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Page history last edited by Bob Andrian 9 years, 7 months ago

Life Under the Japanese


After the Japanese defeated the Russians in a horribly bloody war in 1904-05, the peoples of Asia had mixed feelings. On the one hand, there was pride. Here was "little" Japan defeating Mother Russia, the first time as Asian nation had triumphed over a European nation in war. On the other hand, people became quite concerned about Japan's imperialist and colonialist intentions (just ask the Chinese and Koreans!). Their concerns would supercede their pride over time as this map of the Japanese empire clearly indicates. Japan formally occupied Manchuria in 1931 and launched a full onslaught in China in 1937.




Japanese militarism could be savage in nature and scope as Chinese living in Nanjing in 1937 discovered. The "Rape of Nanking" as it became known saw the extermination of 200,000-300,000 Chinese. Read an eyewitness account from a New York Times reporter. Below a photo of severed heads. 




The Japanese goal in their occupation of Manchuria was both to deny any sense of Chinese identity among the Manchus and to insure that their Manchukuo subjects remained obedient and subservient. To that end, the deposed Manchu emperor, Pu Yi, served a useful purpose as the puppet ruler of the state. He even gradually changed the way he referred to Japan itself, moving from "our friendly neighbor country," to the "elder brother country," and finally to "parent country." (Wild Swans, 65)


Pu Yi 



Children learning Japanese songs would presumably demonstrate their loyalty to their Japanese superiors:


     Red boys and green girls walk on the streets,

     They all say what a happy place Manchukuo is.

     You are happy and I am happy,

     Everyone lives peacefully and works joyfully free of any worries. (63)


Well, everyone who was Japanese that is, as Jung Chang notes in Wild Swans. The Japanese used a variety of methods, (essentially what we would call terrorist methods today) to control and indeed humiliate the Manchurian population. Laborers in the mines were abused, prisoners tortured, neighbors told to inform on their neighbors, and Chinese forced to watch Japan's brutality at war on film. Japanese ate rice and Chinese ate acorn meal and sorghum. These techniques of social control would reappear later but with Chinese controlling Chinese. And then of course there was the incessant and absurdly low bowing that initiated and ended every interaction with someone Japanese. At Jung Chang's mother's school, the headmaster,


 ... would bark out orders in harsh, guttural tones for the four low bows toward the four designated points. 

 First, "Distant worship of the imperial capital!" in the direction of Tokyo. Then, "Distant worship of the national capital!" toward Hsinking, the capital of Manchukuo. Next, "Devoted worship of the Celestial Emperor!" -- meaning the Emperor of Japan. Finally, "Devoted worship of the imperial portrait!" -- this time to the portrait of Pu Yi. After this came a shallower bow to the teachers. (71)





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