"Rescue" and "Recovery" missions
Accounts of "abducted" women, by inciting outrage and appealing to male anxieties, prompted enhanced efforts to reassert patriarchal national control over both Japanese women—seen as weak and frivolous by nature as well as often by their lower-class position—and over Chinese migrants. They also aligned with efforts to establish control over Chinese territory. Much of the work of discovering these women fell on the shoulders of the consular police force, a key instrument of Japanese expansion in Korea and China whose modus operandi was to assert de facto territorial claims for Japan by moving beyond treaty ports and legally recognized concession jurisdictions in tandem with the movements of Japanese nationals (Esselstrom 2009). However, not only did Japanese imperialism itself exacerbate the problem that Japanese authorities sought to control, but official efforts to investigate or recover women from the Fujianese periphery also revealed certain limits on the capacity of the imperialist state to “penetrate” the Chinese interior, prior to 1937, in the face of unreliable collaboration from local authorities.
This pathway focuses on consular police reports to investigate these dynamics. Mobilities are embodied differently, and produce different kinds of friction (Cresswell 2010). A complete study of the multiple, interrelated forms of mobility that the Fuqing-Japan relationship engendered should take into consideration the friction, tension, and uncertainty or fear faced by the consular police as they moved through inhospitable terrain. Their own experiences of movement may have shaped the ways they interacted with not only the Chinese residents of Fuqing and Gaoshan, but also with the Japanese women they were pursuing or investigating there—many of whom preferred (at least from what the reports indicate) to be left alone. The documents don't reproduce the actual conversations (only one magazine article provides any indications); could someone venture an imaginative reconstruction? Could we compare these situations to, say, those depicted by John Demos in his classic The Unredeemed Captive?
But we should also bear in mind that as agents of the Japanese imperial state, these policemen were tasked with surveying terrain, gathering information, and producing maps (like the one at the top of this page) that could expand the military and territorial capacities of the empire. Their experiences were no doubt informed by the tension between their power and their vulnerability.