Toshiaki Mukai, from Jindai, Kuga County, Yamaguchi Prefecture, a 3rd dan in jukendō, served as a Second Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army in the Second Sino-Japanese War and took part to the so-called Nanking massacre, where the Japanese troops routinely carried out massacres and rape of civilians and pillaging and destruction of civilian goods. During a six to seven week period, more than 100’000 civilians were killed and thousands of women raped.
However, Mukai is notorious for acts committed immediately before the Nanking massacre, while on the road towards the battlefield, which were reported by journal articles and confirmed in documents of the International Tribunal for the Far East.
Together with the Second Lieutenant Tsuyoshi Noda, Mukai is told to have carried out the so-called “Contest to cut down 100 people using a sword”. The challenge consisted in finding which of the two Lieutenants would first kill 100 people using that weapon. The Tokyo Nichi-Nichi Shimbunc reported that both Noda and Mukai exceeded the number pursued at the beginning, having killed 106 and 104 people respectively. Therefore, they decided to start a new contest, aimed to reach 150 killings, whose final result was not reported by any source.
The facts are contested by a number of historians, who claim that the contest never took place and was only propaganda means to incite Japanese nationalism. The controversial episode was even used to cast doubts on the historicity of the whole Nanking battle and on the following massacre.
Various historians suggested different interpretations of the facts. One of them affirmed that the hundred people killed with a sword were not combatants nor free civilians, but rather prisoners of war. Actually, an exhibit at the Nanking Massacre Memorial in China portrays the contest as historical fact.
After the war, a written record of the contest was reported into the documents of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East pursuant to which the two soldiers were extradited to China.