The Ants

Like The Ants, We Served For The Superior
And Sedulously Fought The Battles,
Even Beyond The WWII.

2005/ Japan/35mm/Colour/101min/Vista/ Japanese & Chinese with English subtitles

"Devil" returns to China.

Waichi OKUMURA, a 80- year-old WWII veteran and other 2600 ordered to stay on in China and fight along with the Chinese nationalists in the post-1945 civil war. Racing against the time, he powerfully campaigns to expose the secret military orders that kept them in China years after Japan had surrendered. His journey starts from the hot spot of Asia, the Yasukuni shrine. His quest takes him to China, where he had once become the killing machine, and finds truths about the Japanese military as well as himself under the long spell by it. During his journey, he meets a Chinese old lady who was kidnapped, raped, and confined by the Japanese soldiers. From her, he hears a story of human evils - and even forgiveness.


Mystery of Lost Soldiers

  August 1945, the monstrous clouds flashed away the two Japan's cities and Japan signed away her empire under the Potsdam Declaration accepting unconditional surrender and complete disarmament. In occupied Japan, the people welcomed the peace, while 2600 of units from the 1st Imperial Army remained armed in China, joined the Nationalist, and fought against Mao. Bleaching the Potsdam, they have pursued a divine secret mission-- to preserve Japanese military and build a free - independent Japan in Shanxi, a China's province with affluent natural resources. During 1945-48, 550 of the remained soldiers died in the post war action, and over 700, including injured Okumura, became hostages of the Communist.
Post War Japanese Soldiers remained in Shanxi, Photo taken in 1946
Okumura had luck to return his home but only 9 years after the World War II ended. 
Returning home did not mean a relief however.  Like his fellow soldiers who made it home, new born Japan called supposed-to-be heroes gfugitivesh, and dined any possibility of military order or national will to keep them armed and stayed in China, any reparation to them, and even their honors.  To the worse in back home, young Okumura was knocked down with the fact that he had been locally discharged from the military register, while he was still fighting in the imperial operation in China. 

Okumura in a rage says:
gIn the post war action in China, my friend Tatsumi Saito yelled
 eLong Live the Emperor' as he died.
 That was 3 years after the war!  Why did he have to die like that!?h
Who doomed their lives? Okumura visits China to find the crucial evidence proving a secret deal made between the Japanese military commander, General Raishiro Sumida and the Nationalist General Yan Xishan. Yan is said to have proposed Sumida to leave Japanese troops in China to beat the foe, Mao Zedong. In exchange, Yan would protect Sumida, who was the Class A War Criminal, and help establish free Japan in Shanxi once they won the civil war.

The Nitty - Gritty

For many years, Okumura had a very little time to think back the past as he was too busy in making a living.  Though, he kept questioning gwhy did we have to stay behind?h  In 1988, he and other post war imperial soldiers together filed a petition to the government to disclose the information on why they were forced to remain. In 2001, Okumura and the others, Okumura being the youngest among them, sued the government to admit that it was a military order that they had to stay on fighting in China.  But, the authority insists gthey volunteered to stayh.  So does the judges.  In March, 2005, Tokyo High Court, supporting the Lower Court's decision, dismissed the intermediate appeal.  Of the 13 original aging plaintiffs, 4 have died during the 4 years of deliberations.  Okumura, Kaneko, Murayama, and other two, only 5 all together  made a final appeal to the Supreme Court.

Clips from the film

He goes to Shanxi National Archives and shows an old Japanese military instruction written for the post war Imperial soldiers in China.  It states that gthe troops' mandate is to restore the Empire and spread Imperial influenceh.  It proves that Japanese armed forces were systematically existed in China even after the war and their goal was to rebuild the Empire, meaning a grave violation of the Potsdam Declaration.  gSo, the Japanese government can't accept thish, says Okumura
  Looking for new evidences, Okumura traces back his past in China.  He had a secret that he could never tell to his family--- memory of the very first murder.  Back in February, 1945, when he was first sent to China as a recruit from Japan, his officer ordered him to stab the innocent Chinese with his bayonet till die.  It was part of routine training for recruits. gThat's was the moment I became a murderer, It made me Devilh, says Okumura.  He goes to the killing field and prays for the Chinese people killed. To know who he killed, he meets witnesses and experience unexpected state of mind. 
The Chinese used to call Japanese soldiers gJapanese Devilsh. He realizes that mind of Devil was still in him, even 60 years went by. Being aware of a long spell of Japanese military and with strong remorse, he decides to disclose what war is and its insanity.
Back to Japan, he goes to Yasukuni Shrine on the 15th of August ?the end of the Pacific War Day.  People come there to worship the enshrined gMartyrs of warsh, but not Okumura, who feels raging gale toward the Rising Sun.  He hears the speech of Hiroo Onoda who had denied the Japan's defeat and had fought in the jungle of Philippines with 2 of his henchmen over 30 years after the war. While Onoda receive the storm of applauds from his audience, Okumura confronts him in face of the public.  
  Kaoru Ikeya
is an in ternationally awarded documentary director and the best known for his distinguished works on China such as Daughter from Yan'an ( Best Documentary from Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Silver Hugo from Chicago International Film Festival, Best Documentary from Pennsylvania Film Festival in 2002) and Yan'an: Yellow Soil and the New Reality (Golden Nymph from the Monte Carlo International TV Festival in 1994). 
Director's statement
On August 6, 1945, A-bomb dropped in Hiroshima City.  My father exposed to the bomb at the arsenal he worked, just 1.4 km away from the epicenter.  He was together with his colleagues.  3 of them were killed on the spot.  My father injured but survived.  My parents kept secret about this till I became 18 years old.  They have feared that I might have any bad effects from radiation exposure, and decided not to tell, probably concerning psychological impact on me.  I became a healthy grown-up.  They felt easy and finally told me about it.  When I heard this, I was shocked not because I was a child of an A-bomb victim, but because I didn't know the fact till they said to me.  I was really angry at my father and blamed him for hiding.  Whatever had happened to me, I wanted to know the truth.  I felt I had right to know.  When I met Okumura, who is a few years younger than my father, I was charmed by his toughness, guts, honesty, and persistence to look for the truth.  Then, I decided to film him.  
---Kaoru Ikeya
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