Colonel Tsuyoski Sato was not personally enthusiastic about the annexation of Taiwan. He agreed with his old superior, Count Gotō, that the Taiwanese (especially the aborigines) were too different biologically speaking from the Japanese and could never be assimilated, only ruled like the British did their subjects in Africa and India. Frankly, Col. Sato would rather the Empire focused its energies elsewhere.

But his superior, General Nakano, agreed with Minister Takashi in Tokyo that the Taiwanese could and should become Japanese in time. Dismissing Gotō as “an overgrown Boy Scout,” Nakano had personally appointed Sato to his post in the mountains. Sato was to be, as the General put it, the “big stick” opposite the “soft-speaking” civilian administrators (the man was an admirer of President Roosevelt).

Sato accepted the post and the mission, and moved his family to the area from Taipei, out of loyalty to the Emperor. He felt that above all it was necessary to show his sons how a man of honor behaved. His eldest son, Masashi, was studying biology and chemistry at Tokyo Imperial University; Sato hoped that he would lend those talents to the Imperial military upon graduation. The younger boy, Ryuji, was still at home and in his father’s eyes remained an impressionable dilettante of a dreamer. A stern example was needed to toughen him up and wean him off the steady diet of novels stories he was always buried in.

Perhaps that is why, after months of work in town, Col. Sato took Ryuji with him when he embarked on a minor punitive expedition. Aborigines and rebel bandits were using an old shrine in the mountains as a base, according to his informants, and Sato was determined to root them out and destroy their sanctuary.

Perhaps that is also why he did not return.

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