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Peaceful Memory After War Flame Ends

A small gourd-shaped island, Huludao deserves a page in post World War II history as a witness to the repatriation of about 1.05 million Japanese emigrants, victims of their country's colonial expansion.

When Japan's military collapsed 60 years ago, its emigrants in China were not cast adrift.

On May 7, 1946, nine months after Japan surrendered to the Allies, about 2,500 Japanese emigrants began their voyage home from Huludao, marking the beginning of their repatriation effort that lasted into 1948.

The small island still lives as a landmark in their life in the memories of repatriated Japanese emigrants like Shuyoshi Manase, are retired professor of Chinese history in Nagoya, who said that he would cherish the island as the place of his rebirth.

Limited by shortages of natural resources, Japan adopted a national policy of emigration and colonization. Japanese emigration into China saw a surge since 1931, when the Japanese army occupied the northeast of China.

By the end of World War II, there were more than 2 million Japanese emigrants in China, most of whom were farmers in the northeast.

These followers of the Japanese emperor's dream of conquest were deserted by the Japanese Imperial Army after its defeat, according to deceased Japanese playwright Takeo Kunihiro and his wife Yuko, two returned emigrants from Huludao, who researched the period for four years.

After the war ended, the Japanese government urged its emigrants to stay in China, even to die there, rather than come back, Yuko Kunihiro told Xinhua.

Kunihiro said she and her husband found documents showing that in China's northeast, more than 170,000 Japanese emigrants committed suicide to show their loyalty to the Emperor or died of hunger and illness during their desperate flight after Japan's surrender.

Two months after the Japanese surrender, however, China and the United States made a plan on the repatriation of Japanese emigrants. China began to concentrate Japanese emigrants scattered across the country into major cities as a preparation for the repatriation.

Food, water, fuel and medical facilities were provided at concentration stations for Japanese emigrants, said Li Xiuye, who was then in charge of the management of Japanese emigrants and POWs.

Takeo Kunihiro worried that as a place of rebirth of returned Japanese emigrants, Huludao, as well as the repatriation 59 years ago, might fall into oblivion.

Qian Fuyun, a Chinese official of Huludao, remembered Takeo Kunihiro once said: "In Japan, two-thirds of whose population were born in the postwar era, people lack a full vision of the history of the war."

To commemorate the event and teach more Japanese about it, the playwright and his wife shot a documentary about the repatriation a decade ago. Takeo Kunihiro died in 2002.

Tale of a Nameless Chinese Village     

Huludao was just one of the places Japanese emigrants were gathered before their deportation.

Professor Manase said he still remembers a Chinese village called Shitou, or "stone," where he and more than 100 other Japanese boys aged 15 spent a "warm and peaceful night" during their fugitive odyssey after Japanese troops were defeated by the Soviet Army in 1945.

These teenagers were forced by the Japanese Imperial Army to give up school and sent to the China-Soviet border to block Soviet tanks by making the land too muddy for them to pass.

People at Shitou Village, now in Ning'an County of Heilongjiang Province, opened their doors to these boys when they arrived there, tired and hungry, on an autumn evening, when it was chilly in the country's northeast, after days of fleeing in fear and despair.

The professor shed tears when retelling his experience at the village. The thin boy fainted after he and his peers arrived at the village, but later found himself on the warm brick bed of an old Chinese woman, who was washing his feet and legs with warm water.

"I felt at that time that not only my two legs but also my heart was warmed," the professor said.

With food given by villagers, these boys set out to Changchun, where their parents lived, the next morning. Like many other Japanese emigrants, Shuyoshi Manase and his family set foot on a ship at Huludao the next year, which carried his family back to Japan.

The village that even cannot be found on a map and the small port of Huludao are two places that he will never forget, the old man said.

"Without the help of those warm-hearted villagers, we wouldn't know what might happen to us then or where we would end," he said.

Takeo Kunihiro was also among the fugitive Japanese boys. His play, "A Tale of the Stone Village," is based on his experiences in the postwar chaos at the China-Soviet border and in Shitou village.

His wife Yuko is preparing the shooting of a film based on the play. She said that she hopes the film can provide young people "true historical scenes" about the war.

She said that Japanese children of that era, like her husband, were also victims of the Japanese invasion of China and suffered distress in the chaos of war. "They were haunted by war nightmares, but there were also some nice things in their memories. I hope young audience of my film can make their own judgment on the history," Yuko Kunihiro said.

She is expected to be in China to plan the shooting of the film with her Chinese partners later this month.

(Xinhua News Agency May 5, 2005)

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