“Our comrades were dying every day. Some people dragged it out, and some people were sad for one night and then switched sides, but I was the latter. I was the latter. In the war zone, those who were aware of death died first.
Masaki Takabe, 56, who has been involved in conflicts around the world as a mercenary, said this in a halting voice. It was a “setback” that drove him to go to war.
“I loved reading war stories, and from elementary school on, I thought, ‘A soldier who risks his life to fight for others is a man’s job. So after graduating from high school, I joined the Air Self-Defense Force at the age of 18. However, at the age of 22, I suffered a serious back injury during flight training and was reassigned to a clerical position in the General Affairs Group. I couldn’t give up my desire to fight for others on the front lines, so I decided to become a mercenary overseas.
After leaving the military, he worked at a car factory to save up money for his trip, while studying English hard and waiting for his chance. In the meantime, an encounter with a certain person became a turning point for him.
“An acquaintance who worked at a publishing company introduced me to a Japanese man who had joined the volunteer army in Afghanistan. He provided me with the contact information of the anti-government guerrillas and a letter of introduction to their leaders.
In the fall of 1988, Mr. Takabe landed in Pakistan by himself, made contact with the insurgent guerrilla unit, and was recruited on the spot. He was recruited on the spot, and spent the next three days on his way to Afghanistan.
“The word had gotten out that I was ex-SDF, and I was immediately sent to the front lines without any training. My first mission was to shoot at an enemy military outpost at the foot of a mountain and armored vehicles from the top of the mountain. At the time, the Soviet Union was the leader of the Eastern bloc, so when I told people in other war zones that I had fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, they took one look at me and said, ‘You fought against such a big country?
In 1990, Mr. Takabe moved to Myanmar and joined the Karen National Liberation Army, an anti-government organization. In 1994, he joined a foreign mercenary unit in the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and took up a gun. In 1994, he joined a foreign mercenary unit in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he held a gun.
“In Myanmar, I was sleeping in the trenches of a base when the enemy attacked at night and I fought back, but my comrade next to me was shot through the eyebrow and died instantly. In Bosnia, a mortar hit a window while we were shooting at the enemy outside from inside a building. A German soldier who was nearby had his upper body blown off. I was returning fire from the opposite window, and although I was trapped underneath the material, I was unharmed. On the battlefield, life and death depended on whether you chose “right or left.
On the battlefield, he said, there were times when his fellow soldiers tried to kill him.
“In Afghanistan, there are unique rules and taboos, such as not crossing the street while praying, and not saying you are not religious when asked about your religion. In Afghanistan, there are unique rules and taboos, such as not crossing in front of people during prayer, and not saying you have no religion when asked. If you didn’t know these rules, you might get antagonized by your fellow soldiers and be shot on the battlefield under the guise of an accident. There are many places on earth where you can’t be too careful, even with your allies.
Mr. Takabe retired as a mercenary in 2007. Mr. Takabe retired as a mercenary in 2007 and continues to convey the “real misery of the battlefield” that Japanese people do not know.
From theOctober 22-29 ,2021issue of FRIDAY
Photography： Naohiro Yoshida Reporting by： Noriko Shiozaki