Photo/IllutrationBeside this photo taken in March 1942 of a sunken Japanese fleet of transport ships, Susumu Tomomatsu included notes that said "top secret," that all Asahi Shimbun radio equipment had been destroyed and all correspondents swam for their lives. (Susumu Tomomatsu)

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Before he died in January at age 102, Susumu Tomomatsu would often awake and shout out, "Is the war over yet?"

Having served as a photographer when imperial Japanese army troops occupied China and much of Southeast Asia, and later as a soldier and prisoner of war, Tomomatsu was clearly haunted by his war experiences.

It turns out that he also kept albums of photos he took during the war but never published the images because he thought they might cast Japanese military activities in a negative light.

Born in May 1915, Tomomatsu attended high school in Kyoto and a faculty affiliated with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto while also working at what later became the Kyoto General Bureau of The Asahi Shimbun.

During the war, Tomomatsu found himself at the southern Chinese front between 1939 and 1940. He also accompanied Japanese troops in 1942 when they landed in Java, Indonesia. Shortly before the end of World War II, Tomomatsu was drafted into the military and sent to northeastern China. He was also held as a prisoner of war in Siberia.

After returning to Japan, Tomomatsu again worked as a photographer for the Osaka Head Office of The Asahi Shimbun. He retired in 1970.

While sorting through Tomomatsu's possessions following his death on Jan. 31, bereaved family members at his home in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, came across the albums containing the "classified" war photos.

Tomomatsu had written "secret" and "top secret" next to photos of Allied prisoners of war and a sunken fleet of Japanese transport ships.

The archives at the Osaka Head Office have a few dozen photos known to have been taken by Tomomatsu during the war, but the ones discovered during the clean-up are of a vastly different subject matter.

Shinzo Hayase, a history professor at Tokyo's Waseda University who specializes in modern Southeast Asian history, said of the trove of images, "The photos are valuable records because while some are photos taken at memorials that France erected in its colonies to celebrate victory in World War I, there are also others that capture aspects that are not as widely known."

One album is filled with photos of Japanese forces landing on Java in March 1943. Many have annotations, such as, "Hid camera within tube under life vest" and "Had (10) rolls of 35-mm film."

Mari Shirayama, who heads the research department at the Japan Camera Industry Institute, said: "There were strict restrictions at that time on photographic materials. Rolls of film were not available to the general public, and that made it very difficult for families to send photos of family gatherings to soldiers at the war front. It is clear that photographers accompanying the military were treated favorably. The photos also show how the situation gradually turned for the worse for Japan, given the harsh subject matter depicted."

Takane Fujiki, 92, who once worked with Tomomatsu at the Photo Section of the Osaka Head Office, remembers him as a kind individual who often bought drinks.

"However, I can hardly recall him ever talking about his war experiences," Fujiki said.

Tomomatsu's daughters, Katsuko Hamane, 75, and Kumiko Ishikawa, 70, said that in his latter years their father was bed-ridden most of the time and could hardly see.

They said he would often wake up screaming about whether the war was over. His daughters also said Tomomatsu often spoke about eating any living thing, even snakes and lizards, during his time in Southeast Asia. As he faded in and out of sleep, they said their father seemed to be reliving his wartime experiences as well as being held captive in Siberia.

(This article was written by Takashi Shimizu and Senior Staff Writer Yasuji Nagai.)