Like so many places in Asia, Burma is an ancient country dating back to prehistoric times. Originally settled by the Pyu and the Mon clans over three thousand years ago, Burma became a multicultural region. It was united under a single ruler named Anawrahta in the middle of the eleventh century. The kingdom was attacked and its forces decimated by Kublai Khan and his Mongolian army in the 1200s, but centuries later a new Burmese kingdom emerged. Burma was then joined together with India, all under British rule. However in June 1942, Japanese forces conquered Burma and the British were driven out. As usual, and in line with Tokyo’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere policy, the Japanese authorities announced in 1943 that Burma was independent again (“giving Asia back to the Asians”). However the Japanese military administrators were very much in charge.
Hideki’s ship entered the Andaman Sea and the captain led the two massive warships up along the southern coast of Burma and into the Gulf of Martaban. The battleships accompanied them as their ship proceeded up into the wide mouth of the Rangoon River and docked the bustling port of Rangoon, Burma’s capital city.
The contact’s name was Ni San, and he was waiting for Hideki at the end of the dock at Rangoon Port. Hideki was surprised upon hearing the man’s name (meaning ‘two three’ in Japanese), but after exchanging greetings, Ni San explained that the name was quite common in Burma. He escorted Hideki and his men to a waiting truck large enough to accommodate all of them and drove them into the city of Rangoon.
Hideki treated Ni San with a little more respect than his previous contacts, because he was working with the Japanese army in Burma, and he spoke fluent Japanese and English, as well as his own Burmese language. It would not be necessary to meet any of the Japanese authorities in Rangoon, as Ni San held official papers giving him authority to assist Hideki on the mission. Curiously, Ni San was a Buddhist monk, who had traveled to India, China, Korea and Japan. While in Japan he had studied the Japanese language, and over the course of about three years, became rather proficient in it. He had returned to Burma to help Japanese forces oust the British authorities, and in return had been given a job in the Japanese administration as a liaison officer. He was now forty-three years of age and lived in a small home in the city with his wife.
Ni San, like most Burmese, followed the Theravada sect of Buddhism, and believed that one may only achieve enlightenment by abandoning worldly desires. Ni San told Hideki that he desired nothing. He added that he lived a very simple life and needed little. He had a wife, a dog, a bike, a good job and a roof over his head. When they reached his house, Hideki realized that his contact was telling the truth. His humble home was indeed simple, with very little furniture, and virtually no possessions or valuables to be seen. There were no ornaments or decorative items visible, apart from a basic Buddhist shrine. His wife bowed very low as they entered, before rushing into the kitchen to arrange some food and drinks. They sat on cushions on the wooden floor and talked about the mission.
Ni San told Hideki that in the year 1287 the Mongolian warrior king Kublai Khan led his army into Burma and attacked and conquered the capital, Pagan, destroying the kingdom in the process. During his campaign in Burma, he learned of a plot against him by his own brothers. They were jealous of his power and were waiting for him to return to Cambaluc, now Beijing. Kublai Khan had conquered all of China and established his capital there. The Chinese resented the strict conditions under the Mongol dynasty and thus in Kublai Khan’s absence, various Chinese leaders made a pact with Kublai Khan’s brothers to kill the Mongolian leader upon his return. Because Kublai Khan knew that the Chinese were in league with his brothers, he decided to stay in Burma for a while.
Kublai Khan’s main concern was finance. If there was a battle, and his brothers together with the Chinese were able to prevent him from returning to Cambaluc, then he would have no money. Luckily for him, the capital city of Pagan had a lot to offer, Ni San told Hideki. Burma was a country rich in rubies, sapphires and jade. The kingdom that had been established two hundred and forty odd years before had accumulated quite a bit of wealth, and when Kublai Khan succeeded in sacking the capital, he seized all of this treasure and took it with him to a secret location for safe keeping. Keeping alive his most trusted men, he had his senior officers slit the throats of the common soldiers who actually buried the treasure so that its location would never be revealed. It was still buried there, Ni San explained, with a glint in his eyes.