In the Factory Ship by Kobayashi Takiji, the ship hands, fishermen and all the workers are all dehumanized to work like machines and tools. They all struggle to survive with the terrible treatment and living conditions, and the torment and verbal/physical abuse mainly from Asakawa. The story uses a lot of sensory details and metaphors to describe how the condition is to help us understand or maybe even feel how the situation at each scene was, mainly with food.
The way food was used most commonly was in scenes where they were describing particular smells and visuals. Oyster’s slimy and bouncy surface was used to describe an ill fisherman’s bleated eyes. A Crab’s bright red color was used to describe the men’s freezing hands and face. By using these types of similes to describe the men, the men are also somewhat reduced to objects for the use of the executives, emperor, and company for their own benefits and profits. Their labor, lives, energy, and hard work are drained by how they work nonstop, only to be consumed as a resource to be taken advantage of. Since they are described with food, they themselves are might as well be considered food eaten by the authorities.
Not just by how they are use similes within the story, they are also described octopuses because of their conditions of how they would “eat their own limbs (if they could) in order to survive”. This describes Japan from the current period very well because of all the workers (including farmers, miners, etc…) and their struggles to get money, which are stripped from the higher-ups. A little different from how the ship workers are described, Asakawa also directly addresses everyone on the ship as pigs.
And though the factory ship was a ship to capture and fish a lot of crabs for profit, there was only little talk of crabs. The only times crabs were mentioned were when there were empty broken shells on the deck, when they were canned to be shipped, or the juices that splashed on the men everyday, causing their stench and body odor to get worse by the day. Which leads to the lice and the fleas. Instead of the crabs being the stock (for food), it is almost as if the men are treated as livestock for profit on a farm. The situation where they are only allowed to bathe twice a month and for them to live with fleas and lice also hints animal qualities at a farm.
By the hints and treatment like animals within the story, Takiji shows how the men are considered possessions for whom they work. Not human workers, but they are “thingified” to be livestock, and their resources to be consumed and eaten by their owners as food. Maybe even worse than livestock since they are not even fed properly, but to be used as machines that work without rest, and not cared for (or abused) when ill or injured.