my new life in the sleeping hut expanded to include fifty others. The space was almost as cramped as the tents, but I welcomed the solid walls and floor to keep out the winter chill. Although I knew some of the men from the infirmary and baseball, many of the others I had only seen in passing in the mess hall or at headcount. I relaxed in the new setting, surrounded by others who were relative outsiders, like me. Yamada was still our leader, but I felt his presence much less than before. Our seats in the mess hall were also altered to reflect the new hut populations, and I no longer sat at the same table as Yamada. I began to spend much of my time with Ebina and several others in my hut from the baseball team. At night, we played hanafuda and talked until the lights

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went out. Rumours of an internee exchange program had been circulating at camp for months. In recent weeks, the newspaper committee had translated a number of articles that mentioned talks of a prisoner exchange between Australia and Japan. Each country would supply a list of potential prisoners for the exchange, and negotiations would begin until an equal number of names were agreed upon for release. Inside our hut, we warmed our feet against the heater made from an empty milk tin and coal from the boiler, and talked about what we’d do when we were released. Arata, one of the men from Surabaya, said he longed to sleep in, instead of being woken up by a bugle call. ‘I’d like to wake up next to my wife,’ Ebina said. By this time, the baseball competition was coming to an end. The three Formosans in Johnny’s team turned out to be very skilled, having played since high school. Johnny and the other Australians on the team hadn’t realised this at first because of the Formosans’ limited English. Johnny’s team won match after match, and eventually gained a berth in the grand final, much to the chagrin of many, including Yamada. Their opponents would be the team from Borneo. A week before the grand final, Johnny, Sam Nakashiba and Andy Makino left to go to the Aliens Tribunal in Melbourne. They were due to return just in time to play against Borneo. It would be a fitting farewell if their appeal was successful. On a cold morning in early July, I joined the remaining members of the gang at the gate to see them off. Our breath billowed in the crisp air. Magpies carolled and tumbled across the sky. ‘Wish us luck,’ Johnny said, his face creased into a grin. ‘We might not be around here much longer.’ As we watched them filing out of the birdcage gate, I saw that Johnny, Sam and Andy were the youngest of the group going to the tribunal. Most of the dozen or so other men were in their sixties or seventies. They were the older, quieter internees who spoke English well but had little to do with the day-to-day running of camp. They kept to themselves, working in the labour groups if they had the strength, and retiring to bed early at night. They had been living in Australia for decades; some were married to Australians and even had Australian children. I felt sorry for them—they’d been living in Australia so long that they had little in common with many of the other Japanese.

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With Johnny, Sam and Andy gone, my friendship circle dwindled. I saw Paddy, Eddie, Fred and Ken at the mess hall and always stopped to greet them, although the conversation never flowed. On my day off from the infirmary, I went to buy some soap and a razor blade, and a pen for Pete. As I neared the canteen, I noticed Hayashi at the broad surface of the open counter, talking to the canteen assistant. I was surprised to discover it was Yamada. Although he managed the stocktake for the canteen, Yamada rarely staffed it, saying his time was better spent on other things. When I was about twenty feet away, Yamada noticed me. He said something to Hayashi and they both turned and smiled. Before I reached the canteen, however, Hayashi nodded at me and walked away. ‘Ibaraki, I was just talking about you,’ Yamada said. ‘Hayashi tells me how busy you’ve been. As well as all the patients in your ward, you’re looking after one of his, too?’ I nodded. ‘Suzuki.’ ‘That’s the Australian who tried to kill himself, isn’t it? How is he?’ ‘Quite good,’ I replied cautiously. Yamada’s interest in Pete put me on edge. ‘His wrist has almost healed. But his spirit is still weak.’ ‘When will we be able to welcome him back to camp?’ I hesitated. Pete and I had never discussed his return to camp; I sensed that raising the topic would only set him back. At the same time, I wondered how much longer he’d be allowed to stay in the infirmary. ‘Not yet. Maybe in another few weeks.’ ‘Is that so?’ Yamada nodded and looked into the distance, as if deep in thought. ‘We’ll have to find him a bed in a hut. I’m not sure there’s room in ours… But we’ll deal with that when the time comes. Anyway, what can I get you today?’ I told him what I wanted and he fetched them for me. After I paid, Yamada indicated the clipboard he was holding. ‘Well, I’d best keep going with the stocktake. We’ve almost run out of cigarettes since the baseball competition started. People have been betting with them. We’ll be sold out by Sunday’s game. I assume you’ll be there?’ ‘Actually, I’m rostered to work at the infirmary that day. But I hope to be back in time for the end of the match.’ I didn’t want to miss the entire match. If Johnny,

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Sam and Andy’s appeal against their internment was successful, the grand final would probably be the last time I’d see them play. They would only have two or three weeks left at camp before their papers were approved and they were released by headquarters. ‘Working on grand final day? Aramaa. Why don’t you swap shifts with someone? Especially since the competition was your idea. What a good suggestion it has turned out to be—the entire atmosphere at camp has changed. Lott’s very pleased—he even bought the compound new balls and bats. Plus, your friends in the Australian team are playing, aren’t they? You won’t want to miss that.’ I said I’d see what I could do. As I walked away, I sensed that Yamada was watching me. I slept fitfully that night. Just before dawn, I glimpsed someone’s silhouette beside the door. As my eyes adjusted, I realised it was old Fukaya. He stood as quietly as a sentinel, staring at the floor. I had often woken to him shuffling through the hut at night as he made his way to the latrines, occasionally stopping on his journey to rest against a wall. But he didn’t usually stand there for so long. I crept over to him to see what was wrong. ‘Look. It’s red,’ he said, pointing at the floor. Rust-coloured dirt spread from beneath the door; it must have blown in during the night. I peered closer. It was much finer than the earth in the gardens. The colour was also brighter than the dull reddish-brown earth I was accustomed to at camp. In the pre-dawn light it seemed to shimmer. ‘I wonder where it came from. It doesn’t look like the dirt at camp.’ Fukaya didn’t seem to hear me as he continued to stare at the floor. ‘See how it’s shaped like a fan? It’s like art. It’s beautiful,’ he said. As I considered the dirt, I could see it was indeed beautiful. Its symmetry and iridescence suggested a human touch, much like the raked gardens of a Zen temple. Like those gardens, the rust-coloured arc made me think of the transience of life. And how, with one strong wind, everything could change.

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TOKYO 1936

One afternoon early in my second year at the laboratory, Nomura, Ota and I were told to stay back late to accept a shipment from Manchukuo. Yamamoto offered to help, too, but Shimada refused. ‘This is a job for the senior specialists,’ he said. ‘The rest of you, wait outside for the trucks to arrive. I will stay in the laboratory. Major Kimura will also be here—he wants to oversee the arrival of the first shipment. Alert us both when it comes.’ As it was cold outside, Nomura, Ota and I arranged shifts: one person stood outside looking out for the truck, while the other two stayed inside. Every half an hour, we rotated. At around midnight, Ota ran into the foyer. ‘The trucks—I think they’re here.’ Nomura and I jumped to our feet, and I hurried downstairs to alert Shimada. When I returned, I approached the two army trucks parked outside the entrance. Guards with rifles stood at the back of each truck. ‘Can I help unload the cargo?’ I asked. The guard closest to me assessed me with disdain. ‘We’re under orders to act according to Major Kimura’s instructions only. Unless you’re him, you can’t even touch the crates.’ I slunk back inside. Kimura and Shimada soon arrived, and they directed the army personnel to take the cargo down to the basement and into a storeroom. The two trucks were full of large wooden crates marked ‘Fragile’. Nomura, Ota and I

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helped direct the men carrying the crates down the stairs and into the storeroom. Some crates seemed much heavier than others. I heard the faint clinking of glass from inside them. Throughout the unloading, Nomura and Ota exercised characteristic restraint. I wondered if they already knew what was inside—if they had been privy to a conversation I had not. The men unloading the crates hardly spoke, but they moved with urgency. The officers beside the trucks whispered their instructions. I wondered why they did so, as the building was not in a residential area. After about forty minutes the last crate was unloaded. Kimura signed a document and saluted the officer in charge of the shipment—the one who had spoken to me with such disdain. When Kimura came back inside, Shimada locked the entrance to the building after him. ‘Just temporarily,’ he said. ‘Come,’ Kimura said, and we followed him downstairs. The storeroom was crammed. Kimura picked up an iron bar lying on the ground and passed it to Shimada. ‘You do the honours,’ he said. Shimada went to the closest crate, and worked the bar under the lid, eventually loosening the nails that held it to the frame. He lifted the lid and stepped back so that Kimura could see. I leaned forward. It was full of glass specimen jars of various sizes. From my position I could only see metal lids, some with wooden tags attached to them with string, and yellow formalin contained within the jars. But Kimura stood over them and brought his hands together in excitement. ‘Ah, here’s a good one,’ he said. He reached in and with two hands brought out a large jar. It held a severed head. In the formalin, the flesh was the colour of butter. The scalp was shaved and a section had been cut from the crown, exposing the brain. Several deep incisions ran from the temples to the edge of the cavity. The man’s eyes were closed tightly, as if subjected to unbearable pressure, but his mouth was open, the purplish lips forming a slack ‘O’. It was as if he had tried to say something, but the final words had been stolen at the moment of death. When we were finally allowed to go home, I walked out of the building onto the empty streets and breathed in deep. The air had never tasted so sweet. Nomura, Ota and I said nothing to each other as we parted at the gate. I looked at my watch:

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one-thirty. The last train had left hours ago. I could have slept in the tearoom at work, as I had done before when Shimada needed a large batch of bacteria by the following day, but I didn’t want to that night. I wanted to be as far away as possible. I pulled my coat around me and began the long walk home. Cold air stung my face. I tried not to think about what I had seen that night; I trained my thoughts on washing myself clean and soaking in a hot bath when I got home. I saw almost no one, aside from the occasional drunk curled up in an alley. At one point, I passed a street cleaner in navy overalls. He was bent over, sweeping rubbish into a bamboo basket. When I walked past him, he looked up. One eye was the colour of milk. That pale, unblinking eye seemed to penetrate deep into my soul. A chill passed through me and I quickened my pace. I was freezing and exhausted by the time I got home. I drew the entry door shut behind me, careful not to wake Kayoko. The table in the living room was clear of bowls. I had been returning home later each night as my responsibilities at work had grown. At first, Kayoko had left dinner on the table for me, but I rarely wanted to eat at that hour and the rice and fried fish became hard by morning, not even good enough to use in rice balls. She began to only leave out simple food—cold miso soup and rice balls. Tonight, for the first time, she had left out nothing at all. It didn’t matter, as I wasn’t hungry. I went straight to the bathroom and slid the door open, expecting a gush of hot air. But the air inside was cool. My heart sank. I eased the lid of the bathtub open. Empty. I dipped my hand inside, hoping my eyes were playing a trick on me, but no. I put my hand to the furnace, but that, too, was cold. I forced open the iron hatch to see if I could light a fire, but there were not even a few embers inside. Kayoko must have cleaned it that evening. I peeled off my clothes and sat on the low stool, my head in my hands. I turned on the tap and filled the bucket with cold water, then poured it over me. I sucked in my breath. The sting was like an electric current. I brought the bar of soap along my arms and legs, then filled the bucket with water again and washed the suds away. I drew another deep breath and shuddered. Behind me, the door scraped on its track. Cool air hit my back. ‘What are you doing? You must be freezing.’ Kayoko’s voice was high and thin, like a child’s. I didn’t turn. I couldn’t face

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her, not yet. I needed more time to calm my thoughts before I went to bed. ‘The bath. You emptied it. I need to wash myself.’ I clenched my teeth to try to contain my feelings. ‘I’m sorry. You were so late—I thought you’d stayed at work overnight like you did the other week.’ I shook my head. I prayed she’d leave me alone. As I sat on the stool, holding a bar of soap, silence stretched between us. ‘Tomo, are you okay?’ I imagined her expression: her lips pressed into a thin line and her big, troubled eyes.  ‘Yes. Please, just leave me alone.’ I heard her step back and felt cool air again as she closed the door. I hugged my knees to my chest. After a minute, I leaned forward and filled the bucket again.

C Ota said he’d seen him in the hallways: a man with a thick moustache in a military uniform bedecked with insignia. I thought little of it, as high-ranking military officers often visited our offices. But a few days later, passing through the foyer, I saw three men standing near the entrance. The one in the middle, facing me, was tall and thin. Perhaps it was his eyeglasses, or the way the light from the entrance threw shadows, but I noticed the angles of his face: the peaked eyebrows that dwarfed his small eyes. I had no doubt he was Lieutenant Colonel Ishii, the head of our organisation. Shiro Ishii was known as a gifted microbiologist who’d given up a promising medical career to devote his life to research. He and Kimura had studied together at Kyoto Imperial University medical school and were still good friends. Ishii had started doing research in Manchukuo several years earlier, and I suspect it was Ishii whom Kimura visited when he went abroad. That afternoon, Kimura visited the laboratory to make an announcement. ‘At the end of this week, the head of our unit, Lieutenant Colonel Ishii, will give a lecture on his current research. I’m sure I don’t need to point out how fortunate

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we are to receive him. It will be a wonderful opportunity to learn from a pioneer of modern science. His insight will also help us analyse the specimens to the best of our abilities.’ On Friday, we walked into the second-floor training room. As some of the first researchers to arrive, we were conspicuous in our white coats. A small group of army officials stopped talking and turned to survey us. Behind them a line of windows offered a glimpse of the tree-lined streets around the station. To the east, out of sight from where I stood, were the extensive grounds of the Imperial Palace. I imagined what these would look like: a dark, impenetrable mound encircled by a snaking moat. On the wall at the front of the training room hung a gilt-framed picture of the Emperor, his kind eyes full of light. Looking at him, my heart swelled with devotion. Beneath the picture stood the desk I had seen on my earlier visit, its surface polished to a high sheen and its brass handles gleaming. The rows of wooden chairs that filled the rest of the room were like statues, not a single one out of place. ‘Where should we sit?’ Yamamoto whispered. ‘At the back, I suppose. Lots of people have been invited,’ Nomura said. Ishii’s lecture had been a topic of discussion in the tearoom all week. Nomura had wanted to meet him for years, ever since his senior college classmate who’d studied under Ishii had gushed about his brilliance. ‘Apparently he only sleeps a few hours a night, he’s always thinking up experiments and analysing,’ Nomura had said. Ota had pointed out that Ishii had only graduated from Kyoto ten years earlier, and in the past two-and-a-half years he’d been promoted from major to lieutenant colonel. ‘To rise that fast, he must be a genius.’ We took our seats in the back row and watched as more army personnel and researchers trickled in. I recognised many of the faces from the photos in the foyer, although I didn’t know their names. ‘Isn’t that War Minister Sugiyama?’ Ota said. A man in a high-necked jacket decorated with medals stood at the door, flanked by two men in khaki uniforms. People jostled as the seats filled up. Everyone shifted their attention to the front as two men entered the room. We all stood up. Through the gaps I saw Kimura and Ishii. They both stopped, saluted the picture

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of the Emperor on the wall, then turned towards us and bowed. Ishii was only a few years older than Kimura, but as physical specimens the two men couldn’t have been further apart. Kimura was short and stocky where Ishii was tall and lean. Kimura’s hair was neatly parted, waxed and combed to the side, his uniform spruce, from the pleat in his trouser legs to the shine of his buttons. Ishii’s appearance, however, was unorthodox. He had thick, wavy hair about two inches long and wore heavy-rimmed glasses. The top button of his uniform was also unfastened—whether it was a genuine mistake or a deliberate gesture of laxness, I didn’t know. Kimura cleared his throat. ‘For most of you, Lieutenant Colonel Ishii needs no introduction. He’s chairman of the Army Medical College’s Immunology Department and was recently promoted to Chief of the Kwantung Army’s Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Unit in Manchukuo. His work in the area of water purification and B encephalitis has saved literally thousands of Japanese lives. Today, he’ll share the research he’s been undertaking in Greater East Asia.’ Kimura paused, allowing his eyes to roam the room. ‘You’ve been invited here today as leaders and innovators in your fields, and you are asked to behave accordingly regarding the confidentiality of today’s lecture.’ Kimura’s stern tone brought to mind my interview with him, when he’d questioned my ability to be discreet. ‘Without further delay, I invite Lieutenant Colonel Ishii to deliver his lecture.’ Ishii stepped forward and smiled. ‘Thank you, Major Kimura. Some of you are already familiar with my research in Manchukuo, but for the sake of those who are new to this area, I’ll give a brief summary.’ His loud, slightly nasal voice commanded attention. He talked with his head slightly tipped back, so that he looked down the length of his nose at the audience. ‘In the winter of 1933, thousands of Japanese troops in northern China died from cholera and a fever epidemic prevalent on the China-Russian border, and thousands more died or lost limbs as a result of frostbite. These three afflictions dealt a harsh blow to our expansion, and so, with the support of the Army Medical College, I began developing a treatment for frostbite and a vaccine for cholera and the fever epidemic. In the four years since the Epidemic Prevention Research Group was established, I have expanded its focus to include the bubonic plague as well.

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‘We’ve recently completed building a new compound twenty miles away at Ping Fan. It is the first of its kind: a compound of more than sixty-thousand square feet dedicated to epidemic research and prevention. As well as dormitories for workers, there are recreational theatres, swimming pools, bars, restaurants and, of course, laboratories with the most advanced technology in the world. The true purpose of the facility is concealed from the local community through the disguise of a lumber mill. We’ve even started calling our test subjects maruta. It started as a joke, but “logs” has turned out to be a convenient euphemism, so we have persisted with the term. ‘Although we are still in the early stages of research, our experiments with logs have proved enormously successful. Take, for example, the fever epidemic. Ticks collected from rats that tested positive to the virus were ground and mixed into a saline solution, which was injected into a group of logs. After nineteen days, most of this group showed mild symptoms of the disease. We took their blood samples and injected them into another uninfected group of logs. This time, after only twelve days, symptoms of infection became apparent. These logs were then dissected, their organs ground and mixed with a saline solution, which was in turned injected into a new group of logs. By repeating this process continuously we were able to successfully isolate a pathogen in a few months. Being able to conduct research in this way has delivered unparalleled knowledge, which we’ve already passed on to the army to minimise further loss of life. ‘Our research into frostbite prevention and treatment has been similarly rewarding. By subjecting logs to repeated exposure to cold air and cold water over weeks, we’ve ascertained that wet cotton clothing more often results in gangrene, and that the most effective method of treating frostbite is to soak affected areas in a warm bath of thirty-seven degrees Celsius.’ He turned to his assistant. ‘Make sure you circulate those photographs.’ Having seen the specimen jars already, I thought I knew what to expect. I was sitting at the end of the row, so the photos reached me before any of my colleagues. I leafed through the black and white images: swollen fingers, blistered toes, blackened faces and grotesque, rotting flesh that shrivelled and puckered to reveal bone. The final photo depicted a child’s chubby hands, the tips of the fingers all black.

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C That evening, after finishing my notes and cleaning my equipment, I decided to leave work earlier than usual. Pain had gathered at my temples and throbbed since the afternoon. Yamamoto was nowhere to be found, and I hadn’t seen Shimada since Ishii’s lecture. Nomura and Ota were still hunched over their microscopes, their coats aglow beneath the overhead lights. Without saying anything to them, I slipped away. As I made my way down the corridor, I heard laughter coming from within Shimada’s office. Voices overlapped and merged together. Not wanting to be caught leaving early, I stopped short, but my foot scuffed the floor. ‘Who’s there?’ Shimada called. ‘Just me, Ibaraki.’ ‘Ibaraki? Come here.’ I presented myself in the doorway. Shimada, Kimura, Lieutenant Colonel Ishii and Yamamoto were arranged in the tiny office on an assortment of chairs and stools. An almost-empty bottle of whisky sat on Shimada’s desk. They must have been drinking all afternoon, as they were red-faced—especially Yamamoto, who slumped against the desk, his head lolling on his neck. He smiled at me, blinking slowly like a cat. I was surprised to see him mixing with our superiors, but then I remembered he was a relative of Kimura’s and they occasionally socialised together. Seated next to Yamamoto, Kimura seemed to be asleep, nursing an empty cup in his lap. Ishii appeared the most sober. He gazed at me evenly with his long legs stretched before him. ‘Aren’t you leaving a little early?’ Shimada looked at his watch. As I had already changed out of my laboratory clothes, I couldn’t deny that I hadn’t intended to go home. ‘I’m sorry, sensei. I was trying to find you to ask if I could go home. I have a terrible headache. I’ll come in early tomorrow to make up for it.’ Shimada drew himself up. ‘A headache? Our soldiers are risking their lives and you have a headache?’

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I blinked. His expression was severe. A moment later, however, he burst into laughter and the others followed. ‘Stop pestering him and give him a drink, why don’t you?’ Ishii reached for the bottle. ‘No, I’ve got a better idea. We’ll go out. I know a great place just a short ride away. We can take one of your cars, can’t we?’ Kimura scowled, his eyes still closed. ‘No, not another one of your geisha nights. I’ve had enough of them.’ His words were thick, as if his tongue was swollen. ‘Fine then, we’ll take mine.’ Ishii stood up. ‘What are we going to do about your cousin, Kimura? He looks a little queasy.’ Yamamoto jerked his head up, struggling to keep his eyes open. ‘Not my cousin…’ Kimura muttered. ‘Ibaraki will take care of him,’ Shimada said. ‘Yamamoto and Ibaraki are good friends. They sometimes go out together after work. Isn’t that right?’ I hesitated, trying to think of how to respond. As if in silent protest, pain shot behind one eye—a pain so intense that I had to close my eyes. I pictured Kayoko beside me as I lay in darkness at home. But I knew I couldn’t refuse the invitation. When I opened my eyes, Shimada was on his feet, his coat under one arm while he tidied his desk. Even Kimura was rising from his chair, a surly expression on his face. Ishii clapped his hands together and turned to me with a look of delight. ‘So it’s decided. You will come.’ The tea house was in Kagurazaka, an area I had only visited once before, during the day. We turned off the main thoroughfare, and the streets narrowed, feeding into a crisscrossing network of alleys, many only wide enough for two people to pass. They were not like the grimy, rubbish-strewn lanes in other parts of Tokyo, where cats or drunks sometimes curled up to sleep. Kagurazaka’s alleys were cobblestoned and swept clean; lanterns hung outside the doorways of restaurants and tea houses, emitting a soft light. As we left the car and made our way down one of the narrowest passageways, now and then a door opened, and a hubbub of voices and music spilled onto the street. I was gripped by the feeling that I didn’t belong. Although I was from a reasonably well-to-do family, this was a world hitherto unknown to me.

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Ishii stopped next to an unmarked dark wooden door. He rapped on the surface. He hardly waited a second before rapping again. ‘Aya-chan, it’s me, Ishii Shiro. I have a few friends with me.’ The wooden divider slid open. I caught a glimpse of a white face. The girl on the other side said something, too quietly for me to hear. Then the door opened, and we stepped inside. The hallway was so dark I couldn’t see anything at first, but from somewhere ahead of us, a girl was singing to the rapid twang of a shamisen. The haunting music and that high, lilting voice conjured a world of exquisite refinement. For a moment, my headache subsided, but then I thought of Kayoko playing the koto, and with the feeling of guilt, the pain returned. As my eyes adjusted, I noticed the passageway opened up to a rectangular entrance hall, with gold-coloured fusuma panels on all sides. The music emanated from behind one of these panels. The girl who had answered the door took our coats. Her face was heavily painted white, with pink cheeks and a semicircle of crimson on her bottom lip. She looked to be no more than fourteen. A slender, older woman approached us, moving so smoothly she seemed to glide along the passageway. She wore an indigo kimono and a simple gold kazari in her hair, which was pulled back into a heavy bun. ‘Lieutenant Colonel Ishii, how delightful you could join us. We are preparing a room for you this instant. So there are five in your party tonight?’ Ishii nodded. ‘Are Momotaro and Eriko working tonight?’ ‘Yes, they are. However, Momotaro is currently with another client. I can send another girl, Teruha. She’s very beautiful—’ ‘If I’d wanted a different girl, I would have asked for one. Send Momotaro. She’ll want to come, just ask her. If she can’t join us, perhaps I’ll take my group elsewhere.’ The mistress’s smile faltered for a second, then she bowed deeply. ‘Of course, Lieutenant Colonel Ishii. When Momotaro has finished her performance, I will send her to your room. Please, come this way.’ As we passed gold-panelled rooms to our left and right, the sound of laughter and conversation swelled and dimmed like the roar of a passing train. The singing

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and the shamisen grew louder and clearer as we approached the back wall. For a moment, I thought we would be taken to the source of the music, but then we were ushered into an empty room. The grassy smell of tatami greeted us. A long lacquer table graced the centre of the room. Ishii and Kimura sat down on one side, while Shimada, Yamamoto and I sat on the other. Yamamoto had regained some self-possession: he was alert enough to keep his eyes open and stay upright without leaning on me, although his face was still bright red. Ishii ordered sake and whisky. ‘That will do us to start. And bring the girls, quick!’ As soon as the waitress had pulled the door shut, Ishii made a face. ‘The service here is terrible. So slow, and did you see the way the old hag treated me, after all the money I’ve spent? I should go somewhere else. But they have the prettiest girls. They start them young.’ I knew Nomura and Ota would be bitter when they learned I had been invited to drink with Ishii and Kimura. If they had joined us, they would no doubt use the opportunity to ingratiate themselves with Ishii—especially Ota. But I was too timid to do such things. Truth be told, Ishii frightened me. He had a reputation for picking on junior workers and forcing them to do the worst jobs. Even Kimura, who was slightly older than Ishii and had once been ranked higher than him, had been bullied into coming out tonight. I hoped the evening would pass quickly and I could return home without humiliation. The door slid open and a porcelain face appeared. ‘Eriko!’ Ishii thumped the space next to him at the table to indicate she should join him. Eriko bowed until her forehead touched the tatami. When she lifted her head, she smiled. She was very beautiful. Her eyes were even and perfectly shaped. Her lips, which were painted crimson, were defined by a deep cleft. Her nose was long and slender—unusual in an Oriental woman. All her features coalesced in symmetrical perfection. She greeted Kimura and Shimada by name, then introduced herself to Yamamoto and me, before settling herself next to Ishii. Her kimono rustled against the tatami. ‘It has been too long, Ishii-sensei. Have you been in Manchukuo all this time?’ She had a slightly husky voice, making her seem older than she appeared.

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‘Aside from a couple of brief visits, yes. The new project has been very demanding.’ ‘You didn’t come to visit me while you were here?’ Eriko pouted. ‘You’ll have to come visit me in Manchukuo next time. I’ll give you your own apartment within the compound. There’s a cinema there, too.’ He tugged at her kimono sleeve. She playfully swatted away his hand. ‘If only I could. You know that’s against the rules. As much as I’d like to, I’d be banished from my okiya if I ran away with you.’ The waitress appeared with the sake and whisky, and Eriko poured drinks for everyone. She handed me a cup. Ishii leaned forward. ‘I hope you can drink more than Kimura’s cousin, here. A glass of whisky and he’s already asleep.’ He nudged Yamamoto beneath the table. Yamamoto jolted upright, murmuring an apology. Ishii held his cup aloft. ‘To His Majesty the Emperor. Kanpai! ’ We clinked cups and downed the sake. It warmed my chest, but the pain at my temples surged. I winced. Across the table, Ishii was watching me. Heat rushed to my cheeks. I reached across to refill his cup, careful not to let my hands tremble. He said nothing while I poured. Then he lifted the cup and emptied it into his mouth. ‘How did you get a position at my laboratory, anyway? I don’t recognise your name or your face. Let me guess: a connection to Kimura?’ Before I had a chance to explain, Shimada spoke up. ‘Ibaraki’s father was a surgeon at Tokyo Hospital. Ibaraki Shuichiro.’ ‘A surgeon at Tokyo Hospital? Is that so?’ Ishii regarded me coolly. ‘Yes, that’s right,’ I said. ‘One of the very best. I worked for him when I was an intern,’ Kimura said. Although I was aware of my father’s outstanding reputation, hearing Kimura confirm it made me glow with pride. Ishii took out a cigarette, and Eriko brought out a lighter from one of the folds of her kimono to light it. He leaned back and inhaled deeply, looking at me as he did so. He tilted his head towards the ceiling and exhaled a plume of grey smoke. It was a showy gesture that demanded an audience. The room fell silent. ‘You know, I wanted to be a surgeon when I was younger. It seemed to me to be the noblest of professions. But really, what can one surgeon do? He can only

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heal patients one at a time. But a medical scientist… ah. A scientist can heal the world. When I realised that, I decided to dedicate my life to medical research. As my mentor says: “Great doctors tend their country, good doctors tend people and lesser doctors heal illnesses.” A great doctor, just like a great military commander, knows that sometimes a few lives have to be sacrificed to save thousands of others. When this war is over, great doctors will be remembered. The question is, what type of doctor will you be, Ibaraki-kun?’ It wasn’t a question that demanded a response, but over the next few hours as we drank, I was concerned Ishii was testing me. Kimura and Yamamoto became so drunk that they fell asleep. As Shimada, Ishii and Eriko continued talking, I became more and more quiet. At about eleven o’clock the geisha Momotaro appeared. She was another porcelain-skinned beauty of tender age, who smiled slyly upon seeing Ishii. ‘Ah—she’s here!’ Ishii exclaimed. ‘But she’s a bad girl for making me wait.’ Eriko got up and Momotaro arranged herself next to Ishii and proceeded to fawn over him, pouring him drinks and speaking to him in soothing tones. Soon afterwards, they disappeared together into the hallway. I took the opportunity to leave. When I opened the front door to my home, the aroma of simmering broth reached me. My stomach turned. Although I ordinarily enjoyed Kayoko’s cooking, I felt ill from the alcohol, my headache and the long day I’d had. I wanted nothing more than to go straight to the washroom to scrub myself clean. I was surprised to find Kayoko waiting for me at the kotatsu, and the table set for two. ‘You waited for me? But it’s almost midnight.’ ‘I’ve hardly seen you all week. I wanted to spend time with you. Come, let’s eat.’ She went into the kitchen to serve the meal. A warm bath beckoned, but I knew I couldn’t refuse Kayoko after the effort she’d gone to. I removed my jacket and sprawled on the tatami, shutting my eyes. I tried to empty my mind of the images I’d seen that day. Rotting flesh. Blackened limbs. The mat was cool against my back. The fresh scent calmed me. I heard the pad of Kayoko’s feet and the clack of bowls as she set them down on the table. I smelled soy sauce and mirin. I opened my eyes and sat up. ‘You made my favourite?’

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The chunks of yellowtail and radish were golden and steaming. Slivers of ginger and green mitsuba leaves were scattered on top. Boiled spinach and grated radish were set out in the gold-leaf lacquer bowls we’d been given as a wedding present. Despite my nausea, my mouth began to water. ‘What’s the special occasion?’ ‘I’ll tell you in a moment.’ I was a little apprehensive, but Kayoko’s happy disposition suggested something good. Over the first year of our marriage, I’d come to accept my wife’s occasionally mysterious ways: every so often she withdrew into herself, avoiding me for hours while she went outside for a solitary walk, read or practised the koto. Tonight, however, she was being playful. ‘Sit down,’ she said. ‘Dinner is ready.’ My mind was finally blank. Through the windows I glimpsed the yellow lights of the house next door, like a beacon that aided our safe passage. A silhouette moved across the window, a dark shape that separated and merged into the shadows. Sometimes, on the weekends, I saw the elderly couple who were our neighbours. They often walked to the markets together, guiding each other around the holes in the path, and I wondered if Kayoko and I would grow similarly dependent as the decades passed. Kayoko brushed past me, carrying a tray of bowls. ‘Who else is coming to dinner?’ I asked. ‘That’s enough to feed a family of six.’ ‘No, just us,’ she said coyly. ‘Come, sit down.’ I eased onto the cushion at the wide end of the table and plunged my feet into the cavity. The coal heater warmed my feet. ‘Itadakimasu,’ I said, picking up my rice bowl and scooping a portion of sticky grains into my mouth. My appetite had returned. ‘Itadakimasu,’ Kayoko said softly. The stew was delicious. Subtly sweet and rich with the flavours of fish, radish and mirin. She must have been preparing it for a long time. ‘Soon we’ll have to make space for another at the table.’ Kayoko spoke into her bowl of soup. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘I went to a doctor today. Tomo, I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a child.’

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Her eyes glistened. I put down my chopsticks. My spine was tingling. Thoughts crowded my mind. I must have stared at her for a while, because she asked, ‘Tomo, what’s wrong? Aren’t you happy?’ ‘Yes, of course, I am… I’m surprised, that’s all. I hadn’t noticed a change in you.’ ‘I’ve had my suspicions for the past three weeks. I was late, and I wasn’t feeling well. The doctor confirmed it today.’ ‘Why didn’t you say anything to me earlier?’ ‘I didn’t want to tell you until I was certain. You’ve been working so hard lately. I didn’t want to distract you.’ I reached across the table and touched her hand. ‘I’m so happy. A baby. We’ll be blessed.’ ‘I already told Mother. She guessed when I saw her last week. She took me to the doctor today.’ ‘So it’s news, then. I’ll tell my mother she’ll be a grandmother again. And my sister will be glad her children will have someone new to play with.’ I smiled. But when I thought of our baby, images of blistered skin and a child’s black fingers came to mind.

C Two months later, we readied ourselves to receive another shipment of specimens. This time, Yamamoto was allowed to stay back with Nomura, Ota and me. We were told the volume was larger, so two nurses from the Army Medical College were sent to assist us. They stood in the foyer with us, waiting for the delivery. They were only young, no more than twenty or so—too young to be working past midnight, and far too young to be engaged in work such as this. I wondered what they’d been told. Yamamoto tried to engage them in conversation by asking them where they’d studied, but they gave the briefest of answers and hardly met his gaze. I suspected they knew of our work. I felt stained by my association with the laboratory. The trucks arrived and the crates were ferried to the basement. Shimada levered

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them open and we began to move the specimens into the storage room. Most of them were in small jars—hands, feet, heads, hearts and other organs—but one of the crates held a single large container of whole bodies. Some had blistered or gangrenous skin, or were decapitated. Others were so smooth and showed no signs of malady save for their chest cavity, which had been opened up for dissection. There was the body of a woman, too. She had her arms outstretched, as if she were trying to cling on to something. One of the nurses stepped forward to help move the bodies into the formalin tank in the storage room, but when she looked inside, she put her hand to her mouth and turned away. It was a strangely polite gesture, as if she were minding her manners for the sake of not offending the corpses. At first I thought it was a bad smell that had made her recoil, but when I looked into the container the cause of her consternation became clear. Among the larger bodies was the body of a child, about two years old. His legs were buckled beneath him. His skin was blackened and covered in blisters. I couldn’t see his face, for he was curled up, his forehead resting on his knees and his arms wrapped around them. He appeared to be sitting in this position when he died. Everyone stopped. ‘I can’t,’ the nurse whispered. Her eyes filled with tears. No one wanted to touch the child. Seconds passed. Nobody moved. ‘I’ll do it.’ I reached in and picked up the boy as gently as I could. There was a numbered tag around his neck. His body was light, as if he were hollow. After we had unloaded all the crates, I returned home. It was after midnight when I headed to the bathroom to wash away the day. Kayoko surprised me in the corridor as I made my way back from the bath. All the lights were out, but she was standing by the sliding doors that led to the kitchen, her face in darkness but the soft light of the moon spilling across her hips. ‘Kayoko,’ I said, almost colliding with her. She had her hand on her belly, the cloth of her nightdress pulled into her grip. Thinking she was on her way to the bathroom, I stepped aside for her to pass. She didn’t move. ‘I know why you wash yourself after work,’ she said. ‘Why you scrub so hard.’ My blood surged. How could she know? Was it the smell of the formalin? Were

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my clothes soiled with their blood? ‘I know what you do,’ she continued. ‘You think I don’t notice, but I do.’ My eyes adjusted to the light and Kayoko’s face emerged from the gloom. I had expected her gaze to be hard, or that she wouldn’t be able to look at me at all, like the nurses earlier that night, but her eyes were round and full of pity. As soft as her skin. My wife, my love. She knew, and she didn’t hate me. She could still look at me with love. The realisation unhinged me. I felt dizzy with relief. ‘Kayoko…’ I reached out to take her arm, to draw her warmth to me. I wanted to hold her, to hear her tell me it was all right. I wanted her to shoulder the burden of my pain. But before I touched her, she spoke. ‘I’m not angry, I know you have to do it for work. You have to go to those places, with those women—’ her face creased ‘—but you can’t do it so much. Not after our baby is born. It wouldn’t be fair. Not to me, or the baby.’ The words I was about to speak caught in my throat. The relief I had felt seconds earlier vanished. Emptiness gnawed at my stomach. To have been on the verge of sharing the pain, then have the comfort snatched away! All hope was knocked out of me. My face must have shown my despair, because Kayoko spoke more gently. ‘I know how important your work is. But when the baby comes, I want it... I want us to be more like a family. You’ve been so distracted lately. When I try to talk to you, it’s as if you’re not there. You’re always at work or out late socialising with your colleagues and geishas. I can’t sleep at night because I’m so worried. You need to be at home more when our child comes. Can you do that?’ I nodded. I tried to speak, but no words came out. I made a noise in my throat. ‘Tomo, are you all right?’ She took my hand in hers, and with her other hand she reached up to touch my cheek, wiping away the wetness. I longed to tell her about my work. But I couldn’t—I had given Kimura and Shimada my word. Besides, what would Kayoko think of me? What if she couldn’t forgive me? It was better to remain silent and never mention it to our families, as Kimura had said. ‘What’s the matter? It’s okay. You haven’t done anything wrong. I know it has been hard.’ She brought her body closer and slipped her arms under mine. She rested her head on my chest. I felt the warmth of it through my yukata, and the

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warmth of her belly as it pressed against me, our child inside.

C With Ishii’s support, Kimura planned a demonstration at the Army Medical College for staff, students and several key army figures in the new year. He hoped to showcase the work the laboratory had been doing under Ishii’s command, and in doing so secure more funding. Shimada was tasked with delivering the lecture. Everyone in our team had an important role to play, but Shimada asked me to assist with dissection. ‘Nomura and Ota are better at analysis than you, but your surgical skills are superior. Perhaps it’s in your blood. I’d prefer to have you help me on the day,’ he said in his office one afternoon. I flushed with pride and thanked him for his choice. But as I walked back to the laboratory, my stomach felt heavy. I’d been given another responsibility, just when I hoped to spend more time with Kayoko. I consoled myself with the thought of how proud she’d be to learn Shimada had chosen me. Snow was falling as I walked home from the station—the first snow of the season. Soft flakes landed on my face. Although I had tried to leave work early, it was nine o’clock by the time I arrived home. I opened our front door and saw two extra pairs of shoes at the entrance. I wondered if we had dinner guests I’d forgotten about. Voices murmured from somewhere down the hall. ‘Tomo!’ Kayoko’s voice was shrill. A plump woman with silver-threaded hair padded along the hallway towards me. Her skin creased around her eyes and mouth. She looked familiar. I wondered if she was a relative of Kayoko’s. ‘Doctor Ibaraki? I’m Taito, your neighbour. Your wife’s unwell, I’m afraid. I heard her crying in the bathroom and came to see if I could help. My husband fetched a doctor who lives nearby.’ I hurried to the bathroom. My legs felt weak. The doctor was crouched in the doorway. He stood up when he heard me, and I saw Kayoko huddled in the corner. She was sitting on the wooden wash stool. Her hair fell in damp, tangled clumps

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around her face. A blanket cloaked her shoulders. Beneath it, the wet fabric of her nightdress clung to her skin. Blood stained the lower half. Tightness seized my chest. ‘Kayoko, are you all right?’ I crouched beside her. She glared at me. ‘Where were you?’ I froze, unable to breathe. ‘Where were you?’ she repeated, her voice hard. ‘I’m sorry, I was at work. I had no idea…’ I looked at the doctor. He was only a few years older than me, with hair that was flecked grey at the temples. I noticed he was still wearing his coat, the sleeves pushed up his forearms, although it was warm inside our house. No one had offered to take it for him. He gazed at me sympathetically. He struck me as the sort of man who was born to do this job: caring for the sick and weak. The sort of man I would never be. ‘I’m sorry, but you lost the child,’ he said. I nodded. A lump formed in my throat. I was filled with grief, but my greatest concern was Kayoko. She was slumped against the wall, her expression blank. ‘Is she all right?’ I asked. ‘She’s weak. She’s still passing a lot of blood. But she should be all right. The emotional loss will be the most difficult for her to recover from. It’s always hard when it’s your first.’ He said it so gently I thought that he must have had a similar experience in the past. ‘How long has she been like this?’ ‘I only got here an hour ago. But Mrs Taito has been with her longer. Her husband called on me. I live only a few streets away.’ I imagined him returning home to his family while there was still light left in the day. He would share stories of the patients he’d treated, and his wife would beam with admiration. I had the sudden urge to ask him about his children, but I suppressed the feeling. ‘Should I put her to bed?’ ‘She said she wants to stay here until it’s over. Whatever makes her comfortable— as long as she’s not cold. I understand you’re a doctor yourself?’ I nodded. ‘But I’m now in research.’

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‘Where?’ ‘At a new unit attached to Tokyo University. The microbiology department.’ I felt bad lying to the doctor, especially since he’d treated Kayoko with such kindness. ‘Well, I’m sure she’s in capable hands with you. I don’t want to intrude…’ He turned to leave, pushing down his coat sleeves. ‘No!’ Kayoko cried out. ‘Sensei, stay, please stay…’ Her eyes were wide. ‘Kayoko, it’s very late,’ I said. ‘The doctor has to go back to his family—’ ‘Yes, because that’s what good husbands do. They don’t stay out drinking when their wife’s pregnant.’ I’d never seen Kayoko so angry, so willing to shame anyone—especially not in front of strangers. She was behaving like a different person. The doctor laughed nervously. ‘Of course I can stay, Mrs Ibaraki. It’s no trouble.’ I felt as if the air had been sucked out of me. My chin trembled. I tried to blink away tears. Kayoko’s rejection pained me more than the loss of our child, I realised, and an even greater sadness came over me. I stepped outside for a moment to compose myself. Mrs Taito was standing in the corridor, just a few feet away. She smiled. Embarrassed she’d seen my distress, I began to turn away, but she put out her hand. Her face was filled with tenderness. ‘It’s hard, I know. But she won’t be like this for long. Time heals all wounds, you’ll see.’

C Kayoko’s mother travelled from Shonandai to look after her. She arrived the next day with a suitcase in her hand, her hair loose and her face unfamiliar without make-up. I slept on a futon in the living room to allow them the bedroom to themselves. I crept around the house. Whispered conversations floated around me. Sometimes I heard crying. I hovered on the periphery, trying not to make a sound. I went back to work after a day’s absence. I was surprised at how relieved I was to be back at my microscope under the laboratory’s bright lights. Shimada gave his condolences and told me he and his wife had a child in similar circumstances.

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‘Don’t worry, she’ll have a healthy child again, you’ll see,’ he said. ‘At the time, you wonder how any human could go on living after such suffering. And then, years later, you look back and understand.’ Shimada dismissed me early that evening so I could be with Kayoko. The light was off in the hallway when I arrived home. In the living room, I noticed a place set for one person at the table. The bedroom door slid open and Mrs Sasaki appeared, carefully closing the partition behind her. ‘Welcome home. I made dinner. Shall I serve you now?’ She scooped up the bowl on the table and went into the kitchen and reappeared carrying a tray. She set some bowls down on the table. ‘Kayoko and I ate earlier,’ she said. ‘How is she?’ Mrs Sasaki inclined her head and frowned. ‘She’s still distressed. She didn’t want to get out of bed today. Maybe tomorrow.’ ‘Can I see her?’ Mrs Sasaki’s mouth opened a fraction as she drew a breath. ‘Maybe not right now…’ I started moving towards the bedroom. ‘Wait! She doesn’t want to see you.’ Mrs Sasaki’s face was anguished. ‘She’s still upset.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘It’s not my business, but… she’s hurt that you didn’t come home earlier that night.’ My face felt hot. I was incensed that Kayoko had confided in her mother about our relationship. ‘But how could I have known what had happened? What could I have done?’ ‘Not just that night, but all the other nights, too. A husband needs to provide more than just money to put food on the table. She needed you, and you weren’t there for her.’ I stared at Mrs Sasaki’s face. Her drawn-on eyebrows. The cheeks that had grown heavy with age. The ugliness of this woman who’d come into my house and presumed to know me. She had no idea of the things I had to do each day, the secrets I had to keep. Neither did Kayoko. She didn’t understand the sacrifices I

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had made to serve our nation—to help ordinary people such as her. A weight that had been teetering inside me finally fell away. Blood rushed to my face. I said something very foolish. I said it loud enough for my wife to hear through the thin paper walls. ‘Very well, then. If that’s how Kayoko feels, I won’t disturb her tonight. I won’t disturb her ever again.’ I walked out of the room and left the house. The door shuddered behind me. I walked around the neighbourhood, stepping through the grey slush of the previous day’s snow. I went as far as the river and listened to the burbling black mass whispering its ancient lore. With fresh air in my lungs, I returned hours later, realising what a fool I’d been. But the bedroom was dark. In any case, the damage was already done.

C Kayoko stood in the hallway with her bags at her feet. The fullness of her skin, so smooth and pale yet full of life, released me from the images that haunted me each day. Standing there before me, on the threshold of our house, Kayoko was my only tie to life. ‘I shouldn’t keep Mother waiting,’ she said. Her voice trembled. As she knelt to pick up her luggage, her face disappeared in the darkness. The tortoiseshell handles of the bag clicked. ‘Kayoko, I wish you’d stay.’ ‘Please, Tomo. It’s settled now. I want to go to my parents’. At least for a little while.’ ‘I’m sorry for what I said the other day. I didn’t mean it. I was frustrated because I hadn’t seen you in days. I was worried about you. Please, you haven’t given me a chance.’ ‘Haven’t given you a chance?’ Kayoko’s face contorted. ‘How could you say that? All last year you were cold to me. You went out drinking, you stayed back late at work. I tried to get through to you, but you ignored me. Even when you were at home you acted as if you didn’t want to be near me. I tried to please you, but it was no use. I thought having the baby would change things, but…’ Her

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voice caught. ‘I don’t know what I did to make you stop loving me. Was it the baby? Was that why?’ I ached to hold her, to be close to her again. ‘No, no, of course not. It wasn’t the baby. It had nothing to do with you.’ ‘Another woman? Then what? It must be me. Be honest with me, please.’ ‘No, there’s no other woman. There never was. I only went out drinking when I had to. It wasn’t you. It’s my work—the things I’ve had to do… Don’t leave me, Kayoko. I need you. Please…’ I was overcome with the urge to touch her, to feel her soft skin beneath my fingertips. I longed to breathe in her clean scent. I put out my hand. ‘No, don’t. It’s too late. I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to my parents’. I’m sorry, Tomo. I need to get away.’ She stooped to pick up the last of her belongings. She slipped on her shoes and stepped outside. For a moment, she was framed in the doorway. A black silhouette against the fallen snow. The door shut, returning me to darkness.

C In the weeks following Kayoko’s departure, I moved through life as if in a dream. I ate and went to work, yet the details passed me by. Everything was heavy, drawn out. As much as I tried to move ahead, a current swirled against me, pushing me further downstream. I spent the New Year’s holiday by myself. My mother presumed I went to Kayoko’s parents’ house for the celebration, as I hadn’t told her about our rift. I suppose I thought that if I didn’t put it into words, it might not be true. I also expected Kayoko to return home soon. At midnight, I walked to the local shrine alone. Children in kimono ran through the torii gate, their geta clacking on the stone path. Inside the shrine grounds, their parents lifted them up to ring the bell and pray for good luck. When they wished me a happy new year, I looked away. Snow fell steadily over the next few days, cloaking the landscape in white. I stayed indoors and didn’t see or speak to anyone I knew. It was a strange time;

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sounds were muffled and everything moved slowly. My senses were dull, as if a veil had been pulled over them. I returned to work the following week, catching the crowded train into town. When we rattled across the bridge, I noticed the river had frozen since I’d seen it last. The surface had turned opaque and silent. But the darkness of the icy grooves made me think of the flowing river beneath—the current below the surface, straining for release. At the laboratory, I tried to keep to myself. When the others discussed their holidays, I turned to my microscope to continue my work. I took my lunch break late so I would be alone in the tearoom. At the end of the day, I left the laboratory without waiting for Yamamoto as I used to. My colleagues must have thought my behaviour strange—perhaps they put it down to the burden of Kayoko’s miscarriage. In any case, they had more pressing concerns than wondering about me: the dissection demonstration would take place the following week. Many high-ranking officers were invited, and there was much to be done in preparation. The next few days passed in a blur. I rehearsed the dissection procedure with Shimada, and although I performed to his satisfaction, my mind was elsewhere. The demonstration was held in an older wing of the Army Medical College, in a low brick building around the corner from the laboratory. On the morning of the event, the branches of the deciduous trees lining the streets nearby were almost bare and the road was scattered with fallen leaves. The scent of pine sweetened the air. We set up inside the frigid first-floor meeting room, our breath unfurling in translucent puffs. At Shimada’s request, I brought a dissection table from the laboratory storeroom and assembled a long list of tools. Nomura, Ota and Yamamoto spent the morning going back and forth between the laboratory and the meeting room, pushing trolleys with crates full of specimens. Shimada paced the area between the chairs and the demonstration table, checking the equipment off his list, adjusting the position of the table, stepping back, moving it again. ‘So cold in here. Perhaps this was the wrong location,’ he muttered to himself. ‘Are you ready?’ he asked me more than once. Guests began to arrive in the afternoon. Major Kimura stood near the door, snapping to attention and saluting the high-ranking military officers who entered

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the room. Lieutenant General Chikahiko Koizumi, the dean of the Army Medical College, arrived, his bald pate shining. He stopped to survey the room. As his eyes roamed, our gaze met. His moustache twitched. Something gripped me, a feeling I couldn’t place. More college personnel, military men and a few outsiders arrived and filled the rows of seats. I tried not to study the audience for fear it would heighten my nerves, and instead busied myself with laying out the equipment. At three o’clock, Kimura closed the door and addressed the audience. ‘You have been invited here today to learn about the latest advances in biological warfare development carried out by the Epidemic Prevention Laboratory. I’d like to welcome special guests Colonel Sato and Lieutenant Colonel Ogawa. Lieutenant Colonel Ishii sends his apologies as he couldn’t be here today—he’s overseeing a crucial trial in Manchukuo. Today, Professor Shimada, head of operations within the Epidemic Prevention Laboratory, will demonstrate the efficacy of the bubonic plague as a biological weapon. Professor Shimada?’ Shimada cleared his throat. His Adam’s apple slid up and down, as often happened when he was anxious. ‘Thank you. Until recently, our research focused on developing synthetic forms of the Yersinia pestis bacterium, but with the advent of testing overseas, we are now able to analyse and compare the spread of the disease in human subjects across different dosages and methods of infection.’ He signalled to Nomura, Ota and Yamamoto. They removed the blanket from the specimen trolley and opened the metal container beneath. The three of them reached in and lifted out a specimen, then placed the body on the dissection table with a soft thunk. The corpse was a middle-aged male. The flesh on his neck, arms and hands was swollen and black. Out of the formalin solution, the rest of his skin looked shockingly pale. ‘This subject was injected with twenty micrograms of the bacterium and died within two days. Note the necrosis of the extremities, on the nose, fingers and toes, and ecchymosis of the forearms.’ Shimada pointed to the bruising on the arms. ‘The bubo visible at the groin and neck also indicate the advanced state of the disease. Ibaraki, make a cut above the inguinal lymph node and remove the bubo.’ Taking a scalpel, I sliced the skin along the top of the groin and carefully peeled

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it back to expose the swollen node and the cutaneous nerves of the thigh. With several quick cuts I released the node and set it on the table. It was an inch wide. ‘Most plague victims would not exhibit such symptoms until the fourth or fifth day of infection; this subject’s nodes were swollen to eighty per cent of this size on the first day. Now, if we look at the lenticulae on the abdomen, we notice a similar advanced stage of progression. Ibaraki, could you…?’ Shimada hesitated. ‘Actually, Nomura, get the infant. It’s a better example.’ My breath was hot inside my surgical mask as I watched Nomura reach into the container and removed the corpse. He laid it on the table in front of me, at the feet of the male cadaver. It was the boy I’d unloaded from the crate. His eyes were shut to the world; his head bent as before. His fingers and toes were swollen and grey, progressing to black at the tips. They had a waxy sheen. Black dots like tiny black stars covered the boy’s protruding belly. ‘Make a midline incision to open up the abdominal cavity.’ I heard Shimada say the words, but it was as if they travelled to me under water. I froze. The knuckles of my hand were white. ‘Ibaraki? An incision, please.’ I stared at the boy, unable to move. I heard the audience fidget. Someone coughed at the back of the room. ‘What’s the matter with you?’ Shimada hissed near my ear. ‘Incise the specimen now.’ Someone moved behind me and took the scalpel from my hand. Yamamoto appeared, looking earnestly at me. ‘Here, let me,’ he said. In one swift motion, he cut along the child’s linea alba, incising the abdominal wall and exposing the organs underneath. As intestines spilled from the cavity, I flinched, suddenly jolted from my daze. Yamamoto stepped back. I looked up at the audience before me. They were so close I could see the glint on the brass buttons of the military uniforms. Major Kimura and the dean sat in the front row. They were both staring at me.

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The following day, I was called to Major Kimura’s office as soon as I arrived at work. I knocked on his door, my heart thudding in my chest. ‘Yes?’ he called. ‘You wanted to see me, sir?’ He looked up from a folder open on his desk. ‘Ah, Ibaraki. Take a seat.’ He gestured to a chair. Although I’d visited his office numerous times, he hadn’t invited me to sit there since my initial interview. Dread formed at the pit of my stomach. The chair sighed as it took my weight. Framed certificates lined the wall behind Kimura’s desk. A glass cabinet containing medals and Kimura’s porcelain collection stood to my left and I knew from memory that behind me was a bookcase filled with leather-bound titles in German, English and French. Kimura’s desk was neat. A glass lamp, a notepad, a folder and a desk stand with an ink pad for his seal and two pens were all that graced the broad surface. He shut the folder with a snap. ‘I trust you know why you’re here?’ He stared at me, his gaze even. ‘Yes, sir. If you mean the demonstration yesterday…’ ‘That’s right.’ He clasped his hands on the desk in front of him. ‘How long have you worked for me, Ibaraki? A year? Two years?’ ‘Almost two years,’ I said. ‘In that time I’ve had no cause to complain about you. You are punctual and meticulous. You work hard and have tremendous potential. Shimada has drawn my attention to your achievements on a number of occasions. Even Lieutenant Colonel Ishii approved of you. Until this week, I was going to nominate you to go to Manchukuo to train under him.’ My head felt light. ‘Yesterday, however, you showed a different side when you refused to carry out a simple procedure. Your behaviour reflected poorly on our organisation and caused me, personally, a great deal of embarrassment. It would have been even more humiliating if Yamamoto hadn’t stepped in to do your job.’ ‘Please, I was not myself. My wife suffered—’ ‘Did I say you could speak?’ Kimura eyes blazed. ‘Only fools speak when their superior is talking!’

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I hung my head. There was a moment of silence before Kimura continued. ‘I’ve been trying to determine whether your recent indiscretion was an isolated incident or whether you might show such insubordination again. We’re at a crucial juncture in our research, when we cannot afford to take risks—and you, Ibaraki, are a risk. Now, Shimada has told me of your troubles at home. I understand that work puts a strain on your family. Our families suffer. We all suffer. But a soldier of the Fatherland fights for His Majesty—regardless of his family, regardless of his personal views. He puts aside his feelings. And so must you.’ He opened the folder on his desk. He picked up a sealed envelope and held it in his hand. ‘Here’s a letter with the terms of your termination. You’ll receive full pay for the next three months. Under the circumstances, it was the best I could do.’ My mouth opened. I felt as if the air in my body had been knocked out of me. If I lost my job, I would have nothing. I wondered who else would hire me. But it was also a matter of pride. A dismissal would affect me for years to come. ‘Please…’ I whispered. ‘Is there something you wanted to say?’ ‘Please, sir, I beg you to give me another chance. I’ll never do it again, I promise. I am always discreet. Just that once…’ Kimura sighed. ‘Try to see it from my position. Our entire unit relies on secrecy. One moment of weakness and we could be exposed. Our honour is at stake. Not just now, but in years to come. If you are truly a man of honour, you’ll know to hold your tongue and never speak of the Epidemic Prevention Laboratory again. Take the secret to your grave. Is that clear? To disregard that would bring great shame on you and your family—on all of us. Think of your father: I’m sure he had only the highest hopes for his son. You’re still young. You’ll be able to find another job in time. You could still do great things.’ He thrust the envelope towards me. ‘In a few years’ time, we’ll be ruling over Greater East Asia, and our suffering will be rewarded. Have faith that that time will come. That will be all, thank you, Mr Ibaraki. Please exit the building in a timely manner.’

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Without a job and without Kayoko, there was no need for me to stay in the city. I left our house in Setagaya, the shutters closed to the wind and the grey light outside, and returned to my family home. The weeds in the yard had grown high and the furry heads of the green stalks brushed against the fence. Mother had changed, too. The line of her mouth had softened and her hair had greyed. I’d expected disappointment when I returned to live with her, but she seemed happy to have me back. Nobuhiro was away doing military training in Nagano. Megumi visited with her children twice a week. Hanako, my three-year-old niece, climbed onto my lap whenever she saw me. Megumi tried to teach her the word for ‘uncle’, ojisan, but all she managed was ji-ji. Kazuo, my newborn nephew, mostly cried or slept against his mother’s breast. Megumi took him to the kitchen while I played with Hanako. I could hear my sister whispering to Mother. I was certain it was about me, but I no longer cared. My life had become one that others whispered about. I tried to call Kayoko at her parents’ home. ‘She’s convalescing in the country,’ her father said, his voice cool. ‘Her mother’s with her. I don’t know when they’ll be back.’ And so the days passed. I remember the subtle shift of light in the house at different times of the day. The burnt-rice smell of the rice balls I ate. Time seemed to collapse, pulling all meaning into it. The days crawled by and vanished all at once. The weather grew warm, bringing a flourish of green leaves. While my mother and Megumi frequented parks and festivals, I spent the long, hot summer days indoors, too dispirited to go out. In the early autumn, my aunt visited from Osaka, bringing turtle-shaped manju and arare rice crackers, small and glossy in my hand as I scooped them from the packet. Her husband worked in the shipping industry, and he’d heard of a job at a hospital in Australia, she said. He could make inquiries on my behalf if I was interested. ‘Australia—where on earth?’ My mother frowned. ‘I’m not sure you should bother.’ ‘We should ask, at least,’ I said. Word came soon afterwards. The job was in Broome in north-west Australia,

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thousands of miles away. A very respectable position as the head of a small hospital, but with only moderate pay. A two-year contract, with an option to extend. ‘Don’t take it,’ Mother said. ‘Be patient. You’ll find a job here soon.’ But the stain of my dismissal meant my prospects in Japan were slim. I wasn’t ready to face my friends and former colleagues and tell them about my situation, not yet. Kayoko’s silence hung over me, unacknowledged, yet ever present. Instead of accepting my loss, I wanted to escape. I yearned to put all the pain behind me and start afresh. The thought of Australia grew more attractive with each passing day.

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BROOME 1941

I woke early, my back damp with sweat. Although I had shifted my bed to the verandah, I could not escape the humidity. Beyond the pale gauze of the mosquito net, the sky was still dark. Insects trilled around me, like the pulse of an ancient heart. From somewhere far away, a bird began its morning call. I decided to take a walk before the sun grew too hot. The streets were quiet at the start of the wet, the exodus almost complete. President Kanemori had left with his family some months earlier. Only Hama remained, as usual. I planned to celebrate the new year in Broome with him, as my friends in Melbourne had returned to Japan earlier in the year. A few luggers were still at sea, making the most of the late start to the wet, so I decided to keep the hospital open two more weeks. I heard the crunch of my feet along the dusty road, the subtle shift when I stepped on a pebble or a twig. The air filled my nostrils and mouth, tasting of metal. At the hospital, I drew the curtains shut and closed the door against the heat. I sat in the anteroom, updating the log of patients by the glow of light peeking from beneath the curtain. Sister Bernice moved about the ward, unencumbered by the gloom. She returned equipment to the cabinet and supplies to their boxes. Doors creaked. Glass clinked. She was going to Geraldton at the end of the week. ‘Hello?’ a muffled voice called from the entrance. It was one of Ang Pok’s laundry boys. Sister Bernice went out to meet him. I heard the hum of their voices. Minutes later she appeared in the doorway. ‘Doctor?’

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I looked up. Even in the darkness, I could see her distress. Her brows were knotted. She clutched at her throat. I wondered if there had been an altercation. ‘I’ve just heard some distressing news. Ren Kin just told me Japan bombed Hawaii sometime early this morning. They attacked the US naval fleet, apparently sunk several ships. It’s all over the wireless, he said.’ I moved to the corner of the room and switched on the wireless. Sister Bernice stood beside me as we listened to the broadcast. ‘… In breaking news, earlier today, at seven-fifty am Honolulu time, Japan launched a surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor off the southwest coast of Hawaii, sinking at least two battleships and damaging several others, and destroying hundreds of US aircraft. The National Broadcasting Corporation in Honolulu states that more than one hundred Japanese planes were involved in the attack, which occurred in two waves, forty minutes apart. Heavy US casualties are expected. President Roosevelt has condemned the attacks.’ The broadcaster paused, then repeated the message. After I had listened to it a second time, I lowered the volume. I felt empty. For months, I had feared Japan’s entry in to the Second World War, knowing the challenges it would present. Now that it had happened, however, I found I didn’t feel anything—no fear, regret or even sadness. Sister Bernice gazed at me. ‘Don’t you realise what this means? We’re at war with Japan now. You mustn’t stay here. It isn’t safe.’ Perhaps mistaking my silence for shock, she continued to speak. ‘They’ll come for you—they’ll put you away. You should have left a long time ago.’ Her face was creased in anguish. I felt a great tenderness towards her at that moment. ‘Thank you for your concern, Sister, but you need not worry—I have prepared myself for this outcome.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘When President Kanemori and the others returned to Japan, I was invited to join them, but I decided to remain. I felt it was my duty as a doctor and as a member of this community to stay and face the inevitable consequences.’ Sister Bernice drew her hand from her throat. ‘“The inevitable consequences?” Surely you don’t mean that. They’ll put you in prison, or worse. What good will

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you be to this community if you’re locked up?’ Her cheeks were flushed. Sensing her agitation, I tried to put an end to the conversation. ‘I made my choice, Sister. Whether right or wrong, it is now too late to change. I have to stay here in Broome. I hope I can do so with your blessing.’ She stared at me for several seconds, then lifted her head and drew her breath in. Her mouth formed a tight line. ‘Very well, Doctor. As you wish. May I suggest you start gathering your belongings? And we’ll need to start making arrangements for the closure of the hospital. There’ll be no one to replace you once you’re gone.’ She walked out of the room. A moment later I heard her rattling through the medicine cabinet. From the door of the anteroom, I watched as she removed packets and boxes and dumped them on top of the cabinet. Her head shook with the vigour of her movements. She must have noticed me, but she didn’t look up. We barely exchanged another word for the rest of the day. At three o’clock she asked if she could leave early. ‘I think it will storm soon. I’d like to return home before it does.’ She had never asked to leave early before. I was aware I’d disappointed her over my decision to stay in Broome, but what else could I do? There was no point in trying to run now. I was an enemy alien. She had to accept that. ‘Of course,’ I said. ‘You know how quiet it has been here. And please don’t feel you need to come here in the next few days if you have other things to do. I can manage on my own.’ Darkness crossed her face, but she turned back to the cupboard without saying anything. Before she left for the day, I made a feeble attempt to put things right between us. ‘Thank you for your help, Sister. And for your concern for my wellbeing. I am forever grateful for all you have done. I hope I have not offended you in any way.’ She looked as if she was about to say something, but instead she gave a resolute nod, then opened the door and stepped outside. Although it was my fourth summer in Broome, it always amazed me how quickly conditions changed. One moment I was sweeping the verandah, the air so heavy it seemed to inhabit me, and the next a cool gust of wind stirred up debris and whipped through the trees. Rain began pelting the roof. Praying it wasn’t the start

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of a cyclone, I hurried to secure all the shutters. The storm was still raging when I retired to bed. Noise disturbed me throughout the night. Thunder shook the windows and the wind howled outside; the battering of the rain entered my dreams in the form of gunfire. When I heard a tapping sound I thought it was the wind shaking the shutters. But when the same distinct pattern of tapping occurred again, I got up and went to the door. I opened it and found Sister Bernice standing on my verandah. With no umbrella or raincoat, she was drenched. Her veil had slipped back from her crown, revealing a damp tangle of hair. In her dishevelled state, she seemed a different, much younger, person—someone I knew by sight but had little connection with, like the daughters of master pearlers who spent most of the year at school in Perth and returned to Broome for the holidays. ‘Sister, what’s wrong? Is someone sick?’ Thinking one of the other nuns must be ill, I began to turn away from the door to get my things, but instead of answering me, her eyes darted past me to the hallway and then she stepped inside. I offered her a seat but she remained standing. She was breathless, her eyes wide. I had never seen her so flustered. ‘I’m sorry for disturbing you—for coming so late. You must think me very strange. But I cannot stop thinking about what you said today. It just does not seem right to me that you expected war to break out with Japan—and yet, knowing this, still you stayed? Wouldn’t you have been safer, happier, if you’d returned to Japan?’ I was taken aback. The drumming of the rain on the tin roof grew louder, a roar that filled my ears. I wanted the sound to grow so loud it deafened me. I stared at Sister Bernice. Water beaded on her forehead and trickled towards her eyes. Her gaze was unflinching. I could see she was determined not to leave without an answer. The thought occurred to me that I could tell her. If not about the laboratory, at least about what had happened between Kayoko and me. If there was anyone who could listen without judgment, it would be Bernice. But how to put my pain into words? ‘I did not want to go back to Japan. Not yet,’ I said finally. ‘My family—so much occurred before I left… It’s hard for you to understand—’ ‘Why? Because I’m young? Because I’m a nun?’ The sharpness of her voice

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startled me. She glared at me. I blinked. My heart sank as I realised the opportunity was gone. I could not tell her about my past—how I hadn’t been there for Kayoko when she’d needed me the most. I certainly couldn’t tell Bernice when she was so aggrieved—if I ever could at all. ‘No, no. Nothing like that. Something happened in Japan. It is hard for me to say…’ I stared at the doorframe behind Bernice. I noticed we were standing in the same arrangement in the hallway as Kayoko and I were on the day she left. I forced myself to look away. Butter-yellow paint coated the walls. As the rain continued its assault, the space between Sister Bernice and I seemed to stretch apart. Finally, she spoke again. Her voice was strange. ‘All these years we’ve worked together, I still don’t know who you are. I’ve tried to understand you—the Lord knows how much I’ve tried. But as soon as you show a part of yourself, almost at once you hide it away. I see you almost every day, and yet I don’t know the slightest thing about you. Perhaps I shouldn’t care, but I do.’ Unease welled within me, a feeling so strong I had to lean against the wall for support. ‘Remember the time I left for Geraldton early? You thought I left because of the way you treated me after I found that thing inside the book. And I was upset—I was angry with you for shouting at me. But that’s not why I left. The reason I left was I realised something—a feeling was growing within me. For a long time I denied it, but when you reacted so strongly to the wooden tag, all of a sudden I understood: I was jealous. I was jealous of your other life in Japan, the one you never talked about. Maybe I felt like that because you were always so secretive, or maybe it was because of something else, but it made me so ashamed. I wondered why God had burdened me with such feelings. Was He testing my faith? I really did think of giving it up, of throwing it all away because of you. It was a silly idea, of course. You’d never—’ She winced and closed her eyes, as if she felt sudden pain. ‘I mean, I knew it would come to nothing. I never wanted it to come to anything, but I couldn’t help thinking…’ She shook her head. Droplets spun to the floor, tiny pearls of light. Rain lashed the windows and roof, but everything inside was silent. She remained standing in my hallway with her eyes closed. I was frozen, save for the thumping of my heart.

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I sensed she was waiting for me to speak, but I couldn’t bring myself to say the words. Finally, she opened her eyes. ‘Sister, it is very late. Too late to be talking about such things. Let’s discuss it in the morning, when the weather is calm and our minds are clear.’ She looked away. The ceiling light reflected in the corner of her eye. ‘Stay here until the storm passes,’ I said. ‘I’ll make a bed for you. It’s too dangerous to go outside.’ She didn’t seem to hear me. She turned and moved towards the entrance. ‘Bernice, wait.’ Without pausing, she stepped through the door.

C Sister Bernice didn’t return to the hospital. For a few days I expected to hear the hospital door creak, the blinds squeal as the rings slid on the metal rods, and then I’d see her, occupying the doorway to the anteroom, dressed in white. But she never came. I won’t lie: her departure saddened me. It was Bernice I thought of as I wiped down the benches and put the last of the medical books into boxes. I imagined her visiting her aunt’s family in Geraldton, a clutch of nieces and nephews around her, recounting tales of what they’d done since her last visit. No doubt her disappointment quickly dissipated upon seeing them and our unceremonious parting was soon far from her mind. Without her, my world shrunk. I continued opening the hospital every day, although there was nothing left to do. Walking through Japtown, I saw the shutters had closed on all the Japanese-run businesses—the Shiosakis’ laundry, the Yat Son noodle shop and the Tonan Shokai store, where I’d bought rice, miso and other staples. At the hospital, I spent my time going through the medical files. I left the door ajar in case a patient came, although there were very few people left to treat since the arrests had begun. One day, I heard a voice calling, ‘Hello?’ into the dim recess of the hospital. When I opened the door, Ang Pok recoiled, his tan face crinkling in surprise. ‘You still here? How come they not take you yet?’

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I confessed I didn’t know. As Ang Pok listed all the townsfolk who’d been arrested—the Shiosakis, Torimarus, Muramatsus, Tsutsumi and his wife, the Kanegae brothers, Joe Iwata, Johnny Chang—I began to wonder if I hadn’t been arrested yet because of my profession. Broome’s only other physician, Doctor Wallace, was in poor health. If he became too ill to work, the town would have no doctor. What if they didn’t take me at all? Perhaps I would remain in Broome under the watchful eye of Inspector Cowie, who was rumoured to have been sent from Perth because of concerns about Broome’s large Japanese population. The residents would see me when they had to, and spend the rest of the time talking about me behind my back. The only boon would be a chance to make amends with Sister Bernice. I was sure I had done the right thing—she had her whole life ahead of her and there was no point throwing it away on a silly infatuation with me—but I wished I had been more considerate of her feelings. If only I had her talent for gentle counsel, for soothing people through talk, perhaps things wouldn’t have turned out as they had. That night, Hama came to see me. Poor Hama, whose body was condensing with age; his spine curved like young bamboo as he shuffled inside. He’d arrived as a diver during the pre-World War I boom, and had stayed long enough to see the divers come and go and the pearling industry dwindle like an ebbing tide. When President Kanemori decided to return to Japan in October, he’d urged Hama to join him. ‘Return now or you might never be able to go back,’ he’d said. But Hama had refused. ‘My home is here now. I’ll stay, whatever happens.’ But when Hama visited me that night, doubt creased his brow. ‘Did you hear about the crew of Trixen? They were late to shore this season and were arrested by Cowie and his men at the jetty yesterday.’ Hama’s voice was a whisper, although there was no one else within earshot. ‘I saw them on the road, being led to gaol with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Everyone stopped to watch them as they walked past. The look on their faces—they had no idea what was going on.’ He shook his head, a haunted look in his eyes. ‘We’ll be next, you know.’ He didn’t say anything for a few moments, fingering a button on his jacket. ‘We did the right thing, didn’t we, by staying here instead of going?’ His earnest expression sought my reassurance. But I said I didn’t know.

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It was a dreadful kind of waiting. Time entered a new dimension—not exactly slow, but a state in which I sensed more keenly. I detected the sharp scent of metal in the air, I felt each drop of sweat beneath my shirt, and I observed how the shifting light at dawn and dusk seemed to hide more than it revealed. I was at the hospital when they came. The cloudy sky cast a sombre light in the thick midday heat. As I sat in the anteroom, the soft grate of men’s voices disturbed the air. I was paralysed with trepidation as the murmurs became louder, till I sensed a movement of shadow beneath the front door. Four sharp raps punctuated the air. I jerked into action, suddenly freed from the magnetic pull of my seat. I crossed the floor and flung open the door. Inspector Cowie smiled, only the corners of his mouth turning upwards. Behind him stood Constable Taylor, the officer who’d replaced Rooney six months earlier when Rooney and his pregnant wife had moved to Perth. Taylor stared straight at me, his eyes like pale beads. The skin around his nose had been scorched by the sun. Inspector Cowie cleared his throat. ‘Doctor Ibaraki, good morning. In light of Japan’s entry into the war last week, the Australian government has issued an edict for the immediate internment of all Japanese nationals—’ I put my hand up to signal I understood. ‘Just let me get my things.’ They followed me inside. Cowie took off his hat and wiped the sheen of sweat from his forehead. Taylor inspected the hospital while I packed up the last of my belongings in the anteroom. I heard footsteps behind me and I spun around to see Taylor, his unblinking gaze bearing down on me. He sniffed and looked away. I closed and locked my suitcases and carried them to the front door. ‘One bag only—same as for all the others, right?’ Taylor walked up behind me. ‘I think we can let this one go, Constable,’ Cowie said. ‘The doctor’s a special case. He needs his equipment if he’s to treat anyone.’ ‘What about these, then?’ Taylor held out a pair of handcuffs. Agitation crossed Cowie’s face. ‘No, no. They’re not necessary. It’s just the doctor, after all.’ Taylor thrust out his jaw. I placed my luggage on the ground outside the hospital. Turning around to lock the door, I glanced inside one last time. I remembered how bare it had been when I’d first arrived. Now, even with the mattresses stripped and the equipment packed

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away, warmth filled the room through the personal touches that had accumulated over time. The assortment of cups and saucers on the shelf above the sink. The floral curtains stitched by Sister Bernice. The ink drawing of her profile by one of the old Japanese patients who’d been at the hospital a week with bronchitis. Delighted with it, Sister Bernice had pinned it to the wall, and every day I went to the hospital, the re-created sister gazed into the distance, forever noble, forever serene. I pulled the door shut and turned the key. We started towards the police station, less than ten minutes’ walk away. We formed an awkward procession, with Cowie in the lead, holding one of my bags. Taylor and I followed him. I held one suitcase in each hand while Taylor flanked me, gripping my upper arm with one hand and holding my fourth bag in his other. He was determined to keep hold, no matter how quickly I walked. Before we reached the next street, I looked back. White paint flaked from the walls of the hospital, exposing the sun-bleached wood beneath. I noted the patchwork of different-coloured metals on the galvanised-iron roof. A strange feeling came over me. I bit the inside of my cheek and forced myself to look away. It was done now. The late-morning sun shone with ferocity, as if it knew its moment of glory would be short. Light reflected on the surface of the muddy puddles and on the glistening leaves of pandanus palms beside the road. I strained to isolate the landmarks I saw every day. The elegant poinciana tree that hugged the curve of Napier Terrace, standing above a carpet of fiery blossoms, whose limbs children mounted like a ladder. The rickety sign that pointed to Weld Street. I tried to memorise them, but no matter how hard I tried I knew I wouldn’t be able to recall them later—they’d be filtered through my memory and warped by time. ‘We picked up your friend today, Hama. He’s in gaol with a few others,’ Cowie said. ‘Is he all right?’ Hama’s body had grown weak in the previous few years. He caught simple colds that turned into nasty infections. ‘He’s a bit frail, but he seems fine. He asked about you.’ The buildings of Japtown rose up ahead: a long line of metal shacks with deep front verandahs that jutted onto the street. Signs such as ‘T. Weng Tailor’, ‘Ang Pok’s Laundry’ and ‘Tonan Shokai General Store’ sat atop each verandah, as proud

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as peacocks on display. The first time I’d laid eyes on Japtown, I had been shocked by the state of decay—the dilapidated buildings, rusted signs and dusty lanes well past their prime. This is my new home? I had thought. But as the weeks and then months passed I recognised Japtown’s dynamic nature, fed by the constant human activity that swelled and waned with the seasons. I liked nothing better than to close the hospital on a Saturday in August or September, when it was still light at five-thirty but not too hot or sticky, and stroll along Napier Terrace towards the low-slung roofs of Japtown, surveying the area as the sky turned silver. During my first year, when few people knew me, I strolled unimpeded, observing the men smoking on the verandah of the gambling den, Mrs Yano on the second floor of her boarding house snapping out her sheets, and the children who played hopscotch in the back lanes, their legs coated in dirt. On the day of my arrest, however, it was clear the struggle between destruction and renewal, man and nature—whatever one wishes to call it—was drawing to a close. Although a few figures strolled along the main road, without the Japanese population and their businesses, the town was a shadow of its former self. The rusty signs, broken railings and faded curtains in the windows of the restaurants and stores—those elements that had once stood as example of the town’s life force— became relics of a glorious past. I knew then Broome would never be the same. We reached the edge of Japtown, and people stopped to stare at us. The sun, so bright and clear, continued to shine. Mr Ong was standing outside his store and saw us. Suddenly self-conscious, I ducked my head. Taylor saw me and smirked. Someone called out my name, and I looked up and saw it was Billy, the Malay who’d got into a fight with the Japanese diver my first year in Broome. He was on the upper verandah of Mrs Yano’s boarding house, crouched over a washing pan. He waved and shouted something at me that I couldn’t understand. I nodded and smiled, conscious of Taylor’s grip on my arm. We turned onto the dusty expanse of Carnarvon Street, where scattered ironroofed buildings baked in the sun. There was only a short stretch of road until the police station. On our left was the Japanese Association; the hedge of pink and white oleanders that bordered the verandah was in full bloom. Ahead of me, on the far side of the road, was Ellies’ cafe. I remembered the time when Sister Bernice and

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I had our surprise encounter, the day of the Emperor’s birthday. I remembered the rhythmic thunk of the fan overhead and the sweet smell of malt. The smoothness of her skin. The way it crinkled around the corners of her mouth. Those memories converged and overwhelmed me, and that is the only explanation I can think of for what I did next. Nostalgia got the better of me, and without thinking I veered off course and started towards the cafe. I do vaguely remember hearing someone shouting behind me, although for some reason I didn’t think it was directed at me. I was in a kind of trance, at the mercy of my desire to go inside one last time—a desire so strong it was almost primal. I suppose I thought if I looked at it again I’d be able to preserve the moment in my mind—a memento of my time with Sister Bernice. I continued across the street at what seemed to me a regular pace, but I found out later I actually broke free and ran from Taylor and Cowie. I was almost at the shop’s verandah, the black, curlicued sign just discernible, when I felt a force on my back. My legs buckled. Pain shot through my left shoulder and dirt invaded my mouth. Someone—Taylor, as I found out later—was upon me, cursing in my ear. ‘Don’t you try to get away from me. Quit moving, you bloody Jap!’ It’s possible I’d suffered a concussion when I hit the ground, for when I lifted my head everything swayed. I recall fragments of images—a man’s chin, the surprised eyes of a woman staring down at me, someone’s sun-pink hands disturbing the collar of my shirt. There must have been quite a crowd. Then something hard struck the side of my face. Warm liquid flooded my mouth. Time stretched out, like ripples on the surface of a lake. I later learnt I was only unconscious for a few seconds, but images floated up, one after another, enough to fill an hour-long reel of film. My mother’s grey-streaked hair. Kayoko’s ebony comb on her dressing table at home. The pink-red sand of Roebuck Bay. We did the right thing, didn’t we? Hama’s question came back to me, an echo in that silence. I don’t know. I just don’t know.

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L OV E DAY 1 9 4 2

I woke on Saturday to the chatter of men. The walls of the hut creaked and the windows glowed white. Two glorious days without work stretched ahead of me. At the last minute, Hayashi had offered to do my shift on Sunday, the day of the baseball final. ‘You deserve it. You’ve been working harder than anyone else.’ I had refused at first, but he’d insisted. ‘Wasn’t the baseball competition your idea? It wouldn’t be right without you there. You can cover one of my shifts another time.’ So I thanked him for his generosity and promised to return the favour. During my two days off, I planned to tend the garden near the Buddhist altar. I’d planted some purple-tinged long grasses that I’d picked up on our trip to the river some weeks earlier and wondered how they were coping with the frost. I also needed to check on the baseball trophy—I’d asked Sawada and a few of the other craftsmen to make something for the winners. On the hut doorstep, I stretched my arms. A brisk wind tugged at my jacket and lifted my hair. I looked up. The sky was opaque. It was a strange colour—a shade I’d never seen before. Murky, like the river on an overcast day. I wondered whether a storm was approaching, but there were no discernible clouds in the sky. A haze seemed to hang in the air, making everything appear pale and blurry. Beyond the fence, the trees seemed to quiver in the distance. I heard a shout from the gate. An army truck trundled into camp, lurching to a stop on the other side of the birdcage gate. Men spilled from the back and fanned out along the fence. Johnny and the others had returned from Melbourne. I was

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eager to know if their appeal had been successful. They’d want to celebrate, if so. I wondered if Yamada would allow them to have some of the sake hidden beneath the latrines. The men began filing into our compound. I cut across camp to meet them, weaving between the few remaining rows of tents, the canvas flaps jerking in the wind. Johnny, Sam and Andy were the last to enter. They trudged along the path, shouldering their rucksacks. I was about to call out to them in greeting, but then saw the expression on their faces. Their mouths were slack, their eyes downcast. Johnny’s swagger and proud chest were gone; his shoulders were slumped. Their appeals must have been rejected, but I couldn’t imagine why. Surely at least one of them was granted a release? I caught up to them on the path. ‘How was it?’ Johnny didn’t look up. Andy frowned. Sam glanced at me, his mouth tight. ‘Not now…’ He shook his head. ‘You didn’t get a release?’ I asked. Johnny’s head snapped up. ‘What do you think, Doc?’ He glared at me. I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. ‘It was a bloody waste of time. Those frocked-up arseholes were against us from the start.’ He strode away, each footstep raising a cloud of dust. ‘I wouldn’t worry about him,’ Sam said. ‘He’s been in a foul mood since the decision.’ ‘What happened?’ ‘We were in there for about fifteen minutes each and they asked us about ten questions. At the end of it, they told us they couldn’t deal with our appeal as we were Australian-born and not aliens. They said we had to go to a different tribunal—one just for British subjects who are interned. Except there is no tribunal like that.’ Sam rolled his eyes. ‘The usual claptrap. I guess we should’ve known.’ ‘No one got a release?’ ‘Only old Ito.’ Sam nodded to one of the internees. Back bent, he swayed from side to side as he shuffled along the path. I recognised him from the infirmary—he was frequently admitted with various ailments due to his old age. ‘Now that it’s over, I couldn’t give a shit, but Johnny’s really taken it to heart.’

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Johnny’s silhouette skimmed the horizon as he walked back to his hut. Even from a distance, I could see the force of his steps and the way his body angled forward as he walked headlong into the wind. For the rest of the morning, I stayed in my hut. I wanted to wait for the wind to settle before I ventured to the garden. It showed no signs of abating, however. Now and then, a strong gust blew outside the window, sounding like a muffled shriek. The walls tinkled with the sound of particles pelting the hut’s iron exterior. I took out a piece of paper and a pen to write a letter that was long overdue. ‘Dear Mother,’ I began. ‘Please forgive my silence of the past few months. So much has happened since my telegram informing you of my transfer to Loveday. Winter has set in here at camp. The days are chilly and the nights freezing, but you will be pleased to know there is no snow. Tsuyu must be over in Tokyo. How are you coping in the summer heat? ‘I received your telegram informing me of brother Nobuhiro’s death. I trust you received my reply. I regret I was unable to perform the duties expected of me at the funeral, but every day I pray for Nobuhiro’s wellbeing in the afterlife. I hope that Megumi and her family can give you comfort during this difficult time.’ I tried to think of what to write next, but everything I thought of—the names of my friends at camp, the farce of the tribunal—was in danger of being cut by the censors. I thought of Johnny’s behaviour that morning. I hoped he calmed down before the baseball match—Major Lott would not tolerate such behaviour. ‘We started a baseball competition within camp to keep fit and pass the time. I have enjoyed the games, although I’m not the player I once was. The final match is tomorrow, but my team didn’t make it that far. Give my regards to Megumi and her family—Hanako must have started school by now.’ After lunch, the wind was still gusting. Dirt stung my eyes as I returned to my hut from the mess hall. Knowing there were only a few more hours left of daylight, I decided to brave the conditions and head to the altar garden. I reasoned it would take only a few minutes to check on the plants. As I made my way between the buildings, an icy wind tore at the collar of my jacket and stirred up eddies of dust. It hadn’t rained in months. Dry leaves cascaded from trees at the edge of the clearing and blew into camp. I wrapped my arms around my body and bent my

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head as I stepped into the wind. The altar occupied a space along the outer edge of our compound. It was in the most isolated area of camp, away from the mess halls and latrines. Its seclusion was the reason it had been chosen for the altar—it was a suitable place for quiet reflection. I emerged from the shelter of the buildings into the open space of the garden, and was hit by the full force of the wind. I would normally be able to see the buildings of the duty guard camp beyond the outer fence, but today a rust-coloured pall of dust obscured the landscape. The vegetable garden spread out to my left; to my right was the ornamental garden. As I approached the bamboo thicket that marked the start of the garden, I heard the rustle of dry leaves beneath the howl of the wind. I stepped past the thicket and clucked at the state of the garden on the other side. It was swamped with loose soil. Although the bamboo shielded the plants from the wind, it also allowed piles of dirt to collect. The purple grasses I’d planted were covered, only their brown tips poking through the earth. Although I knew the weather would worsen, I couldn’t help myself. I crouched down, and with my hands started shovelling away the debris. I looked around for some rocks and stones to build a screen around the grasses. Voices reached me from upwind, too faint to decipher. As I dragged a rock from the other end of the garden, the voices came closer, speaking in low tones. Their words became so clear I realised they must have been standing on the other side of the bamboo thicket, no more than three feet away from me. I recognised the speakers. ‘… Hayashi thinks he’s going to report it soon. The doctor’s been in there with a pen and paper, writing everything down. What should we do?’ Yamada said. I crouched by the grasses, hardly breathing. ‘Who else saw?’ Mori said. ‘Nagano and a few of his friends, but I doubt they’d say anything.’ ‘So it’s our word against his. Given his recent mental state, I doubt the army will do anything,’ Mori said. ‘What if he lodges a complaint with the Red Cross? Doctor Morel is due to visit in a few weeks.’

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‘Again, Doctor Morel has to go through the regular army channels. They have other things to worry about than a petty dispute that led to a bruised arm.’ I had had my suspicions, but now I knew it was true: Yamada had attacked Pete. I had initially been blinded by the fact that Yamada was kind to me, and because he was a leader of our camp. What else, through my misguided loyalty, had I failed to see? The wind picked up, whining as it whipped between the bushes. For a moment I thought they had moved away from the garden, as I could no longer hear them. Then I heard Yamada again. His voice reached me in fragments, shredded by the wind. ‘… don’t want to be investigated… lose my spot on the exchange ship… something more permanent?’ A pause. Then I heard Mori, his gruff voice muffled by the rustling of leaves. ‘No. Too risky… too suspicious.’ Neither of them spoke for a few moments. Then Yamada started speaking again. I could hardly hear what he said, but there was a pleading, desperate quality to his voice I had never heard before. He mentioned Pete several times, and something about the infirmary. Then I heard my name. I strained to make out what he was saying, but the wind was howling, and I caught only a few words. ‘… don’t think he would say anything… can’t risk Suzuki telling… We need to tell Hayashi… without delay… No one will ever guess.’ A gust blew sideways, driving dirt into my face. I covered my mouth to keep myself from making a sound. One of them started coughing, and their voices became faint as they moved away from the bamboo thicket. My heart pounded in my chest as I tried to make sense of what I’d heard. Yamada wanted to silence Pete, mistakenly believing that I was writing down the incident in which he was attacked by Yamada so that Pete could report it to the army. What had he said? Sassoku, without delay. But as I repeated it in my head, I realised he could have said sassozai, rat poison, instead. ‘We need to tell Hayashi… rat poison… no one will ever guess.’ Did Yamada intend to poison Pete? My heart skipped a beat as I remembered seeing a packet of rat poison in one of the cupboards in the infirmary kitchen. The authorities must have forgotten about it when they confiscated the other packets in the wake of the New Caledonian’s

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death. I gazed at the grasses before me, still covered in earth, and the measly stone barrier I had started to build. Despite my efforts, everything was in ruins. Why could I never do anything right? Images crowded my mind. Pete, all alone within the kaleidoscope of sheets. Kayoko in the hallway, her luggage at her feet. It was all so clear to me now: somehow, I always failed the people I cared about. I remembered that Hayashi was working at the infirmary over the next two days. Hayashi, who must have been reporting my every move to Yamada. I had thought he was being kind when he’d insisted on doing my shift. Perhaps he and Yamada had already hatched a plan to hurt Pete. I had to warn Pete before it was too late. I would tell Johnny—he could help. McCubbin trusted him. I had to get to the infirmary soon. As long as I got to the infirmary in time, everything would be all right. I hurried back to camp, taking the long route along the perimeter fence so it wouldn’t appear as if I’d come from the altar. I didn’t want to run into Mori or Yamada. The wind tore at my hair and drove grit into my eyes. I squinted through the haze. I went straight to Johnny’s hut. The building shook as I ran up the stairs. Most of the gang were in the back corner, lounging on their beds. Sam and Andy were playing cards. Paddy read a magazine. ‘Johnny, where’s Johnny?’ I gasped. Paddy shrugged. ‘Dunno. Went somewhere to blow off some steam. I hope he pisses off for good, the way he carried on at lunch.’ ‘I need to talk to him. It’s important.’ Sam looked up from his game. ‘I’d leave him for a while. You saw how he was this morning.’ ‘You don’t understand. It’s urgent. Do you know where he is?’ ‘Your guess is as good as ours,’ Paddy said. ‘Could be anywhere.’ ‘Try the mess hall or the rec hut,’ Sam said. I staggered outside. With one hand over my mouth and my eyes narrowed, I checked both locations, but couldn’t find him. I didn’t see Yamada or Mori, either. Perhaps Yamada had already gone to talk to Hayashi at the infirmary? I realised I had to act immediately, with or without Johnny’s help.

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With the collar of my jacket upturned, I stumbled towards the entrance to our compound. In the distance, plumes of dust churned and swallowed the sky. A sentry was usually posted at the gate at all times, but in the thick air I couldn’t see anyone standing there. I clung to the wire. ‘Excuse me? Hello? Any guards there?’ I heard the crunch of gravel, and a figure emerged from the haze. He walked with his rifle on his shoulder, cradling the butt in his hand, as if he was on parade. As the guard neared, I realised I had never seen him before. The brim of his cap sat low, hiding most of his face. All I could see was the cleft of his chin and the purple pocks of recent acne. ‘Please, I need to go to the infirmary. Could you let me out?’ ‘Halt!’ His voice was cold. ‘I need to go to the infirmary in 14B. I’m an orderly. I have to go there now. There’s an emergency.’ ‘State your name.’ ‘Tomokazu Ibaraki. From hut five.’ ‘No internees allowed out. Major’s orders.’ A muscle fluttered along his jaw. ‘I just need to go for ten minutes. It’s an emergency. I’m a doctor—please.’ ‘A doctor now, are you?’ His lip curled. ‘No internees can exit—that’s an order.’ ‘Is Officer McCubbin there? Could I speak to him?’ ‘Officer McCubbin is on patrol at another camp at the moment. He’s not available.’ ‘Please, this is not a joke. I need to go to the infirmary!’ I rattled the gate in frustration. In one swift move, the guard swung his rifle at his hip and aimed it at me. ‘Step back, you bloody Jap! One more move like that and I’ll shoot, I swear to God.’ I raised my hands and stepped back. The guard’s knuckles were white as they gripped the stock; his finger danced on the trigger. I swallowed. ‘I am not lying. It really is an emergency…’ ‘Move back from the gate now, or I’ll blast you. I’m going to count to ten. One. Two. Three. Four…’ I backed away from the gate, my arms still raised. By seven I could no longer see him. I turned and ran to my hut, my entire body jolting with each step. When

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I burst in, everyone in the room turned to stare at me. ‘Has anyone seen Johnny Chang?’ A few people shook their heads. ‘Sensei, are you all right?’ Ebina asked. Without responding, I ran back outside. I did one more sweep of the compound to look for him. I skirted the perimeter of camp, steering clear of the gate and the hostile guard, and checked the ablutions block and even the secret, foul-smelling spot beneath the latrines where sake was brewed, and then a few of the huts. But Johnny was nowhere to be found. Feeling helpless, I spent the rest of the afternoon crossing between the mess hall and Johnny’s hut, my panic growing with each hour. At five o’clock, we assembled for afternoon headcount in the mess hall, where we always gathered in poor weather. The wind blustered outside, shuddering against the building and rattling the windows. I stood behind my allocated seat, my mind a jumble of thoughts and fears. I spied Mori at his table a few rows away from me. Yamada sauntered in, talking to Ebina about the baseball match. ‘I’m betting on the Borneo team. They’ve practised more and have good strategy. Of course, as a fellow Japanese from that region, I’m biased.’ As I stared at his broad face, my stomach tightened. I wondered how I had been so deceived by him. I craned my neck, looking for Johnny. His position between Eddie and Sam at the front of the room was empty. If he failed to show up at headcount, he’d be severely penalised. But moments before the officers marched into the hut to start the count, Johnny suddenly appeared at his table. His hair stood in stiff peaks. Dirt streaked his shirt. Sam whispered something to him, but Johnny didn’t respond, staring straight ahead. Major Lott entered the room, wearing a heavy overcoat that dwarfed the rest of his body. Three officers filed in after him and stood to attention in front of the entrance to the kitchen. Lieutenant Orchard was first in line, followed by the new interpreter who’d arrived at camp a few weeks previously. The guard I’d encountered at the gate was the last to enter. He thrust out his lower jaw as his eyes roamed the room. His rifle strap stretched taut across his chest. I ducked my head to avoid his gaze.

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Lott rarely came to the afternoon headcount, so his arrival didn’t bode well for the next day’s baseball match. Perhaps it was the effects of the dust outside, but strain seemed to show in the creases around his eyes. ‘Before we start the headcount, I have several important announcements to make. Firstly, I’d like to introduce our new guard, Private Davies, who will be assisting with the patrol of the compound. Until recently he was serving in New Guinea, where I believe many of you are from.’ Lott nodded at the private, who pursed his lips. His shoulders were rigid as he continued to scan our faces. ‘Secondly, due to weather conditions, tomorrow’s baseball match will not go ahead as planned. The game will be postponed—’ Lott raised his voice as cries of discontent rose from those who’d understood him ‘—the game will be postponed until further notice. Furthermore, all outdoor activity is banned until the dust storm clears. No walking around the perimeter, no loitering outside, no hanging around the gate. It is for your own safety. Guards have been instructed to enforce this rule. Any internee who disobeys will be severely punished. Is that clear? Quiet now. Settle down. I said quiet!’ After the interpreter had delivered the message, disbelief spread among the tables of men. The army had recently introduced a rule that no more than six men per hut could be at the latrines at the same time at night, but other than that, we’d always been given a relatively free rein within camp. I wondered why they’d suddenly introduced such harsh restrictions. A voice growled over the hum of dismay. ‘This is bullshit.’ Johnny’s voice was unmistakable. Lott swivelled his head. ‘Mr Chang, another comment like that and you’ll be in detention overnight.’ ‘What? First the tribunal, then you cancel the match, and now we can’t even go outside?’ For his sake, I prayed he would stop. ‘Chang, I’m warning you…’ Lott’s face was red. Private Davies stepped forward and aimed his rifle at Johnny. ‘Watch your mouth, you filthy Jap.’ Johnny puffed out his chest. ‘Yeah, you want to shoot me? Want to claim

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another Jap?’ ‘Davies! There’s no need for that. Lower your weapon.’ Lott pushed the muzzle away. He eyed the private for a moment before turning back to address us. ‘As I was saying, aside from walking to your huts or to the latrines or ablutions blocks, internees are not permitted to linger outside until further notice. Hut leaders, please make sure everyone understands this. There are serious consequences if anyone breaks this rule.’ After the officers completed the headcount and filed out of the hut, a rumble of consternation filled the room. ‘Why the sudden change? Why now?’ I heard someone say. Instead of joining the conversation, I headed straight to Johnny. He was almost at the door when I caught up to him. I called his name but he didn’t turn around. ‘Johnny, it’s me.’ I touched his shoulder. He spun around. ‘Don’t you dare touch me.’ I sucked in my breath. I’d never seen him so incensed. His eyes bulged. His nostrils flared. A vein at his temple pulsed. ‘Are you all right?’ He looked around the room. ‘I fucking hate this place. I’m so sick of it. All I want to do is get out. I don’t care anymore, I don’t care what it takes.’ I tried to soothe him. ‘Don’t worry. You will leave eventually. You will go back to Broome, and everyone there will welcome you with open arms. And in a few years’ time, you will think about camp, and the pain will have gone.’ ‘I feel like I’m going to explode if I stay here any longer.’ Although I felt sorry for him, there was no time for counsel. ‘Johnny, I need your help with something. But I can’t talk about it here.’ I glanced behind me. Yamada was sitting at the table, about to eat dinner. ‘Can we go to your hut?’ He shook his head. ‘Sorry, Doc. I can’t help you. I’ve got my own problems to deal with.’ He turned and started in the direction of his hut. ‘Johnny, wait!’ He ignored me, disappearing into the gloom. I looked behind me again. Yamada brought a spoonful of stew to his mouth, then laughed at something, tipping his head back. His casual cruelty disgusted me;

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there he was, eating and laughing, when he had just plotted to harm somebody— possibly even murder him. I would not let him hurt Pete. I returned to my hut alone. Night had descended by the time I stepped outside. The floodlights shone diffusely through the haze. The air churned around me, thicker than before. Particles invaded my mouth and nose. I covered my face and narrowed my eyes till I could only see a sliver of light. In the howling wind I couldn’t even hear my own footsteps. I was careful not to veer towards the fence; Major Lott’s warning was fresh in my mind. The wall of a hut glowed starkly in the strange light. I hugged its side and continued past another hut until I came to mine. I hauled myself up the steps and into the sanctuary inside. I switched on the light. Rows of empty beds stretched away from me. I sighed with relief. Silence, at last. I paced the hut, walking up and down the rows of beds as I tried to make sense of the situation. Did Yamada talk to Hayashi already, or was he held at the gate by Davies? If I hadn’t been allowed out, it was doubtful Yamada would have been. Who else could he have used to send a message? I thought of Pete lying in bed, his face turned towards the window. Thoughts of Isabelle in his mind. Hayashi was due to finish his shift at the infirmary at seven, but if the weather remained rough he could be kept there overnight. Surely Hayashi would not act tonight? I had to go to the infirmary and remove Pete to somewhere safe. He’d been unwell for so long, but his condition had improved noticeably in the past week. I heard voices outside. The hut shook as people mounted the steps. The door was flung open, and the first of the men returning from dinner spilled inside. Dirt blew into the room as they stamped their feet, muttering about the weather. ‘Sensei, you didn’t eat?’ one of the men from Borneo said. I shook my head. ‘I’m not feeling well. Just a stomach ache. I’ll be fine.’ I sat on my bed to consider my options. I had to face the fact that I had no way of getting to the infirmary and no one to help me; Johnny had refused and McCubbin was in a different part of camp. There was no other choice: I would have to confront Yamada. The hut grew noisy as more people returned from dinner. The weather had made everyone boisterous. Each time the door opened, the roar of the wind swelled and

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more dirt blew inside. Finally, I heard Yamada. The distinct timbre of his voice. I turned to see him smiling as he entered the hut. ‘It’s like a typhoon out there,’ he said. His face was flushed. ‘Yamada, can I talk to you?’ My voice was high and thin. I indicated the corner of the room. He came over, his face crumpled with concern. ‘Sensei, are you all right? I’ve never seen you so dishevelled before.’ I ran my hand through my hair. I took a deep breath. ‘It’s about Pete Suzuki. I know what you’re going to do. Have you already told Hayashi?’ He narrowed his eyes. For a second, the facade slipped. Then he smiled and shook his head. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ ‘You have to stop him, please. Pete’s a good person. He doesn’t intend to tell anyone about what happened in the mess hall. He has been talking to me as he wants to write to a girl he has feelings for. I’ve been writing a letter for him.’ Yamada’s smile faded. He gazed at me, the warmth gone from his face. ‘Did you eavesdrop on my conversation? How dare you! That was none of your business. You’re mistaken in what you heard, anyway. You have no idea what we were talking about.’ He turned to leave. ‘Wait! Yamada, please don’t hurt him. I’ll tell someone if you do. You think I won’t, but I will.’ He stepped towards me. His voice was a whisper. ‘But, sensei, you forget that you were the one who spurned Pete when he came to see you about his arm. One of the other orderlies told me. Isn’t that what made him cut his wrists? And then you didn’t want to operate on him. Even Johnny knows that. If anything happens to Pete, who do you think everyone will say drove him to it?’ My legs felt weak. Yamada stared at me, looking deep into my soul. A feeling of shame rose up through my body, filling my chest and throat. As much as I wanted to deny it, I knew he was right. My refusal to believe Pete had prompted his deterioration. For that, I couldn’t forgive myself. A siren sounded outside. Starting low, it quickly rose in pitch until it became a constant whine through the roar of the wind. ‘What’s that?’ Yamada turned his head towards the door.

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I had never heard the siren before. Thinking someone else must know what it meant, I looked around the room. But everyone in the hut was as bewildered as I was. ‘Is it because of the weather?’ someone asked. ‘Maybe they’re warning us it’ll get worse.’ ‘What should we do? Stay inside?’ ‘We shouldn’t go outside unless they come and tell us. Remember what Lott said?’ A thought occurred to me. It took root in my mind and grew until I could no longer ignore it. I started towards the door. ‘Where are you going?’ Yamada called. ‘Sensei, don’t be stupid!’ The wind cut through the thin fabric of my shirt. In my haste, I’d forgotten my jacket. But the scream of the siren filled my ears, driving me forward. Grit stung my face. With one hand over my mouth, the other feeling the side of the hut, I staggered along the path until I reached hut two. Dust billowed into the room as I flung open the door. Everyone inside turned to look at me. ‘Do you know what the siren’s for?’ someone asked. I pushed past the crowd of people gathered near the door and found Paddy and the others at the back of the room. Paddy was on his bed, smoking. Eddie, Ken, Andy, Fred and Sam were arranged on two beds. They cradled playing cards to their chest, midway through a game. They looked up at me, frozen by the siren. ‘Where’s Johnny?’ I asked. ‘Haven’t seen him,’ Eddie said. ‘We thought he might be with you. Sam said you two were talking.’ ‘No. Oh, no. This is not good. Johnny was acting strange, but I didn’t think—’ I caught my breath. ‘What? You don’t think…?’ Paddy stubbed his cigarette out and stood up. I nodded. ‘Shit, shit, shit. That fucking lunatic would do something like that.’ ‘What are you guys talking about?’ Andy said. ‘The siren, dummy. We think Johnny might have tried to escape,’ Paddy said. ‘You serious?’ Sam lifted his head. ‘He has been acting strangely all day. I saw him coming out

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of the kitchen after lunch, stuffing bread into his pockets. When I asked why, he told me to mind my own business.’ My heart skipped a beat. ‘Did you see where he—’ A loud crack cleaved the air. Then another. In the seconds of silence that followed, I couldn’t breathe. ‘Was that…?’ Paddy asked. I lunged towards the door. Blood surged through my body, giving me strength. ‘Doc, wait!’ Dust swirled around me, limiting my visibility to a dozen feet. Stumbling along the path with one hand out in front of me, I headed east, towards the direction of the gunshots. I heard shouts from the direction of 14B. Fragments of words, like figures in a fog. I ran towards the voices, pushing headlong into the wind. Dirt and debris pelted my face. I reached the fence that separated our compound from B compound. I clung to it, straining to hear. The wire pressed against my fingers. The voices sharpened, carried straight to me by the wind. ‘He’s been shot!’ someone cried. ‘Get the doctor!’ ‘Here! I’m here! In 14C!’ But my words were torn away from me and carried downwind. Then a different voice rang out. I didn’t recognise it at first. McCubbin’s deep voice was so choked with emotion it sounded strange. ‘Christ, no. Not him. Jesus fucking Christ, Davies. What have you done?’ I prayed it wasn’t Johnny. I prayed he wasn’t dead. I had to get to 14B to treat him before it was too late. I contemplated scaling the fence that divided the two compounds, but the coils of barbed wire at the top would shred my skin. So I turned and ran back towards the gate. My legs felt light as I traversed the compound. The wind pummelled my back. I almost collided with the corner of a hut. I tripped on a rock and plunged to the ground, scraping my hands and bruising my knees, but I didn’t care. I got up and continued towards the gate. Lieutenant Orchard was unlocking the gate to our compound when I approached. I called out to him. He started, and reached for his rifle. ‘No, it’s me—Ibaraki. The doctor.’ ‘Doctor Ibaraki? Thank God, you’re here! Someone’s been shot at the infirmary.’

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‘Take me there. Quick.’ He let me out and we ran along Broadway as fast as our legs would allow, following the line of floodlights that penetrated the haze. I covered my mouth and narrowed my eyes against the oncoming wind. I wondered why Johnny would be at the infirmary, but there was no time for questions. I would find out soon enough. We reached the entrance to 14B and one of the guards threw open the gate. Orchard led the way, and I followed, staggering into the infirmary grounds. We passed the kitchen, rounded the corner of the infirmary building and emerged into the open space before the fence. I saw McCubbin leaning over someone on the ground. My chest tightened as I took everything in. The victim was slumped on his back, one leg bent beneath him. Hearing us approach, McCubbin looked up. As he shifted his head, I saw the victim’s face. The high forehead, the distinct shape of his nose. It was Pete.

C I visited Johnny in detention on Monday, two days after Pete’s death. The cell was at headquarters, less than a mile from our camp. It had a single window near the ceiling that was the size of a shoebox. My eyes took a moment to adjust to the gloom. Then I saw him, hunched in the corner. His face was covered in scratches and his hands were bandaged. He lifted his head. ‘How you going, Doc?’ My heart went out to him. I had never seen Johnny so weak. They had found him in the afternoon on Sunday, the day after Pete had died. He was waiting in bushland about four miles from camp on the outskirts of town. With no water and only a pocketful of bread, his ill-prepared escape had ground to a halt. Someone had seen him drinking from a creek and alerted the camp. By afternoon, when he heard an army truck approaching, he raised his hands and walked onto the road. Now I helped him up from the floor and onto the bed. A yellow checked blanket covered the surface—a futile attempt to brighten the cell.

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‘What happened to your hands?’ ‘Barbed wire on the fences. I went over them with no gloves, no socks, nothing. Stupid idea. Doctor Ashton reckons it’ll be weeks before I can use them again. You gotta pay for your mistakes, I guess.’ He sighed. ‘No one saw me when I went over the first fence. It was only the second one—the air must have cleared, and a guard shouted from the tower. I thought he was going to shoot me, but he didn’t. Then the siren started up, and I bolted for the trees.’ ‘How long will you be kept here?’ ‘Dunno. Orchard said they’re trying to work out what to do with me. I could be sent to Hay or I could be released back here. But first I’ll have to face a military court. It’ll be a laugh if it’s anything like the one in Melbourne. That was a bloody joke.’ ‘I spoke to McCubbin yesterday. He said all the guards were on alert for an escape. Commander Dean was worried there would be an attempt during the dust storm. That is the reason they cancelled the baseball match and said we could not go outside. That is why there were more guards—why Private Davies was on patrol, even though he had not been properly trained.’ Silence fell between us. He didn’t comment on my mention of Davies, so I thought he didn’t know about Pete. I took a deep breath. ‘Johnny, I have to tell you something. About Pete.’ I paused. ‘Yeah. I already know. They told me in the truck on the way back to camp. I didn’t believe it. I thought they were lying to make me feel bad. But when I got to camp Orchard told me it was true. Christ, poor Pete. What was he doing outside so near the fence?’ ‘I don’t know,’ I said. In the confusion of the dust storm and the escape siren, Private Davies had somehow shot Pete. I thought of the time Hayashi and I had seen Pete outside staring at the sky. What had he been thinking? Johnny bent forward and pressed his palms into his eyes. My nose started to burn. For a moment, I thought I might cry, too. I placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder. It trembled beneath my grip. I thought about mentioning Mori and Yamada’s conversation about Pete, but it wasn’t the right moment. Johnny was already upset, and nothing would bring back our friend. After a minute, he wiped

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his eyes on his shirt. ‘What about the funeral?’ ‘His mother and sister want to bury him near his home in Sydney. They’re collecting his remains this week. But Paddy and I talked about holding a memorial ceremony at camp on Wednesday. Something for all his friends.’ ‘That sounds like a good idea. Pete would like that. Shame I can’t come.’ He stared at the floor. ‘That bloody trigger-happy bastard, Davies. The way he looked at me at headcount. I should’ve known. I wish he’d taken a shot at me right there and then. I hope he burns in hell.’ He looked up at me. His eyes glistened. ‘It should’ve been me, Doc. It should’ve been me.’

C On Wednesday, I woke to a magpie warbling. It must have been perched on the edge of the roof near the window, but its melody was so clear it sounded as if it was by my ear. I looked outside. The sky was once more a brilliant blue. The memorial ceremony for Pete was to take place that afternoon in the garden next to the altar. Although it was unusual to hold memorial ceremonies near an altar, we chose it as it was the most picturesque area of the compound. Unfortunately, the dust storm had wrought havoc. Mounds of dirt engulfed the fringe of purple grasses I’d planted. The two summer cypress hedges that had been pruned into spheres were battered out of shape. The eucalyptus sapling we’d carefully nurtured for months had been knocked over, its roots upended in the earth. The stone-edged path was hidden beneath swathes of dirt. Only the bamboo thicket looked the same: the thick green stems stood tall, able to bend in the wind. Lott had lifted the ban on loitering outside, so we spent the morning sweeping away the dirt, replanting the tree and salvaging scattered stones. By lunch, we had almost returned the garden to its previous state. The ceremony was originally intended for only a small group of Pete’s friends— mainly the Australian-born Japanese and me—but more than thirty people lined the path that snaked through the garden. For someone so quiet at camp, Pete had many friends. Officer McCubbin stood at the back of the line. He held his hat in

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his hands, kneading its brim. All the orderlies from the infirmary attended, even Hayashi. I flashed with anger when I saw him, but I calmed myself: I didn’t know what role he’d played. Sawada and a few of the other craftsmen had made a plaque from a cross-section of red gum sanded back and engraved with Pete’s name in English and katakana, and his dates of birth and death. Sawada and I carried the plaque together down the path through the garden. The air was still. Even the bamboo thicket was hushed, without the usual susurrus of leaves. The sun shone down, warming our faces. Everyone watched us as we passed them in line. Despite the gravity of the occasion, my mind was calm. We placed the plaque on a mound between the eucalypts and the cypress brush. We didn’t have any incense, so I lit a mosquito coil instead. As I turned to face the waiting crowd, I noticed Johnny’s gang at the front. ‘I only knew Pete a few months, but he left a deep impression on me. He was only twenty-two, but he had the courage to follow his dreams. He joined the army when he was eighteen. He had a good heart and rarely criticised others. He spoke warmly about his mother, sister and friends. I am sure they will miss him, as will we. Peter Suzuki, may you rest in peace.’ I swallowed hard. Paddy looked at me, his eyes red. I repeated the speech in Japanese. Then I placed two offerings beside the plaque: a bottle of camp-brewed sake one of the hut leaders had given me and a cutting of mallee bush. If there had been a plum tree near camp I would have offered that in recognition of his pure spirit, but the mallee was a worthy substitute. Finally, I knelt and scooped a handful of dirt and released it above the plaque. Paddy was next in line. He placed a folded letter on the mound and whispered a prayer, then released a handful of dirt. Eddie followed, saying a few words before placing a packet of cigarettes. It continued down the line, with the orderlies and a few from Pete’s tent laying offerings to aid his journey, until McCubbin stood in front of the plaque. He turned his cap in his hands. From my place at the front of the crowd, I could hear him speak. ‘Pete, we didn’t get a chance to talk much, but from what I knew of you, you had a good heart. If only there were more like you in this world.’

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He bent down to take some earth and poured it on top. Next I sprinkled water above and around the plaque. As a final gesture of respect, I signalled to everyone to gather again, and in unison we bowed.

C Work outside the camp grounds was temporarily suspended after Johnny’s escape while the army implemented new security measures. The orderlies, however, were allowed to return to work at the infirmary, as it was within the camp’s perimeter. Life more or less went back to what it had been before Pete’s death. But there remained a gap that everybody was aware of yet no one ever mentioned. I visited Pete’s old ward when Hayashi wasn’t there. The old man in the bed next to Pete’s stared at me with his rheumy eyes. The sheets had been taken down. All that was left was his bed, the blanket neatly folded and tucked. The window he’d stared at for so many hours was shut against the midwinter chill. The ward smelled musty. Nothing remained of the person who’d lain there for weeks thinking, sleeping and dreaming of another life. Yamada gave me a wide berth after Pete’s death. He never directly addressed me in the hut or at mealtimes anymore. He and several others used to play mahjong near my bed, drinking and laughing till late at night. I used to join them if I wasn’t working at the infirmary the next day. But after Pete’s death they moved to the other side of the room. I was also no longer rostered to clean the lavatories, a chore I’d been previously happy to do, and I wondered if it was Yamada’s way of appeasing me. We occasionally crossed paths on our way to the mess hall or the latrines, and his gaze skittered away from mine. I suppose Yamada was afraid. I could have told someone about what he’d done to Pete and what I suspected he’d intended to do, and even if Yamada wasn’t found guilty of beating him, the accusation would be enough to force him to resign from his executive position. I did come very close to telling McCubbin once. He visited me at the infirmary to check I was aware I had to testify at the upcoming court of inquiry into Pete’s

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death. McCubbin paused at the door before he left. ‘Did you hear about Mori and Yamada?’ My head snapped up. ‘No. What?’ ‘They’ve offered to give Pete’s mother the money for the casket. They’re paying for it out of the profits of the canteen. It’s very kind of them.’ I couldn’t help myself. ‘Yamada and Mori are not good men.’ ‘What do you mean?’ He cocked his head, the scar on his cheek flashing red. ‘They seem kind and generous, but they are not. Not when you know them.’ McCubbin’s gaze lingered on me, but that’s all I said. I like to think he understood me, but more than likely he thought I was just acting oddly because of Pete’s death. Johnny was released after twelve days in detention. He came back thinner, quieter, more introspective. The threat of doing more time hung over him; his court case would take place in two weeks, at the same time as the inquiry into Pete’s death. But more than that, I think he was burdened by the knowledge his behaviour had indirectly caused Pete’s death. With no outside work allowed, he and the other Australians sat around smoking and playing card games all day when they didn’t have chores to do. Unlike the wider Japanese population at camp, many of whom put their spare time towards crafts and rehearsing for the entertainment group, they had no prior experience—nor much interest—in such things. When I had a day off from the infirmary, I visited the garden near the altar. Dirt gathered in mounds, obscuring many of the plants. Old Ohmatsu, one of the camp’s keenest gardeners, was trimming the cypress brushes. He’d somehow returned them to their former stepped shape—two rounded forms among the untamed native shrubs. Pete’s plaque looked unsightly, with the dirt that had been poured on top and the assortment of bottles, paper, cigarettes and sweets around it. Ohmatsu stopped trimming as I brushed away some of the dirt. ‘Don’t you think his plaque deserves a nicer spot?’ he asked. I looked around. ‘Where else would you suggest?’ He surveyed the rest of the garden. ‘This place could do with a pond.’ ‘I suppose we could do that.’ ‘Only, I’m too old for that kind of work. You’ll have to do all the digging. But I can tell you where to dig and what shape it should be.’

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I nodded. ‘I’ll see how much I can get done today. But I won’t have another break from the infirmary for four more days.’ Ohmatsu didn’t seem to hear me. He gazed at a spot on the ground. ‘And it would be good to have a bridge…’ Using a shovel made from the lid of a powdered milk tin, at Ohmatsu’s direction I started digging an area at the base of the dirt mound. The sun-baked earth hardly yielded beneath my makeshift shovel. I collected water from the ablutions block and spilled it over the area. I drove a wooden stake into the glistening patch, trying to break up the rock-hard ground. Despite the cool breeze, I became soaked with sweat. By lunchtime, I’d only dug out a depression the size of my head. Blisters broke the skin of my palms. I bumped into Sam on my way to the mess hall. His eyes widened when he saw me. ‘You look like you just crawled through a drain,’ he said, nodding at the stains on my shirt. ‘The garden—I’m trying to build a pond.’ He lifted his brows. ‘Yeah? Sounds like a big job.’ In the afternoon I walked back to the garden, hoping the water I’d doused the area with had softened the earth some more. As I turned the corner past the last hut, I saw Sam, Johnny, Paddy and Eddie standing near the vegetable garden, smiling. ‘We thought you could do with some help,’ Sam said. I stepped back. ‘Oh, really? But I didn’t expect—’ ‘Just tell us what to do, before we change our minds,’ Johnny said. Ohmatsu smiled when he saw me approaching with the Australians. ‘Ah, some strong men to help you. Very good.’ I showed them the stones that traced the outline of the pond. We only had two improvised shovels and a few wooden stakes. Johnny and Paddy started shovelling, while Eddie and I used the stakes to break up the earth. Sam went to collect more water. By the time the sun was low on the horizon, we’d opened up a three-foot wide hole. Metallic flecks shimmered in the rust-coloured soil. We still had more digging to reach the line of stones, but we’d done most of it in one afternoon. I sat on a rock and mopped my brow with a handkerchief. Johnny leaned on a stake,

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smoking a cigarette. The tip glowed red like the sun’s fading rays.

C The court of inquiry took place at camp headquarters in one of the administrative buildings. I waited in the corridor for my name to be called. A small legal team had arrived from Melbourne that morning. Most of the windows in the corridor faced west, so it was bitterly cold inside the building. I breathed mist into the air. Johnny and I had arrived together. He sat next to me, his feet tapping a pattern on the floor. As we waited, he shifted back and forth, his hands clenching and unclenching on his thighs. After a few minutes, Private Davies entered the building, pausing in the doorway when he saw us. He had been suspended immediately after the shooting, so I hadn’t seen him for several weeks. He seemed a different man to the soldier I remembered. Shadows pooled beneath his eyes and cheekbones. His neatly pressed uniform hung loose on his frame. He looked away from us. Johnny sat up and stared at him. I was certain he would say something, and I was about to warn him not to, but after a few moments he looked down at his thighs and unclenched his fists. Less than a minute later, the door opened and Johnny’s name was called. Davies slunk to an empty seat. The fingers of his right hand worried the clasp of his watch. He threaded the leather band in and out of the loop. In the wake of Pete’s death, I’d had many dark thoughts about Davies. But seeing him so wretched changed my mind. He couldn’t meet my gaze, and I realised even he was filled with regret. Lieutenant Orchard and another guard arrived, a portly man in his forties or fifties. I later learned he had manned the eastern watchtower at the time of the shooting. Although visibility was very poor the night of the dust storm, he had seen more than anyone else. He spotted Johnny clambering over the outer perimeter fence near the southern guard tower, an incident that somehow the guard in that tower had missed. He immediately alerted the guard room, triggering the siren. Then he noticed Pete against the fence inside the grounds of the infirmary, so close it looked as if he was about to climb. He was about to shout to Pete to get back,

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but a dust cloud rolled in and engulfed him. Then he heard the two gunshots. Half an hour later, Johnny emerged from the room. He ran a hand through his hair. ‘How was it?’ I asked. ‘Okay. I only told them the truth.’ He eyed Davies. ‘I’m going to go outside for a smoke. Back in a sec.’ Davies had been called into the room by the time Johnny returned. He collapsed into the seat next to me, reeking of bitter smoke. He tipped his head back till it touched the wall. He clasped his hands over his abdomen and settled back to wait until I had given evidence so we could return to camp together. When Davies emerged more than forty minutes later he headed straight outside without looking at us. Orchard was finally called and I sighed, compelled to wait another half an hour. Johnny appeared to be asleep, exhaling long, noisy breaths. I went over my statement in my head. Pete had been depressed but his condition had improved considerably in the previous week. He was no longer suicidal. His decision to write to Isabelle was evidence of that. What had he been thinking about as he stared at the sky? A better life with Isabelle? I admired his courage in matters of love, but camp was no place for dreamers. One had to behave for the benefit of the group, not just for himself. After some time, the door opened and Orchard walked out. Soon afterwards, the other guard was called into the room. Minutes passed; he was in there for a long time. I grew agitated, wondering whether I would ever be summoned. Finally, the guard exited and I heard my name. Inside the room, four men sat behind desks arranged in a horseshoe shape. Two were in uniform and the other two were in civilian clothing. A large black typewriter sat on the desk to my immediate right. The clerk gestured for me to take the seat at the front that faced the bowl of the horseshoe. The military man to my left clasped his hands over a folder. Silver flecked his hair. ‘Tomokazu Ibaraki. Firstly, I understand you speak English. Is that correct?’ I said it was. ‘Good. I am Major Donnelly. I am the chairman at today’s proceedings. This is the military lawyer Captain Gibson, to his left is his assistant Mr Quigley and at the end is Mr Stott, who’s transcribing today’s proceedings. You’re one of

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the last people we’re questioning today. We’ll continue with proceedings tomorrow, before delivering our verdict.’ Captain Gibson cleared his throat and sat up straight. His eyes were a pale brown, like the colour of dried buckwheat. ‘Please state your name, date of birth and profession.’ ‘Tomokazu Ibaraki. March the twentieth, 1908. I am a medical physician.’ ‘Do you promise to tell the truth to the best of your abilities?’ ‘I do.’ ‘I’d like to start with what you saw or heard on the night of the shooting. Lieutenant Orchard told us earlier today that he came to the compound to get you, is that correct?’ ‘Yes. It was a few minutes after the gunshots. I went outside after I heard them. I could hear a lot of men shouting, then I eventually heard Lieutenant Orchard calling for a doctor. He let me out of the compound and we ran to the infirmary.’ ‘And what did you see at the infirmary?’ ‘I saw someone on the ground, face up, a few feet from the perimeter fence. I realised it was Pete.’ My voice quavered. ‘Pete—you mean Peter Suzuki?’ Captain Gibson asked. ‘Yes. There was blood on the front of his shirt. His body was still warm, but there were no vital signs. We rolled him onto his side and saw a wound on his back, behind his heart. The bullet must have entered his heart and—’ ‘We already have a coroner’s report, Doctor Ibaraki. Please just state what you saw,’ Captain Gibson said. ‘We placed him down, the way we found him. I noticed that his face and the front of his clothes were coated in dust, as if he had been standing outside for a long time. I waited beside the body until the ambulance came. It took about fifteen minutes. The blood flow had stopped by the time it arrived.’ ‘Thank you, Doctor Ibaraki. Could you tell me why Suzuki was in the infirmary?’ ‘He had cut his wrist three weeks earlier. It was a deep cut, so it was taking a while to heal.’ ‘Cut his wrist? How?’ ‘With a piece of glass.’

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‘So he did it himself?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘So it was suicide—he tried to kill himself?’ I shifted in my seat. I glanced at the clerk, his fingers pounding the keys. ‘Yes.’ ‘In your medical opinion, was he suffering from melancholy? ‘When he cut his wrist, yes. But after he came to the infirmary, his disposition improved. The depression was only because of the bullying.’ ‘The bullying?’ Captain Gibson’s voice was sharp. ‘Yes. He came to me in the infirmary about a week before he cut his wrist. He had a bruised arm, and said some men had forced him out of the mess hall.’ ‘What did you do?’ ‘I bandaged his arm.’ ‘Did you tell anyone about the bullying?’ My throat was tight. ‘No, I didn’t think it was my place. I’m only a doctor—I try to stay away from camp disputes.’ ‘But after he tried to commit suicide, surely you told someone then?’ Everyone stared at me. ‘He was in the infirmary by then. I didn’t think it would happen again. I thought he was safe.’ Captain Gibson whispered something in Mr Quigley’s ear. The assistant made a note. ‘Private Davies told the court he fired at Suzuki because he was climbing the fence. He thought he was trying to escape. Captain Christie said he saw Suzuki on or near the fence. Did Suzuki ever talk of escaping, or wanting to get out?’ ‘He wanted to get out—but many people here do. He had a female friend he wanted to see. But he never talked about escaping. It sounds strange, but the night he was shot, I think he was looking at the sky. He was fascinated by it. I’m not sure why. I once saw him staring at the sky on a windy day, standing very close to the place where he was shot.’ ‘But why would he be outside in such conditions unless he was contemplating escape?’ ‘He—he was just looking at the sky.’

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Captain Gibson tilted his head. My chest felt hollow. ‘Doctor Ibaraki, do you think Peter wanted to die on the night he was shot?’ ‘I—I don’t know.’ The captain paused. He seemed to sniff the air. ‘I am asking you this, because various people—both internees and officers— have named you as the closest person to Suzuki at camp. Is that a fair judgment?’ I said it probably was. ‘How would you describe his relationship to you, Doctor Ibaraki? A friend—is that an appropriate word?’ ‘Yes, he was a friend.’ ‘Well, if he was a friend, why didn’t you know how he was feeling the night he died?’ I looked aside. My nose burned. I put a hand up to my mouth to try to suppress the feeling rising from within, but it was no use. I began to cry. Tears escaped and rolled down my cheeks. I took short whimpering breaths. It was a shock to myself as much as anyone else in the room. No one said anything for a few moments. ‘Goodness, do you need a handkerchief?’ the chairman asked. I shook my head. I fumbled in my pocket and found mine. I pressed it to my eyes. I hoped to control myself quickly, but the tears continued to flood. ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,’ I said. I covered my face with my hands. Without the rapid thwack of the typewriter, my sobs were amplified. Finally, the chairman spoke. ‘Captain, if it’s all right with you, perhaps we can resume tomorrow?’ ‘That sounds like the best option.’ I nodded. ‘Thank you. Sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’ With a guiding arm on my elbow, the clerk led me to the door. Still holding the handkerchief to my face, I made my way down the corridor as quickly as possible. Johnny sat up. ‘You okay?’ I moved past him, past the guard waiting in the seat and the guard at the door, and stumbled outside. I turned the corner. The sun was shining. I leaned my cheek against the building and felt the warmth of the sun-baked bricks. I closed my eyes.

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Footsteps followed me. ‘What’s the matter? Fuck, you’re a mess,’ Johnny said. I drew a long, shuddering breath. ‘I could have helped him. I could have done something more. Not just for him. For all of them. Why didn’t I?’ ‘It’s not your fault, Doc. That bastard Davies got him. There was nothing you could’ve done to save Pete.’ ‘No, no, you don’t understand. Not just Pete, all the others. I could’ve done something. I could’ve helped them, but I didn’t.’ I covered my face with my hands. My fingertips were hot and wet. I felt a hand on my shoulder. ‘Shhh,’ Johnny said. ‘It’s not your fault. You did all you could. It’s not your fault.’ I’m not sure how long we were like that, the two of us beside the administrative building in the sun. We stayed there until my tears were dry and my breath became even once more. Johnny fetched the guard. Then, with his palm against my back, Johnny led me back to camp.

C The court found that Pete had been shot while attempting to escape, but Private Davies had failed to issue the appropriate warning, failed to notify other guards and used excessive force to deter Pete, leading to Pete’s death. There was no mention of Pete’s mental state. Private Davies was suspended without pay indefinitely. I was glad they found Davies guilty of negligence, even though his sentence seemed light, considering he took a man’s life. They were mistaken in their judgement of Pete, though. I knew in my heart he hadn’t tried to escape. Johnny was given fourteen days’ detention for escaping. As he had already served twelve of those, he only had to spend another two days in the cell. On the second day, the guards let him out before the evening meal.

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At headcount on Monday morning, Lott told us he’d return to camp later that day to make an announcement. My thoughts immediately turned to the prisoner exchange program. Whispers broke out among the lines of men. ‘Silence!’ Lott shouted, slapping his crop against his thigh. ‘All your questions will be answered this afternoon.’ But the murmurs persisted. During breakfast, the mess hall was abuzz with chatter about the possibility of returning to Japan. ‘I dream of eating manju and seeing the peak of Mount Fuji again,’ said Watanabe, who sat opposite me. ‘What about your wife?’ Ebina said. ‘No—she can wait,’ he replied, and broke into laughter. ‘Sensei, what about you? What do you miss most about Japan? There must be something,’ Watanabe pressed. ‘The sea. I miss the sea in Japan.’ All the orderlies were concerned about missing the announcement while we were on our shift, so we asked the guard at the gate to fetch us when he saw Lott approaching. The day dragged on. Although I tried to put the possibility of exchange out of my mind, I couldn’t help but think about what awaited me. Thoughts about my future filled me with fear. Where would I work? Who would employ me after my dismissal from the laboratory? Where would I live? I thought about Kayoko. She hadn’t spoken to me or responded to my letters since leaving Tokyo, so I held little hope for a reconciliation. Going to Australia meant my affairs in Japan were left open till my return. The sky darkened and the first stars glimmered. Still, we heard nothing. ‘Maybe it’s not happening today,’ Matsuda said as we packed up at the end of our shift. We trudged back to our compound. Dinner had finished an hour earlier, but hundreds of men were still in the mess hall, talking. ‘No Major Lott yet?’ I asked. ‘Not yet,’ Ebina said. ‘We don’t think he’ll come till tomorrow.’ Someone shouted from the direction of the gate. We fell silent, straining to hear.

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‘Lott!’ the voice cried. ‘He’s coming!’ The hut exploded with activity. People dashed to their huts to tell their friends. I jumped up to take my place at the other side of the table, sending a chair clattering. Major Lott and his retinue marched into the mess hall as internees were still arriving from their huts. He carried a leather satchel bulging with paper. ‘Everyone stand on the south side of the room,’ he said, indicating the wall behind me. ‘Just find a place as best you can.’ He repeated the directive as more and more internees entered the room. There were far too many of us to line up neatly in the narrow corridor along the wall; we bunched around the tables and chairs and fanned out between the rows. ‘Quiet, please. Do it quietly,’ Lott said in response to the chatter that erupted. Lott unfastened the clasp on the satchel. He brought out a thick wad of paper. The hut was so quiet I could hear the rustle of the pages. ‘According to an arrangement with the International Red Cross, it has been decided that the internees and prisoners of Japan and the Allied countries will be exchanged at the neutral port of Lourenço Marques in Portuguese East Africa,’ Lott said. ‘Only those internees whose names I am about to call out will be allowed to return home on the next exchange boat.’ He paused to allow the interpreter to speak. A hum of excitement rose from the crowd. ‘When you hear your name, stand on the opposite side of the room. First name: Hiroyuki Ikebata,’ he said. A man about my age pushed his way through the crowd and crossed to the other side of the room. He beamed. ‘Kariya Masaru,’ Lott said. The next man let out a cry of delight as he joined his friend. Lott continued reading out names. The numbers facing us swelled. I noticed many standing before me were from Borneo, Surabaya and Java in the Dutch East Indies. My feet tingled. ‘Ichiro Mori.’ Whispers broke out as the mayor made his way to the other side of the room. A new mayor would have to be elected. My palms felt wet. Thirty or forty more

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names were called, and then Yamada’s name was called out, too. Those around me whispered their congratulations as he stepped forward. When he reached the other sound of the room and turned around to face us, his expression was full of glee. My shoulders sagged. Despite my mixed feelings about returning to Japan, it didn’t seem fair that Mori and Yamada were lucky enough to be chosen. Space opened up between the people on our side of the room. I shifted from foot to foot. The air felt heavy, as if it were about to storm. Lott turned the page. There was only one more piece of paper to go. As he read out more names, I took comfort in the prospect of life at camp without Yamada or Mori. ‘Tomokazu Ibaraki.’ My head snapped up. ‘Congratulations, sensei,’ someone said. I felt a hand on my shoulder, urging me forward. My head felt light as I found my way across the floor. I struggled to make sense of my thoughts. Was I really going back to Japan? I wondered if my ties to the laboratory had anything to do with my name being chosen. Lott read out a dozen more names, then flipped the rest of the pages over. ‘That’s all, I’m afraid,’ he said. Two-thirds of the camp population remained on the other side. But as I looked across the divide, they seemed like the minority. Some hung their heads, appearing as if they had done something wrong. Others tried to smile, but I could see the disappointment on their tight mouths. I felt ashamed to be included on the list—I didn’t deserve it, not after how misguided I’d been at camp.

C In the weeks following the announcement of the prisoner exchange program, the atmosphere at camp was tense. Those who weren’t chosen to return to Japan brooded over their continued confinement. Small matters, such as re-arranging the beds and creating a new chore roster, threatened to erupt into disputes. A divide opened between those who were leaving and those who had to stay. As I was one of the lucky ones, I did my best to tiptoe around the others. At mealtimes, I

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avoided conversations about the exchange, and only packed my bags when no one else was around. Yet sometimes the issue was impossible to evade. Soon after the announcement, Ebina approached me in the hut. ‘Sensei, not you, too?’ Our hut had a large number of people who’d been chosen to return. When I nodded, tears sprang to Ebina’s eyes. Seeing him before me, his face drawn and his shoulders hunched, I realised how troubled he felt. Not only would he lose some of his closest friends at camp, he would also remain separated from his wife and children, whom he missed dearly. At the infirmary one afternoon, Doctor Ashton pulled me aside and asked me how the news of the prisoner exchange had been taken at camp. ‘Most are coping well, but some are experiencing prolonged distress.’ A few men in my hut seemed unable to recover from their melancholy. They sat on their beds for most of the day, complaining about their misfortune, and refused to return to work. Some openly wept. ‘Do me a favour and keep an eye on them, would you?’ Doctor Ashton said. ‘More suicide attempts are the last thing we need.’ Amid all the changes at camp, I hesitated. Although I knew I was lucky to be leaving, the thought of returning to Japan filled me with dread. I slept fitfully at night, my mind consumed with what lay ahead. In a welcome reversal of fortune, only Johnny and his friends were happy to learn that they would remain in Australia. While rumours of the internee exchange had swirled, they had been worried they would be sent to Japan against their wishes, even though they were British subjects. ‘They locked us up in here, didn’t they? Who knows what they’ll do to us next?’ Johnny had said. Ken Takahashi had been particularly agitated; he’d been born and raised in the Dutch East Indies, so had fewer ties to Australia than the others. When the gang discovered none of them were on the prisoner exchange list, they celebrated. After Lott and the officers left the mess tent, Eddie brought out a bottle of rum he’d bought from one of the guards and started passing it around. They continued drinking after lights out in their hut, becoming so rowdy their hut leader threatened to kick them out. One evening a few weeks later, Johnny approached me after dinner in the mess

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hall. He told me that he, Paddy, Eddie, Sam and Fred had applied to transfer to Woolenook woodcutting camp, several miles away on the banks of the Murray River. It was a much smaller camp, with only two hundred internees. ‘McCubbin said there are a few Aussies there like us, so hopefully we won’t get as much grief.’ The weak electric lights threw shadows on his face, making him appear drawn. I would miss him, I knew. With the gang soon leaving, there was nothing left for me at camp. Yet a part of me wanted to stay. The day before my departure, I visited the infirmary one last time. My heart was heavy as I entered the dim corridor, knowing I would not see the familiar faces of the staff and patients, nor hear the building’s creaking floorboards ever again. I bent my head and hurried past the room where Pete used to sleep. In the tuberculosis ward, sunlight streamed through the windows, forming patterns on the floor. Hama was asleep. I touched his shoulder and his eyelids fluttered open. ‘Come to say goodbye?’ I nodded. ‘I’m leaving tomorrow morning.’ ‘That’s too bad. I’ll miss you, old friend. You’re like a brother to me. I feel as if I’ve known you a lifetime.’ I squeezed his hand. Hama had regained some strength in the previous month, and his appetite had increased. His face appeared fuller in the morning light. ‘You make it sound as if we’ll never be in contact again. I promise you, I’ll write.’ He shook his head. ‘No use. I’m going to die in here.’ My smiled faded. ‘Nonsense. You’re not going to die here. Why would you say something like that? Just last week you put on two pounds, and your breathing has improved.’ But he didn’t seem to hear me. ‘I’m going to die, I know it, and I haven’t seen my family in years.’ My thoughts turned to Kayoko. I hadn’t heard from her since she’d left me and I wondered whether our silence would continue after my return.

C We gathered along the fence to say our last goodbyes. A bitter wind buffeted my

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face and brought tears to my eyes. My bags were at my feet. Somehow, my luggage had swelled in the six months I’d been at camp. Sawada had made me a puzzle box as a farewell present, its different coloured panels sliding in a series of movements to reveal the internal cavity. Ebina and the rest of the baseball team had given me a notebook filled with their memories of our time together. I also had a number of letters and wooden keepsakes from many left at camp who’d asked me to forward them on to their families in Japan. A line of trucks waited on the other side of the birdcage gate, ready to transport us to Barmera station. From there, we would board a train bound for Melbourne, then we’d begin the long voyage home. Mori stepped forward, his glasses flashing white as they reflected the overcast sky. He gave a short speech, thanking everyone for their support and welcoming the new mayor, Abe Denkichi from Borneo. ‘Against all odds, we’ve been able to make a happy life here. I trust this will continue under Mayor Abe’s leadership,’ he said. I curled my lip at his affectation. I had to endure several more weeks with him and Yamada on the voyage. I consoled myself with the knowledge they wouldn’t be able to harm anyone else at camp. As I waited at the fence, Johnny came up to me and extended his hand. He no longer wore bandages as his cuts had finally healed. Wearing a knitted jumper, his hair wet and falling over his eyes, he looked like the young man I had known in Broome. ‘Look at you, you lucky bugger. You can finally go home. You’re one of the few who really deserves it. Can’t say the same about the others.’ ‘Johnny, I will miss you. You have become a good friend. I wish we became friends sooner—not only at camp, but also in Broome. I should have trusted you earlier.’ He nodded and looked away. His eyes glistened. ‘Start filing out, one at a time!’ the guard called from the gate. Paddy, Eddie, Sam, Andy, Ken and Fred wished me luck and patted my back. I bowed to Ebina, Sawada, Ohmatsu and the men from my hut one last time. As I fell into line, a feeling of panic gripped me. I looked back at the hundreds of men waving goodbye. Let me stay! I wanted to cry. The guard marked my name off a list and I stepped onto Broadway for the last time. As we walked along the wide street, our friends in 14C followed us inside

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the fence. ‘Goodbye!’ they yelled. ‘Don’t forget us!’ Tears were streaming down Ebina’s face. My cheeks felt warm, and then I started to cry. We reached the junction at the middle of camp and I looked back. The blur of my friends pressed against the fence. The sweep of ochre dirt. The rows of galvanised-iron huts. The guard tower rising up beyond the fence. It was bleak, but it was home. A place where I belonged. On the other side of Broadway, the Germans in 14D and Italians in 14A had gathered along the inside fence to see us off. ‘Lebewohl!’ ‘Addio!’ they called. I heard music and thought it was a record playing in one of the compounds, but as we walked past the Italian compound I realised it was a live band. A four-piece on a guitar, mandolin, accordion and tambourine played us a parting song. Men clapped and sang around them, cheering as we went by. We reached the birdcage gate and passed through it for the last time. McCubbin waited on the other side. His cap was pushed back off his face. He grinned, making the scar on his cheek crease. ‘Glad I didn’t miss you. I just wanted to say goodbye. It’s been a pleasure. I’ve got your address in Japan. Let’s keep in touch. You’re one of the good ones—I hope you know that.’ He held out his hand. It almost swallowed mine. He brought his other hand on top. ‘Thank you for everything. I won’t forget—’ My voice faltered. ‘Hey, cheer up. No need for that. Aren’t you happy you’re going home?’ But his own eyes were wet. We dragged our luggage to the line of waiting trucks and loaded them inside. I stepped into the back and sat on the bench. The engine coughed into life. The truck jerked forward and a cry escaped from my throat. I craned my neck to watch the scenery shrinking away through the canvas opening at the back. The long stretch of barbed wire fence. The squat buildings of the duty guard camp. The guard towers, shining silver in the bleak light. Clouds of dust billowed across the track. Then we turned a corner, and it was gone.

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S S C I T Y O F C A N T E R B U RY AND KAMAKURA MARU 1942

We boarded the train at Barmera and travelled through the night, reaching the outskirts of Melbourne the next morning. Through the carriage window, I saw heads of wheat swaying in the dawn light. Beyond them, the sun spread on the horizon. My heart ached. I wondered if I would miss the sunrises and sunsets in Australia—the vivid wash of light. We disembarked at Port Melbourne a few hours later. A line of ships spread out before us. Among them was the City of Canterbury, the British naval ship that would take us halfway home. The long grey vessel huddled at the water’s edge, ready to slip towards Lourenço Marques, where the prisoner exchange would take place. On the train, the atmosphere had been lively; we’d played card games and whispered through the night. But once we stepped outside, blinking against the sudden brightness, we fell silent. The guards marched beside us as we walked towards the foreshore. I was struck by the paradox: although I’d been released from camp, I’d never felt my enemy status so keenly till then. Ahead of us, a small crowd of onlookers was gathered at the top of the stairs. From a distance, they looked like a typical group of sightseers there to admire the ships, a handful of children among them. But as we neared, they set their mouths hard. We were nearly on the gangway when one of the men shouted: ‘You should kill them!’ ‘Yeah, shoot the bastards!’ a woman cried. My chest felt tight. I thought back to the train journey to Loveday, when I’d seen the woman with the little girl on the platform—the expression on her face.

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Before leaving the port, we were joined by more Japanese internees and officials, including the Japanese ambassador to Australia and the consul-general. Soon we numbered more than eight hundred. The diplomats and officials would travel in the first-class cabins on the upper deck and eat in a separate dining room staffed by the crew, while the remaining internees were to sleep on hammocks on the lower deck and cook for themselves from the ship’s supplies. About seventy women and children also boarded the ship, and it was a relief to hear women’s voices and see children again. I had been living among men for far too long. I was embarrassed to discover I was one of the few people assigned to cabins on the lower deck, along with Mori, Yamada and several businessmen. At pains to free myself of their association, I spent my days wandering the deck and mixing with the rest of the internees. Mori and Yamada didn’t seem to notice my frequent absences as they cooked and conversed among their privileged coterie. We finally left Melbourne, launching from the port with a single tone of the whistle. We stopped at Fremantle to pick up more passengers and supplies before embarking on the long journey across the Indian Ocean. I stayed at the stern as we slipped through the sapphire waters, watching the land shrinking behind us. When we had travelled half a day, I noticed a difference in the quality of light—the sky seemed thinner, the colours less bright. I realised we had finally left Australia, and something broke within me and drifted away. The days passed without incident. Surrounded by the ocean again, I regained a measure of calmness after the turbulence of the previous few months. I spent many hours wandering the decks and looking through portholes. Sometimes I saw whales in the distance, their backs like oil slicks on the surface. Despite the cramped quarters and the freezing night-time temperatures, the atmosphere was genial. I became friendly with a group of men from the Dutch East Indies who’d been held at Hay camp, and shared many meals with them. Over stew one night, as we sat in a circle with blankets around our shoulders, talk turned to the diplomats on board the ship. ‘I heard Ambassador Kawai’s a strange sort. Have you met him, sensei?’ one of the men said. ‘Briefly, yes. I treated one of the diplomats for seasickness, and was introduced to

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the ambassador while I was there. Kawai didn’t strike me as strange, exactly—more circumspect, I’d say.’ I leaned forward. ‘Apparently, Kawai has four white boxes in his cabin containing the ashes of the naval officers who died in Sydney Harbour. The Australian government gave them to him to return to the families in Japan.’ The men around me exclaimed in disbelief. At camp, we’d read about the midget submarine attack in one of the newspapers smuggled from the guards’ barracks. The submarines had only hit a depot ship before they sank, but I was astonished they’d gone so far down the east coast. Mori had organised a big celebration at camp, with camp-brewed sake at each table. When I later learned the Australian authorities had given the Japanese officers a burial with full naval honours, I was shocked. They seemed to treat their enemies with more respect than their own, I thought, with Johnny in mind. As we sat on the ship’s deck, scraping out the last of the stew from the saucepan, the discussion turned to the dead men. ‘To think, those men went into the water knowing they’d never return alive. I couldn’t do such a thing,’ someone said. Goto, a rubber planter from Borneo, put up his hand to signal he wanted to speak. His voice was a whisper. ‘To give one’s life to one’s country, for the greater good of all—it’s the greatest sacrifice. They’re true heroes,’ he said, shaking his head. Everyone around me nodded. But as I thought of the men in their metal coffin, their final breath escaping from their lungs, I imagined them at peace with themselves, knowing what they had done. It is much harder to descend to the depths of suffering and then find a way to keep living. I know, because that is what I have done.

C A memory comes back to me from my time at the laboratory. It was from those final traumatic weeks, when our baby had died and Kayoko had left me. Shimada had called me into his office to discuss the schedule for the dissection demonstration, which was to be held in two days’ time. Soon after I had reported to his office, an officer appeared at the door and told Shimada that Kimura wanted to talk to him. He excused himself, promising to return soon. There was a manila

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folder on his desk. Thinking it was related to the dissection demonstration, I picked it up and flipped it open. The title read: ‘Hydrogen cyanide toxicity by inhalation’. I began reading the report. ‘Subject A: Female 26 years. Subject B: Infant 22 months. Experiment began with 1000 mg of HCN released into five-cubic-metre enclosure. At 50 seconds, “B” showed signs of disturbed breathing, despite attempts by “A” to cover respiratory tract. Convulsions in “B” began at one minute forty seconds. “A” collapsed at four minutes. Lay on top of “B” to little effect. Convulsions began thereafter. “A” displayed signs of flushing on face and neck and foaming at the mouth. Convulsions continued sporadically until 17 minutes. At 21 minutes, respiratory signs ceased. Experiment was terminated at 30 minutes. Both subjects were pronounced dead.’ I closed the file, my hands trembling. A few days later, after Kimura dismissed me, I had less than an hour to say goodbye to my colleagues and gather my belongings. Before I left, I slipped into the storage room one last time. I frantically searched for the specimen, praying it hadn’t been incinerated yet. At last I found it. The boy’s corpse had been returned to one of the jars and stored on a shelf. Guts spilled from the stomach cavity, but the face was untouched. Eyes closed, his expression was serene. I removed the lid and reached in to slip the wooden tag from around his neck.

C After weeks of sailing across the Indian Ocean, a blur had finally emerged: a rolling lip of green that opened into the wide bay of Lourenço Marques. The bustling port of the neutral African nation glittered in the golden light. The next day, we marched across the dock to board the waiting Kamakura Maru, while Allied prisoners boarded the City of Canterbury in our place. From there, we cut across the Indian Ocean once more, until we reached Singapore, our journey across the world and back almost complete. The air was milky with warmth. Charred shells of buildings lined the shore—reminders of the Japanese conquest seven months earlier. As I gazed at the crumbling edifices and the blackened dwellings, I realised the battle had been fierce. Before the last leg home, we made a brief stop in Hong Kong where the Japanese flag was raised on Victoria Peak.

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C On the final day of our voyage before reaching Japan, I stood on the deck of the Kamakura Maru, staring out to sea. My fingertips pressed against the cracked paint of the railing. Spray buffeted my face. A few times during the previous weeks, the skies had darkened and the atmosphere had condensed into a squall, rocking our ship across waves as if it was something small. But now the sea was calm, like a sheet of glass. I wiped spray from my brow and the sour scent of metal filled my nose. I looked up. Black smoke from the ship’s funnel stained the sky. Seabirds hovered above me, slipping and shifting on the air currents. They appeared each morning, stark against the blue, before disappearing to an unknown place at night. I heard a creak behind me. ‘Sensei, still out here?’ Torimaru, the young assistant diplomat from the ambassador’s office, smiled. We’d become friendly in the past few weeks as we shared a cabin on the Kamakura Maru. He was returning to his family home in Tokyo after several years in Australia. We often talked late into the night. I dipped my head sheepishly, conscious of Torimaru’s gaze. ‘Just for a few minutes,’ I said. In fact, I had been on the deck for most of the day. It would be the last time I had the opportunity to gaze at the endless stretch of sea: the next day, we would dock at Tateyama, two hours south of Tokyo, to go through quarantine and immigration before continuing to our final stop, Yokohama. ‘Thinking about tomorrow?’ Torimaru raised a hand to shield his eyes. I nodded. ‘I don’t know what it will be like.’ Torimaru joined me at the railing. The world spread out in blue monotony. No land or reef or rocky outcrop blemished the horizon. He drew a deep breath. ‘You know, I’m sure your wife will be glad to see you after all this time.’ He was trying to be kind; I had hinted of our estrangement. ‘She’ll see that things have changed. Think of it as a second chance, an opportunity to start afresh.’ I smiled weakly. ‘You may be right.’ For a few moments, we admired the glassy water and the chalky colour of the

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sky. Then Torimaru stepped back from the railing. ‘Well, I won’t disturb you any longer. I’ll see you at dinner—the ambassador has promised a special feast.’ I watched him walk away. I sensed he had wanted to continue our conversation from the previous night, and I felt bad for not inviting him to stay. As I stared at the glassy surface, I realised there was truth in what he’d said. I, more than most, knew how quickly things could change. I felt calm with the blue all around me and warm spray on my face. My homeland was a day’s journey away. I was safe in the ocean’s wet embrace. The silence was not a suppressant, but the opportunity to renew. As Torimaru had said, it was an opportunity to start afresh. I would regrow from the embers of my former life, like a mallee tree destroyed by bushfire. I would make myself anew. I promised I would never look back.

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TOKYO 1942

After our ship docked in Yokohama, I returned to my family home in western Tokyo, where the streets were narrow and electricity wires crowded the sky. The area was dirtier than I remembered, as if the ashes of war had settled upon the buildings and houses. But perhaps it was because I was accustomed to the view in Australia, where each day my surroundings had been rinsed by the vivid light. Mother came towards me from a dark corner of the house, a pained expression on her face. ‘Tomo, you’ve come home.’ She wrapped her arms around me, something she hadn’t done since I was a boy. For several seconds she didn’t let go. My chin brushed the crown of her head. Smoke mingled with the oily scent of her hair. I felt the frailness of her body through her yukata—my mother, who had always been so strong. When she stepped back, she looked drawn. I realised how much she must have suffered over Nobu’s death. Consumed by my own grief, I hadn’t stopped to consider how she must feel. Her letters hadn’t expressed the hardship that her physical presence revealed. The world seemed crowded during those first shaky weeks back in Japan, when I felt for the edges of my existence. The sun blazed outside but I kept to the darkness of my home. It was a new kind of confinement. Sometimes I walked to the market stalls near the station. The neighbours who recognised me smiled and welcomed me home. No one mentioned my time at the camp in Australia or my dismissal from my job in Japan, but I sensed they wanted to know more about my past when they hovered nearby even after I had bid them a good day.

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Several months passed before I contacted Kayoko. I waited until I had found employment at a hospital on the outskirts of the city. Even though the possibility of being sent to the frontlines hung over me, I wanted her to know I was doing my best to build a future with her in Japan, if that was what she wanted. She sounded tired on the telephone, her voice stretched thin. Tomo, is that you? I’m glad you returned safely. Really, I am. We arranged to meet the following week at a coffee shop in Ginza. I arrived early and sat at a table in the corner, facing the doorway. As I waited, I studied the sky through the window. The blanket of clouds held the promise of first snow. Snow had covered the ground the last time I had seen Kayoko, almost five years earlier. It had formed a backdrop of glittering white. In the coffee shop, a dark figure came towards me. My heart fluttered when I realised it was Kayoko. She wore navy monpe trousers knotted above her waist and a matching coat. In the unfamiliar clothes, I hardly recognised my wife. Grey threaded her hair. Her cheeks had lost their fullness and her mouth was tight. We sat together, the hum of conversation surrounding us as we shared fragments of our pasts. She smiled when I told her about releasing the lanterns in Broome and the baseball competition at camp. She described the friends she had made at the factory where she worked, assembling munitions parts. ‘Most of the other women’s husbands are away at war. Some of them have already died. It made me realise how lucky I am that you’re still alive.’ I sensed an opportunity to raise the possibility of our reunion. ‘Kayoko, all the years I was in Australia, I never stopped thinking about you. When you didn’t respond to my letters, I almost gave up hope. But now that I’m here with you…’ Outside, the air had turned opaque. Figures walked by the window as if in a haze. I drew in a deep breath to steady myself. ‘Now that I am back, it would make me happy if you returned to live with me.’ Her eyes were fixed on the spoon she held between her fingers. For a while, I thought she would not reply. When she did, her words came haltingly. ‘I want to return to you. The baby, when you weren’t there…’ She hesitated. I realised I had to tell her before the moment was gone. I would tell her then or forever hold my tongue. ‘There’s something you should know—I should have

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told you long ago. The work I did at the laboratory, it wasn’t what you thought—’ ‘No, just listen to me, Tomo. I know it was not your fault. You had your commitments. I can see that now. What I’m trying to say is, I want to return to you, I do. But I can’t. I’m not ready. Not yet.’ I felt as if I would collapse. I longed to put my arms around her, as I used to when we were still together, or at least take her hand. But instead I only nodded. ‘If you need more time, I understand. I will wait.’

C The cold that winter seemed to chill me to my bones. The days crawled by. To keep my mind from dwelling on Kayoko, I dedicated myself to my work. The hospital was understaffed because of the war and there was always plenty to do. Because of the shortage, I began to assist during surgeries, even though I hadn’t received proper training as a surgeon. I became first assistant to the chief surgeon, and I was often asked to lead other operations. I performed only minor surgeries at first, but as my skills and confidence grew I began to undertake more complicated procedures. The months passed, but there was still no word from Kayoko. I did receive a letter from Ebina, who was still interned at Loveday. He told me Hama had died a few months after I left. Although I wasn’t surprised by the news, in the loneliness of that first year back in Tokyo, his death deeply affected me. Late the following year, Tokyo became the target of American attacks. Lying in bed at night, I heard the wail of the siren, warning of another raid. Mother and I crouched beneath the kitchen bench as the walls shook around us and the sky lit up with flames. The hospital was filled with burns victims and the stench of their scorched flesh. The smell inhabited me, seeping into my skin and clothes. It was a smell I never grew accustomed to. When the patients arrived, either wheeled in on stretchers or walking, they screamed for me to help them. I disinfected their wounds and applied moist bandages, but there was little else I could do. I couldn’t even give them anaesthetic to relieve them from their terrible agony; it was in such short supply that we were only allowed to use it for operations. The most severe cases—the ones who would

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surely die—were put into the ward furthest from the entrance. Nurses staffed the ward but no doctors were assigned. I visited the patients from time to time. Their blackened and blistered bodies were unsettlingly indistinct, stripped of gender or any distinguishing features. If I closed my eyes I saw the people I had dissected years earlier, their bodies ravaged by disease. I noticed that the closer the patients came to death, the quieter they became. Their screams, which had been so insistent when they were first admitted, soon turned into low moans. In their final hours, I heard only the sigh of their breath as they struggled for air. That sound, so weak and insignificant, was their last tie to life. One evening, after a particularly long and gruelling day at the hospital treating victims of the latest air raid, I returned home to find Mother waiting for me. She stood up when I walked into the living room. Her eyes were swollen and she clutched a white handkerchief to her chest. ‘Oh, Tomo,’ she said. ‘Mrs Hattori came to see me today. You remember, Kayoko’s aunt?’ Unease bloomed within me and spread throughout my body. Mrs Hattori and her husband had occasionally accompanied the Sasakis and our family on outings to the beach when I was young. She was a jolly, round-faced woman who had stayed late at our wedding. I liked her, and was sorry I had not had the chance to get to know her better. ‘She came to give us some terrible news. Last night, in the air raid—’ I reached out to grip the edge of the sliding door. My fingers punctured the rice paper. Before she spoke the words, I knew: Kayoko, my wife, was dead.

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TOKYO 1989

I hear a TAP TAP TAP on glass. The wind sighs. Shadows dance across my desk as something shifts outside. Through the swaying branches of the persimmon tree, I see stars glimmering in the sky. I can’t see the moon, but its cold, bright light touches the edge of my desk. The rest of the room has long since grown dark, for I have sat here for many hours thinking about the past. I would have ordinarily taken a stroll by now, navigating the park in the fading light—maybe seen my neighbours, the Fukadas, and their dog. They are always walking at the same time as I. Upon my return home, I would have made a simple meal of rice, broiled fish and vegetables, which I would have eaten at the kitchen table while perusing the newspaper, as I do almost every night. Some evenings, I call my sister to pass the time. She tells me what she did that day—ikebana at the cultural centre or a visit to see her daughter, Hanako—before passing the phone to my great-nieces so I can say goodnight. But not tonight. Since this morning’s encounter with Mrs Ono and my attendance at the ceremony for the anniversary of the bombing, I have not been myself. Memories disturb my subconscious, like the beating wings of a dove. I switch the lamp on. It throws a circle of light onto the newspaper before me. The headline on the front page that had perturbed me this morning catches my eye: ‘Shinjuku bones not suspicious, police say.’ I can’t avoid studying the images beside it. The arm of a mechanical digger overhangs the open rectangle of the excavation site. A close-up of two skulls shining through the earth, the dirt in their

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eye sockets like a blank stare. A chill passes through me. A feeling I can’t suppress. I skim the article, as if reading it again will provide the answers I am looking for. ‘The investigator appointed by Shinjuku police to examine the bones of more than thirty-five people discovered beneath the former National Institute of Health building last month found no evidence of violent crime. Kenichi Eguchi says the remains belong to men and women who died at least twenty years ago. Based on his findings, a criminal investigation will not take place. However, some historians believe the bones are linked to Unit 731—the military unit responsible for biological warfare development during World War II. Shinjuku ward officials are still pressing the Ministry for Health and Welfare to conduct further tests, even though their initial request was denied last week.’ I pass a hand across my brow. The strain of the day has condensed into a faint pulse behind one eye. The heartbeat of a long-buried memory. After all these years, for it to come back now. In Broome, it was always there, like a shroud across the surface, the edges drawn tight. When I froze before the operation on the young Malay. Even in my dealings with Sister Bernice—her innocent attempts to learn more about me brought painful recollections to the fore. Just when I thought the worst was behind me, Pete’s death brought it back into sharp relief. For years, I thought I would never be able to forget. But over time, the memories faded. The long hours I worked meant I was too busy to stop and reflect. Only once, in 1959, did the past threaten to overwhelm me. Mother was still alive then, and one morning she showed me a notice. ‘Didn’t you used to work for him?’ It was an obituary for Shiro Ishii. According to the article, the ‘former army general and gifted medical pioneer’ died a peaceful death at home, surrounded by his family. He was sixty-nine. I snatched the paper from her and demanded to know why she had showed it to me. ‘Because you knew him,’ Mother said. ‘I don’t understand—why are you so upset?’ In the years after the war, I often thought of Sister Bernice. Once, on my way back from visiting Kayoko’s grave, I saw a group of Catholic missionaries, the nuns’ long black habits flapping in the March wind. I searched their faces for any resemblance to the pale, oval countenance I remembered so well. Years later,

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when foreign businessmen and their wives became common in the city, seeing a particular sort of dark-haired Occidental woman would inspire nostalgia in me. By then, I was working at a hospital in Tsukiji, where many of the nurses were trainees, performing tasks with a fraction of Sister Bernice’s assurance, and much less of her grace. Bernice sometimes used to appear in my dreams, her white habit stirring as she approached. She never judged me in those dreams. Her face, turned towards me, was always full of light. From my bottom drawer, I take out an envelope. In thick, calligraphic script it is addressed to ‘Doctor Tomokazu Ibaraki, Harvey Camp, Western Australia’, but this has been crossed out and the address of my family home in Japan written next to it in pen. I reach in and remove the letter, now yellow and stiff with age. It crackles as I unfold it. Although it is dated January 1942, I received it in 1948, many years after I’d left the camps and returned to Japan. It must have been held by the censors and then forwarded to Loveday after my release. I will never know how it reached me, but the uncertainty of those thin, shaky lines, the writer’s hand pausing over the unfamiliar arrangement of letters, makes me think that perhaps Officer McCubbin received it and forwarded it to me. It was the only letter Sister Bernice ever wrote to me. When I first read it, I wept with regret. But in 1948, when I received the letter, I was still reeling from the shock of Kayoko’s death. Although I longed to reach out to Bernice, I decided not to, for fear of the memories it would release. Some things are best left in the past. And so the letter became a forgotten thing, like all the other mementos from that era—the wooden tag from the boy’s neck and my rusted surgical tools. For years, they gathered dust in a box among my files. It wasn’t until Emperor Showa’s death earlier this year that I thought of them again. On the day of his funeral, I watched the televised procession. Seeing the military men lining the wet streets, saluting the hearse as it passed, stirred something within me. I spent several hours searching for the box. When I finally found Bernice’s letter, I pored over the small, cursive script for hours. Reading and re-reading, until I had committed it to memory.

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17th January 1942 Dear Doctor Ibaraki, First and foremost, I would like to apologise for my behaviour the other week. It was wrong of me to accost you at your home and question you. During my time at the hospital, you were kind to me in so many ways, so when I had the chance to return the kindness, I was disappointed you wouldn’t allow me to. My emotions got the better of me, and when I finally realised my error, you were already gone. I am truly sorry we never had the chance to say goodbye. There are so many things I would have liked to say to you. When we stood on the beach watching the lanterns and you told me about how you made them as a boy, I saw a part of you I’d never seen before. I was also grateful for all the books you lent me. Whenever I felt we were growing closer, you seemed to step away. I recall your irritation when I found the tag inside the book. We all have our secrets, and I did not wish to know yours, but I longed to be able to relieve you of your burden. I wish you had shared a little more of yourself. I would have liked to have said such things and more to you in person. Not doing so is my greatest regret. ‘When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.’ (Psalms 32:3) I pray for your wellbeing, Tomokazu, and for all that has been left unsaid. Yours truly, Bernice I look up and the brightness of the lamp momentarily blinds me. Finally, Sister Bernice’s words open up to me. I’d clung to the ideal of discretion, when it was courage—and forgiveness—I’d needed all along. My silence had been weak. I shift in my seat. Hunger gnaws my stomach, but there is no time to eat. I reach for my writing pad and turn to a new page. The paper, at first glance crisp and white, on closer inspection bears the indentations of my pen pressing onto the page before it—ghostly lines, the almost imperceptible grooves of the past. I imagine Mrs Ono’s shock when she reads the paper next week. She might miss her morning walk in her hurry to call her friends. No doubt, I’ll be the subject of gossip for weeks. My go friends, my former hospital colleagues—everyone will be surprised to learn that mild-mannered Ibaraki did something such as this. My heart flutters when I think of my sister’s family. Her grandchildren are of college age and might be taunted by their friends. But I will explain why I had to do it.

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In time, it will be worth the shame. I hope they understand. I pick up my pen and begin to write. At first, the words come slowly, as I hesitate over every phrase. But soon the sentences start to flow. ‘Dear Editor, My name is Ibaraki Tomokazu. I used to work at the Epidemic Prevention Laboratory within the Army Medical College in Tokyo. General Ishii Shiro was the head of our organisation. I am writing to you in the hope that you will publish my letter, because there is something the Japanese people should know.’

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T H E G A T H E R I N G L I G H T

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Introduction

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his exegesis aims to address the question: How do we narrate the traumas of the past, as individuals and collectively? It is not intended as a comprehensive study of how we narrate past traumas—that would require far more pages than I have at my disposal. Instead, it offers a selective examination of some of the ways individuals and societies narrate the traumas of the past. The question of how we narrate the traumas of the past is linked to the question of when: When do we stay silent, and when do we speak out? Accordingly, this exegesis also investigates the way the passage of time affects our understanding of the past, and the moral and ethical implications of silence and testimony. Each of the four chapters is a self-contained essay that explores a different expression of silence in narratives about past trauma, from gaps in historical records to institutional silences and narrative uncertainty in literary texts. Each chapter examines the forces that facilitate and challenge W G Sebald’s notion of the postwar ‘conspiracy of silence’ (Wachtel 2007, p. 44) that conceals past horrors. Although I have provided some explanation of my writing process in Chapter Four and a critique of my creative work in Chapter Three, I have kept such reflection and analysis to a minimum. I focus on discussing concerns raised in the content of my creative project, such as the psychological impact of internment, particularly as experienced by the half-Japanese and Australian-born internees (Chapter One), and the impact

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of silence and testimony on the understanding of Japan’s wartime past (Chapter Two). I took this approach as I wanted to advance knowledge through research that expands upon the themes of my creative work, rather than through an examination of my creative practice. I drew upon an interdisciplinary framework of theory to develop this creative thesis. While I referenced literature from fields including anthropology, social psychology, genocide studies, trauma studies and media studies, I primarily engaged with research located in memory studies and literary theory (especially Sebald’s writing and criticism), and I was particularly interested in the overlap between these two areas of study. The first chapter of the exegesis, ‘Perspectives On Japanese Civilian Internment in Australia’, addresses the gaps in records and literature about the 4301 Japanese civilians interned in Australia during World War II. By examining available material, I highlight the government and social prejudices that influenced the internment and release of Japanese civilians. Drawing on archival records and oral history interviews, I profile five former Japanese civilian internees, all of whom were either Australian-born or of mixed Anglo-Japanese ethnicity, to demonstrate their varied psychological experience. Internment took an enduring mental toll on those who clashed with the dominant cultural paradigm of camp. The second chapter, ‘Unearthing the Past: Silence and testimony in Japan’, takes the form of a creative non-fiction essay probing how the accidental discovery of human remains in Shinjuku in 1989 started a dialogue about Japan’s biological warfare program, and in turn prompted individuals to speak out. Through interviews with civilian activists campaigning on behalf of the victims of Japan’s wartime atrocities, I expose the schism within Japanese society over remembrance and commemoration of the war, and efforts to combat decades of institutional silence. The third chapter, ‘Memory of Trauma and Conflicted Voice in The Remains of the Day, Austerlitz, and After Darkness’, is a literary essay that compares the representation of traumatic memory in novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, W G Sebald and me. By establishing a narrative voice that simultaneously

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hides and reveals, by introducing narrative uncertainty and by using chronological complexity, these texts probe how and when to narrate the traumas of the past, and highlight the repercussions of postwar silence. The fourth and final chapter, ‘The Other Side of Silence’, charts the evolution of the thesis and the aesthetic, theoretical, moral and ethical considerations that informed the creative process. I highlight the importance of time in navigating how and when to narrate past traumas, and offer a glimpse at my family’s reluctance to narrate its complex past. I also discuss how the thesis represents my own oblique approach to writing about my Japanese heritage. The final chapter acts as a conclusion to the exegesis, drawing the threads of the creative work, After Darkness, and the previous three exegesis chapters together in an interrogation of the different ways we narrate the traumas of the past.

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Perspectives on Japanese Civilian Internment in Australia

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ore than four years ago, I began researching my novel about Japanese civilians interned in Australia during World War II. I was drawn to the topic because, as the daughter of a Japanese immigrant to Australia, the internment of Japanese civilians was something I had heard about from time to time, yet knew very little about—much like the Japanese phrases I chorused over the dinner table as a child. Because my mother is an issei, or first-generation immigrant, I have no family members or ancestors who were interned. But the subject appealed to me as it is entwined with ideas of identity, otherness and patriotism—issues that I had grappled with in the past. It also struck me that these issues are still current, as the recent surge in people seeking asylum in Australia stimulates widespread suspicion and debate about their legitimacy and detention. I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of an internee—firstly, because I hoped a first-person narrative would elicit more empathy; and secondly, because I found precious little material that offered an internee’s perspective. To narrate the story from an internee’s perspective, I needed to know the camps inside out. But achieving this proved difficult. In contrast to the thousands of military files that recorded the arrest of enemy aliens, internee transportation and camp governance in meticulous detail, there were only a handful of texts written by, or featuring interviews by, former internees. My project would be an attempt to address this silence. So

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I sourced archives, books, films and oral history transcripts, and conducted interviews and field trips as I attempted to answer: What was the Japanese civilian internee experience in Australia during World War II? Despite the simplicity of the research question, answering it required a broad, multi-pronged inquiry, as I considered the historical, political, social and emotional aspects of internee life. Historical details such as daily life at camp provided the necessary background for my novel—the wallpaper of the world I would construct—but my primary interest was uncovering the psychological experience of Japanese civilian internees, as understanding their inner lives was invaluable to create a convincing first-person narrative. I chose to set most of the narrative of After Darkness within Loveday internment camp in South Australia, and I narrowed my research accordingly. My reasons for choosing Loveday were both pragmatic and poetic. Of the three permanent camps where Japanese civilians were held—Tatura (Victoria), Hay (New South Wales) and Loveday—only Hay and Loveday housed unattached men. Tatura was for Japanese families, single women or children under the age of sixteen, and as such it was unsuitable for a Japanese doctor with no family in Australia. Hay was a logical choice, as many of the Japanese employed in the pearl diving industry in Broome were eventually transferred to Hay (and my relative proximity to the site of Hay camp and the National Archives branch in Sydney that holds most of the files relating to Hay would be convenient for research)—but since the early days of my project, I was drawn to Loveday. While Tatura and Hay have been the subject of scholarship through the involvement of former child internees at Tatura and documentation of the ‘Dunera Boys’ at Hay (The Dunera Boys 1985; The Dunera Boys: 70 years on 2010), Loveday, despite being the most populous of the three camps, has been largely ignored. It was this surprising lack—the silence that surrounded the camp— that captured my imagination. Finally, there was the name: Loveday. An unintended paradox (Loveday is the name of the tiny Riverland town where the camp was located), the word evoked passion and broken dreams, and seemed a very literary term, indeed.

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Review of the literature Since the late 1980s, a small body of literature examining the civilian internment experience in Australia has emerged. Much of the work in this area focuses on the policy that governed the internment and release of enemy aliens, and draws from military and government archival material to construct a picture of life within the camps. Margaret Bevege’s Behind Barbed Wire (1993) is one of the earliest and most comprehensive studies in this field. It investigates the prewar political climate that led to the development of internment policy, and the implementation of this policy in relation to German, Italian and Japanese civilians. One chapter is devoted entirely to the internment of Japanese civilians in Australia, with a focus on Japanese who appealed against their internment. Many withdrew their appeals when the tribunal explained that ‘public feeling would be against [them]’ (Bevege 1993, p. 141), and those who persisted with their appeals were largely unsuccessful due to the tribunal’s belief that releasing Japanese internees would cause agitation among the community. Pam Oliver’s article ‘Who Is One of Us? (Re)discovering the Inside-out of Australia’s Japanese Immigrant Communities, 1901-1957’, published in the journal Japanese Studies (2002), also concentrates on appeals made by Japanese internees at the Aliens Tribunal. Oliver provides in-depth analysis of government internment policy and intelligence reports on ‘Japanese character’ to expose the social and institutional prejudices of the time that made it virtually impossible to secure a release. In the Interest of National Security (2006) by Klaus Neumann draws on secondary literature and unpublished government records to highlight the varied experiences and backgrounds of Japanese, German and Italian civilian internees in Australia and the hypocrisy of their internment. Similarly, the ten essays in Under Suspicion: Citizenship and Internment in Australia during the Second World War (edited by Joan Beaumont, Ilma Martinuzzi O’Brien and Mathew Trinca, 2008) emphasise the diverse German, Italian and Japanese internee populations, the subjectivity of the internment experience and the enduring shame and stigma

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suffered by internees. The fourteen essays in Alien Justice: Wartime Internment in Australia and North America (2000), edited by Kay Saunders and Roger Daniels, examine policy, incarceration and remembrance of civilian internment in Australia, the US and Canada. Yuriko Nagata’s essay in this collection, ‘“A Little Colony on Our Own”: Life in detention camps in Australia in World War II’, outlines camp life and touches on the emotions and turmoil experienced by internees of all nationalities. Although the above texts were useful to provide an overview of internment and to shed light on the government attitude towards enemy aliens, with the exception of Nagata’s essay, they provide little information from the point of view of Japanese internees. Two published texts that combine archival research with primary interview-based research are Yuriko Nagata’s Unwanted Aliens: Japanese Internment in Australia (1996) and Noreen Jones’ Number 2 Home (2002). Nagata is considered the leading expert on the Japanese civilian internment experience in Australia, and in addition to Unwanted Aliens, she has written several journal articles (for example, Nagata 1987) and book chapters specifically about Japanese civilian internees. Unwanted Aliens offers a comprehensive examination of the internment of Japanese civilians in Australia—from an overview of government policy, a snapshot of camp organisation and daily life at the camps that held Japanese civilians in Australia, details about postwar release and repatriation, to a glimpse into the internment of Japanese civilians in North America. She based her findings on more than one hundred interviews conducted with former internees, military personnel and camp staff; diaries and letters written by former internees; and extensive archival research. The chapters detailing camp organisation and camp life have proven invaluable in constructing the ‘world’ of the camp in my creative project, and Nagata’s wide-ranging documentation of former internees’ memories, impressions and the emotional fallout of their internment has been key to understanding the psychological experience of Japanese internees. Unwanted Aliens also first drew my attention to the conflict experienced by the

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Australian-born Japanese, which subsequently became the focus of my research. Number 2 Home looks at the social and cultural contributions of Japanese immigrants in Western Australia from the late 1800s till the end of World War II. Noreen Jones conducted oral history interviews and archival, photographic and secondary research to create intimate portraits of the lives of Japanese pioneers in Australia. One chapter focuses on Japanese who worked in pearling crews, while another looks at Japanese who were interned. This latter chapter, however, focuses on internees’ memories of their arrest and what happened after their release, and there is little detail about their lives during internment. While Nagata’s and Jones’ texts do provide insight into the psychological impact of internment from the perspective of Japanese internees, it is a fragmentary look at certain aspects of internment (such as tensions between different groups and the enduring stigma of internment) due to the subjective nature of internment and the difficulty of representing all perspectives. There are a small number of texts written by former internees, former army officers and others about their personal experiences living within or near an internment camp. Shiobara Susumu’s (1995-96) memoir charts his experience of first being imprisoned in the Dutch East Indies, then the gruelling voyage he took to Australia and his eight months’ internment at Loveday in South Australia. It is invaluable for the detail it provides about the idiosyncrasies of daily life—such as smuggling newspapers from guards’ barracks into internees’ quarters. The personal tone of Shiobara’s memoir and its first-person internee perspective provided the closest model for what I aimed to achieve in my creative project. However, it only briefly touches on the psychological impact of internment, and there is no mention of tensions that exist between different groups, for example between the Australian-born Japanese and Japan-born Japanese internees at Loveday that Nagata details in Unwanted Aliens. This may be due to Shiobara’s relatively short stay at Loveday, and the fact he was part of a large group of Japanese from the Dutch East Indies and so had minimal interaction with internees from other countries.

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Likewise, the self-published diary of Miyakatsu Koike (1987), provides valuable detail about daily life during the author’s four-and-a-half years of internment—such as food, weather, sports and entertainment nights—but minimal reflection on his feelings about his internment and virtually no mention of conflict between different ethnic groups. This is perhaps because, as an educated Japanese, he only mixed with similar internees and was thus oblivious to, or purposefully ignored, the clashes with minority groups. Finally, based on my research of published material to date, my creative project is only the second fictional exploration of the internment of Japanese civilians in Australia during World War II, and the first to present the topic from a Japanese internee’s point of view. There are numerous titles in the canon of North American literature that explore the issue of Japanese civilian internment (for example, Snow Falling on Cedars, Obasan), but in Australia it is a relatively new area of interest in fiction. Cory Taylor’s recently published novel, My Beautiful Enemy (2013), examines the unique Japanese civilian internment experience in Australia through the eyes of a former guard at Tatura camp, who looks back on the period in which he fell in love with a fifteen-year-old Japanese male internee. Although My Beautiful Enemy is concerned with similar themes of loss, isolation, moral ambiguity and yearning for the past, the viewpoint of the Australian guard in the setting of Tatura makes it a starkly different novel to my own.

Historical overview The internment of Japanese civilians in the United States and Canada during World War II has been the subject of decades of scholarship (for example, Daniels et al 1991) and media attention. Through the efforts of activists, photographers (such as Toyo Mitake, Bill Manbo, Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange), writers (including Joy Kogawa and David Guterson) and documentary filmmakers, the experience of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians during World War II is now a part of public consciousness in North America.

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In Australia, however, few are aware that Japanese civilians were also interned in Australia and New Zealand during the war. This lack of awareness is partially due to the difference in numbers: only 4301 Japanese civilians were interned in Australia (Nagata 1996, p. xi) and about 45 in New Zealand (Bennett 2009, p. 64), compared to 112,000 in the United States and 22,000 in Canada (Nagata 1996, p. xi). Through my research, I have identified two more reasons for the widespread ignorance: the Japanese civilians interned in Australia were a much more multicultural group, with Formosans, Koreans and long-term residents of countries such as New Caledonia among them, thus lacking a unified ‘voice’; and nearly all were repatriated to Japan at the end of the war, diminishing their ability to speak out about their experience. (My research focuses on the experience of Japanese civilians rather than prisoners of war; as such, the literature about the Cowra, NSW breakout of 1944 is parallel to my research but does not directly inform it.) During World War II, a total of 16,757 people of ‘enemy origin’—mainly Germans, Italians and Japanese—were interned in Australia (Nagata 1987, p. 65). While the Australian government adopted a policy of selective internment of Italians and Germans, excluding those over the age of seventy and those who had resided in Australia for more than twenty years (Nagata 1996, p. 44), the same exclusions did not apply to the Japanese. Authorities took a ‘collar the lot’ approach, and, as a result, 97.83 per cent of all male Japanese aliens registered in Australia were interned, compared to 31.7 per cent of Italian males and 32.04 per cent of German males (Lamidey 1974, p. 53). Japanese were seen as a special category of enemy aliens, with more stringent policy dictating their incarceration and release. Noel Lamidey, secretary of the Aliens Classification and Advisory Committee during the war, confirmed this in 1987: ‘Our government was firm about the Japanese. As far as I can remember, we interned the lot and as a principle, we didn’t intend to let anyone out. It was for their protection’ (Nagata 1996, p. 120).

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The blanket internment of Japanese was based on four propositions: 1. No association or equivalent to the N.S.D.A.P. [the Nazi Party] or Fascio [the National Fascist Party], membership of which is an indication of the sentiments of the individual towards the country of his origin, are known to exist among the Japanese in this country. 2. Japanese nationals are not absorbed in this country as are many Germans and Italians. 3. Their well-known fanaticism and devotion to their country would probably lead to attempts at sabotage on the part of any Japanese here in a position to do this. 4. Male Japanese if left at large, would probably be the object of demonstrations which it is very desirable to avoid. (Nagata 1996, p. 50)

Although there was virtually no evidence that Japanese civilians were acting as spies in Australia, authorities feared they would become spies if left at large, and thus interned them as a preventative measure. More than seventy per cent of local male Japanese internees, excluding the pearlers from northern Australia, were elderly, as officials believed that ‘Japanese males of any age, even sixty-five to seventy and over, may endeavour to engage in sabotage’ (Nagata 1996, p. 50). In Australia, arrests began on December 8, 1941, just hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Police stations in districts where Japanese lived had received warrants and instructions for their arrest months in advance. Most Japanese in Australia were arrested within twenty-four hours (Nagata 1996, p. 45). Almost seventy per cent were from the far north (Ganter 2006, p. 226), with the majority engaged in the pearling industry in Broome, Darwin and Thursday Island. (The pearling industry was exempt from the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, as long as crew were employed as indentured workers [Ganter 2006, p. 66].) Japanese based in other areas were mostly farmers, market gardeners and laundry operators (Bevege 1993, p. 130). A small number of short-term residents of Sydney and Melbourne were consular staff or employees of large Japanese firms such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Yokohama

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Specie Bank (National Archives of Australia: C320, J78). Approximately one hundred Australian-born Japanese were also interned (Nagata 1996, p. 55). The policy of internment of Australian-born Japanese and mixed-race Japanese changed over the course of the war and was subject to interpretation. As Australian-born Japanese were British subjects by birth, they were not enemy aliens. According to government policy, however, most were interned, but some were not—depending on whether they showed sympathetic tendencies towards Japan, whether their local community supported their internment, and in some cases whether they had a good relationship with their local police commander. Some were the grandchildren of first-generation immigrants to Australia (Nagata 1996, p. 55). Many had little to no knowledge of Japanese language and culture, yet they were all interned under the sweeping banner of ‘enemy aliens’. Of the 4301 Japanese civilians interned in Australia, only 1141 were locals (that is, living in Australia at the time of their internment)—the remaining 3160 were arrested in Allied-controlled countries such as the Dutch East Indies, New Caledonia, New Hebrides (present-day Vanuatu) and the Solomon Islands (Nagata 1996, p. xi), and sent to Australia to be interned. The Japanese from the Dutch East Indies represented the largest group of internees, with 1949 (including 550 women and children) sent to Australia after the Australian government agreed to accept them if costs were borne by the Netherlands government (Nagata 1996, p. 78). The members of this group were typically born and educated in Japan and had been sent to the Dutch East Indies to work at various plantations (linen, rubber, coffee), banks and other businesses owned by Japanese firms (Shiobara 1995). They also included about six hundred Formosans (citizens of the Japan-occupied country now known as Taiwan) and some Koreans (exact numbers are not known) who had been arrested as Japanese (Nagata 1996, p. xi). Japanese from New Caledonia were the next-largest group, comprising 1124 internees—mainly miners, farmers and fishermen (Nagata 1996, p. 77). Many were longterm residents of New Caledonia, having migrated as young men to work in nickel mines (Kutsuki 2006), and had started

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families in their adopted country. Some were unable to speak or understand Japanese, and only spoke French (Shiobara 1996, p. 13). Both the Japanese from the Dutch East Indies and the Japanese from New Caledonia bitterly complained about their treatment by the Dutch and French authorities. Many were arrested and sent to Australia with little more than the clothes on their backs. On the hellish voyage to Australia, they were crammed into the stuffy hold without access to latrines and only allowed on deck for half an hour twice each day. Denied adequate food and water, some had their money, food and medicine taken from them by the soldiers. Illness spread and several died (Nagata 1996, p. 77–82). As they were not told where they were going, their eventual arrival in Australia came as a surprise. Fortunately, however, they were treated well once under Australian care, grateful for the kindness of the Australian soldiers, who offered them blankets, cigarettes and medical treatment (Nagata 1996, p. 83). One internee remembers: ‘I felt I would live when we got to Australia. The sunshine, the blue skies and smiling faces… somewhat gave me hope and strength’ (Nagata 1996, p. 83). The internment of the overseas internees alongside local internees (whose length of residence in Australia ranged from one month to six decades) created camp populations that were unique worldwide and truly diverse. Despite being grouped together under the banner of ‘enemy alien’, the Japanese internees in Australia were extremely heterogeneous and many did not even share the same language. For almost five years, they lived together in barbed wire enclosures in the outback, in a landscape alien to them all.

Daily life at Loveday All the internee camps were built in semi-arid regions in the outback, away from densely populated urban areas (Nagata 2006, p. 8), and Loveday was no exception. Located approximately 200 kilometres by road from Adelaide, Loveday was originally a resettlement area for World War I veterans (Bevege 1993, p. 190). It was chosen as the location for an internment

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camp due to the availability of land with a reticulated water supply. The first Japanese internees to arrive at Loveday camp 14, on January 5, 1942, were fifty local (Australian) Japanese from the Northern Territory (Internment in South Australia: History of Loveday 1946, p. 7). In the following weeks, more local Japanese and Japanese from New Caledonia and the Dutch East Indies arrived. Compound 14B held local Japanese and Japanese civilians from the Dutch East Indies, while 14C held a mix of local Japanese and those from the

Dutch East Indies and New Caledonia. Italian civilians were housed in 14A and a mix of German and Italian civilians in 14D. Each compound housed up to one thousand internees. The Loveday group of internment camps (which included camps 9, 10, 14 and Woolenook, Moorook and Katarapko woodcutting camps) held 6756 internees at its peak in 1943 (Nagata 1996, p. 128). The Japanese internees of Loveday quickly settled into a routine behind barbed wire. They set up an internal camp government, electing an executive committee and mayor (Shiobara 1995, p. 12), who were responsible for maintaining order within camp and reporting regularly to the military commanding

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officer in charge of each compound. They organised rosters for duties such as cleaning the lavatories and shower blocks, cooking meals, cleaning up after meals and waste disposal. Each internee was required to wake at six-thirty and go to bed by ten, keep their belongings neat and attend twice-daily rollcalls. Tents and huts were subject to random inspections by military personnel, who searched for uncleanliness and contraband items such as knives and improvised heaters. Guards (many of whom were World War I veterans) treated the Japanese humanely, with many former internees expressing gratitude for their kindness (Nagata 2000, p. 194). In accordance with the 1929 Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, internees were given the same rations as Australian troops. Many expressed amazement at the amount of food supplied. One former Loveday internee said, ‘We… got fat from doing nothing but eating regularly’ (Nagata 1996, p. 139). Beef, mutton, eggs, rice, potatoes and vegetables such as spinach, beetroot and pumpkin featured regularly on the menu. Alcohol was prohibited, but internees of all nationalities secretly made alcohol in the compounds (Nagata 1996, p. 140). Once a system of governance was established, the biggest problem internees faced was how to fill the many hours at their disposal. Labourers were needed to tend the market gardens, piggery and poultry farm set up by the military for profit, as well as to engage in work such as camp construction, wood cutting, tailoring and boot repair (Nagata 1996, p. 147). Three experimental crops were also grown at Loveday: opium poppies to produce morphine, guayule to make rubber and pyrethrum for insecticide (Bevege 1993, p. 190). Participation was voluntary and paid at the low rate of one shilling a day—about

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the cost of two loaves of bread. Despite this, about a third of Japanese internees chose to participate (Nagata 1996, p. 149) as they had little else to do and no other way to earn money, which they needed to buy items such as sweets and cigarettes from the compound canteen. Some Japanese, particularly those from overseas, wanted to earn money but were initially hesitant to do voluntary labour as they didn’t want to help the enemy. They found a solution to their dilemma by occasionally planting seedlings upside down (Nagata 1996, p. 149) and not pollinating poppies (Koike 1987, p. 65). Even so, the poppy-growing project was so successful that it eventually supplied more than half the morphine needed by the Australian army (SA Life 2011). The Japanese at Loveday enjoyed a variety of recreational activities. They staged musical concerts, kabuki and Noh plays, creating elaborate costumes with the limited materials they had at camp, sometimes inviting the guards to join the audience. The Japanese excelled at crafts, making smoking pipes, ornamental boxes and traditional geta sandals from discarded wood, scissors and knives from disused drums, plus straw baskets, lamps (fuelled with leftover cooking fat), chess and mahjong sets and musical instruments such as guitars, violins, harps and shamisen. From time to time, they held art shows to display their creations. They also put a great deal of effort into beautifying their surrounds, planting shrubs, cacti and flowering plants (Nagata 1996, p. 161), and creating elaborate landscaped gardens. They even built small wooden Shinto shrines for worship. Participation in sport was encouraged to alleviate boredom. Baseball and sumo were popular, but soccer, cricket and tennis were also played—the latter often with the guards on

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courts near the guard camp. In late 1944, the internees built a mini golf course inside the compound (Koike 1987, p. 147). In their spare time, internees could take language lessons in Japanese, Taiwanese and Malay taught by fellow internees (Koike 1987, p. 86–89). Internees celebrated Japanese national holidays, including New Year’s Day and the emperor’s birthday (Nagata 2000, p. 195), with speeches, dancing and concerts. In late 1942, the Japanese internees of 14B refused to go to work as they wanted to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day (Nagata 2000, p. 195). They were occasionally treated to movie nights and walks outside the camp grounds. Although internees enjoyed plentiful food, humane treatment by the guards and ample time for recreation, camp life was full of hardships. The loss of freedom, separation from loved ones and privation was too much to bear for some: there were four suicide attempts by Japanese at Loveday within the first ten months of their arrival (Nagata 2000, p. 188). In June 1942, a New Caledonian internee swallowed glass and later died in hospital (Nagata 1996, p. 159-160). The extreme weather conditions of the semi-arid climate also made life insufferable, as internees endured frequent dust storms and temperatures of more than forty degrees Celsius in summer and freezing in winter, while living in tents and uninsulated corrugated-iron huts.

Aliens Tribunal Internees were given the opportunity to appeal to a tribunal against their internment. They first had to seek approval from their camp commandant before the Aliens Tribunal scheduled a hearing (Nagata 1996, p. 102). From the beginning, however, the odds were against the Japanese. The war cabinet considered not allowing any Japanese to appeal, but determined ‘such open discrimination’ might ‘react to the disadvantage of British subjects in Japan’ and be ‘politically embarrassing after the war’ (Bevege 1993, p. 134). So cabinet decided to hear only extreme cases—those whose age, long residence in Australia or family considerations convinced military intelligence that

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they did not present a security risk (Bevege 1993, p. 135). Even so, the tribunal was advised beforehand ‘not to recommend release except in very exceptional cases and then only under severe restrictions’ (NAA: MP508/1, 255/702/1731). The first hearings of Japanese appeals took place in January 1942, with later hearings that year. Japanese internees had to meet several criteria in order to successfully appeal. They had to prove that: they presented no future risk; they presented no danger to society or to the prosecution of the war; their release would not cause unrest in the community, and also not deter men from enlisting for fear that aliens would take their jobs; they were Australian in orientation; and they retained no Japanese national characteristics (Oliver 2002, p. 279). The last point was particularly difficult to prove and subject to interpretation by the counsel. For example, the tribunal believed that a son who obeyed his father reflected a ‘belief in obedience to the Emperor as the divine head of the race’ (Oliver 2002, p. 279). Membership of Japanese clubs (such as the Nihonjinkai [Japanese Society] in Broome, Thursday Island, Cairns, Mackay, Sydney and Melbourne; the laundrymen Doshikai in various cities; and the Nippon Club in Sydney) was viewed as evidence of nationalist leaning. The tribunal consisted of three civilian lawyers and a representative of the Minister for the Army who presented the government’s opinion about each internee based on information in Security Service dossiers (Oliver 2002, p. 279). An interpreter was present at the hearings. Internees were entitled to witnesses and legal counsel, but most were unable to organise such assistance (Oliver 2002, p. 279). Military intelligence encouraged the tribunal to use the hearings as an opportunity to gather, ‘through skilful questioning of the Japanese internees’ (NAA: MP508/1, 255/702/1731), more intelligence about Japanese activities. Japanese connected to the pearl diving and shipping industries—or in fact any activity associated with coastal waters— were viewed with particular mistrust, as authorities were suspicious a spy ring was operating out of Australia’s northern waters (Nagata 1996, p. 47). One such case was John Nakashiba, the father of Mary Nakashiba (see case study

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below). Even though John had lived in Australia for fifty years, had married an Australian-born woman and had worked as a translator for Australian naval intelligence in Darwin, he was interned, as was his entire family. John’s work as the local agent for pearl divers in Darwin was seen as a red flag. During his appeal hearing, the counsel for the army, Captain Gillard, pressed him over his conversations with captains of pearling luggers. ‘Did you tell the Captains of the luggars [sic] that there were some American Air Force men there?’ Gillard asked. ‘No,’ John replied. Gillard also urged John to explain why he was president and secretary of the Japanese Society if he was Australian in his outlook, as he said he was. John revealed he was only honorary president as he leased his premises to the society, and he’d actually had a falling out with the Japanese Society acting president over his work for the Australian military. Despite this, he was refused leave (NAA: MP529/3, TRIBUNAL 4/155). A handful of Australian-born Japanese also appealed their internment. Their hearings, perhaps more than any other, demonstrate the farcical nature of the Aliens Tribunal and the near impossibility of being granted a release. Thirty-six-yearold cook James Hamabata, born in Onslow (WA) to Japanese parents, was not able to successfully appeal his internment as a Japanese enemy alien as he was actually Australian by birth—a catch-22 of absurd scope. After a brief questioning, the chairman stated: ‘As you are an Australian born subject this Tribunal has no jurisdiction to deal with your case. Your case will have to go before a different Tribunal, so we cannot go any further with it to-day’ (NAA: MP529/3, BOX 9). However, a different tribunal catering to the Australian-born internees was never arranged. James Hamabata was not released from internment until October 1946. A fortunate few were recommended for release by the tribunal, only to have it refused by military intelligence (see Joseph Suzuki case study, below). In a four-page document, Security Service inspectors listed twenty-one reasons why Joseph Suzuki and Ken Shimada should remain interned, one of which was that ‘sons of a Japanese is [sic] always regarded as a Japanese national even if he had some other nationality’

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(NAA: ST1233/1, N61798). Some internees who were granted release decided—or were persuaded by the tribunal—to withdraw their appeal and stay interned for their own safety, due to widespread anti-Japanese sentiment. Australian-born Edith Kashimura, whose husband was interned at Hay, apparently stated that ‘it would be better for his own sake if he were kept in detention as she did not realise how bitter local feeling was’ (NAA: C320, J90). Half-Japanese Douglas Umino was granted release on the condition he had suitable employment. He was offered a job as a caretaker of a deserted mine in rural New South Wales, but turned it down. ‘Umino, after due consideration, decided that as the job of caretaker would carry a very small salary he was far better off in internment where the Govt. supplied him with food, clothing and medical attention’ (NAA: C123, 17788). In keeping with the war cabinet’s desire to release as few Japanese internees as possible, the rate of release of Japanese was considerably lower than for Europeans. My analysis of files held by the National Archives of Australia indicates that of the at least 146 Japanese who appealed against their internment, the tribunal recommended the release of less than a dozen—yet some of those were denied leave by the Security Service. Seventy-four per cent of Italian internees were released by December 1944 (and forty per cent were released before Italy capitulated in September 1943), and twenty-five per cent of Germans were released by December 1944. In contrast, only six per cent of Japanese were released before the cessation of hostilities with Japan (Nagata 1996, p. 120).

Nationalism and conflict On the surface, the Japanese internee compounds 14B and C at Loveday appeared to be perfect examples of communal harmony. The internees performed plays, organised art exhibitions and tended their vegetable and decorative gardens in an apparent spirit of cheerful cooperation. The conduct of the Japanese at Loveday was so exemplary they were described as ‘model prisoners’: ‘Their fanatical desire to maintain

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“face” made them easy to handle in their eagerness to obey all orders and instructions to the letter’ (Internment in South Australia: History of Loveday 1946, p. 10). The Germans, on the other hand, were described as ‘arrogant [and] appreciated strict discipline’, while the Italians were ‘[n]aturally temperamental’ (Internment in South Australia: History of Loveday 1946, p. 10). Although there were several breakout attempts and some successful breakouts by the Italians and Germans (resulting in the eventual capture of the escapees), no Japanese civilian internees attempted to break out (Nagata 2000, p. 201). It is worth noting that Japanese POWs were considerably more recalcitrant and staged two mass revolts: the first was a riot at Featherstone camp in New Zealand in February 1943, which left forty-eight POWs dead; and the second was the famous Cowra breakout of August 1944, in which 231 Japanese died (Gordon 1994, p. 3). Japanese soldiers were trained to consider capture the greatest shame. Civilian internees did not share this view. My initial research supported the view of an overwhelmingly harmonious existence among the Japanese. The son of a pearl diver interned at Hay camp said his father only ever spoke of happy memories and the friends he made at camp (Hojo 2010). Susumu Shiobara’s memoir of his eight months interned at Loveday mentions no friction between internees, aside from a minor incident when a senior employee of a prestigious company took more than his fair share of jam (Shiobara 1995, p. 11). One former child internee at Tatura I interviewed, Maurice Shiosaki, said, ‘All the time we were there, we were very happy. There was no bitching or fighting in the camp’ (Shiosaki 2012). Another, Evelyn Yamashita, had ‘no sad memories’ from her time at Tatura. ‘I think we got on well together,’ she said (Yamashita 2012a). As my research deepened, however, I found evidence of unrest beneath the orderly exterior of camp. Yuriko Nagata highlights several instances of hostility at camp, including the ongoing friction between Japanese and Formosans. According to records, two half-Chinese, half-Japanese Formosan brothers at Loveday compound 14C ‘were found to have been ill-treated, forced to carry out fatigues inside the compound,

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and prevented from engaging in paid employment. These two internees were transferred to another state’ (Nagata 1996, p. 176). The report, dated April 1945, summed up intra-compound relations thus: ‘There has always been ill-feeling existing between the Half-breeds and the Japanese, the latter treating the former in a very disdainful manner. The majority of petty fights in the Compound have been between these two sections.’ Despite the tension between the Japanese and the minority Formosans, the population nearly always appeared calm to army personnel. Former guard Bob Margitich said he was ‘not very aware’ of problems among the Japanese internees. ‘Let’s say there was friction which became a fight in 14C… By the time we got there, they were all poker-faced. There was nothing wrong anywhere… If you went into the German or Italian sides, there would be one group on this side and one on the other, swearing at each other in their own language. But if you went into 14C, everything was dead quiet. There was no way that I could read their faces. It was a bit scary…’ (Nagata 1996, p. 177). The compound executive committee, which represented the entire compound population, strove to mask outward signs of discontent. Any unrest would undermine the competence of the camp leaders and result in their loss of face. Former Loveday internee Shigeru Nakashiba explained: ‘I think most Japanese thought they should obey rules when captured. That was the education in Japan’ (Nagata 1996, p. 143). Formosans were not the only minority to clash with other Japanese at camp. Australian-born internees at Loveday were also involved in various disputes. Records suggest Broomeborn half-Japanese, half-Chinese Jimmy Chi was victimised at camp. He wanted to see the official visitor (the International Red Cross representative) regarding his missing possessions, but was always out working when the visitor arrived. The compound secretary, Shigeru Yamaguchi, told him such matters had to be channelled through him, but that he was not forewarned of these visits. Camp authorities, however, said Yamaguchi’s statement was false and he always knew of impending visits (NAA: A11797, WP8258). As a half-Japanese Australian, I was naturally drawn to the experience of the mixed-race and Australian-born Japanese

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internees. Caught between two cultures, they were welcomed by neither. Reading through various source material, it was difficult not to pity them, as they were dealt one blow after another. Despite being proudly Australian, loyal and, in some cases, eager to risk their lives to fight for their country, they were arrested and interned on suspicion of their Japanese sympathies. At camp, they were further alienated by the nationalist outlook and propaganda espoused by some of the internees. Despite their efforts, most were unable to convince the authorities of their loyalty and secure their release. Nearly all were interned for the duration of the war. Disputes involving the Australian-born internees usually resulted from differences in patriotic beliefs. At Woolenook, a woodcutting camp on the banks of the Murray River that was a part of the Loveday group of camps, a rift developed between a group of Australian-born Japanese and the other internees, who were mostly from New Caledonia. The Australian group, known as ‘The Gang’, comprised seven Australian-born—Jimmy Chi (who had shifted from Loveday), James Hamabata, Jack Tolsee, Patrick Ahmat, Eddie Ahmat, Sam Nakashiba and Joseph Suzuki (who was born in Japan but raised in Australia since he was six months old)—and one Indonesian-born, Ted Takamura (Nagata 1996, p. 175). A chaplain at Woolenook remembered: ‘They were different from the other Japanese… They had trouble with the other Japanese so they were put into a special tent. They refused to sign allegiance to the Emperor’ (Nagata 1996, p. 173). In June 1944, the Japanese at Woolenook went on strike because they didn’t want to work with The Gang (Nagata 1996, p. 175). Sam Nakashiba experienced hostility at Hay, Loveday and Woolenook. ‘[I]t was at Loveday that Sam got belted up [along with other half-Japanese],’ his sister, Mary, said (Nakashiba 2012b). ‘The soldiers had to rescue them.’ Prolonged internment took a severe psychological toll on some of the Australian-born, mixed-race internees and longterm residents of Australia. Joseph Suzuki was twice hospitalised with depression during his two-and-a-half years of internment (see case study below). Similarly, 22-year-old Dorothy Suzuki (no relation to Joseph Suzuki), interned at Tatura, complained

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about her isolation and resultant depression: ‘This internment is affecting my mental outlook on life. I get very morbid and depressed, as I am friendly with only a few people in this camp, and those are the few who speak English. During the eleven months of my internment in this camp, I have found myself unable to fall in with the Japanese customs and habits of the people here, and have had to suffer consequently’ (Neumann 2006, p. 51). According to John Nakashiba’s daughter, her father became a ‘zombie’ while at camp, suffering a mental breakdown due to the conflict he felt between his Japanese origins and Australian outlook (Nakashiba 2012a). Despite the seeming equanimity of the Japanese internee population, deep antagonism existed among the internees. Formosan, mixed-race and Australian-born internees—and some long-term residents of Australia who had adopted the Australian way of life—particularly suffered during their internment. The experience profoundly affected some and burdened them for years to come.

Conclusion My research has shown that the Japanese civilian internee experience in Australia during World War II was as varied as the individuals themselves. The contrasting first-person accounts of internment at first confounded me. Although a few, such as Mary Nakashiba, ‘felt the end of the world had come’ when she was interned (Nakashiba 2012b), many others—even those from the same compound—remembered it as an overwhelmingly happy time and expressed sorrow at leaving camp. I initially found it difficult to explain the disparity in experience. Was the conflict localised to one compound, or just a small number of individuals? Were those individuals causing unrest? Some material certainly seemed to suggest The Gang were troublemakers at Woolenook, while other sources depicted them as victims. I also wondered whether some former internees emphasised their past pain, while others tended to sugar-coat their memories—and if this was due to the Japanese cultural tendency towards stoicism

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rather than complaint. The answer was a combination of all of the above. The primary sources I used were mostly oral history interviews with former child internees at Tatura, as there were no former Loveday internees to interview, due to their older age and perhaps also their reluctance to talk about their internment experience. As Tatura was a family camp, security was laxer and internees—especially children—enjoyed more freedom than at camps such as Loveday. Young children were also oblivious to the clashes and hardship experienced by the adults. ‘I think we children rather enjoyed this new interesting communal life,’ Joe Murakami said (Nagata 1996, p. 159). For these reasons, their accounts of internment tended to be favourable. Furthermore, those who were traumatised by their experience at camp were less likely to speak about it, creating a bias in research material. ‘Many of the former internees were at first reluctant to talk about their past. Some wished to remain anonymous and others, both in Japan and Australia, still feel ashamed about having been prisoners during the war’ (Nagata 1996, p. xiv). In 1987, Hannah Suzuki begged researcher Yuriko Nagata not to contact her brother, Joseph, as it would upset him too much (Nagata 1996, p. 235), indicating the extent of his suffering. Mary Nakashiba said her sister, Rhoda, never raised the topic of their internment—neither during camp nor in the decades afterwards. ‘She was greatly affected. She always used to cry in her sleep. She couldn’t talk about it’ (Nakashiba 2012a). Of the three former Tatura internees I interviewed, only Mary Nakashiba dwelt on the negative psychological impact of her family’s internment. I ascertained this was due to her relationship to the dominant cultural paradigm within camp. As a pro-Australian half-Japanese internee who didn’t speak any Japanese, Mary was a vocal minority who clashed with the imperialist compound leaders. Unlike Evelyn Yamashita or Maurice Shiosaki (see case studies below), Mary did not have the support of a large family around her. Her relative isolation and numerous disputes compounded her distress and feelings of abandonment resulting from her internment.

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The members of The Gang were similarly at odds with the dominant cultural paradigm, further increasing their suffering. They did not respect the importance of group harmony in Japanese culture, and their unwillingness to cooperate with the nationalist camp leaders led to their ostracism at camp. The Japanese civilian internment experience was thus shaped by feelings of belonging. Those whose beliefs and sympathies mirrored the dominant ideology reported the most positive experiences of internment. Conversely, pro-Australian internees probably suffered the most, as they felt rejected by their country and their fellow internees. They neither belonged outside nor inside camp. For the most part, they were forced to suffer in silence, as the Japanese leaders of the compounds masked signs of discontent for fear of losing face. The trauma of their internment also contributed to their continued silence in the decades after the war.

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Mary Nakashiba Born: Thursday Island, 1926 Interned: Tatura (Victoria), 1941–44 Seventy years have passed since half-Japanese Mary was interned as a fifteen-year-old, but the shocking turn of events after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor is still clear to her. After being arrested in Darwin, Mary and her family were transported to Sydney by ship along with hundreds of other Japanese. ‘When we got off the ship, there was a crowd of people lining the harbour. They were screaming, “Kill them! Shoot the bastards!” I couldn’t believe it—these were Australians, people of my own country. I’ll never forget it. I was in total, utter shock. That was the point that I realised my life would never be the same’ (Nakashiba 2012a). Mary’s brother, Sam, was separated from the family and taken away. ‘My mother protested that he was only seventeen years old. But [the soldier] said, “No, he’s got to go.” We didn’t hear from him until he was released… We didn’t know where he was…’ (Nakashiba 2012b) The rest of the family—Mary; her Japanese father, John, who migrated to Australia fifty years earlier; her European mother, Anna; and twelve-year-old Rhoda—spent the next three years inside the barbedwire fences of Tatura camp in Victoria. Although they were treated reasonably well by staff at camp, it was a far cry from the comfortable life they’d had in Darwin, where Mary’s father had a general store. They endured freezing winters and had to sleep on sacks stuffed with straw until Mary’s mother negotiated with the Red Cross to receive proper mattresses and bedding. For a vibrant teenager such as Mary, the years at camp were ‘a time of extreme boredom’. ‘You felt powerless… I thought many times of climbing that fence. But I thought, if

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I do climb that fence and they don’t shoot me, where would I go?’ (Nakashiba 2012a) During the many months she was interned, Mary mourned ‘the loss of [her] Australian identity’. ‘I felt betrayed by my country… That was the biggest hurt of all—to know that I was an enemy alien in my own country. I had no people, no country, because I wasn’t accepted by the Australian people, and I wasn’t accepted by the Japanese. I couldn’t identify with anybody.’ For Mary, one of the most difficult aspects of internment was living with the imperialistic Japanese internees at camp. When Mary refused to bow in the direction of the Emperor, one of the compound leaders forcibly pushed her head down. And when Japan bombed Darwin in February 1942, Mary was enraged that the internees around her celebrated. ‘They put on a celebration. Banzai! It was just terrible… I lost a lot of close, close friends [in Darwin]. So that bred a lot of hatred. I think hatred keeps you alive, keeps you going… My mother used to say, “You mustn’t hate.” But I hated.’ The Nakashiba family’s inability to fit in with the more traditional Japanese internees was a continual source of friction, culminating in a dispute over laundry facilities. ‘My mother was using a boiler in the laundry, and the compound leader came and took out her washing and dumped it all on the ground so that he could use it. She shouted at him, so he hit her on the head with a stick. I threw a bar of soap at him. Then he blamed me for starting the fight.’ As a result, Mary’s family moved into a neighbouring compound that housed mostly Japanese from the Dutch East Indies. ‘The people in the Indonesian camp were very nice people,’ Mary said. ‘We made a lot of friends.’ Mary’s father had a mental breakdown in camp, which she attributed to the conflict he felt as a Japanese who had lived nearly all his life in Australia. ‘He felt Australia was his country, his home… and so to have this disrupted and find that you are an enemy alien… And also there was the heartbreak [of the Darwin bombings]—this was his country that was doing it… He knew there was no place for him.’ John died a few months after they were released from internment

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in 1944. ‘It’s the older people, not the younger people, that are really affected by warfare,’ she said. After the war and the death of Mary’s father, the family was penniless and relied on the kindness of friends, family and strangers to get by. Despite Mary’s ordeal, she is not bitter and does not want an apology or compensation from the government. ‘It’s part of my life, I accept it… I think it built a lot of iron in me. It built resilience. And I tell you what, it certainly gave me a lot more compassion.’

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Maurice Shiosaki Born: Broome, 1939 Interned: Tatura (Victoria), 1941–46 As a boy interned at Tatura in Victoria, part-Japanese, part-Aboriginal Maurice and his older brothers made kites to pass the time. Standing in the barbed-wire enclosure of the family camp, they released their kites and watched them soar high above them. ‘We used to make our own kites out of bamboo and the paper that apples used to be wrapped in. We made glue out of flour and water. We used sewing cotton for the string. The older boys used to crush light globes into a powder and mix flour and water in, run the mixture along the string and then dry it out. Then we’d fly our kite, and the boys from the other compounds used to fly theirs—so we’d be standing in different compounds—and we’d go voom! To try to cut their string. That was kite fighting—it was all friendly, though’ (Shiosaki 2012). Kite fighting was one of many activities Maurice did during the five years he was interned, from the age of two to seven. He also recalls taking part in sumo matches against other kids and occasionally being treated to picnics outside camp grounds. ‘I remember eating hot dogs. We used to go in army trucks out to this lake. It was a nice area—a lot of wildlife. They had big containers to boil hot dogs in.’ The Shiosakis were a family of eight children, so there was never a shortage of playmates for Maurice, who remembers his time at camp fondly. ‘We were treated very well, as far as I can remember… All the time we were there, we were very happy.’ Maurice spent so much time socialising with the other Japanese kids at camp that his Japanese became better than his English. ‘I could talk Japanese A-1 until I left the camp…

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[But] I’ve forgotten it all now.’ But the family experienced hardship in other ways. Maurice’s father, Shizuo, owned a laundry business in Broome, but when war broke out with Japan he was forced to abandon it. ‘They said, “Pack your things up, you’re going.” That was it… [My father] lost everything,’ Maurice said. When the family was finally released from internment in 1946, they had to start afresh. Maurice’s father found work in Perth doing the laundry at Clontarf Boys Town, then later in Mullewa (WA) working on the railway. On the day of their release from internment, the Shiosakis farewelled the life they had known for five years and the people they had shared it with. Many of their friends were being sent to Japan against their wishes as, according to government policy, Japanese who weren’t married to British subjects or who didn’t have Australian-born children couldn’t stay in Australia (Nagata 1996, p. 193). ‘The saddest part of all our time at camp was when it was time to leave,’ Maurice said. ‘There were rows and rows of army trucks the day we started to move out. Everyone was crying. Everyone was clinging to the fence.’

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Evelyn Yamashita Born: Thursday Island, 1928 Interned: Tatura (Victoria), 1941–47 The morning of December 8, 1941 was thick with humidity on Thursday Island, the Torres Strait community located beyond the northernmost tip of mainland Australia. As clouds roiled in the sky overhead, the island’s Japanese, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Filipino, white and native Torres Strait Islander inhabitants prepared to go about their business before the heat of the day peaked. Thirteen-year-old Evelyn Yamashita woke to find that army personnel had built a barbed wire fence around her entire community. ‘Nearly all the Japanese lived in that one area. Others in town… were brought [to] where we were living’ (Yamashita 2012a). Few in the community had heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which had occurred hours earlier. The approximately two hundredstrong Japanese population was held within the barbed wire enclosure for two weeks. A few days before Christmas, they were transported south by ship. The Yamashita family—comprising mother Tei, who was born on Thursday Island, father Haruyoshi, who had emigrated from Japan 43 years earlier, and their eight Australian-born children, of whom Evelyn was the eldest—spent both Christmas and New Year’s Day on the cramped ship. They arrived at Tatura internment camp on January 9th, 1942. It was to be their home for the next five-and-a-half years. Evelyn, who was surrounded by her large family at camp, has few bad memories of internment. Security wasn’t strict at Tatura—especially not for the children, many of whom were from New Caledonia and could only speak French. They played sport and occasionally went on picnics. ‘A guard would accompany us

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with his rifle. On one occasion, one of the older kids carried the rifle for him.’ Some nights, they were treated to a film. ‘A chap from the Kraft Walker Cheese Company used to show us some films: mostly Charlie Chaplin and educational films.’ Evelyn’s greatest regret was not being able to attend school. ‘I did my intermediate exams [Year 10] while I was interned and I wanted to do my leaving exams [Year 12], but I couldn’t—that was when the war ended and camp was disbanded.’ Despite the gap in her education, Evelyn didn’t resent her internment. ‘It was explained… that [because we] were Japanese… if [we] were outside, [we’d] fare a lot worse than inside camp.’ Evelyn was released in February 1947, staying at a friend’s place in Manly to attend secretarial college. ‘I asked to be released so I could help my family by learning office work,’ she said. The rest of her family remained interned after the war ended while authorities searched for appropriate housing. ‘They didn’t have anywhere to send us. Thursday Island was in a mess—it was still a military zone.’ In Sydney, Evelyn quickly adjusted to life outside camp. ‘Nobody took me as Japanese,’ she said. ‘The kids across the road used to stand on the footpath and chant, “Ching-chong Chinaman!” when I waited to catch the bus… I just ignored them.’ The Yamashita family was finally released in August 1947. Evelyn’s father, who had owned a soy sauce and miso factory on Thursday Island, lost all his assets. ‘There was nothing left. As far as we know, the army dismantled it during the war’ (Nagata 1996, p. 230). ‘I was told most of the materials were taken to New Guinea to make buildings for the Australian Army… We had four buildings, including our house. The trouble was, in those days, Asians were not allowed to own any land, because of the White Australia Policy. My father didn’t own the land, [so] he didn’t get any compensation for his buildings’ (Yamashita 2012b). After the family returned to Thursday Island, a friend rented a house to them and helped Haruyoshi set up a general store. ‘[We] were readily accepted back into the community by most people on Thursday Island. [But] there were a few [new] people who… didn’t like us’ (Nagata 1996, p. 231). Evelyn eventually married a fellow internee at Tatura. The couple settled in Sydney and had two children. Evelyn is now 85.

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Joseph Suzuki (né Shibuya) Born: Mikage, Japan, 1922 Interned: Liverpool (NSW), Hay (NSW) and Loveday (SA), 1941–44 Like many young Australian men of his generation, Joseph Suzuki valued mateship and loyalty. He hoped to find love and serve his country in war. But, amid wartime suspicion, his Japanese descent proved an impediment. Born in the village of Mikage, near Kobe, in 1922, Joseph lived in Japan for only the first six months of his life before he permanently settled in Australia. Joseph’s father, a Japanese sea captain named Harohiko Shibuya, died prior to Joseph’s birth. His Australian mother, Ada May, was left destitute in Japan with two young children in her care (Joseph’s sister, Hannah, was two years old at the time). Due to the restrictions of the White Australia Policy, Ada May needed special permission to return to Australia with her two Japanese-born children (Nagata 1996, p. 104). Upon her return, she lived with her parents in Geelong, before marrying Sakuhei Suzuki, a Sydney-based Japanese laundryman, in 1927 (NAA: A367, C60569). Ada May had three more children with Suzuki. The family lived in Hurlstone Park in New South Wales. Joseph grew up to be a thoughtful and hardworking young man. He was said to have ‘a very deep nature… [He] is clever, shy and very kind’ (NAA: ST1233/1, N61798). After finishing high school, he went to a technical college and became an apprentice surveyor. But when war broke out, Joseph was intent on joining the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF). This provoked a fierce argument with his stepfather, who was staunchly anti-British and particularly hard on his stepchildren (NAA: C329, 921). Sakuhei apparently told Joe he should shoot himself and never return home. Joe slept in Hyde Park that night (NAA: C329, 921). In June 1940, at the age of eighteen, Joseph was accepted into the AIF. He lied about his place of birth and his age, ‘so as to dispense with the necessary parental consent’. ‘[A]ll my friends and schoolmates were joining up and I didn’t see why

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I shouldn’t do my bit for Australia,’ he wrote (NAA: A367, C60569). However, to his great distress, he was discharged from the AIF eight months later, at the request of military intelligence upon discovery of his nationality (Nagata 1996, p. 106). On December 8, 1941, Joseph was interned at the age of nineteen. According to Ada May, Sakuhei was responsible for Joseph and Hannah’s internment. When officers arrived at the family home to arrest Sakuhei, he told them: ‘There are two more Japanese in here,’ prompting the officers to arrest Joseph and Hannah, too (NAA: C329, 921). The three kin were sent to Liverpool internment camp. Hannah stayed there, while Joseph and Sakuhei were transferred to Hay internment camp shortly afterwards. During his time in internment, Joseph’s misfortune only increased. Proudly Australian (he even sported a tattoo of the map of Australia on his left arm) and unable to speak Japanese, he found himself at odds with the other internees. Years later, in a newspaper interview, he said: ‘…the worst part of the internment was having to associate with the Japanese… Several of them tried to get at me with propaganda; the others were very hostile’ (Sunday Telegraph 1945 in NAA: ST1233/1, N28869). Luckily, Joseph found a friend in seventeen-year-old Sam Nakashiba (brother of Mary Nakashiba, above), who was born in Australia and similarly pro-Australian. Sam explained the friction: ‘The Japanese at Hay resented our attitude towards their customs and beliefs, and as we maintained our nationality and our loyalty to this country, they became antagonistic towards us’ (Nagata 1996, p. 175). Joseph was one of the few Japanese internees recommended for release by the Aliens Tribunal in May 1942. The government’s counsel noted: ‘Possibly he has the strongest case for release from internment that one could conceive… After all, he was discharged from the AIF purely on racial grounds’ (NAA: MP508/1 255/702/1731). Despite this, Joseph spent two more years in internment, as his release was opposed by the Security Service. The security inspector reasoned that as a surveyor and former member of the AIF, ‘no better contact could be free to assist his fellow countrymen. His military training and geographical knowledge would be of utmost

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value’ (NAA: A367, C60569). Joseph suffered during his internment, exacerbated by his proximity to his belligerent stepfather. As Ada May noted in a letter to her son: ‘As time goes by and Japan is getting beaten, people like Sakuhei Suzuki will again attack you young Australian loyal boys who have always been loyal to Australia and have no Japanese sympathies’ (NAA: ST1233/1, N61798). In February 1943, Joseph was sent to an army hospital in Goulburn. According to an intelligence report, he was ‘suffering from “depression”. From his conversation and actions he appeared far from normal’ (NAA: ST1233/1, N61798). The letters Joseph wrote while he was interned reveal a sensitive, articulate soul who felt deeply. One letter, in elegant script, addressed to Isobel Watts in March 1943, drew the attention of the censors: As you are no doubt aware, my feelings towards you for the past seven years have been of the most sincere, and I believe you have not regarded my attention towards you unfavourably. Up to the present, my circumstances have not permitted me to hope for an improvement in our friendship so that it may ripen into something deeper and more lasting. When I left Sydney over a year ago, I was more or less under a cloud, and consequently I have not written to you during my prolonged absence. Now that I believe my Australian birth and citizenship to have been proved to the satisfaction of everybody, and now that I have hopes of being able to support a wife in the newer [sic] future, I humbly beg you to consider me as a possible suitor for your hand. (NAA: ST1233/1, N61798)

The letter induced the Security Service to question Isobel about her association with Joseph. Although she and Joseph attended the same church, she denied having a close friendship with him. She also ‘keenly resented this Japanese writing to her and expressed her repugnance at the terms of endearment expressed’ (NAA: ST1233/1, N61798). She couldn’t explain why he had sent her such a letter, suggesting that Joseph may be ‘to some degree, mentally deranged’. Isobel’s

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mother revealed that Joseph had once visited their home and requested Isobel write to him while he was in the AIF. She hoped official steps would be taken to ‘prevent any correspondence from Suzuki reaching her daughter’. Constable Malone concluded in his report that ‘there would appear to be no doubt that the explanations supplied by Miss Watts and her mother can be accepted and their suggestion that Suzuki is suffering from hallucinations is probably correct. If such is the case, he is not a fit subject to be considered for release’ (NAA: ST1233/1, N61798). Joseph was transferred to Loveday in May 1943, along with his stepfather and Sam Nakashiba. Spurned by his love interest, rejected by his country and with little hope for a release, Joseph’s mental state deteriorated. In July the following year, he was hospitalised again, this time in Barmera. The medical officer at Loveday reported: ‘Continued internment will, in my opinion, cause the health of this internee to deteriorate to a large degree’ (NAA: A367, C60569). After Joseph returned to camp, he wrote to his aunt on August 2, 1944: ‘I must apologise for not writing for some time, but I have been in hospital for the past month or so. Now that I have recovered my health I feel that it is time to speak up and tell everyone what the present government has done to me… Even if I were an enemy alien I would still have a right to produce witnesses, books and documents and have a Tribunal hearing at a pre-arranged time and place. Instead of that, I was merely questioned at a moment’s notice, and refused a further hearing’ (NAA: ST1233/1, N61798). The same day, the director-general of security approved Joseph’s release ‘on medical grounds’, with restrictions on where he could work and live (NAA: A367, C60569). Joseph settled back into life in Sydney, at pains to distance himself from the trauma of his internment and his Japanese origins. He naturalised in June 1945, at the age of twenty-three (Nagata 1996, p.108), and his ‘greatest ambition’ was to re-join the AIF (Sunday Telegraph 1945 in NAA: ST1233/1, N28869). He returned to work as a surveyor. Soon afterwards, he changed his surname to ‘Stacey’ (NAA: SP11/5, SUZUKI, JOSEPH). In his application, he wrote: ‘… my present surname

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causes considerable embarrassment both to myself and my employers’ (Nagata 1996, p. 108). With the change of his name, Joseph’s dissociation from his Japanese heritage, in all but his appearance, was finally complete.

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James (Jimmy) Chi Born: Broome, 1903 Interned: Harvey (WA), Loveday (SA), Woolenook (SA), Tatura (Victoria), 1941–46 In the late 1930s, restaurateur and taxi driver Jimmy Chi was a linchpin of the Broome community. With his friendly, can-do manner and multilingual ability (Wallace 2002), he moved among the Britishers, divers, drifters and indigenous population with apparent ease. Whether serving one of his refreshing lemon drinks (Wallace 2002), ladling steaming bowls of his family’s famous long soup or transporting passengers in his ’38 Chevrolet sedan, the curved chassis gleaming in the light, Jimmy was a ubiquitous and striking personality. He exemplified the town’s diverse population and pioneering spirit more than any other. Half-Chinese, half-Japanese Jimmy was born and raised in Broome. His father, John Chi, arrived in Australia from China as a 21-year-old ship’s boy in 1870 (Shaw 2001, p. 21). He prospected for gold in Ballarat (Nagata 1996, p. 54), then moved to Cossack (WA), where he became involved in pearling. He naturalised in 1887, before the advent of the White Australia Policy (Shaw 2001, p. 21), then found his way to Broome in 1899, where he married Yae Yamamoto. Yae was a fellow adventurer who had run away from home in Kyushu, Japan in 1896, by stowing away in the coal bunker of a ship bound for Western Australia (Jones 2002, p. 167). They had five children, all born in Broome. Although John Chi was naturalised, he was refused a pearling licence due to his ethnicity. To overcome this, he registered his luggers under the name of a white business partner, who promptly disappeared, robbing John of most of his assets (Shaw 2001, p. 21). Chi senior gave up

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on pearling and opened a long soup restaurant and boarding house in Broome. After his death in 1921 (Shaw 2001, p. 21), the rest of the family continued to work in the restaurant. Selina, Jimmy’s elder sister, died of pneumonia while visiting Japan. Middle children Gertrude and Joseph both went to Japan as young adults and found employment there. Teresa, the youngest, married a Japanese employed at Tonan Shokai store in Broome, then moved overseas with him, first to Indonesia, then Japan. Only Jimmy, the eldest boy, never visited Japan. After his mother died in 1935, Jimmy was the only member of the clan left in Broome. Blessed with his father’s entrepreneurial spirit, he began Broome’s first taxi service, frequently transporting Japanese divers from place to place. As a respected member of the community, Jimmy was often called upon as a go-between or to help out in a jam. According to Kenneth Wallace, a doctor in Broome from 1936 to 1939, Jimmy helped him communicate with Asian patients, and once, when his vehicle broke down a long way from Broome, Jimmy drove out to rescue him. ‘Jimmy Chi was a good man in an emergency’ (Wallace 2002). But after Japan’s entry into the war, the tables turned against him. Although Jimmy was Australian-born and only half-Japanese through his mother, he was arrested and interned in December 1941. According to Jimmy, ‘The white people in town thought I was communicating with the Japs and [that] my brother was in the Japanese Air Force… I packed up my stuff and they put me in gaol… I couldn’t do anything… My wife and son were still here in Broome and my business was just left sitting’ (Nagata 1996, p. 73). Army records indicate he was interned due to his perceived Japanese sympathies and the risk he posed with his Japanese language ability and a vehicle at his disposal. ‘It is submitted that Chi is a Japanese in all but name, and his sympathies would undoubtedly be with the enemy. Being allowed complete freedom of movement, the use of his wireless set and all privileges, he is regarded as a danger to national security. His sentiments and knowledge of the Japanese language would certainly serve the enemy in good stead in the event of emergency. It is therefore recommended that he be interned’ (NAA: MP508/1, 255/739/490).

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During the four-and-a-half years of his internment, Jimmy was held in four different camps. Australian in his outlook, he had trouble interacting with the Japan-born internees, preferring to mix with other Australian-borns and military personnel. At Woolenook camp, not far from Loveday, tensions between the Australian-born Japanese and Japanese nationals escalated to the extent that homemade weapons were found in the Australian-borns’ tent (Nagata 1996, p. 175). Jimmy was released in October 1946. He was determined to rebuild his life in Broome, despite vehement opposition. At a ‘stormy meeting’ at the Broome Town Hall, one person suggested a boycott of Japanese businesses (‘Broome Objects to Japs’ Return’ 1947). Upon his return, Jimmy found the town a different place. His house and restaurant had been burnt down, his taxi had been commandeered by the army and his equipment sold (Nagata 1996, p. 226). ‘On Broome jetty, white people yelled at me. They said, “Why did you come back? No house to live in!”’ (Nagata 1996, p. 226). Jimmy faced continued antagonism from many locals, the memory of Japan’s four air raids (Nagata 1996, p. 226) no doubt fresh in their minds. ‘…I couldn’t go out on the street. They had meetings at the RSL hall and Shire Council. They used to say, “Send the bastard to Japan”’ (Nagata 1996, p. 227). Jimmy was unemployed for three years and forced to fish and collect cockles to feed his family. Broome’s Japanese population had numbered about three hundred before the war, but only nine afterwards (Nagata 1996, p. 227), further compounding Jimmy’s isolation. He was refused a union ticket, but after lodging a formal complaint in Perth, he got a ticket and found work. Despite the hardships he suffered, Jimmy gradually regained acceptance within the community. He was one of the few former Japanese internees who publicly spoke about his experiences in the media (Nagata 1996, p. 226). He worked at the Broome jetty until he retired. His son, also called Jimmy Chi, is a wellknown composer and playwright who wrote Bran Nue Dae. Jimmy died in his hometown in 1993 at the age of 90. The alley where his father’s restaurant was located is still known as John Chi Lane.

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Unearthing the Past: Silence and testimony in Japan

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n 7 July 1989, the air was thick with heat in the Toyama district of Tokyo. Tsuyu, the rainy season, had just ended, leaving the atmosphere dense. At the former government health building location, a large pit was being dug for the new National Hygiene and Disease Prevention Research Centre. The workers buzzed around the site, their foreheads glistening in the sun. The excavation was strenuous, dirty work, but it would soon be complete. The mechanical digger plunged deep into the earth, scraping against

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rock as it brought up a mound of dirt. Something pale shone through the soil. At first, it looked like pieces of ceramic. On closer inspection, the workers realised it was human bones. Twenty-four years later, their identities are still unknown.

3 In a city famed for skyscrapers and neon lights, Toyama is a quiet pocket in an urban jungle. Situated in the heart of Tokyo, only thirty minutes by foot from the world’s busiest train station, Shinjuku, it spans a wide area, bordered by busy Meiji Road at one end and prestigious Waseda University at the other. In between lies residential housing, several schools, a public library, a Buddhist temple, the National Center for Global Health and Medicine and acres of leafy parkland. Hundreds of years ago, a lavish garden built by a feudal lord occupied the area, with rolling landscapes, paths and countless ponds. Now, at least a dozen public housing blocks crowd the edges of the park, casting long shadows across the gravel. Like most of metropolitan Japan, Toyama is full of contradictions. It is a place where the indigent and the upper middle class live side-by-side. Where some of Tokyo’s busiest roads and most peaceful parks share space. In this suburb, an ancient Shinto shrine dedicated to gods of war is a short walk from the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace, committed to exposing wartime violence and enabling justice for victims. My first visit to Toyama was on 1 March 2013, at the start of spring. The grass was tawny and the ground was thick with dry leaves, but I occasionally spied tiny green buds on the branches of trees. The sky was a blanket of white, offering no clues as to what conditions the future would bring. Mothers pushed prams through the park and up gently sloping alleys crowded with dwellings. Now and then, a door creaked or the murmur of a television sounded from within. The idyllic snapshot of suburban life is worlds apart from Toyama’s former identity as a hub of military operations during the Asia-Pacific War. Seventy years ago, the neighbourhood was home to a mounted regiment, the Toyama Military Academy and the Tokyo Army Medical College. The

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latter was a collection of buildings within a high-security gated compound, where the Imperial Army’s medical elite, academics and politicians gathered to share research and hold secret talks about Japan’s expansion into East Asia (Torii & Nasu 2013). Few relics of that past remain. When Japan lost the war, the buildings were abandoned and many were eventually destroyed. The only structure still standing is a stone edifice that was once the meeting room of the Toyama Military Academy. It now forms the basement of the United Church of Christ, which was built after the war. The area’s unusual past would have remained in relative obscurity, if not for the accidental unearthing of the bones in 1989. News of the discovery of at least thirty-five human skulls prompted speculation. Some wondered if they were the victims of unsolved murders, while others thought they were the casualties of wartime raids or the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake (Hartcher 1989). Kanagawa University history professor Keiichi Tsuneishi was one of the first to suggest ties to Japan’s covert biological warfare program during World War II (Greimel 2002). Tsuneishi, whose earliest work on the subject was published in 1981, had heard

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of a special department known as the Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory located within the Army Medical College (Yamaguchi 1991). He was quick to draw links to Unit 731, the secret unit of the Army Medical College that developed biological weapons and experimented on living humans, starting in 1932 in the Japanese colony of Manchuria, and later in Guangzhou, Beijing and Singapore. The unit conducted tests on bubonic plague, anthrax, cholera, typhus, smallpox, botulism and poison gas. Infected victims were vivisected to observe the progress of disease—sometimes without anaesthetic. Test subjects were referred to as maruta, or ‘logs’, originally as a joke because the Unit 731 compound was disguised as a lumber mill, then the term persisted (Gold 1996, p. 40). Victims were political dissidents, common criminals and sometimes poor farmers. They included the elderly, infants and pregnant women. In one experiment, a Russian mother and her daughter were put in a gas chamber as doctors peered through a window and timed their convulsions, noting how the woman sprawled over her child in a futile effort to save her (Kristof 1995). About 3000 people were directly killed in the experiments at the Unit 731 compound alone (Tsuneishi 1994). Japanese forces also deposited wheat, rice and cotton riddled with disease-infected fleas near communities (Watts 2002), and released typhoid and cholera into village wells (Kristof 1995). The total death toll resulting from the spread of disease is estimated to be between 250,000 and 300,000 (McCurry 2011), but some researchers put it as high as 580,000 (Barenblatt 2004, p. xii).

3 I became interested in the unidentified remains of Toyama while researching a possible plot development for my novel. My main character, I knew from the beginning, harboured a dark secret from his past. But what that secret was I’d been trying to uncover for more than a year. While at a writing retreat in the Blue Mountains, I remembered reading about Japan’s human experimentation during the war. A Google search delivered the name the program is now known by, Unit

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731 (the name of the largest facility in Manchuria), then I stumbled on an article about the unearthed bones in Tokyo. As I read, a chill coursed through me. The bones were linked to a secret Unit 731-related laboratory within the Army Medical College.

But my interest in the bones runs deeper than that: as the daughter of a Japanese immigrant, I have long been drawn to stories about Japan. In some ways, unravelling the mystery of the bones is my attempt to decipher a culture that is at once both familiar and unknown to me. Although I have lived in Japan several times since my childhood, I have always remained an outsider. Confronting the silences of Japan is a way of piecing together my cultural heritage. So I went to Japan to meet the unofficial guardians of the bones—concerned citizens who have no direct connection to the remains, but who have taken it upon themselves to see that justice is served. I had envisaged them as modern-day Robin Hoods, so I was surprised to discover they are almost all middle-aged men: teachers, lawyers and security guards, either retired or approaching retirement. They are a far cry from the dreadlocked, gung-ho activists I had marched with

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during my undergraduate years. As I approached the north exit of JR Okubo station, two greying men waited for me among the salarymen and shopping bag-wielding obasan. Yasushi Torii and Shigeo Nasu have dedicated much of the past two decades to exposing Japan’s wartime atrocities and assisting war victims. Torii, 54, a part-time high school biology teacher, first heard about the unearthed bones while volunteering for a care organisation for disabled people in Shinjuku. One of his volunteering

colleagues, Noboru Watanabe (who passed away in 2012), told him human remains had been dug up near his apartment in Toyama that were thought to be linked to Japan’s biological warfare program. In 1991, Watanabe joined a group of concerned citizens on a trip to China to learn more about Japan’s biological warfare program. They met families of Unit 731 victims and attended an exhibition about the unit. He returned the following year, and Torii went with him. ‘Back then, I didn’t really know anything about the bones, I just followed. That was actually my very first overseas trip. Of course, after listening to the voices of the local people, I was shocked. From then on, I decided to be actively involved’ (Torii

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& Nasu 2013). Torii is now the president of the Association Demanding Investigation Into the Human Remains Found at the Former Army Medical College Site, a citizens’ group founded by his friend Watanabe and several others. ‘The group’s primary aim is to return the bones back to their families, or if the family can’t be determined, at least back to their home country.’ Since 1996, the association has been conducting annual walking tours for the public to visit sites related to Japan’s secret wartime past. The walk usually takes place in early April, while the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, but Torii and Nasu agreed to guide me during my short trip to Tokyo on the cusp of winter and spring. Nasu, 62, is a member of the Centre for Victims of Biological Warfare, an organisation campaigning for recognition, an apology and compensation from the Japanese government. The group also aims to educate people and bring to light other details of Japan’s biological warfare program, such as the use of poison gas. Now retired, Nasu was working as a security guard at a hospital when he heard about families of Unit 731 victims’ compensation claim at the Tokyo district court. ‘Since I worked the night shift, I had plenty of time during the day, so I decided to support them… Once you know only a little about this war, you’re forced to want to get involved to do something about it’ (Torii & Nasu 2013). A mild wind blew as Torii, Nasu and I set off from Okubo station. Our final destination was the National Hygiene and Disease Prevention Research Centre in Toyama, where the bones currently rest inside a granite monument. Torii, with his round face and cheerful demeanour, is the more outgoing of the two. He quickly took the lead, charging ahead to point out places of interest. Nasu, in square spectacles and navy windcheater, kept to the back of our small group, often wandering off to inspect this or that. On the main street of Okubo, home to bustling Korea Town, signs advertising Korean barbecue and massage parlours flashed thinly in the morning light. We stopped in front of an ordinary-looking Japanese funeral parlour—a slightly cheap one, perhaps, given its location among the sleazier establishments. The window displayed three wooden altars with double doors open to

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reveal Buddha figurines inside. My grandfather had an altar just like these in his home on the outskirts of Tokyo. It was in memory of my grandmother, who had passed away before I was born. I remembered my grandfather’s anger when, as a child, I knocked over a bowl of water on the altar, disturbing my grandmother’s spirit. Torii gestured to the funeral parlour. ‘This is the place where people who die in Shinjuku ward who can’t be identified are kept. In 1989, after the bones were found, they were stored in the basement here until March 2002, when they were interred inside the monument.’ I calculated in my head: thirteen years. The story of the bones is a long one. Even now, twenty-four years after they were discovered, it is still unresolved. The reason, as I learned from Torii, Nasu and others, is complex: the accumulation of a number of court cases and appeals, combined with ordinary bureaucratic delays and an extraordinary lack of institutional cooperation. After the bones were discovered, the police investigated the remains and found they belonged to men and women who had died at least twenty years earlier, and that there was no evidence of violent crime (Yamaguchi 1991). They concluded that even if the deceased had been victims of crime, they had been buried for more

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than fifteen years, so the statute of limitations had passed (Tsuneishi 2007, p. 77). The police dropped the case and public interest waned. The Ministry of Health and Welfare, on whose property the remains were found, agitated for a cremation (Woodruff 1992), as is custom in Japan. With that, the inconvenient discovery would have been finally dispatched. Yet the Shinjuku ward local government refused to drop the matter, repeatedly requesting the ministry launch a full investigation. Each time, they were refused. ‘We have no obligation to investigate just because we own the land,’ said ministry official Nobuhisa Inoue (Yamaguchi 1991). In a rare act of defiance, the then-mayor of Shinjuku, Katsutada Yamamoto, launched an independent investigation using local government funds (Kawamura 2013). He approached world-renowned physical anthropologist Hajime Sakura, director of human research at the National Science Museum. ‘Professor Sakura was really interested in doing it, but the head of the museum denied, saying it was out of the scope of the museum. But I’m not sure it was the real reason,’ Torii explained, hinting that other forces were at work. On the advice of the Human Remains association, Shinjuku ward next approached specialists at Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo and St Marianna University School of Medicine in Kanagawa. ‘In both those cases, the individuals were willing to do it, but the universities denied.’ It seemed whichever way they turned, they were met with silence.

3 A few days earlier, on a wet winter’s day, I met Kazuyuki Kawamura, a former Shinjuku ward assemblyman who was in office at the time of the bones’ discovery. As I walked to his workplace in Shinjuku, cold rain pelted down and touched my skin through my jacket. Kawamura, 61, greeted me with a smile. His genial, placid manner was echoed in the soft planes of his face. The room was lined with shelves stacked high with books, folders and cardboard boxes. Desks laden with paper crowded the middle of the room.

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While the foyers of commercial buildings in Japan are uniformly stark and clean, almost every office I have visited is a domain of disarray, seemingly at odds with the Japan of carefully controlled tea ceremonies and minimalist design. Homes reflect a similar divide: the sitting room, where guests are received, are ordered and aesthetically harmonious, while the rest of the house is often chaotic. The tidy exterior versus the cluttered interior points to the dichotomy at the heart of Japanese culture: the conflict between honne (personal feelings and desires) and tatemae (public facade). In Kawamura’s office, the clutter was a comfort, especially as it was warm inside on that rainy day. A middle-aged woman took my wet jacket and placed it on one of the piles of paper, then returned to her work. As we sat down at the hodgepodge of desks, Kawamura described the tension in the ward office as officials deliberated over what to do about the ‘troublesome’ discovery. They believed the ministry should manage the site, but the ministry’s refusal to conduct an investigation played on their conscience. Hoping to learn more, Kawamura joined the 1991 research tour to China. ‘Some families [that we met] claimed the bones found in Shinjuku could be their relatives… That was the start of my interest in the human remains’ (Kawamura 2013). Soon afterwards, the Shinjuku local government office announced it would pursue an independent investigation—a decision that Kawamura described as ‘very courageous’. ‘Usually, when the local government requests the national government to do something and they refuse, the local government

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goes no further. But in this case, they decided to launch an investigation themselves. Using the local government budget [to do that] was unthinkable.’ Shinjuku ward’s first choice to analyse the remains, anthropologist Hajime Sakura, eventually agreed to the project—but only after his retirement from the National Science Museum. He carried out the research in the basement of the funeral parlour in Okubo, where the bones were stored. In April 1992, he reported his findings: in addition to the thirty-five easily recognisable skulls, there were 132 skull fragments, thirty spines, six chest bones, thirteen thigh bones and seventeen neck bones (Woodruff 1992) from at least sixty-two and possibly more than a hundred people (‘Bones show Japan may have done surgical experiments on Chinese’ 1992). The remains were from Mongoloid men and women who had died ‘from several tens of, to one hundred years’ earlier (Gold 1996, p. 127). More than ten skulls had holes from bullets or drills, and cuts from ‘perhaps Japanese swords’ made after death (‘Bones show Japan may have done surgical experiments on Chinese’ 1992). He also found evidence of experimental surgery or surgical practice, as most of the skulls bore scalpel or saw marks (Tsuneishi 2007), but he could not prove a definitive link to Unit 731, as the bones did not show any particular signs of disease. He concluded that it was ‘likely that the bones were sent from China’ (Woodruff 1992). Following Sakura’s report, the Ministry of Health and Welfare agreed to launch an investigation to determine the origin of the bones. They began conducting interviews and questionnaires with former Army Medical College personnel. But then Shinjuku ward did an about-face, announcing its wish to cremate the bones. The new mayor, Takashi Onda, believed that as a definitive link to Unit 731 had not been found and ‘since there is nobody [i.e., relatives] who can claim the remains’ (Gold 1996, p. 137), they should be cremated according to law—a move that Kawamura, by then active in the citizens’ movement to protect the bones, opposed. ‘By cremating the bones, we would lose the evidence—that was what we feared most. At that point, I realised we needed some kind of movement.’ In 1997, together with activists representing ‘comfort

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women’ (sexual slaves) and forced labourers (mainly Chinese and Koreans used as slave labour by the Japanese military and some Japanese companies), he formed the Citizens for the Investigation of WWII Issues—a group that aims ‘to verify from a neutral point of view the victims of the war’ (Kawamura 2013). They proposed to establish an independent bureau to investigate forced labour, sexual slavery and biological warfare, but parliament never discussed their proposal. ‘We repeatedly submitted it, but it was never enacted.’ Like many of the people I interviewed in Japan, Kawamura has long been involved in grassroots politics. As a university student, he protested against the Japan-United States security treaty renewal in 1970, demanding the removal of American troops in Okinawa. He joined the socialist party and in 1979 was elected to Shinjuku local government, where he served for twenty years. Kawamura was born in 1952, a few years after his father returned from China, where he had fought during the war. ‘At the start of the war, my father was an English teacher at a girls’ school. He and the other teachers were summoned to the war zone in China. It was a form of conscription—they couldn’t refuse.’ I wondered whether his father’s military past impelled Kawamura to seek justice for war victims. But he told me the reverse actually occurred: Because I became involved in these issues as a student, I decided to ask my father about his experience… He talked to me about it. He didn’t even want to go to war, but he was forced to. During his training in China, he was ordered to use a bayonet to kill Chinese people [for practice]. (Kawamura 2013)

I froze. I had read about Japanese soldiers practising bayonet technique on Chinese prisoners before, but hearing it in those terms—someone’s father, who had previously been an English teacher at a girls’ school—stopped me cold. I tried to imagine one of the teachers at my all-girls high school being sent to war and then having to spear a helpless prisoner. Mr Hartley, or diffident Mr Lacey. It was impossible to conceive. Kawamura continued speaking about his father, who was

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captured as a POW and forced to do hard labour at a coal mine in the former Soviet Union for three years after the end of the war. He passed away recently at the age of 92, six months before the Japanese parliament finally enacted a bill to compensate former POWs interned in the Soviet Union. Despite the sincerity of Kawamura’s words, I was having trouble keeping up with what he was saying. I could not stop thinking about what it would be like to face another human being one moment, then drive a bayonet into his chest the next. I struggled to imagine it, let alone put it into words. I tried to steer Kawamura back to his prior revelation, such was the effect it had had on me. ‘Did your father’s experience in China affect him deeply?’ Kawamura considered my question for a moment, his left eyelid drooping in concentration. ‘I don’t think he was that affected. He spoke about his stories quite calmly.’

3 Torii, Nasu and I stepped from the backstreets of Okubo onto Meiji Road. As we waited for the lights to change, vehicles cruised past us at the measured pace typical of the traffic-choked city. On the other side of the road, petrol station attendants in matching maroon jackets and caps converged like a flock of birds as they directed traffic in and out of the small space, bowing in unison as the cars exited. ‘It is quite beautiful here during sakura season,’ Torii remarked. I looked at the line of trees abutting the road. In a few weeks’ time, the suburb would be awash with tourists eager to see the pink and white blossoms, but as I gazed up at them, their spidery branches were stark against the sky. We crossed Meiji Road and entered the outskirts of Toyama. A path bordered by a green hedge guided us towards the park. From somewhere to our right, the chatter of school children reached us on the wind. I felt a shift in the atmosphere as we left the concrete matrix of urban Tokyo behind. We began to climb the road that snaked upwards through the greenery. Torii and Nasu displayed a robustness defying

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their years, charging ahead while I struggled to keep up. We stopped at a dusty expanse, coated with gravel and bordered by low shrubs and trees. There was hardly a soul in sight. ‘See that tall tree?’ Torii pointed to a lone zelkova in the middle of the expanse. ‘That’s the probable former location of the Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory.’ The Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory, located on the grounds of the Army Medical College, was Shiro Ishii’s Tokyo base and the hub of his biological warfare empire. Ishii established it in 1932 as a facility to develop biological weapons (Tsuneishi 2010, p. 23). Even within the highly secure Army Medical College, access to the laboratory was restricted—especially the basement area, where bacteria for weapons were thought to be grown (Gunji 1982, p. 108). Ishii’s initial experiments went well, but he wasn’t sure whether they would work in the field, so he pursued human testing (Harris 2002, p. 23). Aware of the limitations of being based in Japan, Ishii looked to the new Japanese colony of Manchuria in northern China, and opened his first overseas base in Harbin in 1932. The Tokyo laboratory remained in operation under the supervision of Ryoichi Naito (Torii & Nasu 2013), one of Ishii’s brightest recruits, as Ishii concentrated

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on expanding his empire in China. Little is known of the inner workings of the laboratory, but the 1989 discovery of the bones in Toyama stimulated speculation. Historians such as Keiichi Tsuneishi believed the bodies of murdered test subjects were sent from China to the Tokyo laboratory for further analysis (Tsuneishi 2007, p. 78). But as Sakura’s analysis of the remains did not find a definitive link to Unit 731, and with no witnesses to confirm it, the connection remained conjecture. In 2001, the Ministry of Health and Welfare finally released its report on the remains, almost ten years after it announced it would pursue an investigation. Based on interviews and questionnaires completed by 368 former personnel, the ministry determined the corpses were likely used by the college for educational purposes (Nakamura 2004). The report raised the possibility that some of the bodies were transported from war zones, but did not offer a reason for this (Nakamura 2004). In a win for the Human Remains association, the report recommended the bones be preserved rather than cremated (Kawamura 2013), but it concluded they were not connected to Unit 731 and there was no need to further investigate (McCurry 2011). On a rainy day on 27 March 2002, the remains were finally moved from the funeral parlour in Okubo and ceremoniously interred beneath a three-foot-high granite repository on the grounds of the National Hygiene and Disease Prevention Research Centre. ‘These are human remains, not just any object. It’s only appropriate to pay due respects,’ ministry official Makoto Haraguchi said (Greimel 2002). By interring the bones, he no doubt hoped to close a difficult chapter in the ministry’s history. The controversy may have waned at that point, if not for 84-year-old Toyo Ishii (no relation to Shiro Ishii). Ishii was in her early twenties when she was employed at the Army Medical College as a nurse in the oral surgery department (BBC 2011). Ishii broke decades of silence when she revealed she was ordered to dispose of corpses, body parts and bones in the final weeks of the war as American forces approached. ‘We took the samples out of the glass containers and dumped

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them into the hole,’ she wrote in a statement released in June 2006. ‘We were going to be in trouble, I was told, if American soldiers asked us about the specimens’ (Yamaguchi 2006). Ishii said she was never involved in nor knew about experiments on humans, but often saw body parts in glass jars and bodies floating in pools of formalin in the hospital’s three morgues (Yamaguchi 2006). She identified two other areas near the Army Medical College where she was instructed to dispose of the bodies (Lloyd-Parry 2011). Ishii’s testimony, more than anything else I had read about Unit 731, struck a chord. I was fascinated by the internal and external forces that conspire to keep someone silent. With the protagonist of my novel in mind, I wondered about the motivation to speak out after maintaining secrecy for so long. Was it redemption, or something more than that? Surely the shame of admitting one’s role in past atrocities would outweigh the relief. The images of the frail, white-haired woman I saw online belied the courage of Ishii’s act. Ishii first began to talk about her war memories in 1998, when Shinjuku ward began gathering war crime testimonies (Torii & Nasu 2013). After she spoke about her employment at the Army Medical College, members of the Human Remains association and the Minister for Health and Welfare, Jiro Kawasaki, arranged to meet her. ‘I don’t think Ishii originally intended to proactively testify. Even when meeting us, she showed trepidation… I think she was a rather conservative person,’ Torii said. Ishii regretted the remains’ hasty disposal and wanted some sort of monument created for them. ‘I think the reason Minister Kawasaki agreed to meet with her was because she did not intend to seek retribution for those responsible’ (Torii & Nasu 2013). She was happy after the monument was erected, and passed away in February 2012, at the age of 89. Toyo Ishii was not the only one to testify. Several dozen Japanese have shared their stories about their involvement in Japan’s biological warfare program. In 1982, Yoko Gunji wrote Shogen: 731 Ishii Butai (‘Eyewitness: Unit 731’), an account of her time working as a quality control inspector at the Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory, overseeing

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the production of ceramic parts for water purifying machines invented by Shiro Ishii. Although her knowledge was limited, she suspected Japan was cultivating plague germs to use in the war, due to the huge amounts of agar used in the basement laboratory, much more than what was needed for research (Gunji 1982, p. 115). As part of the Unit 731 exhibition that Torii and Nasu helped to stage in 1993, many former Unit 731 members publicly vocalised their experience for the first time. Ken Yuasa spoke at several locations about his time as a young army doctor in China. ‘This is not easy for me to speak about, but it is something I must confess,’ he began. ‘What I did was wrong. It is also true that it was forced on me by the government, but that does not reduce the size of my crime’ (Gold 1996, p. 205). Yuasa described the first time he vivisected a man, an old Chinese farmer. Despite his revulsion, he went through with it, saying he had always been the type of person to follow orders: If you made a disagreeable face [at being ordered to do a vivisection], when you returned home you would be called a traitor or a turncoat. If it were just me alone, I could tolerate it; but the insulting looks would be cast on parents and siblings. Even if one despises an act, one must bear it… That was my first crime. After that, it was easy. Eventually I dissected fourteen Chinese. (Gold 1996, p. 209–210)

In Japan, bringing shame to oneself, one’s kinship and one’s brotherhood is a major deterrent to testimony. As Media scholar Philip Seaton points out: ‘although people have silent knowledge of Japanese aggression, it is a taboo to talk about it’ (Seaton 2007, p. 194). Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946) is now considered outdated, yet it provides fascinating analysis of the wartime mind and culture of the Japanese. Benedict defines Japan as a shame-driven honour culture, in which behaviour is determined by social standards rather than personal values. In such a model, group membership is of utmost importance. Shame ‘more often paralyses rather than makes them start a fight.

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In such a situation, one has to either use the experience to drive oneself to the impossible, or to let it eat out one’s heart’ (Benedict 1996, p. 164). Such paralysis was common in many former Unit 731 members in postwar Japan: unable to speak out for fear of bringing shame to themselves, their families and their colleagues, the unspeakable memories continued to ‘eat out’ their hearts. The Japanese people’s devotion to Emperor Hirohito, who was considered a god, was one of their chief motivations during the war, even in the face of extreme self-sacrifice and adversity. ‘[T]he Emperor was a symbol of loyalty far surpassing a flag’ (Benedict 1996, p. 129). Primary schools were tasked with grooming students to become ‘children of the Emperor’ who would sacrifice themselves for the nation (Cook 1992, p. 172). Although the Emperor renounced his divinity when Japan lost the war, fealty to him remained strong in the postwar decades. His death in 1989, exactly six months before the discovery of the bones, may have been the final impetus for former Unit 731 members to speak out. Toyo Ishii’s disclosure prompted the ministry to conduct an excavation in 2011 with the specific intent to find more buried human remains. But after a comprehensive dig that lasted months, no remains were found—only plaster casts and prosthetic limbs used by the adjacent hospital (Torii & Nasu 2013), eerily symbolic of the human body parts that activists hoped to find.

3 We emerged from the park into the open area surrounding Toyama Heights public housing apartments, where Torii’s friend and colleague Noboru Watanabe used to live. A warm southerly whipped between the buildings, stirring up debris. I blinked against the dirt, my feet heavy as we walked into the wind. Torii paused in front of me and pointed to the sky. ‘Haru ichiban.’ The first storm of spring. He continued marching forward, unaffected. The National Center for Global Health and Medicine rose up to our left, a huge multi-storey complex. It was formerly

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the First Imperial Army Hospital during the war (Sams 1998, p. 29). Personnel of the Army Medical College used to live just across the road, but little was evident of that past in the concrete high-rises and cement-rendered dwellings. The area was heavily bombed towards the end of the war, and the resulting firestorm destroyed most of the buildings and left at least 100,000 civilians dead (Selden 2007). We momentarily lost our way in the narrow alleys between houses and apartment blocks before finding our target: the

site of Shiro Ishii’s former apartment. Although I knew the original building was no longer standing, I was disappointed to detect nothing sinister in the curved staircase and off-white bricks of the low-rise block. Indeed, it looked a lot like the apartment I lived in with my family in Shibuya when I was a child. According to Torii, Ishii’s descendants still live in the building. ‘They used to have their surname, “Ishii”, on the letterbox. But when we started doing the tours, they took it off.’ Shiro Ishii, dubbed the Josef Mengele of Japan, was the mastermind of Japan’s biological warfare program. He was born in Chiba prefecture, about two hours from central Tokyo. His family were wealthy and influential, exercising a kind of

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feudal dominance over the locality (Harris 2002, p. 14). This would prove useful in later years, as Ishii hand-picked many staff for the Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory and other units from the population in his hometown, knowing they couldn’t refuse or speak against him owing to their allegiance to his family (Gunji 1982, p. 26–29). From an early age, Ishii hoped to serve his country in the military (Harris 2002, p. 14). In 1920, less than a month after finishing his undergraduate medical degree, he joined the Imperial Army (Harris 2002, p. 15) and became an ardent supporter of the ultranationalist faction (Harris 2002, p. 17). Ishii was a gifted pupil with an extraordinary memory and almost superhuman physical energy (Harris 2002, p. 15). His real brilliance, however, was his political shrewdness. Sycophantic to his superiors and domineering to his subordinates (Harris 2002, p. 16), Ishii was adept at manipulating others for his own benefit. A former teacher recalled that when Ishii was a postgraduate student at Kyoto Imperial University, he would infuriate other students by entering the laboratory at night and using the test tubes and other apparatus they had painstakingly cleaned, only to leave them dirty for his fellow students the next morning (Harris 2002, p. 16–17). His marriage to the daughter of the university president elevated his status and opened more doors (Gold 1996, p. 24). In 1927, Ishii read a report that immediately piqued his interest, about the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning the use of chemical warfare. If it was banned, he reasoned, it must be powerful, and so began his lifelong interest in biological warfare research (Barenblatt 2004, p. 2). Ishii lobbied for the military to conduct research into germ warfare, but it wasn’t until 1930 that the army leaders and political atmosphere were receptive to his requests. That year, he was appointed professor of immunology at the Tokyo Army Medical College and promoted to a major within the army (Harris 2002, p. 19), beginning his rapid advancement through the ranks as he was promoted every three years. Ishii was regarded as both eccentric and brilliant. On at least one occasion, he brought a severed human head to a talk about his research. Although his research constituted a gross

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reversal of the Hippocratic medical oath to ‘preserve life’, most of his colleagues and subordinates adored him ‘because of his exuberant personality, daring, and devil-may-care attitude, his obvious intelligence, and his intense patriotism’ (Harris 2002, p. 58). Although he had detractors, such as army Surgeon General Hiroshi Kambayashi, who labelled him an ‘ambitious boaster’, his opponents were in the minority (Harris 2002, p. 58). Amid the nationalist fervour of the new decade, Ishii was able to convince his superiors that biological warfare was the way of the future. In 1932, the dean of the Army Medical College, Chikahiko Koizumi, set aside funds and land to create a building for Ishii’s use (Harris 2002, p. 21). From there, Ishii expanded his biological warfare operation to Manchuria and then other parts of China and Singapore.

3 When I was 17 and a recent high school graduate, I went to Japan on exchange. I spent seven weeks studying Japanese with other Australian students in Nagoya, where I was hosted by a Japanese family, with whom I am still close. Although I was familiar with Japanese culture through my Japanese mother and my experience of living in Japan as a child, I was unprepared for many of the rules—and lack of—that governed social behaviour. Eating on the train or while walking was taboo, yet I was not expected to offer my seat to an elderly passenger. One memory from that time stands out. One day, while shopping with the other students, we came upon a crowd in the street gathered around two homeless men, one of whom was hitting the other’s head with a large traffic cone. Blood issued from the victim’s head as he lay motionless on the ground. None of the dozen or so people who had stopped to observe did or said anything. While we, a group of foreign teenagers, ran to the nearest police station, they continued to stand, mute, watching the incident unfold. It was as if, in the absence of a rule prescribing how to respond when one person attacked another in public, they could not respond, as they were locked into a certain mode of behaviour. In the paper, ‘Japanese Pacifism: Problematic Memory’,

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Mikyoung Kim explores the conflicted nature of Japan’s postwar collective memory, entangled as it is with Japan’s multiple identities: Asia-Pacific aggressor, nuclear bombing victim and postwar pacifist advocate (Kim 2010). Referencing the ideas of psychologist Hayao Kawai, who situates his theory in ancient myths and fairytales, and sociologist Takeshi Ishida, who draws on Buddhist teachings, Kim cites the ‘empty centre’ at the core of Japanese mind and culture as the reason for the perceived Japanese moral ambiguity towards their wartime past: The empty centre, asserts Ishida, embodies a situational logic for conflict avoidance, not necessarily conflict resolution. The end result is temporary pacification, not permanent reconciliation… Because aesthetic principles take higher priority in the Japanese mind than moral aspirations… tensions aroused by the cultural dichotomies of tatemae-honne (front vs. honest inner feelings) and omote-ura (visible vs. hidden layers of self) are mitigated. In terms of Kawai and Ishida’s mental topography, this is because they are resolved [sic] of the vacuous centre which filters out moralistic sentiments. The Japanese are therefore inclined to perform situationally appropriate actions divorced from genuine feelings… As the empty centre filters out the unpleasant engagements with one’s own sins, difficult memories make the past unusable. (Kim 2010, p. 54)

Japan has repeatedly been accused of ‘historical amnesia’ in relation to its wartime aggression (for example, Kristof 1998; Johnson 1986), due to the government’s reluctance to officially apologise to victims, and also because of several history textbook controversies from the 1950s to today, in which ministry-approved textbooks were censored or revised to downplay Japan’s aggression in Asia. Yet certain trends in the population run counter to this idea of wilful forgetting. Seiichi Morimura’s book about Unit 731, Akuma No Hoshoku (‘The Devil’s Gluttony’, 1981), became a bestseller in Japan, selling 1.5 million copies and catapulting Japan’s biological warfare program into mainstream consciousness (Harris 1994, p. 116). From July 1993 until December 1994, an exhibition about Unit 731 organised by Torii, Nasu and

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others toured sixty-one locations in Japan and attracted more than 250,000 visitors (Harris 2002, p. xii). The popularity of these events indicate Japanese people are not amnesic, but are in fact deeply engaged with their wartime past. The postwar trend to diminish and conceal past atrocities, and the more recent movement to expose and learn more about Japan’s conflicted past reflect a schism within society. Seaton argues for a pluralistic view—one that highlights the diversity of contested war memories in Japan, rather than one that assumes ‘that there is a typically “Japanese” way of looking back at the war, or that there is a dominant cultural narrative in Japan’ (Seaton 2007, p. 4). ‘[T]he term “memory rifts” symbolises the divisions deep beneath the surface that shape the landscape of Japanese war memories. There are ideological fault lines within Japanese society. In particular, there is a rift between, on the one hand, liberal Japanese (“progressives”, shinpoha), who see apology and atonement for the past as the best way to restore self-respect and international trust; and on the other hand conservatives, who see a positive version of history and commemoration of the sacrifice of the war generation as the best way to achieve national pride’ (Seaton 2007, p. 8). I can think of no better example of this struggle between forgetting and remembrance, tradition and progression, than the wrangling over the bones.

3 My second visit to Tokyo to research the human remains occurred over a stretch of days in early May 2013, when the city was in the full thrust of spring. Vegetation crowded the parks in near-violent abundance. Sparrows chirped among the bushes. Children dawdled on their way home from school, woozy in the sun. The drab palette and brisk wind of two months previous had vanished. Tokyo was a different being; the city felt entirely new. With my surroundings rinsed clean of winter’s torpor, I met Norio Minami, the lawyer engaged in the lawsuit to halt the cremation of the bones. His office was a short stroll from

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Shinjuku Gyoen—the stunning, manicured park with elaborate Japanese and European-style gardens that was once the domain of a feudal lord. As the first human rights lawyer I had ever met, Minami was not what I expected. I had envisaged a gruff, sports jacket-wearing type; mentally sharp yet weary from the vicissitudes of life. With his thick, slightly-wavy hair and trim navy suit, Minami looked more like a classical composer—a Japanese Mozart, who I could picture in tails on the podium, conduct-

ing an orchestra. Throughout the two hours we spent talking, Minami was earnest and unfailingly polite. He often paused while searching for the right words, a dreamy expression on his face. As we sat inside a partitioned enclosure within his office, Minami explained he became involved in the case of the human remains through his interest in the civilian activism movement. Through his contacts, a group of concerned citizens, headed by Keiichi Tsuneishi and whose members included Torii, approached him. Local governments in Japan are legally obliged to cremate unidentified bodies, and the group wanted to take legal action to prevent that outcome.

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‘I knew from the beginning we wouldn’t win the case… But by raising the issue we thought we could get public attention and make people aware of the fact there were many human bones found that remain unidentified… and by that, stop the cremation’ (Minami 2013). Minami, 58, contacted former Unit 731 members to gather evidence for the case. One of the people he approached was Mr Okada [name has been changed to conceal his identity at Minami’s request], who had an administrative role within the Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory. In the postwar years, Okada had become involved in the peace, democracy and antinuclear movements, and so he initially cooperated with Minami. At the first few meetings, Okada talked about the unit’s experiments with bacteria and rats, but he didn’t say anything about human experimentation. It wasn’t until the third or fourth interview that Okada divulged he was involved in human experimentation in China: He eventually revealed to me he killed people… This was a fact he never disclosed to anyone else, not even his family members… his wife, kids—nobody… When I later asked for permission to include that part in his statement, he became vague, saying, ‘I don’t really remember…’ (Minami 2013)

Okada had agreed to testify in court, but on the day he was due to appear, he said he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go. He eventually provided a written statement that made no mention of human experimentation. ‘I’m sure he really wanted to confess. It must have been a weight on his heart for a very long time… I’m sure he wanted to, but he could not. People were pushed into such a situation because the government did not admit what happened. That led me to be involved in the lawsuit to sue the government for not admitting the atrocities’ (Minami 2013). I asked Minami whether he pitied the Unit 731 members because he felt they had no choice. He looked down, deep in thought. Strain showed in the folds of skin around his eyes. ‘That is a very difficult question,’ he said.

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If I look at the situation from a third-person point of view, I think: there must have been other ways. But if I put myself in the shoes of the former members, if I were really there—I don’t know. There is a high possibility I would have committed the same things. I have interviewed many former Unit 731 members who told me they eventually became numb… I can’t say I would not turn into one of those people… Humans are weak. You never know what you might do. (Minami 2013)

In the low hum of his office, filled with the murmur of voices, the whir of the copier and the occasional trill of telephones, Minami reflected on the silences of the past—silences decreed by institutions and enacted by individuals. He grew up ignorant of the Japanese Army’s war crimes, as they were not described in any textbooks and were never officially admitted by the Japanese government. ‘If you talk to people, everyone knows it existed. But most of the former members decided to hide the fact and take it to the grave with them’ (Minami 2013). Through the judicial process, Minami hoped to foster relief by encouraging perpetrators to speak out. ‘I knew [the former Unit 731 members] were suffering… [T]hey were suffering because of their guilt and they couldn’t speak out. I wanted to release them, in a way.’ In 1995, Minami filed a compensation claim at the Tokyo District Court on behalf of families of Chinese victims of Unit 731 experimentation. Through his involvement in the case, Minami became close to several of the plaintiffs: There is one woman whose husband was sent to Unit 731 for experimentation… When we visited the place where she was tortured by the Japanese military police, she insisted I stay at her house because, she said, ‘You’re my son.’ There is another lady who was a victim of the Nanjing massacre. When I interviewed her, her son came. During the interview, the son said something to his mother, and she started berating him. I asked the interpreter what they were talking about. Apparently the son said, ‘Since we need to buy medicine and other necessities, maybe you should ask him for some money.’ She rejected the idea immediately and told her son to get out of the room, which he did.

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These were the moments when I felt what I had been doing paid off. There were many moments when I wanted to quit. There were times I spent more money than I earned. But these encounters, these relationships and the feeling of connection has been invaluable… this comes from human relationships and the fact we believe in each other. (Minami 2013)

The court rejected the compensation claim in 2002, on the grounds that China waived its rights to war reparations when it signed the 1972 Japan-China peace treaty, establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Despite the plaintiffs’ loss, they achieved one breakthrough: the court acknowledged the existence of Unit 731 and its ‘cruel and inhumane’ activities in China—the first time a court in Japan had done so (Green 2002). The legal team appealed the ruling, but the case was eventually rejected by the Supreme Court. Despite this, Minami remains optimistic change will come. He formed the Association to Support the Families of Victims of Unit 731 in 2008, with the aim to continue to gather and disseminate information about Japan’s wartime atrocities. ‘I think Japanese people are the kind of people who will feel guilt and responsibility for their actions. But it has not happened because they don’t know that real human beings were involved. As long as they get that firsthand information from people involved, I think they will get it… That is my belief.’ One of the reasons Japan has hitherto failed to come to terms with its past atrocities is that many of the perpetrators of war crimes returned to positions of power. ‘Germany was able to carry out objective war compensation, because none of the former Nazi members became a part of the regime after the war. Whereas in Japan, those responsible for wartime atrocities remained within the regime’ (Minami 2013). An example of this continuation of power is the current conservative prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, who is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, prime minister from 1957–60. As a member of Japan’s war cabinet, Kishi oversaw the forced conscription of hundreds of thousands of Korean and Chinese labourers. He spent three years in prison as a suspected Class-A war

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criminal but was never tried (Schaller 1995). ‘Another reason was Germany was surrounded by developed countries that demanded Germany’s responsibility for the war. Whereas Japan was surrounded by developing Asian countries, so the pressure was relatively low. Japan was a large economic power, so the other Asian countries thought they had to put up with Japan’s refusal to make amends for its past actions’ (Minami 2013). Japan’s nuclear bomb victim identity further complicated matters, as international pressure on Japan to make amends for its wartime aggression was diminished due to the bomb’s devastating legacy. Shiro Ishii and others connected to Japan’s biological warfare program escaped prosecution through a secret immunity deal with the United States. At the end of the war, with the Russians poised to invade Manchuria, Ishii instructed staff at the units to kill remaining prisoners, destroy all evidence of experimentation and dynamite the compounds (Gold 1996, p. 232). Plague-infested rats were released into local areas, causing an outbreak of the disease that eventually killed 30,000 people (Harris 2002, p. 100). Ishii returned to Japan, where he spent several years in hiding and even fabricated a story that he had been shot dead (Harris 2002, p. 177). Meanwhile, tensions between the US and the Soviet Union were rising, with both nations eager to access data from Japan’s biological warfare research to use for their own military advantage. The US brokered a deal first, agreeing to exempt the leaders from prosecution for war crimes in exchange for the data (Harris 2002, p. 271). Edwin Hill, the chief of US Army Chemical Corps at Fort Detrick in Maryland, reported that the information gained from Japan’s biological warfare program was ‘absolutely invaluable’, ‘could never have been obtained in the USA because of scruples attached to experiments on humans’, and ‘was obtained fairly cheaply’ (Harris 2002, p. 264). At the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal), only one reference to ‘poisonous serums’ used on Chinese civilians was made. It was swiftly dismissed due to lack of evidence (Williams & Wallace 1989, p. 176). A year later, in late 1949, the Soviet Union held a separate tribunal, the Khabarovsk War Crimes Trials.

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All twelve accused Japanese military personnel were found guilty of manufacturing and using biological weapons, with sentences from two to twenty-five years at a Siberian labour camp (Yudin 2010, p. 68). However, all were released back to Japan by 1956 (Tsuneishi 2010, p. 30); the longest sentence served by anyone connected to Japan’s biological warfare research was seven years. Neither Shiro Ishii, nor the second commander of Unit 731, Masaji Kitano, nor Ishii’s deputy at the Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory, Ryoichi Naito, were ever tried. In the decades following the war, former bacteriological warfare scientists became presidents of universities, deans of medical schools and representatives of government agencies, many receiving public honours. ‘[O]nce freed of the danger of war crimes trials, alumni of the biological warfare units were able to assume leading roles in the postwar Japanese medical and scientific communities’ (Harris 2002, p. 494). Ryoichi Naito went on to found the Green Cross Company in 1951, taking advantage of the American demand for blood products during the Korean War (Harris 2002, p. 494). The company became one of Japan’s leading pharmaceutical companies and was a trusted symbol of health—until it was rocked by scandal in 1998 when it was found guilty of selling HIV-infected blood to haemophiliac patients, leading to at least 400 deaths (Harris 2002, p. 494). The company has since merged and changed its name. Ishii’s activities after the war are unclear. Some historians believe he went to Maryland to advise the US on bioweapons (Drayton 2005), while Ishii’s daughter Harumi maintains he stayed in Japan and opened a clinic, dedicating himself to the welfare of children (Ishii 1982). In any case, while most of his colleagues advanced their careers, Ishii withdrew from public life. He died at home of throat cancer in 1959, at the age of 69. According to his daughter, he converted to Catholicism in his final years, which seemed to bring him relief (Williams & Wallace 1989, p. 298). In Minami’s office in Shinjuku, the room was quiet. It was past six o’clock in the middle of Golden Week holidays, and nearly all the other workers had gone home. Darkness was

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gathering outside. Almost two hours into our discussion, Minami was still carefully choosing his words, the same sincere expression on his face. If not for people such as Minami, agitating for change, the matter of the bones would have fallen into obscurity in Japan long ago. In the case of Germany, it was more of a top-down decision. The government made a decision to compensate, and this was handed down to the people. But in Japan, this approach is difficult to achieve. You have to change the society— change the people—first, and then there will be a bottom-up movement that will eventually change the attitude of the government. But this will take time. (Minami 2013)

3 The National Institute of Infectious Diseases sits atop a hill adjacent to Toyama Park. The bricks of the low-rise building are a pale cobalt blue—perhaps the architect’s attempt to give the building some cheer. Torii, Nasu and I entered through the sliding glass doors and provided our details for the visitor register. After a few minutes, a guard appeared and started escorting us towards the monument for the bones. Torii paused in front of an alcove at the corner of the building that framed a network of pipes. ‘This is where the bones were found in 1989. In the basement, to be exact. That spot is currently used as the library, meaning the people researching in the library are doing that together with the bones.’ He spoke with a slight smile. I lifted my camera, but the guard extended a gloved hand and apologised, saying photographs of the building were not allowed. ‘Really? No longer? They’ve become stricter,’ Torii said. As we continued down the path, anticipation built inside me. The monument to the unidentified bones was the highlight of the walk. Not only is it a memorial to the unidentified victims, it is also a symbol of Japan’s contested memory—a permanent and a temporary resting place, depending on whose

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view one takes. The members of the Human Remains association still hope to DNA test the bones and send them to their village of origin, although very little progress has been made in the past decade. Before my visit to Japan, I had seen the monument in photos online, but I wanted to see it in person to pay my respects. I looked up. Silver clouds shredded the sky. We walked a few more steps, turned a corner, and then I saw it. Beneath the branches of a bare cherry tree, the memorial sat, all sleek black lines and sharp corners. A symbol for clean, ordered Japan—the Japan of tea ceremonies and minimalist design. Although it was a suitably grand structure, the block of granite seemed to speak of the anonymity of the bones and of the cruelty of the regime that carried out the killings. As Torii, Nasu, the guard and I stood alongside it, our figures were reflected on the polished surface. A plaque affixed to one side read: On this site stood the former Army Medical College until 1945. In July 1989, when Toyama Research Office was due to be constructed, human remains thought to be specimens belonging to the Army Medical School were excavated. This plaque is to offer our deepest condolences to the deceased. Ministry of Health and Labour, March 2002.

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At the rear of the monument, cement steps descend to a metal door. Inside, the bones are stored in fourteen wooden boxes stacked on metal alloy shelves. I imagined them jumbled together, like the clutter of offices in Japan, so often hidden from public view. For years, the bones were stored in cardboard boxes at the funeral parlour, until one of the victims’ relatives visited Japan and demanded to know of the mayor whether any progress had been made regarding them. ‘The answer she received was that the bones were moved from cardboard boxes into wooden boxes,’ Torii said (Torii & Nasu 2013). Where we stood at the top of the hill, the wind was strangely absent. It was quiet, almost preternaturally so. Someone was playing tennis nearby. I heard the pop of a ball propelled back and forth, a metronome to our solemnity. It brought to mind every case brought to court, the rejections and appeals, the constant back and forth. A game of perseverance, drawn out over years. In that quiet corner, it was hard to believe we were in Tokyo at all—let alone a few kilometres from central Shinjuku. My mood was sombre as I tried to think of the people to whom the bones once belonged. But with the remains hidden inside the monolith, away from public view, I struggled to feel any true connection and grasp the extent to which they had been wronged. Two kanji characters are inscribed on the monument’s polished flank. ‘Seiwa’ is how they are read. It is an invented word, chosen by someone within the ministry, combining two common characters for ‘quiet’ and ‘peace’. Although ‘quiet peace’ would be a fitting epitaph for most tombstones, in light of the unique situation of the remains, it seemed a particularly cruel irony. Because, almost seventy years since the end of the war and twenty-four years since the discovery of the remains, the 233 human bones are still waiting, still silent.

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Memory of Trauma and Conflicted Voice in The Remains of the Day, Austerlitz and After Darkness

I

n a 2001 interview, a month before the release of the English version of Austerlitz, W G Sebald described growing up in Germany in the ‘conspiracy of silence’ surrounding the war—a silence that rendered him ignorant of the horrors that took place around the time of his birth in 1944. He recounted how, as a teenager, he was shown a documentary at grammar school about the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp: ‘It was a nice spring afternoon, and there was no discussion afterwards; you didn’t know what to do with it. It was a long drawn-out process to find out, which I’ve done persistently ever since’ (Jaggi 2001). Austerlitz, Sebald’s final book before his untimely death in 2001, attempts to redress this postwar silence and also explores how to narrate a traumatic past—a concern shared by The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Both novels feature a male first-person narrator whose journey through his memories (or in the case of Austerlitz, through his friend’s memories) reveals a conflict of conscience related to a past trauma. The Remains of the Day (first published in 1989) is narrated by ageing English butler Stevens. In 1956, he embarks on a motoring trip to visit former housekeeper Miss Kenton, whom he has not seen in twenty years. While journeying through the countryside he reflects on past events, including the decline and death of his father; the clandestine meetings his former employer Lord Darlington held in a bid to stop

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Britain going to war with Germany; and his domestic disputes with head housekeeper Miss Kenton. Despite Stevens’ outward contentment, as he sifts through his memories, clues point to his regret at the lost opportunity for love with Miss Kenton, and Lord Darlington’s involvement in Hitler’s propaganda scheme. Austerlitz (first published in 2001) traces an unnamed narrator’s encounters with architectural historian Jacques Austerlitz. Over a series of meetings, the narrator learns of Austerlitz’s unhappy childhood reared by an emotionally distant Welsh minister and his wife, who, as Austerlitz discovers upon their deaths, are in fact his foster parents. Despite the revelation, Austerlitz resists excavating his past until much later in life, when, post-retirement, he hears two women on the radio discussing their journey on the Kindertransport, the program that saw 10,000 unaccompanied Jewish minors transported to England in 1938-39. The discussion triggers an awakening in Austerlitz as he realises he, too, was on the Kindertransport, arriving in England from Prague at the age of four. So begins a process of recovering lost memories and uncovering his past. My novel, After Darkness, uses a male first-person narrator to explore similar themes of loss and memory. Retired Japanese doctor Ibaraki looks back on his life when he was interned as an enemy alien in South Australia. Coming from Broome, where he’d been the respected doctor of the Japanese hospital, he had to learn to live among a disparate group of Japanese—many of whom were arrested while working in the Dutch East Indies and French New Caledonia. Others, such as the Australian-born members of The Gang, resented their treatment by the Japanese camp leaders. As the world of the camp unfolds through the doctor’s retelling, details about his past emerge: his connection with the nun he trained as a nurse in Broome, and a trauma in Japan that triggered the breakdown of his marriage. At camp, Doctor Ibaraki befriends troubled half-Japanese internee Pete. When tensions between Pete and camp leaders escalate, the doctor’s loyalties are divided—forcing him to face up to his involvement in biological warfare development in Japan.

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Through the gaps in narration that introduce conflict in the voice, these texts probe not only how to narrate memory of trauma, but also when to, as they ask: When do we remain silent, and when do we speak?

The illusion of intimacy First-person narration is typically the most intimate mode of narration as it telescopes the divide between narrator and reader. In the texts I am examining, intimacy is established early on by amplifying the narrator’s innermost thoughts and feelings: in The Remains of the Day, Stevens expresses his alarm at committing a series of errors in his duties; in Austerlitz, the unnamed narrator’s vivid description of the haunting eyes of the nocturnal animals at the zoo emphasises his meandering thoughts and preoccupations; and in After Darkness, Doctor Ibaraki reveals his age-related insecurity when he frets: ‘It’s the sort of reaction I dread these days. The subtle missteps one makes.’ But as the narratives unfold, the intimacy proves to be false, as the narrators’ true selves remain obscured. Despite Doctor Ibaraki’s disclosure of the events before and during the war that shaped his life, and despite the narrator of Austerlitz’s rich description of his surroundings and his encounters with Austerlitz, readers learn very little of either character’s feelings. In The Remains of the Day, Stevens’ voice is tinged with regret as he dwells on certain past events, such as his father’s sudden deterioration, his fraught working relationship with Miss Kenton and his employer’s fall from grace. Yet Stevens does almost everything but acknowledge his regret (over his lack of intimacy with his father, his missed opportunity for love with Miss Kenton and Lord Darlington’s involvement in Hitler’s propaganda scheme), as he denies, defends and dodges. Thus, the use of first-person narration in these contexts turns out to be antithetical, as it opens up narrative distance at the same time as maintaining an illusion of intimacy. This deliberate distancing of the narrator is key to reading these texts: readers draw meaning from the gaps in narration and

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the chasm between what the narrators say and what they do. As Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan points out: ‘Holes and gaps are so central in narrative fiction because the materials the text provides for the reconstruction of a world (or a story) are insufficient for saturation’ (1983, p. 127). The gaps in the narratives are the earliest indicators that all is not as it seems. In Austerlitz, an uncanny absence pervades the text—an absence that is rarely overtly referred to but nonetheless exists on every page. The most arresting absence is the identity of the narrator—readers never learn his name, his profession or (for the most part) his feelings. In contrast to Austerlitz’s detailed descriptions of architecture and his private memories of his childhood, the narrator’s lack of emotional reflection is unusual, almost jarring. In all respects except the voice the narrator is strangely absent. The narrator’s voice, however, is beguiling: both distant and hauntingly intimate, as he describes, for example, the ‘difficult period which dulled my sense of other people’s existence’ and the curious affliction that affects his vision (Sebald 2011, p. 34–36). Absence abounds at the level of sentences, too. Their hypnotic rhythm, their flow and length—as well as their detailed content, like a river rich with silt—masks a silence below the surface: namely, the silence surrounding Austerlitz’s identity, and the wider silence of the post-World War II era, in which there is scant discourse about the repercussions of war. In a 1998 interview, Sebald explained: I was born in 1944 in an idyllic place, untouched by the War, but, in looking back upon this year, I cannot abstract from the fact that I know what happened during this last year of the war particularly—the bombing of my native country, the deporting of people from Rhodes or Sicily, or God knows where, to the most ghastly places anybody could possibly imagine. The pervasiveness of that and the fact that it wasn’t just something that happened in one or two places but that it happened almost throughout Europe, and the calamitous dimensions of it, are something that, even though I left Germany when I was twenty-one, I still have in my backpack and I just can’t put it down. And it seems to me that the swirling movement of history

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moved toward that point and that somehow we have to acknowledge this. (Sebald, Turner & Zeeman 2006, p. 27–28)

Through the absences that pervade the narrative of Austerlitz and the quest for identity it triggers, Sebald attempts to redress this post-Holocaust silence. In After Darkness, what the doctor is telling is in many ways less significant than what he is not telling. He is often questioned about his wife and, although the questions cause him obvious discomfort, he refuses to elaborate or internally reflect. But his silence speaks volumes, functioning as a kind of narrative black hole: through its very lack, it draws meaning to it. Each time the doctor avoids an uncomfortable question or skirts around the issue of his wife, the black hole grows in size and strength, until finally it drags all matter to its core and transforms meaning.

Narrative uncertainty The gaps in narration and the absences that haunt the texts sow the seeds for a growing narrative uncertainty, as readers become aware of the narrators’ fallibility and lack of self-awareness—whether by conscious design or not. Stevens’ unreliable narration is revealed as his judgement and interpretation of situations are at odds with those around him. At many points, Stevens says one thing but behaves differently. He repeatedly praises Lord Darlington, saying, ‘he was a truly good man at heart… and one I am today proud to have given my best years of service to’ (Ishiguro 2005, p. 64), but twice when he is asked in hushed tones by people he has just met what it was like to work for Lord Darlington, Stevens denies ever having worked for him, indicating the shame he actually feels. Likewise, when Stevens recalls how his father suffered a stroke during an important conference at Darlington Hall, Stevens makes no mention of his grief, instead drawing attention to the triumph he felt having coped under ‘the pressures contingent on me that night’ (p. 114). We’re only aware of his grief as Lord Darlington asks whether

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he is feeling all right. ‘You look as though you’re crying,’ Lord Darlington says. Stevens responds by laughing it off as the ‘strains of a hard day’ (p. 110). When he talks about the daily meetings he starts having with Miss Kenton over a cup of cocoa, he stresses their ‘professional’ purpose: ‘Our reason for instituting such meetings was simple: we had found that our respective lives were often so busy, several days could go by without our having an opportunity to exchange even the most basic of information… I must reiterate, these meetings were predominantly professional in character’ (p. 155–156). But it is the start of a growing affection between Stevens and Miss Kenton—an affection that Miss Kenton eventually makes clear, but to which Stevens never responds. The irony—so artfully realised in The Remains of the Day—is that readers are more aware of Stevens’ feelings than Stevens is himself. Stevens’ unreliable narration provides a kind of textual jouissance, as readers find pleasure in identifying the true source of his psychological torment. Narrative uncertainty in Austerlitz springs from the intersections and interstices of the narrative layers within the text. Although there is only one narrator, most of what he narrates is the stories Austerlitz told him, and many of Austerlitz’s stories were told to him by others—creating stories within stories. Further emphasising this uncertainty is the fact very little distinguishes the voice of the narrator from the voice of Austerlitz, blurring the boundaries between who is speaking and casting further doubt on the narrator’s identity, and in turn calling into question his reliability. Austerlitz says, ‘Since my childhood and youth… I have never known who I really was’ (p. 44). These words could also be those of the narrator, whose ambiguous presence at the edges of the narrative begs explanation. Austerlitz himself acknowledges his own uncertainty when he says, ‘…everything becomes confused in my head: my experiences of that time, what I have read, memories surfacing and then sinking out of sight again’ (p. 226). In After Darkness, uncertainty permeates the text through the doctor’s questionable narration. In the opening scene, Doctor Ibaraki states, ‘I’ve never been one to dwell on the past,’ then promptly launches into a sustained excursion into

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his memories of forty-plus years earlier. Like Stevens in The Remains of the Day, Doctor Ibaraki is afflicted by a specific blindness that means he fails to see obvious signs of his shaky moral foundation. While in the internment camp, half-Japanese internee Pete tells the doctor that Yamada attacked him while he was sitting in the mess hall. But the doctor responds: ‘Yamada Denkichi is a very good friend. He would never do something like that. You must be mistaken.’ Although there are early clues in the narrative about Yamada’s sinister nature (such as his remarks about Johnny during the fight in the mess hall), the doctor fails to notice such clues until he overhears a conversation between Yamada and Mayor Mori discussing Pete. Scenes were ordered within the novel to increase narrative uncertainty: the events at the internment camp initially appear to be the cause of the doctor’s nostalgic unease in 1989, but when the narrative vaults back further in time to his involvement in biological warfare development in Japan, the true source of his traumatic memory is unveiled.

Voices in conflict I have hitherto established that the voices of the narrators both reveal and hide, are intimate and distancing and present and absent at the same time. They are unreliable because of the narrators’ contradictory actions, their lack of knowledge, their narrow world view or their indeterminate identity. But why? I posit that voice itself is a site of conflict in these texts, as the narrators grapple with self-identity, memories and emotions that are in constant flux. The gaps in knowledge and slips in the narration conspire to create a voice at odds with itself. This struggle arises from the narrators’ numerous dichotomies—their aloofness and gregariousness, their contrasting public and private selves, their yearning for selfhood and their rejection of it—but are chiefly a result of the narrators’ moral and ethical dilemmas, as I explore further in the penultimate section. First, I will illustrate how symbolism and the texture of the language (diction and syntax) embody the heterogeneous and often conflicting qualities of the narrative voice.

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In The Remains of the Day, Stevens’ verbosity, formal diction and complicated syntax create a persona that both engages and frustrates readers. The novel begins: ‘It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days’ (p. 3). He then launches into a lengthy discussion of ‘bantering’, a skill he is not good at but wants to improve so he can better serve his current employer. Like the many mists and fogs that roll across the landscape, Stevens’ language also obscures his true feelings. He switches from using ‘I’ to ‘one’ whenever he recalls an emotional event. When recalling his disagreement with Miss Kenton over his father’s failing health and abilities, Stevens muses: ‘When one thinks about it, when one remembers the way Miss Kenton had repeatedly spoken to me of my father…’ (p. 69) His language is also defensive as he often uses phrases such as, ‘let me make perfectly clear’ and ‘I should point out’, particularly when referring to past events that call Lord Darlington’s reputation into question, and by implication Stevens’. Instead of clarifying matters, Stevens’ continual protestations make readers question his version of events by flagging Stevens’ ‘self-censoring, self-deceptive psychological orientation’ (Shaffer 1998, p. 164). He often inserts brief rhetorical questions into his narration, such as: ‘—and why should I hide it?’ (p. 5); ‘Indeed, why should I deny it?’ (p. 115), that betray his insecurities. Snow is a recurring motif in Austerlitz that symbolises the silence that follows trauma. From the waiting room of his ophthalmologist’s clinic, the narrator gazes out at the wintry London landscape and thinks of ‘winter in the mountains, the complete absence of sound, and my childhood wish for everything to be snowed over’ (p. 37). Similarly, Austerlitz recalls his foster mother’s final days when ‘[t]he cold had grown stronger than ever outside, and it had become more and more silent’ (p. 64). Snow’s symbol as a blanket of silence within the text is clear. In an interview, Sebald even described the village he grew up in ‘in a valley covered in snow for five months a year’ as ‘a silent place’ (Jaggi 2001), which harks back to the silence that followed the Belsen documentary he saw as a teenager, spurring his quest to figure out ‘what to do

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with it’. When reading Austerlitz, one has the sense that if only the snow melted and the landscape was bare we would be able to see the whole truth. Paradoxically, however, no matter how much detail is used to describe the events and shapes of Austerlitz’s past, ‘the truth lies elsewhere, away from it all, somewhere as yet undiscovered’ (p. 72). Labyrinths and fortresses dominate the narrative of Austerlitz in content, symbolism and form. Prompted by his initial meeting with Austerlitz, the narrator visits the Breendock fort in Antwerp, where he notes ‘its projections and indentations kept shifting, so far exceeding my comprehension’ (p. 20). The imposing structures reflect the psychological confusion of both Austerlitz and the narrator, their search for answers and also their intellectual incarceration. Austerlitz says: ‘Memories like this came back to me in the disused Ladies’ Waiting Room of Liverpool Street Station, memories behind and within which many things much further back in the past seemed to lie, all interlocking like the labyrinthine walls I saw in the dusty grey light, and which seemed to go on and on for ever’ (p. 136). Indeed, the entire book is a labyrinth, disorientating readers by blurring the divide between the narrator and Austerlitz, and enticing readers along paths that lead to dead ends. Even the sentences, many of which stretch across half a page, confound with their lyricism and supple flow of words. As soon as one reads them, their meaning slips away, echoing the uncertain nature of traumatic memory. Doctor Ibaraki’s narration is predominantly restrained and unembellished, and he uses imagery sparingly. But every so often unsettling images spurt through his psychological barrier, like lava through fissures in volcanic rock. On the train to the internment camp, he notices dead trees, ‘their limbs stretching skywards, as if begging for forgiveness’. Upon hearing news of Pete’s suicide attempt, he states: ‘Images floated up from somewhere deep. A blood stain on wet clothes.’ These slips in the otherwise unblemished veneer of the doctor’s narration reveal the fractures in his selfhood and the trauma that haunts his subconscious. As the camp narrative progresses and the doctor’s belief system slowly crumbles, the imagery he uses indicates a

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growing awareness of his flawed perception. When he sees Pete through the fluttering sheets recovering in the hospital bed, he’s struck by a kaleidoscopic vision of ‘a sheet that covered a leg, the next an arm and then a fleeting glimpse of a chin in a jumble of fragments’. When the sheets settle, the fragmentary imagery persists: ‘A rectangle of light from a window fell diagonally across him, illuminating part of his torso and jaw, as if he were a statue hewn from two different stones.’ Doctor Ibaraki is also often ‘momentarily blind[ed]’ by light, echoing his failure to see what’s going on around him in relation to the camp bullying and Sister Bernice’s affections.

Listening to the unspeakable Trauma haunts the narrative of all three texts. But how, in a first-person narrative, does one represent trauma that the narrator has not fully acknowledged, the moral implications of which he has not fully faced yet? Trauma, that deceptive beast, is perhaps best approached side-on: through gaps in narration, non-chronological structure and stories told by others. All three texts bear a chronological complexity as the narratives shift back and forth in time using analepses that echo the seemingly random process of memory. This roundabout way of approaching narrative, with events looping back in on themselves, is an effective way to approach memory of trauma: feeling our way around the edges first before arriving at the centre, or root cause. In The Remains of the Day, Stevens returns to certain past events and ideas again and again, such as the dismissal of the Jewish maids and his concept of dignity, and with each retelling another layer of meaning is added until he finally sees it anew. The novel’s climax occurs when Stevens has an epiphany on the pier and acknowledges the fallacy of his life—putting professionalism before personal beliefs and desires. In her analysis of narrative technique in The Remains of the Day, Kathleen Wall points out, ‘…while we tell in order to know, the process in some ways conspires against our knowing… Like Stevens, we must circle back again and again until we

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catch ourselves with our defences down and thus recognise the full implications of what we have probably known all along’ (Wall 1994, p. 38-39). Thus Stevens’ narration—defensive and unreliable as it may be—brings him closer to the traumatic truth of his past. The horrors of the Holocaust pervade Austerlitz but are only ever alluded to obliquely. The meandering narrative provides glimpses of the Holocaust’s traumatic impact through detailed descriptions of fortresses, railway stations and concentration camps. However, wartime atrocities are never directly addressed—not even in the detailed description of Theresienstadt concentration camp, where Austerlitz’s mother was sent. Even the story of Austerlitz’s mother is approached at an angle, recounted third-hand from Vera, who told Austerlitz, who tells the narrator. Despite Austerlitz’s attempts to discover the exact fate of his parents, answers elude him. In the essay ‘Air War and Literature’ in On the Natural History of Destruction (2003), Sebald examines the failure of postwar German literature to depict ‘the destruction of German cities as millions experienced it’. Referring to his own writing, he states, ‘I am well aware that my unsystematic notes do not do justice to the complexity of the subject, but I think that even in their incomplete form they cast some light on the way in which memory (individual, collective and cultural) deals with experiences exceeding what is tolerable’ (Sebald 2003, p. 78–79). Austerlitz as a whole grapples with how to put into words ‘experiences exceeding what is tolerable’. The narrator approaches it obliquely, through someone else’s words and through what is left unsaid, because the nature of trauma is such that it can only be approached by listening to what is unspeakable. Similarly, in After Darkness, readers first become aware of Doctor Ibaraki’s moral canker as he dodges questions and avoids overt reflection on his past. But it is the complex structure of the novel, shifting between three locations and four time periods with scant regard for chronological order, that reveals the true extent of the doctor’s burden of memory. Mimicking the elusive nature of repressed memories, scenes shift between the internment camp, Broome and Japan, until readers finally learn the reason for the breakdown of the

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doctor’s marriage and his unnatural reticence—his horrific involvement in biological warfare experimentation that he cannot face head-on. Delaying the reveal of information in this way, circling ever closer to the traumatic heart of the matter, builds tension and emphasises the weight of the narrator’s emotional burden.

The weight of history All three novels investigate the disjuncture between individual and collective memory, as the narrators’ interpretation of past events is constantly challenged by prevailing beliefs and attitudes. The narrators are caught within a moral and ethical bind that forms the wellspring of conflict within the narratives, affecting the narrators’ inner thoughts, moral outlook and relationships with other characters. Austerlitz is initially blind to the mystery of his past, yet strangely drawn to the stories preserved in the architecture around him. Decades later, after hearing the radio program about the Kindertransport, he visits Prague and meets his former neighbour Vera, who describes his mother’s deportation to Theresienstadt concentration camp. Austerlitz visits the concentration camp and embarks on a train trip to retrace the route he’d travelled as a four-year-old. Through this, he ‘acquired some idea of the history of the persecution which my avoidance system had kept from me for so long, and which now, in this place, surrounded me on all sides’ (p. 198). Austerlitz’s journey of self-discovery echoes the narrator’s moral compulsion to acknowledge the ‘swirling movement of history’ (to use Sebald’s phrase) that led to the Holocaust and that still surrounds us. Through Austerlitz’s stories, the narrator gains a greater awareness of ‘the history of persecution’ and his own place in the world. At the end of the narrative, Austerlitz stays in France to try to discover more about his father and gives the narrator the keys to his house in London, in effect passing the baton. The never-ending search for answers continues as the narrator begins his own solitary wanderings through the city, following in Austerlitz’s footsteps.

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In The Remains of the Day, Stevens has built his life around a definition of dignity that elevates professionalism above emotions and personal beliefs. Loyal to a fault, Stevens never challenged Lord Darlington’s support of the Nazi regime and even went as far as dismissing two maids at Darlington’s request for the mere fact they were Jewish. His steadfast commitment to dignity also thwarts his chance at love with Miss Kenton. It is not until late in the narrative, when he stays the night in Moscombe and meets the local villagers, that his mistaken belief becomes clear. When Stevens suggests ‘dignity’ is the quality that distinguishes ‘true gentlemen from a false one that’s just dressed in finery’, political enthusiast Harry Smith disagrees, saying dignity is ‘something every man and woman in this country can strive for and get’. Harry continues: That’s what we fought Hitler for, after all. If Hitler had had things his way, we’d just be slaves now… It’s one of the privileges of being born English that no matter who you are, no matter if you’re rich or poor, you’re born free and you’re born so that you can express your opinion freely, and vote in your member of parliament or vote him out. That’s what dignity’s really about, if you’ll excuse me, sir. (p. 196)

Stevens’ mood is dramatically different after that conversation, culminating in the final scene when he breaks down while watching the sunset from Weymouth pier. He says: Lord Darlington wasn’t a bad man, He wasn’t a bad man at all. And at least he had the privilege of being able to say at the end of his life that he made his own mistakes… I can’t even say I made my own mistakes. Really—one has to ask oneself—what dignity is there in that? (p. 255–256)

Stevens’ about-face as he finally acknowledges his regret over his past actions indicates his destroyed moral foundation in light of his new understanding. Like Stevens, Doctor Ibaraki is obsessed by a concept. The importance of discretion was impressed upon him in the early days of his career, and he committed to upholding it for the rest of his life. For Ibaraki, discretion is inextricably linked

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to personal honour. So he maintains his silence regarding his involvement in biological warfare development in Japan, even when it leads to the breakdown of his marriage. At camp, Ibaraki clings to the importance of discretion; it is not until he is convinced of Yamada’s brutality against Pete that he is spurred to act. Only at the end of the narrative, forty-seven years later, does Ibaraki realise the wider implications of his years of silence. His journey through his memories casts new light on past events and on a letter he received from Sister Bernice years ago, urging him to share his burden: ‘Finally, Sister Bernice’s words open up to me. I’d clung to the ideal of discretion, when it was courage—and forgiveness—I’d needed all along.’ These narratives remind us the traumas of history are not confined to a distant, unknowable past—they are woven into our social fabric. As much as the narrators (and Austerlitz) try to keep the weight of history at bay, their role in past events returns to haunt them. It is no coincidence the emotional climaxes occur at the point the narrators recognise their personal involvement in the ‘swirling movement of history’: when Stevens realises his wasted life serving the ‘misguided’ Lord Darlington, when Austerlitz hears the radio program and remembers he was on the Kindertransport, too, and when the discovery of buried human bones prompts Doctor Ibaraki to recall his past and in turn speak out. They all have a traumatic awakening, as history—or, more specifically, the acknowledgement of the part they played in history—finally overwhelms them.

Conclusion The Remains of the Day, Austerlitz and After Darkness provide three models for exploring how we understand and narrate a traumatic past. By approaching memories obliquely, by simultaneously hiding and revealing and drawing attention to what is unsaid and by using complex, non-linear structure to describe, the narrators both tell and find meaning through their narration. Narration is a transformative process in these texts, as the

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narrators seek to understand their past through their telling. As Wall writes: ‘Narration can be both an attempt to tell and an effort to understand one’s story’ (1994, p. 38). At times a study in self-deception and an act of confession, narration also offers a way to repair a fractured selfhood, as Stevens, the unnamed narrator of Austerlitz and Doctor Ibaraki come to terms with the part they played in the traumas of the past. Despite the lapse in time between the events and their narration, the narrators are still mentally processing their pasts—thus their tendency to obscure, avoid and distort occurs on a subconscious level as they struggle to describe the unimaginable and come face-to-face with their earlier failings. The revelation of their role in past events prompts diverse responses from the three narrators, in turn addressing the question of if or when to speak out. Stevens’ epiphany about his wasted life is closely followed by his renewed commitment to bantering—signalling his disavowal of transformation as he retreats to the silences of his past. In contrast, Doctor Ibaraki’s insight after a lifetime of denial is accompanied by a commitment to change as he finally decides to share his secret. Austerlitz provides an alternative: the narrator’s wanderings and his continued search for answers are a rally against complacency that stress the need to constantly probe the silences of our collective past. If there are any conclusions to be drawn from these texts, it is that there is no template to approach memory of trauma. The varied narrative approaches highlight the individual and complex nature of postwar memory. Given the difficulties of representing, in a first-person narrative, trauma that the narrator has not fully acknowledged, the moral implications of which he has not fully faced, could these novels have been written using third-person point of view to the same effect? Doing so would surely jeopardise the push-pull force of the narrators’ internal struggle that is manifest in their voices—and the conflict inherent in the narrative is at the heart of all three texts.

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The Other Side of Silence

I

sit at my desk, my senses attuned to the sounds of the city below. A horn cuts across the hum of traffic. A bus thunders along the road. Somewhere, jazz music plays, alternately clear and faint as if carried to me on a breeze. A man shouts—a staccato cry like a glint of light. I put on my noise-cancelling headphones, and am enveloped in a static hiss. The sounds of the city are reduced to a distant rumble. They are subdued, indistinct—as if contained within a sphere of glass. Finally, in this sequestered state, I begin to write. During the years spent writing this thesis, I developed a keen appreciation for silence, which soon became an obsession. Under self-imposed pressure to produce pages of perfect prose, ordinary sounds that never bothered me before became amplified to the point of torment. At my office, I chafed at colleagues’ telephone conversations and exchanges in the kitchen, stiffened when cutlery clanged in the sink. Even the sound of someone eating lunch at the cubicle next to mine sent shivers up my spine. I trawled the internet, searching for stories of writers who worked in near silence, wearing earplugs, earmuffs or headphones while they worked—or, in the case of Jonathan Franzen, all three (Eakin 2001). I began to wear earplugs at my desk every day, later graduating to noise-cancelling headphones. Sometimes, desperate to focus, I wore both. I became one of those neurotic writers at whom I used to scoff, incapacitated without my noise-negating accoutrements. Silence—complete silence—though, was unattainable. Human

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life surrounded me in the murmurs of my colleagues and the thrum of traffic, reassuringly removed yet always there. From this near silence, one day a voice emerged. I’d had one false start on my novel (a story narrated in omniscient third-person about ill-fated love between a young pearl diver and the daughter of a master pearler in Broome) that my supervisor wisely suggested I put aside, and was struggling with the opening of a new story that focused on Japanese internees. I had spent days attempting it in the first person, when the voice of the doctor finally arrived in my imagination, like a gift from above. In an instant, I had a strong sense of his character: wise and erudite, yet suffused with regret. It was the voice of a man who had lived most of his life resigned to his unhappiness. Through its beguiling rhythm and restraint, I sensed it was a voice that concealed. Here was a man who harboured a secret from his past—a secret so dark that even decades later he found it difficult to face. Seemingly in minutes, I knew this man as well as I knew an old friend, but what I didn’t know was why—why he was so full of regret. What happened in his past to make him feel that way? From there, I began a process to excavate the secrets of his past.

Difficulties and dilemmas The doctor’s character, so clear to me from the outset through his voice, presented me with a number of problems. Firstly, he was reticent, not given to talking about his feelings, or talking at all. Secondly, he was passive—a man of thought, not action. His reluctance to act forms the central conflict of the novel. Thirdly, during the years I spent writing the first draft, I was convinced the doctor was an unreliable narrator in the vein of English butler Stevens in The Remains of the Day (I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 novel in the early stages of my first draft, after several people commented on the similarities of the voice). Doctor Ibaraki, I believed, was in denial about his past. He withheld information due to his lack of self-awareness and refusal to consider things in a different light.

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As he was the first-person narrator of my novel, these three qualities threatened to mire the story before it had a chance to flow. Although the doctor described the action around him, the setting and weather in some detail, he offered minimal insight into his thoughts, feelings and reflections. This created an unnatural emptiness—a silence that haunted the text—that I hoped readers would identify as the doctor’s unreliability and would serve to further intrigue. I was advised to make Doctor Ibaraki less reticent and passive, but I felt that doing so would undermine his essential nature—or at least what I instinctively felt was his nature. I eventually found ways to minimise the effect of the doctor’s reticence and passivity. I created a braided narrative structure, incorporating scenes set at camp, Broome and Japan. It was not until I received feedback on my first draft that I realised my error in believing the doctor was an unreliable narrator. He was not deluded, forgetful or deliberately deceiving: he was acutely aware of his past wrongdoings, but was unwilling to confront his traumatic memories due to the pain he knew they would unleash. This realisation freed up my approach to shaping the doctor’s voice. I allowed more room for interiority and reflection, creating a fuller character whose humanity shone through. While the doctor had appeared in my imagination almost fully formed, it was not so with the other characters, who required extensive fleshing out and reshaping. The characters of Sister Bernice, Kayoko, Yamada and Johnny Chang all changed during the course of writing the novel. The doctor’s passivity meant he needed a foil, so in my second draft I focused on making Sister Bernice less naive and more open about her feelings. When she visits the doctor at home and admits her affection for him, she broaches a topic that Doctor Ibaraki never would have raised, elevating their relationship to another level. Likewise, Kayoko, who was an obedient wallflower in early versions, became more forthright and passionate in revisions, to contrast with the doctor’s wilful stasis. Yamada, who was previously a one-dimensional friend of the doctor at camp, became complex and untrustworthy. I also added scenes in Broome that included Johnny Chang,

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so that readers would empathise with the transformative experience of his later internment. In Japan, like in many cultures, silence is seen as a virtue. ‘[S]ocial decorum provides that reticence, not eloquence, is rewarded. Similarly, in art it is not articulation but the subtle art of silence that is valued’ (Miyoshi 1996, p. xv). Silence, in Japan, is noble: there is beauty in restraint, reflected in everything from the simplicity of haiku to the stillness of a raked gravel garden. But as I saw the world of the camp

unfold through the doctor’s eyes, I began thinking about the sinister side of silence. What if the characteristic the doctor prided himself on and that was so esteemed in his culture, was also the same quality that destroyed his relationships and moral foundation? This was the question that captivated me as I began to piece together a picture of the doctor’s ambiguous past. Juxtaposing the doctor’s behaviour at camp with his past actions in Japan was key to developing his moral complexity. By incorporating flashbacks of increasing length and frequency of the doctor’s time at the laboratory in Tokyo,

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I demonstrate he is not only a victim of wartime prejudices that led to his internment in Australia, but also a perpetrator of Japanese war crimes. This was another way to counteract his inherent passivity and reticence: the flashbacks in Japan reveal more about the doctor’s character than his narration at camp, by highlighting his pre-laboratory to post-laboratory transformation, while also opening up layers of complexity.

Moral and ethical considerations Anna Funder, author of two books that explore the fragility of life under a totalitarian regime in Germany, believes in the power of ordinary people to combat institutional brutality. ‘I do think it is the courage and decency of ordinary people that is a bulwark against really bad government,’ she has said (Kennan 2011). This belief inspired her novel, All That I Am (2011), about a group of exiled anti-Hitler activists. ‘It is this kind of courage that fascinated me, along with the moral compass that underlies it.’ Doctor Ibaraki’s actions in After Darkness probe the flip side of this belief: the way that ordinary people perpetuate systemic evil. Like Funder, I was fascinated by my character’s moral compass—how an essentially good person such as Doctor Ibaraki had the capacity to facilitate acts of evil at odds with his personal conscience. I was also interested in how the moral weight of past wrongdoings expanded over time, affecting his memories and behaviour decades later. The Japanese emphasis on group, rather than individual, behaviour has been well documented since World War II. ‘A group’s sense of unity, which is stressed and exacted on the basis of every member’s emotional and total participation, forms of itself a closed world and leads to a high degree of isolation’ (Nakane 1972, p. 20-21). The importance of group cooperation in Japanese society in part explains why some former members of Unit 731 committed crimes against humanity: the pressure to conform was intense, and the ramifications of not doing so were far-reaching. Refusal to comply affected not only the individual, but people around him, too. ‘[I]nsulting

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looks would be cast on parents and siblings,’ said Ken Yuasa (Gold 1996, p. 209). According to social anthropologist Chie Nakane, Japan’s central government, which developed as a result of the vertically organised society, ‘made abuses of its power possible and ingrained a fear of authority in the people’. ‘The outcome was probably the development of a particular Japanese attitude, which shows a readiness to yield to power, on the one hand, but an impulsive resentment of orders from above, on the other. I do not think there are many nations like the Japanese, who are so easily overcome by governmental authority and yet attempt to oppose it in everything (though with little effect)’ (Nakane 1972, p. 53). Yet it would be false to understand this unconscionable obedience to authority as a peculiarity of the Japanese. It exists in nearly every culture. Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments conducted in the 1960s found that ordinary Americans were so obedient to authority that sixty-five per cent would press a button to administer an electric shock powerful enough to kill someone when instructed to do so by a Yale scientist (Milgram 1973). The majority of test participants delivered the highest shock, even though they groaned, fidgeted, protested, argued and even broke into nervous laughter while doing so (Meyer 1970). Milgram had intended to repeat the experiment in Germany, to test the hypothesis that Germans have a basic character flaw peculiar to them that explained their willingness to enact Nazi atrocities against Jews during World War II—an idea espoused at the time by historian William Shirer (1960). The results of the tests at Yale, however, were enough to disprove the theory. ‘I hardly saw the need for taking the experiment to Germany,’ Milgram said (Meyer 1970). He concluded: ‘Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority’ (Milgram 1973). Obedience to authority takes many forms. Remaining silent when one is a witness to atrocities is one such example. As

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W G Sebald pointed out, ‘I always try to explain to my parents that there is no difference between passive resistance and passive collaboration—it is the same thing. But they cannot understand that’ (Angier 2007, p. 67). In other words, opposing an issue without doing anything to stop it has the same effect as lending one’s support. In Japan, the postwar silence surrounding Japan’s atrocities in East Asia was effected and maintained by the hierarchical, group-orientated structure of Japanese society and the central government. In the case of Unit 731, General Shiro Ishii instructed members to ‘take the secret to the grave’ (Gold 1996, p. 11). Ishii’s command, coupled with the shame perpetrators felt for their past actions, ensured that nearly all remained silent in the decades after the war. More than thirty years passed before the first witnesses found the courage to speak out, long after Ishii died in 1957. My interest in this delayed processing of traumatic memory motivated me throughout the process of writing After Darkness. The schism between the doctor’s sense of duty and his personal beliefs enlarged over time, so that his past wrongdoings became sharper in his consciousness and his moral burden grew. Ethical dilemmas featured not only in the content of the narrative of After Darkness, but also in my approach as a researcher and historical fiction writer. When embarking on research for this project, I envisaged the doctor’s external conflict stemming from relations with the Australian guards and harsh living conditions at camp. However, I soon discovered such a depiction would be historically inaccurate, as I demonstrated in Chapter One: Japanese civilian internees were treated quite well and, in accordance with the 1929 Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, were given shelter, clothing, the same food and blanket rations as Australian troops and could not be forced to work (Nagata 1996, p.147). I found no evidence of abuse by Australian troops (aside from isolated incidents of theft of internees’ property), and the former Tatura internees I interviewed iterated their fair treatment at the hands of army personnel. ‘Nobody was unkind. We couldn’t complain about

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the treatment’ (Nakashiba 2012a). Although friction between the guards and internees would provide a convenient source of conflict for the narrative of After Darkness, I felt it would be unethical to misrepresent the behaviour of Australian military personnel. (I did, however, make a concession for the character of Private Davies, as I believed one rogue guard scarred by battle in New Guinea would not be seen as representative of all the guards.) I searched archives and books for other historical sources of conflict experienced by Japanese internees, and soon found it in the tensions between the different cultural groups, especially between the Australianborn internees and the imperialist Japanese. This presented another ethical quandary: as both the conflict at camp and the conflict in Japan originated from abuse perpetrated by Japanese people, I worried the story could be interpreted as anti-Japanese, which was not my intention at all. But after canvassing the opinions of those who read my first draft, I felt confident the manuscript would not be misconstrued as a slur against Japanese character. It might be seen as an argument against Japan’s extreme imperialism, but I am comfortable with that interpretation.

The importance of time In this thesis I have highlighted gaps and silences in narratives about past trauma, and investigated the moral and ethical implications of silence and telling. However, such an analysis would not be complete without also considering the effects of time. W G Sebald criticised the postwar ‘conspiracy of silence’, which meant that as a boy growing up in rural Germany in the late 1940s and ’50s, he knew virtually nothing of the genocide and widespread destruction of a few years previous. ‘I grew up with the feeling that something had been withheld from me,’ he said (Franklin 2007, p. 141), and he was frustrated by his inability to find out more from the people in his hometown or from his professors at university in Switzerland. He dedicated his later life to being, in the words of one essayist, a ‘voice of conscience, someone who remembers injustice, who speaks for

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those who can no longer speak’ (Simic 2007, p. 148). Sebald chronicled the experiences of his real-life schoolteacher, Paul Bereyter, in The Emigrants (1996): quarter-Jewish Bereyter was ousted from his teaching position in 1935 due to his Jewish heritage, joined and fought for the German army, then, after the war, returned to teach in the same town whose inhabitants had rejected him, never once speaking about his past persecution. Sebald revealed: ‘That is to my mind the more puzzling side of this particular person’s life… being silent about all those dreadful things’ (Wachtel 2007, p. 46). Bereyter committed suicide later in life, inspiring Sebald to write The Emigrants (Angier 2007, p. 69–70). Sebald’s desire to explore the unspoken traumas of the past prompted the essay On the Natural History of Destruction (Sebald 2003), in which he decried his country’s collective amnesia over the horrors of Allied bombings of German cities, and the ‘scandalous deficiency’ of German writers who failed to broach the subject. Yet despite Sebald’s obvious empathy for the victims of both the Holocaust and the Allied bombings, in his quest to stimulate discussion about the silences of the past, he failed to recognise the importance of time as a survival mechanism and a necessary tool to make sense of past trauma. One senses the uneasiness of Sebald’s position, as he was not a survivor of direct trauma, yet demanded that survivors speak about their pasts. Those who have lived through extreme trauma are seldom able to put into words their experience immediately afterwards. As Dominick LaCapra notes, there is an ‘effect of belatedness’ linked to the Holocaust (LaCapra 1998, p. 9). Concentration camp survivor and author Jorge Semprun refrained for many years from writing anything at all (Lothe et al. 2012, p. 4). German writer Dieter Forte quotes Polish writer Andrzej Szczypiorski, who explained that ‘after he was released from a concentration camp he needed to “switch off his head” so that his body would survive’ (cited in Franklin 2007, p. 137). Forte believes Sebald, in criticising German people’s unwillingness to comment on their wartime experiences, did not take into account Forte’s generation—‘the generation of the children in the big cities [that were heavily

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bombed], who can remember, when they are able, when they can find words for it—and for that one must wait an entire lifetime’ (Franklin 2007, p. 137). The witness who waits an entire lifetime to remember traumatic events brings to mind Doctor Ibaraki’s fifty-year wait. For many, a period of silence is an essential part of the healing process. My research with former civilian internees supports this view. Those who were traumatised by their internment, such as Mary Nakashiba, spent decades in silence before they spoke about their experience. ‘I can talk about it quite freely now. I couldn’t at one time’ (Nakashiba 2012a). However, others, such as Mary’s sister, Rhoda, and Joseph Suzuki, were so traumatised they were never ready to speak about it. This is the outcome I suspect Sebald feared the most: that survivors of trauma would suffer in silence for years (like his childhood teacher Paul Bereyter) and never end up speaking out, inadvertently abetting injustice and risking the reoccurrence of similar atrocities. The era that historian Annette Wieviorka called ‘the era of the witness’ (Wieviorka 2006) did not begin until the early 1960s, when the trial of former Nazi lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann took place in Jerusalem and was televised around the world—the first televised trial of its kind. Through documents provided as evidence and witness statements, viewers learned of the details of Jewish persecution for the first time. The trial proved to be cathartic for many Holocaust survivors, who began to share their tales. Since then, Holocaust awareness has flourished, with countless books, documentaries and films exploring the experience and its impact on individual and collective memory. Holocaust studies has become an established scholarly discipline, giving rise to the literary genre of Holocaust fiction. The atrocities Japan committed in East Asia during the Pacific War have received comparatively little attention, and any recognition has come much later. Perhaps we will see a new age of awareness in the future—an era in which Japan’s biological warfare program will be taught in schools and the infection, dissection and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and Taiwanese will

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feature in mainstream books and films. However, I fear that awareness has already peaked. The publication of Akuma No Hoshoku (‘The Devil’s Gluttony’) by Seiichi Morimura in 1981 and its sequel the following year generated sales of 1.5 million and a surge of interest in Japan’s conflicted past. Court cases, street protests, an exhibition, films and a slew of academic books followed. Japan’s human experimentation even inspired an episode of The X-Files in 1995 (‘731’ 1995). But as compensation claims and efforts to secure an apology from the Japanese government were refused, public interest waned. Human rights lawyer Norio Minami explains, ‘Right after 1995, when former members of Unit 731 came out and testified in court, a lot of young people at that time were shocked and interest grew. I could feel the change in people’s interest and attitude towards the incident. However, as the cases were rejected and the judicial procedures came to an end, we saw a decline in people’s interest’ (Minami 2013). Even among the volunteers who support the cause, he has seen a dwindling of interest. ‘People involved are ageing as we speak, and we haven’t done much to hand down to the younger generation.’ The Japanese government continues to ignore Chinese victims as there is not enough pressure from voters. ‘[W]hen the matter is domestic, the government takes action, but when it comes to the Chinese... it is very difficult to reach a decision,’ Minami says. Almost seventy years have passed since Japan’s biological warfare program was hastily aborted, and very few survivors or perpetrators remain. Relatives of Unit 731 victims who for years have fought for justice are growing older and passing away. With a scarcity of witnesses, a dearth of documentary evidence and collusion by the Japanese and US governments, this issue is in danger of falling into silence before it has barely been heard. I hope this thesis plays a small part in redressing that outcome.

‘The past is what we carry with us’ —W G Sebald Sebald did not believe the horror of the Holocaust could be

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expressed in words, saying, ‘to write about concentration camps in my view is practically impossible’ (Silverblatt 2007, p. 79–80). Yet he felt compelled to write about the subject, so he relied on allusion, describing architecture, labyrinths and fortresses in detail in Austerlitz, until the reader thinks of nothing other than concentration camps. Sebald believed ‘the only way in which one can approach these things… is obliquely, tangentially, by reference rather than by direct confrontation’ (Silverblatt 2007, p. 80). In a similar vein, I feel compelled to write about Japan. The culture and history of my mother’s country has featured in

many short stories, articles and one unfinished novel I have written. It is not my country, as I discovered when I lived there as a seventeen-year-old exchange student. I was an outsider in Japan—a welcome one, as the Japanese friends I made attested, but an outsider nonetheless. I have remained so with each subsequent visit, even as I accumulate friends and my language ability improves. This thesis represents my own oblique approach to writing about my Japanese heritage—an attempt to narrate it through the fictional exploration of a collective trauma, rather than

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by directly addressing my family’s complex history. Narrating After Darkness through the eyes of a Japanese man was an effort to understand the culture from within. Yet, even as I began writing, I acknowledged the impossibility of the task. The Japan that I wished for would forever be out of my reach. My family has never been one that shares stories. When we gather around the dinner table, we exchange brief chit-chat between mouthfuls of food. Before long, we often lapse into silence, the stillness broken only by the ticking of a clock. We are a family of few words, yet we are not repressed. Our silence is shaped by each person’s history: my father, the quiet achiever who left Bathurst for Japan; my mother, the headstrong aesthete who left Japan for London, then Australia; my outgoing sister, born in Japan yet with little interest in the language or culture; and me, born in Korea and raised in Australia but inescapably drawn to Japan. There is another, darker history that hovers around us, too distant to enter our daily lives, yet too personal to ignore. The uncle in Japan who spent eight years institutionalised with schizophrenia. I remember meeting him for the first time when I was a child: excited to meet us, he showered my sister and me with gifts. Decades later, I saw him again: he was a shell of his former self, a slate wiped clean from years of medication. There is the married yet childless aunt in Japan who once knitted me a cardigan and who has a difficult relationship with my mother. I once asked my mother why, but with her mouth set

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hard, she gave me an evasive reply. There is also my mother’s younger sister in Tokyo, who for decades was misdiagnosed with depression. She separated from her husband when her son was two. Her husband took custody of the child, as was the custom in Japan. She hasn’t seen him since. She was almost fifty when doctors realised she had schizophrenia. My mother tells me my aunt has stopped using her microwave, for fear the noise will disturb her neighbours. These are not exactly family secrets—they are fragments that have been let loose over time, by asking the right questions or by pure chance. These fragments form a puzzle that would take a lifetime to piece together. My Japanese uncle died last year, after months of hospitalisation following a severe fall. I could count on one hand the number of times we had met. I think of him, alone and lost on his hospital bed in an almost empty ward. I think of the cousin in Japan whose name I do not even know. And I think of the trauma that echoes through generations, like mutations in our DNA. Perhaps, one day, enough time will have passed for me to explore the silences of my family’s past. I hope to see it with clear eyes and write about it directly, without needing to approach it from the side. But now the fractures are too deep, and all I have are stories to fill my silent and inscrutable past.

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National Archives of Australia NAA 1939-1948: SUZUKI JOSEPH : Service Number NX32903: Date of birth - 28 Feb 1918 : Place of birth GEELONG VIC : Place of enlistment - PADDINGTON NSW : Next of Kin - SUZUKI ADA, Series: B883, Control symbol: NX32903, Canberra. NAA 1946-1946, Military History of Internment in South Australia 1939-45, Loveday Internment Group, Series: D844, Control symbol: 73A/1/6 [F], Adelaide. NAA 1938-1942, [NSW Security Service file - Japanese firms in Australia] [Box 12], Series: C320, Control symbol: J78, Sydney. NAA 1941-1942, Japanese Internees appeals to aliens tribunals, Series: MP508/1, Control symbol: 255/702/1731, Melbourne. NAA 1942-1942, Transcript of evidence of objection by J I Nakashiba, Japanese internee, Tatura 14/2/1942, Series: MP529/3, Control symbol: TRIBUNAL 4/155, Melbourne.

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NAA 1941-1942, Transcripts of evidence of objections against internment 1942 under National Security (Aliens Control) Regulations, Series: MP529/3, Control symbol: BOX 9, Melbourne. NAA 1939-1945, Joseph Suzuki [Box 159], Series: ST1233/1, Control symbol: N61798, Sydney. NAA 1939-1945, Joseph Suzuki [Box 159], Series: ST1233/1, Control symbol: N61798, Sydney. NAA 1940-1942, [NSW Security Service file - Japanese club] Box 12], Series: C320, Control symbol: J90, Sydney. NAA 1945-1945, Umino, Douglas Denzo (Australian born of Japanese origin) [File contains photographs of subject] [Box 537], Series: C123, Control symbol: 17788, Sydney. NAA 1930-1949, [Chi, James Joseph - aka Chi, James Minero] [108 pp], Series: A11797, Control symbol: WP8258, Canberra. NAA1942-1945, SUZUKI, Ichero [also known as Joseph], Series: A367, Control symbol: C60569, Canberra. NAA 1942-1942, Hannah SUZUKI (Objection 2 of 1942; AC) [Box 29] [Box 29], Series: C329, Control symbol: 921, Sydney. NAA 1942-1945, Ichero Suzuki (Joseph), Series: ST1233/1, Control symbol: N28869, Sydney. NAA1939-1945, Joseph SUZUKI - Nationality: Japanese Arrived Melbourne per SS EASTERN on 11 Aug 1922 [Box 195], Series: SP11/5, Control symbol: SUZUKI, JOSEPH, Sydney. NAA 1941-1942, Chi, James Minero - Detention Order, Series: MP508/1, Control symbol: 255/739/490, Melbourne.

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After Darkness - OPUS at UTS - University of Technology Sydney

A F T E R D A R K N E S S : Japanese civilian internment in Australia during World War II C H R I S T I N E P I P E R Doctor of Creative Arts Uni...

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