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Bushido or Dope-Do?
By Andrew Ryan

One of the shameful things I do is to get emails from a variety of geek sites because… well… you never know, something useful might come up. is a bit too Left-geek for my concentrated attention but sometimes something catches my eye before I hit the delete icon, or whatever the fuck it is called.

In response to the question: “Which Weapon of Japan did U.S. Fear Most in WWII,” William Tait MacDonald, resident of Japan replies: methamphetamine:

I noticed with interest that many of the people writing here have written about the Japanese soldier’s willingness to die for their country, but have wrongly attributed it to love for Japan, love for the Emperor, honor, bushido or being just plain suicidal.

The answer is far more interesting, and is relevant here because it was also one of Japan’s greatest weapons. The answer is methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine was a Japanese invention, first synthesised back in 1893 by Nagai Nagayoshi, a Japanese chemist, but was relatively obscure until World War 2 when the Japanese government began to mass produce crystal meth in quantities that would make Walter White blush, under the name hiropon ヒロポン.

It was issued as part of the standard ration to everyone from soldiers to factory workers. For factory workers it suppressed hunger (no snack breaks!), gave them energy, and allowed them to focus on boring and repetitive tasks without losing concentration for insanely long periods. This contributed to Japan’s incredibly high military-industrial output.

The soldiers also received crystal meth, and this is probably the source of their reputation for great energy, ferocity and willingness to die. Simply put, they weren’t any braver than the average Joe, they were just high as kites.

Note that I am not denigrating the bravery or loyalty of the Japanese soldiers - even without drugs they were probably as committed to their country as the soldiers from the U.S. and other countries.

What I am trying to debunk is this notion that persists in fiction and history that the key to the Japanese soldiers’ amazing acts of bravery and suicidal ferocity can somehow be attributed to loyalty, bushido, bloodline or other such b.s.

They were probably brave, well-trained and loyal soldiers for the most part who were committed to their countries and their comrades, but one cannot ignore the fact that Japanese soldiers were high on crystal meth in most major engagements, and this explains their exceptional performance far more rationally and elegantly than any quasi-mystical ideas about bushido or samurai ancestry.

It should also be noted that other countries toyed with giving their soldiers drugs - the Germans also used crystal meth and the U.S. gave their soldiers benzos - however no other nation did it to the extent that Japan did.

In summary, one of Japan’s most feared (and hidden) secret weapons was their wide-spread use of crystal meth during WW2.

My spirits really sank when reading that because I, naturally enough, supported the bushido theory of warrior valor, which now, like most things, just turns out to be bullshit. One of my favorite group of masculine warriors may have just been drug freaks. Sad. A bad fuckin’ day.

Add Comment
Jeremy BenthamJanuary 31, 2017 4:13 PM UTC

Yes, we should keep in mind that every combatant country in World War II was experimenting with amphetamines for the troops. Not just for "Dutch courage", i.e. making them fearless and ready to fight, either. It was mostly intended to keep them awake and alert for long periods of time, especially aviators. That's why one of the slang terms for amphetamine pills in the 1940's, '50's and '60's was "co-pilots". The U.S. Military abandoned the use of amphetamines for the troops because of the long term health effects and because troops on uppers for a long period tended to “crash" rather than ramp down when the drug wore off because of the way it draws on the body's energy reserves. In other words they would pass out where they stood and fall into a deep sleep for a day or two, as such after their meth trip they would be more useless for a longer period of time than even troops who passed out from natural exhaustion. So amphetamines were at best a temporary, penny in the fuse box, solution. The military still hasn't satisfactorily solved the problem of how to keep soldiers awake and alert in combat 7/24.
Nero The PictJanuary 30, 2017 8:20 PM UTC


This book looks interesting and is germane to what you just posted. Pretty neat article. Sounds like the populace of Germany were also treating their bodies like chemistry sets too.
Sam J.January 30, 2017 5:51 PM UTC

Nazis too. The officers handed it out when the troops were pooped and they didn't have time to rest. Pervitin
Bruno DiasJanuary 30, 2017 12:48 PM UTC

Damm. It's always sad when some of your fantasies is broken.