There are some extremely rare publications relating to Canada and the First World War where only a handful of copies still exist: Peregrine Acland’s The Reveille of Romance being a prime example. Though I don’t think it likely I’ll ever acquire a copy, I’ve handled three, held in rare collections at the University of Toronto, Library & Archives Canada, and the Canadian War Museum. Rare, but still accessible.
Yukimaro Moro-oka’s Arasu Sensen E, or in English, On to the Arras Front (1935) is a whole other species of rare, and having recently acquired a copy, I feel like boasting a little.
Hailing from Saga, Japan, Moro-oka came to Canada in 1906, settling in Skeena, British Columbia where he worked as a fisherman. In August of 1916 he signed up with the 175th Battalion out of Medicine Hat, Alberta. On arriving in England, the 175th was absorbed into the 21st Reserve Battalion, which reinforced the 50th Battalion, a Calgary outfit. The 50th Battalion was part of the 4th Canadian Division: these lads attacked Hill 145 at Vimy, and after taking it, they drove the Bavarians off the Pimple, but suffered very heavy casualties doing so. Moro-oka was wounded at Vimy, and after a long stay in hospital was sent home to Canada in February of 1918.
In 1935, Moro-oka published his account of the war in Japan. Arasu Sensen E was published in Tokyo by Gunjin Kaikan Jig-yo-bu, and comes it at 438 pages with many photos and an introduction, in English, by Herbert M. Marler, the Canadian envoy to Japan. The book has illustrated card covers with a opaque wrapper, and is housed in a slipcase.
The only copy in North America, other than my own, it held in Special Collections at the University of British Columbia. A direct link to their listing is here. When Library & Archives Canada, the University of Toronto, the Library of Congress and the Ransom Center in Texas don’t have a copy, you’re dealing with a rare book. What’s more, it appears there are only two copies held in Japanese National Libraries, both at the University of Tokyo: one in the Komaba Library and the other in the Foreign Studies Library.
I found my copy by contacting a fellow in Japan named John R. Yamamoto-Wilson. His website, Rare Books in Japan in here. He was like a bloodhound tracking this copy down for me.
And now for the difficult bit: finding someone to translate it for me. I think Field Punishment No. 1 might just have to call in some favours and set up a small publishing arm so that more people can have access to it. Given our treatment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War, I’ve a strong feeling that this book is a long overdue for republication.
If you’re a Japanese student or a student of Japanese looking for an interesting project, get in touch.
Excerpts of Arasu Sensen E appear in Roy Ito’s We Went to War: The Story of Japanese Canadians Who Served During the First and Second World Wars (1984). A copy is speeding its way to me at this very moment, and I’ll comment further when I find out more about Yukimaro Moro-oka.