Takashi Nagase

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Takashi Nagase
永瀬 隆
Born(1918-02-20)20 February 1918
Died21 June 2011(2011-06-21) (aged 93)
Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan
OccupationInterpreter, military officer, philanthropist, Buddhist priest
Known forOne of the officers in charge of the Burma Railway construction, later reconciliation with Eric Lomax
Military career
Allegiance Empire of Japan
Branch Imperial Japanese Army

Takashi Nagase (永瀬 隆, Nagase Takashi, 20 February 1918 – 21 June 2011) was a Japanese Kempeitai (military secret police) interpreter and war criminal during World War II. He was born in 1918 in Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan and learned English from an American Methodist in a college in Tokyo.[1] He was one of the officers in charge of the construction of the "Death Railway" which ran between Thailand and Burma and included the famous bridge over the River Kwai, and is known for the use of forced labour of Allied prisoners of war in addition to romusha - local civilians pressed into labour - who formed the majority of the workforce and resulting deaths.

After the war[edit]

Nagase was first introduced to the British public in the documentary made by ex-POW John Coast about the realities of life on the Thai-Burma Railway, which was first broadcast in the UK on BBC2 on 15 March 1969. It was repeated on BBC1 on 4 August 1969 and again on Boxing Day 1974. The documentary was an early colour broadcast and part of the series One Pair of Eyes. Return to the River Kwai featured interviews with Nagase and two other Japanese soldiers who had worked with the prisoners on the railway. Nagase acted as both interpreter for the two other soldiers and interviewee. A transcript of the documentary and Nagase's responses to Coast's questions about the treatment of the POWs and some of the Japanese accused of war crimes after the war (plus some of Nagase's responses that did not make it into the final edit of the documentary) can be found in the new 2014 edition of Coast's book Railroad of Death originally published in 1946.[2]

Nagase was also noted for his reconciliation with former British Army officer Eric Lomax, whom he interrogated and tortured at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in 1942. Lomax then went on to discuss his reconciliation and eventual friendship with Nagase in his autobiography, The Railway Man. The book chronicled his experience before, during, and after the Second World War. It won the 1996 NCR Book Award and the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography.

Nagase also wrote a book on his own experiences during and after the war entitled Crosses and Tigers, and financed a Buddhist temple at the bridge to atone for his actions during the war.[3] The reconciliation between the two men was filmed as a documentary Enemy, My Friend? (1995), directed by Mike Finlason.

After the end of the Second World War, Takashi Nagase became a devout Buddhist priest and tried to atone for the Japanese army's treatment of prisoners of war. He made more than 100 missions of atonement to the River Kwai in Thailand.

He died in 2011 in Kurashiki.[4]

In television and films[edit]

Nagase is portrayed by Randall Duk Kim in the 1996 BBC TV film Prisoners in Time, based on the story of Eric Lomax, who is played by John Hurt, with Rowena Cooper as his wife, Patti.

In the 2001 film To End All Wars, based on the autobiography of Ernest Gordon, Nagase is portrayed by Yugo Saso, with Ciarán McMenamin as Gordon.

In the 2013 film The Railway Man, based on Lomax's autobiography, Nagase is portrayed by Hiroyuki Sanada, with Colin Firth as Lomax and Nicole Kidman as Patti.


  1. ^ "Building Bridges over Hate - OhmyNews International".
  2. ^ Coast, John (2014). Railroad of Death. Myrmidon. ISBN 9781905802937.
  3. ^ Andreae, Christopher (9 August 1995). "Prisoner of War Learns To Forgive, Reconciles With His Interrogator". Christian Science Monitor. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ "Ex-Japanese military interpreter, philanthropist Nagase dies at 93". The Free Library.

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