Hanaoka Monogatari: The Massacre of Chinese Forced Laborers, Summer 1945

9 December, 2015
Franziska Seraphim

This article was originally written for The Asia-Pacific Journal (http://www.japanfocus.org). It is reproduced here with the kind authorization of the author and the editors of “The Asia-Pacific Journal”. http://www.japanfocus.org/-Franziska-Seraphim/4314/article.html

The Hanaoka Massacre

When U.S. occupation forces liberated Allied POW camps in the Akita area in northern Japan in the early fall 1945, they came across piles of unburied dead bodies, mass graves, and a labor camp of emaciated Chinese men living in appalling conditions.

This was Chūsan Dormitory near the Hanaoka copper mine and river diversion project run by Kajima Corporation, one of Japan’s biggest construction and public works companies. Kajima-gumi, as it was then known, was headquartered in Tokyo with branches throughout Japan and Manchuria. The company had built Japan’s first hydroelectric dam in the 1920s and would remain at the forefront of innovative engineering projects in Japan and Asia throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century (Cf. Kajima history in English).

In the closing years of the war, Kajima participated in a nation-wide system of forced labor from northern China and Korea ostensibly to offset labor shortages in Japan and to maximize industrial and mining production, including at the Hanaoka mine. Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and most other industrial combines used forced labor as well.

Nine hundred eighty-six Chinese civilians and prisoners of war from five north-Chinese provinces were brought to Hanaoka in three waves between August 1944 and June 1945 to join Korean conscripts, Allied POWs, and Japanese laborers moving ore cars into and out of the mine, repairing roads, cementing, excavating river beds, and tilling the rocky land.

Working conditions worsened for everyone as food supplies dwindled towards the end of the war. But the Chinese workers were singled out for ever-increasing levels of physical and mental abuse, especially severe beatings. Food rations and living conditions at Chūsan Dormitory deteriorated to sub-subsistence levels in the last year of war. including starvation, unsanitary living conditions, systematic beatings and plain murder.

On June 30, 1945, six weeks before the war ended, the men at Chūsan Dormitory organized an uprising, killing four Japanese overseers and one Chinese spy and fleeing into the woods, from where they tried to defend themselves with rocks. Over the following four days, local and military police recaptured the rioters with the help of locals and tortured them in the Hanaoka town square. Over 200 Chinese died in what has come to be known as the Hanaoka Incident, and the dying continued at a high rate in the months to follow. Between August 1944 and October 1945, 418 Chinese died of malnutrition, illness, physical abuse and plain murder.

A first report on the incident by Japanese authorities on 20 July 1945 titled “On the Riot by Chinese Workers of Kajima-gumi” found that the excessive workload, severe food shortages, and lack of compensation lay at the root of the revolt. It also established that “[the Chinese laborers] were treated like animals and beaten whenever they stopped working for a pause…” The report notwithstanding, the inhumane treatment continued even past Japan’s surrender and extended to the dead as well, who were denied proper burial. Kajima-gumi simply ignored an August 1945 SCAP directive stipulating an end to all forced labor, payment of wages, release of prisoners, collection of remains, and repatriation.

Later in the fall, the head of a U.S. investigation into forced labor at Hanaoka, William Stimpson, furnished a thirty-page report on the atrocities in preparation of war crimes indictments. This led to the arrest of Kajima’s president and thirteen top officials as well as camp supervisors, guards, and policemen who worked in or around Hanaoka during the last year of the war. Occupation authorities evidently found Kajima’s corporate leaders too central to reconstruction efforts to pursue the company’s criminal responsibility for forced labor and released the officials in 1946 after payment of a fine to the Lawyers’ Association.

Criminal investigations instead focused on the day-to-day perpetrators of brutality in the camp. A U.S. military commission of the Eighth Army in Yokohama found six out of the indicted eight camp supervisors, guards, and policemen guilty of war crimes against the Chinese laborers as Hanaoka. On 1 March 1948 the court sentenced two guards and one camp commander to death, the Hanaoka general manager to life, and two policemen to twenty years of hard labor each. Over the following decade all sentences were gradually commuted by the U.S. Clemency and Parole Board in the course of bringing the Allied war crimes trial program to an end. Despite repeated clemency appeals on their behalf, the Hanaoka camp guards ended up in the “hard core” category of war criminals who were the last to be released from Sugamo Prison between 1956 and 1958. The trial unearthed much gruesome detail about the slave labor conditions in Hanaoka and the massacre in particular but was otherwise fraught with contradictory witness testimony, coerced affidavits, and controversy over the very legitimacy of the trial.

In the face of Allied war crimes investigations, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched its own investigation of all 135 forced labor worksites in March 1946. Besides the Ministry’s investigative reports, each company involved, including Kajima, was ordered to furnish its own site report. Meanwhile, state bureaucrats crafted a five-volume “Investigative Report of the Working Conditions of Chinese laborers” also known as the “Foreign Ministry Report.” Based on exhaustive statistics from different ministries, it provided detailed information on all 38,935 Chinese males brought to Japan as forced laborers, their hometowns, procurement through the North China Labor Association, transport to Japan, working conditions in Japanese mines, docks, and factories, causes of death, etc. This report has a fascinating history in its own right, as it was successfully kept from the Allied war crimes investigation in the 1940s, “vanished” in the late 1950s, and only reappeared in 1993 when NHK (Japan’s national broadcasting service) launched an aggressive investigation for a documentary on wartime forced labor.

In documenting the system of forced labor broadly, the Foreign Ministry Report sought to draw attention away from individual businesses involved and instead to demonstrate that the forced labor system as a whole had been a failure for Japan, for it had neither alleviated the acute shortage of labor nor brought companies financial relief. Perhaps the most problematic part of the report was its use of falsified death records supplied by the company site reports, which claimed that many Chinese laborers had died of diseases they had contracted before coming to Japan rather than of abuse and murder on site1.

The Creation of Hanaoka Monogatari

None of the official investigation reports of the Hanaoka Incident were allowed to become public knowledge in the early postwar years, and all vanished from the record thereafter. The war crimes trial was subject to Allied censorship at the time and—apart from the announcement of the verdict—could not be discussed in the public media. The only information about the Hanaoka atrocities in the media at that time appeared in articles in the left-wing monthly journal Shakai hyōron in 1946 and the Communist newspaper Akahatain 1947. But local Japanese in the Akita area knew. They remembered. And some of them acted when the political time was ripe.

That time came in 1950, when the Occupation was entering its fifth year and its priorities had changed from ensuring Japan’s democratization to building up a strong military alliance with Japan’s conservative leadership. SCAP (the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers) had come to see the People’s Republic of China, as a threat to Japan’s peace and reconstruction and to suspect the Korean minority as well as pro-China activists of communist infiltration. This change of policy, which began in 1947, came to be dubbed the “reverse course” in the Japanese media. For the political Left, the reverse course centered on the so-called Red Purge in 1950, when more than 20,000 teachers, labor and peace activists deemed communists or communist sympathizers lost their jobs, while erstwhile militarists who had been purged under early postwar Occupation directives were being rehabilitated and many soon returned to public office. The critical context both for the Red Purge and a growing peace movement was China’s Communist Revolution, culminating in the formation of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949 and the outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula the following June. In 1950, then, in response to both international and domestic political developments, Japan’s labor movement, the peace movement, and the Sino-Japanese friendship movement joined forces.

Hanaoka Monogatari was a product of a heightened sense of crisis among the left, which saw itself as representing the (peace-loving) Japanese people resisting the (remilitarizing) Japanese state. Three local woodcut artists from the Akita area sat down to create what was for decades virtually the only public source of information on the Hanaoka Incident: a collection of 56 woodcuts, each accompanied by a poem in the Akita dialect, telling the story of the Chinese forced laborers at Hanaoka. A three-month strike at the electric engineering company Hitachi following 5,555 job losses proved decisive for the genesis of this project. The struggle cost Hitachi’s regional art cooperative director Maki Daisuke his job. Barred from work under the American-sanctioned Red Purge, Maki spent his time recording the Hitachi struggle (Hitachi Monogatari), the farmers’ movement (Jōhō Monogatari), and finally the Hanaoka Incident (Hanaoka Monogatari) through lengthy pictorial narratives2.

Under the slogan “Never forget Hanaoka,” Maki Daisuke worked with two artist friends, Nii Hiroharu and Takidaira Jirō, and the poet Hara Tarō while finding refuge at the home of the Akita branch representative of the newly founded Japan-China Friendship Association. It was also the Friendship Association that first published Hanaoka Monogatari in book form in May 1951 and promoted its 1956 appearance in China, where it became a bestseller under the title “The Hanaoka Disaster.” The disappearance of the original woodblock panels at around this time put a hold on subsequent editions, although a reprint of an existing copy was published in 1971, some years after a local committee of the Japan-China Friendship Association erected a five-meter-tall stele near the site of the former Chūsan Dormitory.

A documentary on the Hanaoka Incident by the Akita NHK TV station based on this book followed in 1975, when public interest in the issue began to emerge. A second edition became possible in 1982, after the original wood panels were located through the efforts of the radio and newspaper reporter Nozoe Kenji, who had been researching both the historical event and the history of Hanaoka monogatari since his days as a logger in the Hanaoka area in the 1950s. Mumeisha Publishing put out the most recent edition in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war in 1995.

Hanaoka Monogatari did more than just document the June 30 massacre. It paid tribute to the suffering and heroism of the Chinese laborers caught in the vicissitudes of capitalism gone rampant under wartime militarism and imperialism. The facts about the Chinese laborers’ procurement and transportation to Japan, their life and work in Hanaoka, the organization of the uprising, the massacre, and finally postwar struggles over issues of responsibility are well corroborated by the U.S. war crimes trial records as well as newly rediscovered Japanese records. The pictorial story’s narrative and interpretive scope, however, differed greatly from both U.S. and Japanese records on Hanaoka. American investigations focused narrowly on a selected handful of perpetrators whose crimes could be conclusively verified by legal means in a trial whose very legitimacy was questioned at every turn. Japanese government reports all but buried specific crimes within a larger bureaucratic system of importing and controlling foreign labor having gone wrong.

Maki Daisuke and his colleagues, in contrast, told the story from the perspective of local Japanese workers forced to become accomplices in the crimes against Chinese workers. It mattered greatly to Maki and his colleague that, although the Chinese laborers had suffered alongside poor Japanese farmers and other locals, Korean conscripts, Allied POWs, and even student soldiers, the Chinese were singled out for the most inhumane treatment of all3. Being literally worked to death, denied adequate clothing, food, and water while subjected to beatings with shovels, cudgels, and swords—all this was depicted with frightening candor. While social class united the workers at Hanaoka in the face of capitalism serving the aims of war, ethnicity separated them by the hierarchical logic of imperialism. Class solidarity, moreover, was betrayed when the military police enlisted local Japanese to recapture the Chinese rioters.Hanaoka Monogatari was meant to restore this solidarity by celebrating the Chinese (and Korean) laborers’ courage, resilience, and belief in liberation. Their resistance served as a bittersweet example, and a call for action among the workers of contemporary Japan to rise up against a state that once again ignored the welfare of working people, allied itself with the new imperialists (America), and denied its responsibility towards China4.

Maki Daisuke was apparently also motivated by a sense of personal allegiance to his home (furusato) and the responsibility that this entailed. Growing up in difficult circumstances, he had spent some of his student years at his uncle’s place in back of the Kyōrakkan theater on the square where the Chinese rioters were tortured for days after the uprising. In creating Hanaoka Monogatari, he paid tribute to the Chinese victims of this incident that marred part of what he called home and, in his view, simultaneously exposed the deadly—and continuing—conjuncture of capitalism, imperialism, and war. It is therefore significant that these local Akita artists chose a medium that had come to visually define the anti-Japanese resistance movement in China among left-wing artists in the 1930s and continued into the 1940s as the Chinese revolutionary woodcut movement. The human characters depicted through rugged bold lines in black and white brimmed with the rage of humiliated, destitute people and their call for liberation. Perhaps the most famous of these woodblock prints was Li Hua’s “China, Roar!” (1935).

This modernist political art form had emerged in Shanghai around the writer Lu Xun in the 1930s, but its roots were quintessentially international. A wave of translated European and also Japanese modernist and socialist art theory had deeply influenced Chinese artists in the 1920s, and Lu Xun himself promoted the engagement with these art forms by exhibiting his collection of the German artist Käthe Kollwitz’s work and by using foreign modernist art to illustrate his novels. He was also principally responsible for the promotion of the narrative picture series as an accepted art form in China at that time.

Precisely how Maki Daisuke and his collaborators came to adopt this art style is impossible to reconstruct, but it most likely depended on personal contacts both during and after the war. We know that cross-national relations among left-wing artists and intellectuals critical of Japanese imperialism flourished during the war, centered on Uchiyama Kanzō’s bookstore in Shanghai also known as the Japanese-Chinese Culture Salon. The floor above the bookstore served Lu Xun as a refuge in the years before his death in 1936; moreover, Lu Xun invited Uchiyama’s brother to teach Japanese woodcut styles to Chinese artists there. Uchiyama Kanzō went on to become the Japan-China Friendship Association’s first president from 1950 to 1953, when many Japanese with deep cultural connections to China joined the movement5.

Hanaoka Monogatari’s most harrowing prints were undoubtedly those depicting the extreme brutality of the Japanese overseers, which started well before the Chinese men arrived in Hanaoka. In the poems accompanying the three slides entitled “Why were there Chinese at Hanaoka?” the victims themselves told their Japanese co-workers at Hanaoka the story of their abduction in China and the suffocation, beatings, and drowning to which Japanese men subjected them on their way to Japan.

Thereafter, the narrative voice changed to the Japanese workers witnessing the trampling and beating of their Chinese co-workers at the hands of the Hanaoka camp guards. In all these prints, the well-nourished, almost oversized Japanese with their swords, spears, and brutal faces exuded a dark, ruthless presence of total control on the one hand, and out-of-control behavior on the other. Just as in the Chinese war-resistance woodcuts, the few bold white lines against the overwhelming darkness of the print left no space for moral ambiguity.

Postwar Japanese avant garde artists such as Yamakawa Kikuchi and Tomiyama Taeko further explored the links between the war and postwar exploitation of workers, in particular miners, in changing contexts. Tomiyama began her career in the 1950s painting the worlds of miners in black and white. In later decades, she extended this subject to the memory of victims of various violent struggles in Asia, utilizing woodcuts and lithographs in the Käthe Kollwitz tradition in addition to her colorful oil paintings6.

The Politics of Memory in the 1950s

In the context of the early 1950s, a responsible war memory emerged in the crucible of progressive democratic resistance that pitched citizen activists against an unresponsive or obstructionist conservative state. Workers demonstrated against what they saw as big capitalists once again enriching themselves at workers’ expense. A multifaceted peace movement exploded in protest not only in response to war in Korea but specifically against the remilitarizing Japanese state through the US-Japan Security Treaty. People with allegiance to Asia rallied against the government’s decision to throw its lot in with the United States at the expense of building harmonious relations with Japan’s neighbors, regarding this as a perpetuation of imperialist enmities. Some of this combined energy on the political Left reached a violent peak in May 1951 in what came to be known as “Bloody May Day.”

Hanaoka Monogatari spoke passionately to the Japanese government’s evasion of responsibility as reparations payments were negotiated away under the San Francisco Peace Treaty that ended the US occupation, while leaving intact the US military presence and nuclear umbrella. Former forced labor czars then returned to public life, virtually all convicted war criminals had their sentences commuted, and the Chinese dead still lay unburied and unrecognized by the Japanese or Chinese governments. A particularly powerful print to this effect depicted three “Kajima bosses” celebrating their rehabilitation after the war while ignoring their responsibility for the crimes committed.

While many prints captured the desperate state of affairs in Hanaoka in ways similar to that of the 1930s Chinese woodcuts, equal if not greater emphasis lay on the positive energy of the victims’ solidarity and determination to fight for their liberation. In that sense Hanaoka Monogatari bore greater resemblance to the post-1945 Chinese revolutionary prints both in theme and style.

While repatriation of Japanese from China decreased to a trickle after 1947, the Chinese expatriate community in Japan joined forces with Sinophile Japanese and Zainichi Koreans concerned about SCAP’s and their government’s increasing hostility towards the Communists on the mainland. A variety of pro-PRC citizen organizations sprang up in Japan during this time, from the Overseas Chinese Association and the Chinese People’s Association for Promoting Democracy to academic and cultural organizations to promote the study of Chinese history and culture. The Japan-China friendship Association, founded in October 1950, served as an umbrella organization for these various groups.

At around this time, the Overseas Chinese Association secured a copy of the Foreign Ministry report on wartime forced labor, which had been leaked by a conscientious Foreign Ministry official. Although the Association did not make this public (not, indeed, until 1993), it clearly used the knowledge gained from the report to exert pressure on companies like Kajima as well as local governments to return the remains of the dead to China and hold memorial services. The first such service for the Hanaoka victims was held in Honganji temple in Tokyo in November 1950 with Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in attendance.

In March 1953, an umbrella organization called the Memorial Committee for Martyred Chinese Captives formed around the Japan-China Friendship Association, the Overseas Chinese Association, and the Japanese Red Cross to petition the government to return the remains of the dead and hold commemorative services. In July of that year, the government paid for the return to China of the remains of 551 Chinese victims of forced labor. During Buddhist memorial services in October, spokespersons of several pro-China citizen organizations delivered a joint statement of deep apology to China in the name of all Japanese, pledging themselves to work for lasting friendship between the two countries.

The Chinese government, for its part, sent the remains of 2,472 Japanese killed in China to Japan while also pressing the Japanese government for an explanation of the forced labor issue, on which the Foreign Ministry stonewalled. Chinese demands for war reparations were equally unsuccessful. Nevertheless, in a remarkable move, the People’s Republic in 1956 released 1,017 of a total of 1,062 Japanese war criminals held in prisons in Manchuria after a short trial. Many of these soldiers had previously been in Russian captivity and had been extradited to China in the late 1940s. For almost ten years, they had undergone a type of re-education that confronted them with their individual crimes, explained those crimes in terms of Japanese imperialist aggression, and encouraged the prisoners to write confessions describing their crimes in detail7.

By releasing these prisoners, the PRC followed the example of the nationalist government on Taiwan (KMT), its biggest rival, which had pardoned all war criminals convicted by KMT courts in 1952. Over the next half century, through the Association of Returnees from China (Chūgoku kikansha renrakkai or Chūkiren), the repatriated war criminals publicized their personal roles in perpetrating war crimes and called for public atonement for Japan’s crimes and reconciliation. Their forthright testimony raised public awareness of Japanese wartime aggression. Their lifelong insistence on their own and their country’s culpability would be dismissed by conservatives as the result of Chinese “brainwashing,” but the fact remains that over the decades they played a crucial role in promoting critical war memory at the grassroots level throughout Japan. Chūkiren exemplified the pattern of citizens taking the lead in the public management of war memory and postwar responsibility in place of the government. There is no doubt that the PRC’s carrot-and-stick approach to war legacies was no less politically motivated than the Japanese government’s politics of refusing to address war legacies such as forced labor. Both served immediate political aims that stood quite apart from a moral imperative to demand the truth about past atrocities or take responsibility for them.

In a very different way of dealing with convicted war criminals serving sentences in Tokyo’s Sugamo Prison, Japanese officials in charge of moving prisoners to the American-instituted parole system petitioned the U.S. Clemency and Parole Board on behalf of those convicted in the Hanaoka trial. They pointed to the fact that — given the Chinese politics of amnesty — had these men been convicted in a Chinese instead of an American court they would now be free. In the language of these petitions, moreover, not only had the perpetrators acted in accordance with admittedly unfortunate but “common and customary practices” during the war, but the government had appropriated for itself the work of public atonement that in fact had been carried out by citizen activists. (quote from NOPAR’s clemency petition for Fukuda Kingoro8) The Hanaoka war criminals, placed in the “hard-core” category by the Americans, were eventually paroled, but not until the war crimes trial program as a whole wound to an end after 1956.

Recently released documents reveal that by the end of the decade, when the revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, major labor unrest, and Chinese reparations demands loomed large, Foreign Ministry officials moved to put an end to the discussions of Chinese forced labor generally. The Ministry flatly stated that all documents pertaining to this issue, including the Foreign Ministry Report, had been irretrievably lost. In this way, the government washed its hands of its responsibility to deal with this war legacy and instead left the job of commemoration and atonement to citizen groups. Neither the PRC nor the government on Taiwan pressed the issue after 1961, and in 1972 Zhou Enlai gave up China’s right to reparations in the Joint Chinese-Japanese Communiqué that paved the road to normalization of official relations. Meanwhile, Japanese citizen groups continued to dig up the bones of the dead, hold commemorative ceremonies, return the ashes to the bereaved families in China, and build memorials9. Hanaoka Monogatari remained, for the time being, the only public narrative on Japanese wartime atrocities against Chinese (and Korean) forced laborers on Japanese soil.

The Struggle for Compensation in the 1990s

Official efforts to suppress information relating to the Hanaoka Massacre and its aftermath began to break down in the late 1980s. Japanese journalists, academics, lawyers, and citizen activists have since chronicled the facts in public discourse as part of a call for belated apology and compensation for victims. William Underwood, a former professor at Kyushu University and an expert on war compensation lawsuits, worked tirelessly to bring the issues to the attention of Anglophone readers since the 1990s. The following relies heavily on his work and that of Japanese and Chinese colleagues.

First, a group of Hanaoka survivors in China organized to demand compensation from Kajima Corporation and worked with Japanese lawyers to press their case through the Japanese courts. This time, the impetus for putting issues of war responsibility on the public agenda came from outside Japan (albeit without Chinese government support) and tapped into existing progressive citizen networks in Japan.

Second, this was part of a much larger, transnational, and indeed global movement to address heretofore neglected war atrocities through highly publicized demands for full disclosure of the historical facts, apology, compensation, commemoration, and public education. The urgency of this move towards historical restitution and reconciliation stemmed at least in part from the impending loss of the generation of survivors and witnesses, all of whom were of an advanced age.

Third, public and private organizations collaborated in the early 1990s to turn up crucial government documentation on the wartime and early postwar handling of forced labor, most important being the 1946 Foreign Ministry Report. It gave much needed ammunition to the lawsuits making their way through the courts, created unprecedented public awareness of the issue, and moved the government’s war responsibility into the public limelight. The Hanaoka case proved to be a rare success story among the many war legacies taken up in Japanese courts since the 1990s, but the legal process it followed also exemplified a common trend among redress movements10.

In late 1989, Hanaoka survivors and bereaved families in China organized around the figure of Geng Zhun, the erstwhile leader of the Hanaoka uprising. They contacted Kajima Corporation through the mediation of two Japanese human rights lawyers and several academics in Japan involved in war responsibility issues. The result was a “joint statement” of the survivors and Kajima in July 1990, in which Kajima, with extensive interests in China and, therefore, powerful incentives to come clean, acknowledged its historical responsibility, apologized to the victims, and vowed to continue negotiations.

The case nevertheless went to court when Kajima stonewalled on the survivors’ demands for financial compensation. On September 28, 1995 a suit was filed seeking 60.5 million Yen in compensation. First rejected in the Tokyo District Court because of the statute of limitations on forced labor, it received favorable rulings in the Tokyo High Court, which mediated a compromise settlement in November 2000 in which 500 million yen was to be shared by survivors and their next of kin. While Kajima did not acknowledge its legal responsibility to make amends, it agreed to set up the Hanaoka Peace and Goodwill Foundation, a trust fund used for memorial services and payments to survivors and bereaved families. The Foundation was managed on the recipient side by the Chinese Red Cross. The two parties also agreed on the establishment of a memorial hall, the Hanaoka heiwa kinenkan, which opened in April 201011.

Among numerous Japanese forced labor compensation cases, Hanaoka remains perhaps the best documented and best managed. Early local efforts to keep its memory alive contributed to this outcome. The 1951 woodcut story of Hanaoka in historical and contemporary context impresses not only for its brutal candor, which the historical records amply confirm, but also for its creators’ keen perception of the larger processes and meanings of war and postwar responsibility then in the making. Hanaoka Monogatari was a product of its time, and its sponsor, the Japan-China Friendship Association, defined the contemporary context in the book’s epilogue as one of unprecedented collaboration between labor, peace, and pro-China movements actively resisting a government that seemed bent on reviving its anti-Asian, militarist proclivities.

In keeping with this spirit, the first edition in 1951 did not mention the names of the artists who had created the prints and poems. One suspects that the disappearance of the original wood panels in the mid-1950s, most probably hidden by Maki Daisuke, may have had something to do with this. Hanaoka became the Japan-China Friendship movement’s first showcase of its political activism. Hanaoka Monogatari bridges the gap between the need for recording what happened in order to claim compensation for the victims and an act of registering moral outrage, ethical witnessing and mourning akin to some of the avant-garde art of the time. Indeed, the reader might very well linger over a print or poem in this book and feel its power on its own terms, quite apart from the politics of the past of which Hanaoka Monogatari was such a significant part.

Franziska Seraphim is associate professor of Japanese history at Boston College and the author of War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945-2005 (Harvard University Asia Center Press, 2006) She wishes to thank John Dower for his initiative to bring this work to public attention and his invaluable help in understanding woodblock print art at this time, as well as Richard Minear for taking on the translation and Mark Selden for bringing the project to publication.

Richard H. Minear is professor emeritus of Japanese history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and editor/translator of Hiroshima: Three Witnesses (Princeton, 1994), Japan’s Past Japan’s Future: One Historian’s Odyssey (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011), The Day the Sun Rose in the West: Bikini, the Lucky Dragon, and I (Hawaii, 2011), and other works. He wishes to thank Franziska Seraphim for introducing him to Hanaoka Monogatari, Chisato Kitagawa for line-by-line explication of the text, and Fujita Shōzō of Hitachi for responses to specific inquiries.

  • 1. Cf. essays by William Underwood, among them: “NHK’s Finest Hour” (Aug. 2006); “Names, Bones and Unpaid Wages (1): Reparations for Korean Forced Labor in Japan” (September 2006); and “Proof of POW Forced Labor for Japan’s Foreign Minister: The Aso Mines” (May 2007).
  • 2. ] In addition to Hanaoka Monogatari, Richard Minear has prepared translations of Hitachi Monogatari and Jōhō Monogatari.
  • 3. According to Nozoe Kenji, the Hanaoka mine had put to work over the years approximately 300-400 Allied POWs (1944-45); 800 Chinese POWs (1944-45), 300 Chinese drafted workers (1944-45); 4500 Koreans (1942-1945); 600-800 reservists and volunteers (1944-45); 300 Japanese student soldiers and 1500 Japanese contract workers.
  • 4. “Capitalists and reactionary bureaucrats in this country are working together mercilessly to sack admirable workers who are trying to rebuild a democratic and peaceful Japan. The number of violent incidents in which workers’ resistance is suppressed in a bloody manner is increasing by the day. If things are left untended, there is going to be World War III as they desire, and fascists will again turn us into slaves.” Quoted in Mari Yamamoto, Grassroots Pacifism in Postwar Japan: The Rebirth of a Nation, Routledge, 2004, p. 38
  • 5. Cf. Seraphim, “People’s Diplomacy".
  • 6. Cf. “Imagination Without Borders”; Tomiyama’s “Prayer in Memory of Kwangju”; and Tanaka Nobuko, “Brushing with Authority: the Life and Art of Tomiyama Taeko”.
  • 7. See Takahashi Tetsurō, Kaneko Kōtarō, Inokuma Tokurō, “Fighting for Peace After War: Japanese War Veterans recall the war and their peace activism after repatriation” (tr. Linda Hoagland).
  • 8. “As for the numerous Chinese lives lost in misery at Hanaoka Mine, it has been taken by the Japanese nation as a blunder committed during wartime by the nation as a whole, and from such point of view, big memorial services were held at the mine as well as in Tokyo by the government and people of Japan, and the government has shown its sincere regrets in arranging safe sending home of ashes of the deceased. It is most ardently hoped that some sympathetic steps will be taken now for the subject prison inmates who had unfortunately taken part in this disastrous case.” (quote from NOPAR application for clemency, quoted in a summary of the “Application for Clemency for Fukuda, Kingoro” by the U.S. Clemency and Parole Board, 1952. RG 153, Clemency & Parole Board Files, Box 884, No. 331, US National Archives)
  • 9. Cf. photo of one of many Sino-Japanese Friendship memorials.
  • 10. For a narrative introduction of the lawsuit in English by one of the main attorneys involved in the Hanaoka case, see here.
  • 11. Cf., here. Parallel to this decade-long legal process, the Society to Think About Chinese Forced Labor published eight volumes of documents on the wartime and postwar history of the Hanaoka mine case from 1990 to 2001, including a special volume on reconciliation, followed in 2006 by the trial records of the U.S. Class B/C war crimes trial on Hanaoka. The Society maintains a useful website which includes Japanese documents and their translations into English and Chinese.

Cite this item

Franziska Seraphim, Hanaoka Monogatari: The Massacre of Chinese Forced Laborers, Summer 1945, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on: 9 December, 2015, accessed 02/10/2020, http://bo-k2s.sciences-po.fr/mass-violence-war-massacre-resistance/en/document/hanaoka-monogatari-massacre-chinese-forced-laborers-summer-1945, ISSN 1961-9898
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