The Garret Tree
Saturday, April 16, 2005
  Newslink: Japan: The Empire Rises Again

In Saturday's Toronto Globe and Mail (April 16, 2005), Asia correspondent Geoffrey York has major focus piece on the rise of nationalism in Japan. The story concentrates on how the nationalists and even the mainstream are working to marginalize the post-war pacifist tradition in the country.

Unfortunately, unlike an earlier series on Japan, this story is behind the Globe and Mail's pay wall. I get the dead tree edition on my front porch.

One of the people Geoffrey York interviewed was a pacificist professor of law, Okudaira Yasuhiro, 75, a professor emeritus at Tokyo University, who is one of the leaders of the movement to protect Article 9 in the post-war constitution that forbids the use of force in international disputes.

York writes of Okudaira

An encounter that helped shape his life occurred in 1942, when he was a young boy in northern Japan. He met a group of U.S. prisoners of war who had been put to work on military trucks....

"It was the first time I spoke to a foreigner....The war was designed to separate people. But here, in the middle of the war, as a child, I had this feeling of solidarity and mutual understanding. It still says in my mind."

For some reason, probably because most of the rest of the series is about business rather than human beings, The Globe and Mail's Report on Japan (published in March) is available to the web visitor.

Here is the link to the premium page if you want to buy it.

And on another note: As a web producer, it's clear to me that The Globe and Mail doesn't get it. They appear to be trying to copy the Wall Street Journal in offering premium content, but in fact they are driving away visitors, since it appears a lot of their business content is available. Other newspapers, mainly in the United States, do offer complete access to their dead tree edition subscribers (how else can they read the complete paper if those subscribers are out of town?.)

Links to this post
  If there's a typo, blame the author

In his online journal today Neil Gaiman is talking about receiving the first copy of his new book MirrorMask, expected to hit the bookstores soon and chuckles:
My copy of MirrorMask the script-and-storyboards book was waiting in the mail when I got home -- it's huge and heavy and, really rather wonderful. (Gaiman's law of picking up your first copy of a book you wrote held true: if there's one typo, it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up. It never fails. It used to make me sad or frustrated. Now I half-expect it.)

Permanent Link to Gaiman's post "From the mail pile"

It was a lot worse for me when The Creative Guide to Research came out in September 2000, the typo was on the cover. At the time I was teaching Investigative Journalism (link to archived syllabus) at the Ryerson University School of Journalism but on the cover the book was the notice that I taught at "the Tyerson Polytechnic."

Rowland's Law of Publishing: No matter what the publisher does, the public, the reviews, everyone, always blames the author,
not the cost-cutting publisher,

It's one thing for an understaffed small publisher to make a major mistake (though that is not an excuse --it was easy to check) but it shows the problems lesser known authors face when even the work of a best selling star like Neil Gaiman faces the same problem and says "I half-expect it."

By the way, I have turned the old Creative Guide to Research site into my second blog, so please visit for ongoing research news, information and tips.

And if you want MirrorMask:

Amazon Canada:
Mirrormask: The Illustrated Film Script of the Motion Picture from the Jim Henson Company US:
MirrorMask : The Illustrated Film Script of the Motion Picture from The Jim Henson Company
Links to this post
Thursday, April 14, 2005
  The forgotten history of the Pacific War

42,693 pages of lost stories from the Second World War

It's surprising to me that so few people use the transcript of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, best known as the Tokyo war crimes trial, when they are looking for the history of the war in the Pacific, whether they are academics or simply searching for personal or family information.

There was a posted question on the Far East Prisoners of War mailing list asking about the execution of three British soldiers at Changi Beach on Singapore in March, 1942. I was able to answer that question because I knew from my own research that there had been testimony at that execution at the trial.

Those 42,693 pages include the evidence, including testimony and affidavits, together with the prosecution and defense summations. There is more, the judgment and dissents, for a total of 22 volumes.

That trial transcript has been neglected for years. One reason is that unlike the Nuremberg trial in Germany, the Tokyo transcript was not published at the conclusion of the proceedings. A second, as some scholars have pointed out, there's been a 60-year tendency to see Tokyo as less important.
As a journalist, I find it similar to what they say in newsrooms, the story's been done.

The transcript of the Tokyo trial was finally published in 1981. It's The Tokyo War Crimes Trial, Pritchard, R. John and Zaide, Sonia Magbanua. 22 volumes vols. New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1981.

When I checked out some volumes of the trial from the Osgoode Hall Law Library in Toronto as I was working on my Masters degree, in 2001, I was the first person to borrow those books in the 20 years the set had been held by the library.

What makes it a historical gem is its excellent index. Almost every key name mentioned at the trial from Tojo Hidecki to American GI privates, British Tommies and Aussie Diggers can be found in that index.

Then there are the exhibits, which again have remained mostly untouched in the archives around the world for all those 60 years, and never used by historians.

Part of the Sonkrai Tribunal includes the official Japanese investigation of the Burma Thailand Railway. I am borrowing the idea from the various Abu Ghraib reports which are named for the generals who issued those reports, I am calling it "The Yoshimoto Report" after Yoshimoto Shigeeki, who signed the final draft.

And that Tokyo transcript is not just relevant to those who may trying to find out about relatives who were prisoners of war. Part of the defence in the Pearl Harbor phase of the trial was that the surprise attack was, to some in the Japanese government, a justified pre-emptive strike, a defence which was, of course, rejected by the tribunal but is somewhat relevant today's world.

(If anyone is interested in the Far East Prisoners of War list, it is a moderated list on Yahoo Groups.
The direct link is )
Links to this post
Friday, April 08, 2005
  UN proposes to rebuild the Burma Thailand Railway

It appears the United Nations has proposed a plan that includes rebuilding the Burma Thailand Railway.

A Google search turns up the most interesting and unexpected things.
I was looking for one fact as I edit The Sonkrai Tribunal, the height of Three Pagoda Pass between Thailand and Myanmar. (220 metres by the way)

I found the reference in a United Nations report on what's called the TransAsian Railway, an ambitious plan to join most of the rail lines of Asia. And that plan includes rebuilding the link that was once the Burma Thailand Railway, also called the Railway of Death.

After the Second World War, Great Britain sold the railway to Thailand for £1.5 million but it proved to be both dangerous and uneconomic and the line north of Nam Tok was torn up. There is local and tourist traffic from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok today.

The 1999 report proposes rebuilding the length that was torn up from the current last station at Nam Tok back up to Three Pagoda Pass and then back to down to Thanbyuzayat.

An alternative route would go south in Myanmar from Ye to Dawai cross into Thailand at Bang Bong Tee and join the existing line at Nam Tok.

If this dream ever works (and politics would play a big part) it might be possible, one day, in the future, to take a train from Frankfurt to Bangkok, via Tehran and India through the mountains on the rebuilt Burma-Thailand Railway.

According to the UN report Thailand and Myanmar actually had a meeting in 1998 to discuss the feasibility of the the two routes. (Details on page 51 of the report, link below).

The Three Pagoda Pass route would follow the old rail line to the current Khao Laem dam where it would follow the route of the current highway around the reservoir to the pass. The plans call for three new bridges crossing the Kwai Noi, the Hui Yae and the Precam Nai. (Map of the proposed railway is on page 53).

Within Mynamar the new railway would follow the old Second World War Route, to Thanbyuzayat, "and could utilize 12 of the old station sites."

The cost of this new Burma-Thailand Railway, using modern equipment and labour paid according to local conditions (not slaves) would be US $1.75 million per kilometre, for a total of US $268 million in Thailand and US $192 million in Myanmar.

It also notes that the alternative southern route via Dawai and Nam Tok would cost less, $262 million as opposed to $460 million and generate higher freight tonnage, thus justifying the investment. (Possible offshore oil is also a motivation for the southern route).

The railway plan is from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

You can find the main page for the TransAsian Railway Southern Corridor at this link.
There you can either click on the green graphic for the full report.
Download the report in PDF format Development of the Trans-Asian Railway: Trans-Asian Railway in the Southern Corridor of Asia-Europe Routes, 1999.
Links to this post
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
  Sonkrai Update: News of the Pope puts project on hold

There I was working away on Sonkrai on Friday, when CBC Newsworld began reporting that the Italian media was saying that Pope John Paul II had died and within a few moments I was called back in to work for the death watch.

I went into the office, created a photo gallery from wire photos of Canadians at prayer.

Saturday, the weather in Toronto was miserable, a windstorm combined with rain, freezing rain and sleet. The news of Pope John Paul's death broke about 2:45 p.m. and within a few minutes the storm took down a tree a few houses away.

An hour or so later, Toronto Hydro cut power to the block, just as I was starting to cook dinner and I was left in the dark for five hours, just as I was working on photo assignments for the next morning, dialing the phone with a flashlight (thanfully my Palm is back lit). Power came back on sometime after 9.

The next morning I went to shoot the mass at a local parish, Holy Name. Weather was still horrible, wind gusts, freezing rain and slush. Here is one shot I got, where part of the stained-stained glass window was reflected in the portrait of the late Pope.

You can see the complete photogallery A parish prays at this link.

Now back to work on the book.

Links to this post
Saturday, April 02, 2005
  That review in The Times was bunkum

Here's my answer to the review in The Times of Brian MacArthur's Surviving the Sword.
It's usually not advisable to take on a reviewer, but Allan Massie's review was so grossly inaccurate that I decided to write a letter to The Times.

Link to the review.

The advantage of blogging is that if the letter isn't published (perhaps because I sent it about 5 weeks after the review appeared) that I can reproduce it here.

The Editor
The Times

As the son of a former British prisoner of war on the Railway of Death (Lt. Fred Rowland, MC, RA) I found The Time's review of Brian MacArthur’s Surviving the Sword (Feb. 19) seriously flawed by what appears to be, in the case of the reviewer, Alan Massie, a story of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

Mr. Massie says that author Laurens van der Post promoted the idea that “the Japanese code of Bushido taught that it was shameful to surrender rather than die in battle, this, to their mind, justified their brutality towards their prisoners” and Mr. Massie claims that this idea is “bunkum.”

In fact, Brian MacArthur is absolutely correct about the Japanese attitude, but that idea did not come from Laurens van der Post or other prisoner memoirs, but from day after day of testimony at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (the Tokyo War Crimes trial) and the trials held by the British in Singapore and by the United States in Yokohama.

I studied those trials for a Master’s Degree for Law and History at York University in Toronto.

The Japanese Army Senjinkun or Field Service Code told soldiers: “You shall not undergo the shame of being taken alive. You shall not bequeath a sullied name” and thus surrendering was a violation of code of bushido, as interpreted by the Japanese of the time. The trial of the major defendants in Tokyo plus the “minor” trials of Japanese and Korean guards for keeping prisoners in “inhuman conditions” showed time and time again that their attitude and brutality was governed by their contempt for prisoners who had surrendered in violation of bushido.

As for Massie’s contention that the Japanese meekly surrendered, that is best answered by what General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the "Tiger of Malaya" told his American defence lawyers at the time of his trial in Manila. When asked why he surrendered, Yamashita replied that the Emperor Hirohito had ordered the army to surrender and he had obeyed the orders of the Emperor, just as he had when he was given command of the campaign to take Singapore.

Robin Rowland
Toronto, Canada
One example: Australian Brigadier General Arthur Blackburn, testifying at the Tokyo War Crimes trial on Wednesday 4, 1946, said: "I was frequently informed by Japanese officers that the policy of the Japanese government was to treat prisoners only under their principle of "Bushido;" that the principles of the Geneva Convention would be applied only when it suited them and that prisoners of war had no rights whatever." (Page 11,530)

Permanent link to original blog post on March 22 on Surviving the Sword.

Link to my Sonkrai Tribunal page, with information on my academic papers.

Getting Surviving the Sword
In Canada, order Surviving the Sword from

UK/Canada edition, now available (published March 29, 2005.)
Surviving The Sword: Prisoners Of The Japanese 1942-45

U.S. Edition, available in June
Surviving The Sword: Prisoners Of The Japanese 1942-45

In the United States, order either the UK/Canada edition of Surviving the Sword (March 29) or US edition (June 2005) from

Links to this post
Friday, April 01, 2005
  Slavery and internment: What we need to learn in 2005

A distinguished American citizen named Fred Korematsu died on Wednesday, March 31, in California.

The Japanese made my father a slave.
Yet, after he came to Canada and found out about the internment of Japanese Canadians and Americans, he was appalled.

Korematsu was the man who at 23 who had the courage to challenge the internment of Japanese Americans in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he lost.

(For those who have not followed the rest of this blog, my father, along with thousands of others, British, Australian and American prisoners of war was a slave labourer on the Burma Thailand "Railway of Death" best known from the 1956 movie Bridge on the River Kwai. He weighed just 83 pounds when he was released after the war in 1945)

According to AP after the U.S. ordered all Japanese Americans to leave the West Coast but Korematsu refused, saying, "I was really upset because I was branded as an enemy alien when I am an American." He was charged and convicted of espionage and that conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court.

San Francisco Chronicle AP Obituary

It was not until the 1983 that the conviction was overturned.

Here is what I say in part of Book Four of The Sonkrai Tribunal: (In the 1950s my father was the property manager for the Aluminum Company of Canada in Kitimat, British Columbia.)

Time sometimes help to heal and contact helps understanding. My father's job in Kitimat was assistant property manager for Alcan. One of his jobs was to rent shops in the two company owned malls. Early on, a Japanese couple came to my father's office to rent a store. Not knowing my father's history, they casually mentioned during the interview that they had been interned in one of those interior camps. "And we did to them what they did to us," my father told me later, shaking his head. My mother always bought her dresses in their shop. For my father, the roundup in his new country was another example of government betrayal, of grand strategies that cause pain, that bring wounded memories.

In 2004, a Fox news personality and blogger named Michelle Malkin stated that all Japanese were spies during the Second World and that the internment was justified as is racial profiling of Arab Americans.

Korematsu replied in an eloquent column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Do we really need to relearn the lessons of Japanese American internment?

In the column Korematsu said:

Malkin argues for reviving the old notion of guilt by association....Fears and prejudices directed against minority communities are to easy to evoke and exaggerate, often to serve the political agendas of those who promote such fears.

Now Malkin is celebrating his death in a column that is so horrible that I won't link to it, but those who want to can find it on Technorati.

But she does say
Every high school student knows that most immigrants of German, Italian, and Japanese lineage conspired with their relatives in the "old country" to overthrow the U.S. government.
For that I only reply not about the Japanese, but about the internment of Italians, that in the research for my book King of the Mob, I read almost all the declassified files on the internment of Italian Canadians during the Second World. For King, I was using the files to show that the Canadian government was using internment as an attempt to break Italian organized crime. But those files also showed that most of the men who were picked up and interned had no connection with Mussolini.
For many their "crime" was sending money to relatives in the old country. Many others were Italian labourers who worked in the mining or construction industries and handled dynamite. That, according to the police, meant they were "potential saboteurs" and so they were hauled out of their homes and sent to internment camps.

She claims her blog supports "patriotic Americans," reminding me of Samuel Johnson's famous words on April 7, 1775, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

Links to this post
I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

My Photo
Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

New blogs as of Sept. 2009
Robin's Weir
Tao of News

November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / November 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / August 2009 /

    follow me on Twitter

    A River Kwai Story
    A River Kwai Story
    The Sonkrai Tribunal