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Ogura Nobu's Return Trip: Kobe
Report of Hyogo Governor on Ogura Nobu's arrival in Kobe, 1929-09-17.
David R. Ambaras
Even more details emerged when Ogura's ship reached Kobe, from where she had departed a week earlier.
A report from Hyōgo Prefecture Governor Takahashi Mamoru indicated that when the couple had boarded the Nagasaki-maru, Ogura was already disguised as Chen Wusong and pretending to speak no Japanese. To an incredulous harbor official, Chen Zhaopin then explained that they had married ten years ago in their hometown and had soon after come to Japan, where he had worked as a clothes peddler in Chiba. (The couple had clearly practiced for various contingencies.) The inspector let them proceed, but contacted Nagasaki to ask them to re-investigate the couple when they got there.
Back in Kobe, Ogura spoke out again:
“I had been living with my uncle Akihara Kiyoshi, who runs a restaurant in my hometown, and married Chen in April; he was working as cloth peddler. My aunt Toki married a Fujianese named Weng twenty years ago and currently lives in Shanghai and engages in commerce. Chen also wanted to move to Shanghai and start a clothing trading business, so we decided to go to China at this time. I felt safe because my aunt was in Shanghai. But the consular officials in Shanghai lectured me on the dangers, advised me to return to Japan and then put me on the boat. My luggage (a sewing machine, habutae, futon, and kimono, total worth some 500 yen) is still in Shanghai, so after returning to my place of household registration, I will consult with my parents and intend to again go to China. On the way back to Chiba, I plan to stop in Yokohama to visit my uncle Lin [Hayashi?] who runs the Kirakutei restaurant in Naka-ku [name unknown]-chō.” [Note: Yokohama's Chinatown is in Naka-ku.]
Whether or not her story, including her reference to an aunt living in Shanghai, was true or another script that she and Chen had prepared, Ogura Nobu presented herself as part of a network that extended from Chiba to Yokohama to Shanghai and beyond. And the fact that she had traveled with 500 yen worth of belongings, including a sewing machine, that were still on the mainland, suggests that she was not of a low social background. Subsequent reports would provide even more details on her personal situation.
An adjacent life, another story
Ogura Nobu had not been the only Japanese woman attempting to cross to Fuqing via Shanghai on the Nagasaki-maru that departed Kobe on September 10. Governor Takahashi's report (pp. 3-4) indicated that 42-year-old Lin Mine and her three children were also on board. Explore their story. Given the cramped situation of third-class passengers, could Ogura and Lin have noticed each other, or exchanged words?
Reports on Lin-Aoyama Mine and her children on the Nagasaki-maru to Shanghai and on the Chōsa-maru to Fuzhou.
David R. Ambaras
Lin/Aoyama Mine on the Nagasaki-maru and beyond
September 17, 1929. [Included in report on Ogura Nobu]
From Tokyo Yotsuya-ku Tani-machi 2-22, older sister of Aoyama Toyotaro.
Wife of Lin Sitian, from Gaoshan City.
Lin Mine, age 42
The subject in question was discovered attempting to cross to Shanghai on the the Nagasaki-maru departing Kobe, Sept. 10, 1929 at 11 AM. Questioned by harbor officials, she said she married the aforementioned Lin 20 years ago in Tokyo. They have three children -- Kimi (age 10), Miyo (age 5), and Saburō (age 3), and that they all have already obtained Chinese nationality. As Lin was returning to China, they were all accompanying him. She said she knew Lin's family were farmers, but nothing else about the area. And she speaks no Chinese. But as Lin is aging, it is not clear whether or not he will ever be able to return to Japan. So with those conditions in mind, we gave her a warning and let her travel.
Source: Report of Hyogo Governor Takahashi Mamoru to HM Adachi, FM Shidehara, all prefectural governors, and consuls at Shanghai and Fuzhou.
She was dressed in Chinese clothes and had traveled in the third-class cabin accompanied by two children. She indicated that she had begun cohabiting with Lin Sitian, a cloth peddler from Donghan Village, Gaoshan Town, Fuqing County, Fuzhou Prefecture, Fujian Province (now age 59) in Tokyo twenty years earlier, and that the couple had married on March 7, 1913. At that point, she went to the Chinese consulate in Yokohama to be registered as a Chinese national, and based on that registration document completed the procedures for giving up her Japanese nationality at the household registration desk in Yokohama City Hall. She possesses certificates of both of these procedures. The couple have five children and until recently ran a Chinese restaurant at 2-21 Kakigara-chō, in Tokyo's Nihonbashi Ward [present-day Chūō Ward]. But they closed the restaurant and she and four of their children accompanied Lin back to his hometown (Lin and the other two children were deck passengers). As her story appeared to be true, we warned her in great detail about the conditions of our countrywomen in that region and let her pass as she saw fit.
Subsequent reports on Lin/Aoyama Mine:
- A month later, on October 16, 1929, Fuzhou Consul General Tamura reported to Tokyo that Aoyama Mine had arrived from Shanghai on the Osaka Shōsen Kaisha's Chōsa-maru steamer (which ran the Chinese coastal route from Tianjin down to Taiwan).
- In June 1934, Japanese consular police on an inspection tour through the Fuqing area reported that Aoyama Mine, registered in Tokyo Yotsuya-ku Tani-machi 2-20, had died in Donghan village in May 1932. (Though this report listed her date of birth as 1907, the domicile location clearly shows that this is the same person. Though Lin Mine had had herself removed from her Japanese household registration, this identifying information continued to operate to place her, as did the surname Aoyama, within the boundaries of "Japan.") Report by Foreign Ministry Constable Matsumoto Shigeru et al. to Fuzhou Consulate Police Station Chief Nakayama, June 14, 1934, in DAMFAJ K.184.108.40.206.
Note re Donghan village:
In July 1932, following a tour of the Fuqing region, consular police sergeant Itō Shigeru reported that while overt anti-Japanese agitation had diminished, villagers in the interior were convinced that China and Japan were still at war, and his team had relied on a couple of Chinese military police escorts to determine whether or not it was safe to enter each village. In several cases, it clearly was not. “. . . In Donghan village, the villagers conspired to conceal the Japanese women and plotted to attack Japanese officials should they come." (Report by Sergeant Itō, July 16, 1932, DAMFAJ K.220.127.116.11.)
But in 1934, consular police reported a changed situation: "In particular, in Gaoshan shi and Donghan village, etc., where Japanese women reside and their husbands own assets and/or are village leaders, the Japanese wives are able to communicate among themselves, and with their husbands provided assistance to our investigators. In Donghan village, this was a complete reversal from previous times when officers were denied entry and pelted with rocks. This is due to the people’s improved understanding." (Foreign Ministry Constable Matsumoto Shigeru et al. to Fuzhou Consulate Police Station Chief Nakayama, June 14, 1934, DAMFAJ K.18.104.22.168.)
Note re Yotsuya-ku Tani-machi 2 chōme:
Tani-machi was the current name of what had been part of Samegahashi, the largest of Meiji-era Tokyo's three major slums (hinminkutsu), and the object of numerous reportages on social problems. In the Edo period, Samegahashi had already been known as one of the "haunts of beggars, unlicensed prostitutes, and assorted riff-raff that made city administrators nervous," according to Gerald Groener (2000). Tani-machi 2 chōme is currently Shinjuku-ku Wakaba 2 chōme.
Aoyama Mine would have been born in 1887. Whether or not her family resided in Tani-machi at the time of her birth, it did become her registered domicile. One can assume that the family was poor.