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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 April 25 - May 8  > Event held to learn of tragic experience of ex-Japanese colonists in Manchuria and Mongolia
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2018 April 25 - May 8 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Event held to learn of tragic experience of ex-Japanese colonists in Manchuria and Mongolia

April 25, 2018
A peace memorial museum in the village of Achi in Nagano on April 24 organized an event to mark its fifth anniversary in the Ginza area in Tokyo, making known to the public the tragic experience of the wartime Japanese civilian volunteer corps in Manchuria and inner Mongolia.

The director of the Manmo Kaitaku Heiwa Kinenkan museum, Terasawa Hidefumi, said in his greeting speech, "We'd like to send a message of peace to the world from our little rural corner of Japan," and reported on the museum's activities such as obtaining "testimony from living witnesses" and organizing "study tours to visit the northeastern part of China (former Manchuria)."

Writer Sawachi Hisae participated in the event as a special guest and spoke of her own experience in her childhood in Jilin in Manchuria. She said she went there with her family and engaged in a labor service with volunteer-labor colonists sent shortly before the end of the Pacific War from Nagano's Iida Shimoina, a rural district. The corps consisted only of women, children and old people because the men aged from 18 to 45 were all drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army, according to Sawachi.

When Soviet troops advanced into Manchuria on August 9, 1945, the Japanese forces left the settlers behind and fled to Japan. The colonial settlers had to run away not only from the Soviet Army but also from local people who had been deprived of their land by the Japanese. During their escape journey, many had no choice but to kill their small children or to leave them in the care of local people. Some chose to be local men's wives.

Sawachi said, "Both the imperial government and the military never thought of the groups of Japanese in Manchuria." She criticized the government of that time for having expelled poor villagers out of Japan to be settlers in a faraway land while leaving the hunger of rural areas unaddressed and asked, "Who would have wanted to leave their hometowns if there had been enough food to survive?"

What's Manmo Kaitaku Dan?

From the so-called Manchurian Incident caused by the Kwantung Army (Japanese forces stationed in Manchuria) in 1931 up until the end of World War II in 1945, a total of about 270,000 rural villagers from Japan were sent to Manchuria and inner Mongolia as members of a volunteer corps of settlers (Manmo Kaitaku Dan) as a national policy under the "development commission". Most of them were women, children, and old people. It is said that about 80,000 people died during their escape.

Past related articles:
> Looking back on Marco Polo Bridge Incident 80 years ago, Japan should resolve to not repeat the horrors of war [July 7, 2017]
> University works to preserve history of wartime ‘patriotic farm’ in Manchuria [September 22, 2015]
> 80th anniversary of Manchurian Incident [September 18, 2011]

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