In July 1989, a construction company working in the Shinjuku district unearthed dozens of fragmented skulls and human bones. The bones were determined to be victims of the infamous Unit 731 secret Japanese research program that experimented with and murdered thousands of Chinese citizens.
Japanese leadership specifically created unit 731 to research bacteria and advance Japanese knowledge in biological warfare. They well hid this secretive faction among outsiders and cloaked behind an innocent title, the ‘Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department.’
Being one of the smaller warring countries and outnumbered compared to China, Russia, and the United States, Japan realized it could not become a world leader with strength alone.
This disadvantage motivated Japan's Emperor Hirohito to grant funding, entrusting this project to Surgeon General Shiro Ishii, who became obsessed with creating biological weapons.
Ishii's only problem with his research was finding test subjects that could be used in his fatal human experiments. Luckily, Japan had recently expanded their territory further into China via the Second Sino-Japanese War.
In the Japanese-controlled city of Harbin is where Unit 731 had unattested authority in using the Chinese and Russian as guinea pigs.
Leadership tasked an elite Japanese military faction known as the Kenpeitai in abducting Chinese visitors under the guise of POWs. The Kenpeitai were extremely loyal to the Emperor Hirohito and used extreme violence and intimidation to paralyse their targets.
“We tied them with ropes around their waists, and their hands be- hind the backs. They couldn’t move. We took them by train in a closed car, then the Unit 731 truck would meet us at the station. It was a strange truck—black with no windows. A strange-looking vehicle.”
They referred these captives as ‘Marutas' meaning logs in Japanese.
One former Unit 731 soldier claimed, "There was a big smokestack in the unit. On some days it poured smoke, sometimes there was none. It was far from our barracks. Once, we asked what was burning. The answer was “prisoners.”
Author and research Hal Gold wrote about the marutas in his book, Infamous Unit 731. “In all the gruesome professionalism that built the legacy of Unit 731, there was one touch of sardonic humor. As the massive Pingfang installation was under construction, local people began to ask what it was. The glib answer supplied was that the Japanese were building a lumber mill. Regarding this reply, one of the researchers joked privately, “And the people are the logs.”
Due to the human experiments, the maruta bodies burned quickly because of the absence of human organs.
The Unit 731 guards gave no conscience remorse for the marutas being experimented on. To them, they were not real humans, but simply logs and counted "one log, two logs, etc." This method of dehumanisation was combined with the fact that Unit 731 staff believed they were morally just and carrying out the will of the Emperor.
Even before Unit 731, Japan's government used 'comfort women' (forced sex slaves) to keep its soldiers motivated during war time. They abducted these women at a young age and were mainly Chinese and Korean.
The reasoning for using these women was two-fold. First, it was a way to slow down the mass rapes, such as the Rape of Nanjing incident, in which within a 5-month time span in 1937 there were over 20,000 reported rapes against Russian women carried out by Japanese soldiers.
And second, it was to slow down and possibility eliminate the spread of venereal diseases through the Imperial Army Ranks.
The officials heading Unit 731 saw an opportunity to study the progression and transmission of venereal diseases by using comfort women in their experimentations.
Scientist conducting research on the prevention and treatment of Syphilis started by injecting infected women with the bacteria to study the growth and transmission.
Testing was obviously beyond disgusting. From Hal Gold's book. “Syphilis would cause a woman’s “manju” to swell up. Once during an examination, pus discharged from the woman’s organ and hit the examiner in the face. A sample of her blood was taken to the unit for analysis and proved syphilitic."
However, this method soon proved widely infective, so they began forcing two prisoners together.