Mutsuhiro Watanabe – Bio, Facts about the WWII Japanese Army Corporal

You cannot conclude the tale of the 2nd World War in Japan without making a mention of Mutsuhiro Watanabe who served his home country as an Imperial Japanese Army corporal. His assigned responsibility for the duration of the war was to serve at numerous POW (prisoner-of-war) camps which include the likes of Omori, Naoetsu that is presently known as Jōetsu, Niigata, Mitsushima now called Hiraoka and also the third POW camp stationed at  Yamakita.

After his home country was defeated in the battle, Mutsuhiro Watanabe was classified as a war criminal for the brutal treatment he unleashed on helpless prisoners of war. It happened that the US Occupation authorities couldn’t get him to come and face trial as he promptly went into hiding and subsequently, he never faced a court trial.

Mutsuhiro Watanabe – Biography

Mutsuhiro Watanabe was born in his home country of Japan on the 18th of January 1918, his father’s identity has remained elusive but his mum has been identified as Shizuka Watanabe who raised him alongside his five siblings which include his oldest sister Michiko. His family was known to be affluent and he grew up in the lap of luxury.

Following the end of World war II, his name was on the list of the Japanese most wanted criminals by General Douglas MacArthur in 1945 but he evaded trial anD later in 1956, Bungeishunjū – Japanese literary magazine had an exclusive interview session with Mutsuhiro Watanabe with the title ”I do not want to be judged by America” later in life, he joined another profession as an insurance salesman which earned him both wealth and recognition. Before the Winter Olympics of 1998 in Nagamo, the news program of the CBS known as 60 minutes staged an interview at the Okura Hotel in Tokyo with Mutsuhiro Watanabe as part of a feature on the Olympian Louis Zamperini who was on his way back to Japan to serve as an Olympic torchbearer which he would carry from Naoetsu en route to Nagano, very close to that particular POW camp where he was held.

Mutsuhiro Watanabe admitted maltreating prisoners in the interview but showed no atom of remorse, saying that he only treated those prisoners as the enemies of his home country. Even Zamperini’s attempt to meet with him was aborted by the former POW guard.

Facts About Mutsuhiro Watanabe, The WW II Japanese Army Corporal

Family Background

Mutsuhiro Watanabe came from one of the wealthy families in Japan and as a patriotic citizen, he wasted no time in enlisting with the Japanese army after graduation with the hope that he would be recruited as an officer with the influence of his wealthy family name, but the army disregarded his family name and enlisted him as a corporal.


Away from the military, Mutsuhiro Watanabe had interest in Insurance; he was an adept hand at farming with a healthy respect for the occupation. However, family is very important to him because according to his submissions, he had to put his life at risk to ensure that his family and those he cared for were alive and well.

His Brutal Reputation

He was dubbed Mu-cchan by his family members and bird by his victims in POW camps who saw him as one of the most vicious guards in the history of the Japanese military with his form of punishment which was seen as callous, merciless as well as brutal. The recount of his activities in the POW camps revealed that he punched one prisoner in the face every night continuously for two weeks and used an appendectomy patient to practice judo. The constant beatings he administered to his victims left them with fatal injuries, he also reportedly had a prisoner in his sixties tied to a tree for all of three days and commanded a certain officer to strip to his underwear and sit in a shack for four days during the cold winter.

See Also: Tsutomu Miyazaki – 7 Disturbing Facts About The Japanese Serial Killer

Mutsuhiro Watanabe’s Net Worth

After he left the army, the former POW guard joined the insurance industry as a salesman and became wealthy in the process. Though his net worth was never listed, his apartment in Tokyo was valued at $1.5 million; he was also the owner of a vacation condo located on the Gold Coast of Australia

Death and legacy

Despite all his crimes, Mutsuhiro Watanabe lived a long and prosperous life and died as an octogenarian on the 1st of April 2003. His life story triggered the publication of a book and several movies.

Media Works

Several movies makers and authors portrayed Watanabe’s cruelty in their projects – notable among them are the Angelina Jolie movie titled Unbroken in which the war criminal’s character was depicted by Miyavi – a singer cum actor of Japanese origin. Louis Zamperini – an Olympian track star was one of his victims and recounted his own tale in a book by Laura Hillenbrand titled Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Another movie made in his name was Ali Sen’s Devil at My Heels


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