Preparing Cattle for Food at War's End
Preparing Cattle for Food at War's End
Nihon To Tameshigiri no Shinzui (The Essence of Japanese Sword Testcutting), (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1980) p.195-196. Translated by Guy H. Power, edited by Takako Funaya.
"Rememberences at War's End: Killing Three Cows." 80th Birthday Celebration Pamphlet, (Tokyo: Privately Published, 1980) p. 21. Translated by Guy H. Power.
At war's end I was in Kyushu and there were some difficult times as far as food was concerned. Our battalion kept 10 head of cattle and there was talk raised about selling the cattle to the local villagers. Private Sato, who was experienced at cooking beef and pork, said to me, "If you cut the necks of these cattle, I will cook them and feed the hungry soldiers and villagers." I replied, "Really, turning them into food is all right?" He strongly assured me, " By all means I will be responsible for taking care of the 'paperwork' and butchering. Rest assured and leave it to me." Therefore, I was determined to cut off the heads of the cattle. Company commander Ichihara was opposed, however Private Sato and three others began making preparations.
The cattle were so huge that I thought this was going to be quite difficult to cut through with a single stroke. A rope was prepared and a cow that came with us from Yamanaka was selected. Its head and torso were tied to two pine trees. On this one I used my own sword which was an unnamed shinshin-to (swords made from 1781 to 1886) which was 2 shaku, 3 sun, 5 bu in length (72 cm). I readied myself by spreading my feet wide and raised my sword high over my head in an O-jodan posture. In this instant I brought spirit, sword, and body together and cut downward. My blade cut through the jugular and carotid arteries right through the neck bone; however, I was only able to cut three-quarters of the way through the neck. Blood gushered out like a waterfall and, contrary to my expectations, it died without thrashing about wildly. The rope was untied and with great effort and difficulty the carcass was rolled over on its back. Private Sato began butchering the carcass.
Next, the skin was removed and spread out like a cloth upon which the left-over bones and internal organs were separated and placed on the left, and the meat on the right. I was extremely impressed with how beautifully the butchering was carried out. The bones and offal were cleaned, wrapped in the skin, and pit-roasted in the ground. The roasted beef was then equally distributed to the village and battalion. In those days when meat could not be had, every one was overjoyed.
Well, a beef stew-pot was later sent to me for my dinner. However, because I had cut off the head and killed the cow with my sword, every time I looked at the meat a vision of that fountain of blood came to mind. The imaginary smell of blood became so strong to me that I could not even choke down one bite.
Continuing the next day with the second cow, I borrowed my platoon leader's sword which was a shin-to (1597-1780) with a blade length of 2 shaku, 2 sun (67 cm). This time the cow's torso was not tied down. Only a short string was attached to a pine tree and I cut through this cow just like the first one. The cow's front legs buckled under and, as it fell forward, I cut through the neck with the my second stroke. Private Sato and three others prepared the meat and sent it to battalion headquarters; this, again, was much appreciated.
I killed the third cow the following day. An officer apprentice who came over from his hometown held out his sword and said, "Please take this sword and see how it cuts." His was a newly forged sword of 2 shaku, 2 sun, 3 bu (68 cm) in length. The cow was prepared and killed in the same way as the second. When this sword hit the bone, my grip felt a bit uncomfortable and I felt that the edge of the blade chipped at the monouchi (the cutting area from tip to about 40 cm down). I keenly feel that this was a weakness of newly made sword blades.
In this manner I carried out cutting off the heads of 3 cows; however, I am sure that if I was not talked into this by Private Sato, I would never have done it.
Although I was later called "Sergeant Bull-cutter" and "Sergeant Demon," the nicknames were not considered bad. At that time I was a 32 year old sergeant in search of shugyo (martial arts perfection). I do not think there is anybody else since the war who has killed three living cows with a (Japanese) sword.