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Kaneko Takakazu's reportage and NGO activities in the 1990s
Japanese rediscovery of the presence of Japanese and their descendants in Fuqing.
David R. Ambaras
In 1994, freelance journalist Kaneko Takakazu, having heard stories about "left-behind Japanese," traveled to Fuqing to investigate. There, he encountered some 250 people who were either the Japanese wives or adopted children of Fuqing men or the children of Japanese-Fuqingese marriages. Many of these people told stories of discrimination and extreme hardship, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, when they were accused of being Japanese spies and “fake Chinese” and compelled to destroy any letters, clothes, or other objects that had served as affective connections to their birthplaces. Some elderly women told of their ardent desire to return to Japan. These people displayed a sense of identity caught in between (at least) two times and two places. Emotional attachments may be weaker among those with more limited memories of Japan, but affiliation with Japan remains part of their collective identity claims.
Local Chinese officials and overseas Chinese residing in Japan have been attempting to help these individuals and families return to Japan or move there for the first time, but their efforts were constrained by the Japanese government’s insistence that the individuals provide documentary proof of their Japanese nationality. Kaneko established a small NGO to assist the “Japanese” of Fuqing. Over the following four years, they helped ten people receive visas for short-term visits to Japan, and succeeded in helping five people obtain Japanese nationality, four of whom then qualified for state-supported repatriation under the 1994 law on returnees. In 1998, Kaneko’s group estimated that 100 Japanese in Fujian lacked household registers and were thus unable to return to Japan. This figure included people who would be defined as second- and third-generation Japanese. It did not include additional family members.
Kaneko is a freelance writer and travel guide, and thus hardly an analog to the prewar consular police officers who visited Fuqing. His reportage did not contain any of the rhetoric or narrative tropes of abduction and Chinese predation that had characterized the older genre. Moreover, he has told me that he started the NGO in part as a means of repaying the people of Fuqing for their kindness in having cared for the "forgotten Japanese." Still, the spatial stories presented here -- of a Japanese man traveling to a remote, underdeveloped Fuqing after having heard reports of women's migration and struggles; of the relaying of those mobile stories in engagement with the Japanese public and the Japanese state; of the effort to "rescue" or "recover" "Japanese" and help them return to their proper place; and of the fundamental distinction between "Japan" and "Fuqing" -- all rehearse core elements and spatial configurations of the prewar consular police reports and their media counterparts.
Returns in the Late 1990s
Women (and men adopted as children) who returned from Fuqing to Japan in the late 1990s.
David R. Ambaras
Kondō Izumi, age 78, appears to have been the first person repatriated from Fuqing at state expense under the 1994 Law Promoting Smooth Repatriation for Japanese Remaining in China and the Assistance for Self-Sufficiency Following their Permanent Repatriation. Kondō had previously traveled to Japan at her own expense to seek assistance. She does not appear to have been in contact with Kaneko Takakazu's NGO.
Kaneko's NGO helped 92-year-old Yamakawa Tokumi to return to Japan and gain Japanese nationality. Yamakawa had embarked in 1938 from Kobe with her husband and his family on what she expected to be a temporary evacuation, only to wind up unable to return for six decades due to a lack of proof of Japanese nationality. Born into a desperately poor family, she had never been entered into a household register. A family court in Japan heard testimony from her relatives that she was in fact Japanese, and permitted her to be added to one of their registers.
Kaneko's group also helped 85-year-old Matsuikawa Tamako (Yang Yusong) to visit Japan and obtain Japanese nationality. The adopted daughter of a Chinese man, she was taken with her mother Kichi to Fuqing in the wake of 1923 Kantō earthquake. The family lived in extreme poverty. After her adoptive father died, she was sold into a marriage and her mother returned to Japan, and contact between the two ceased. She had never been entered into her mother’s household registration. (Kichi died in 1963.) According to Kaneko’s report, Kichi couldn’t stand life in China, and after her husband died, she sold Tamako and used the money for boat fare back to Japan. The 1934 consular police report, which listed Matsuikawa Kichi as among those "newly discovered" to be in Fuqing, provides a somewhat different account: Kichi had come to Fuqing in 1920 and had made two return trips to Japan in the years since; her husband was in Japan at the time of the report. She had three children, but had given away two (Tamako would have been 21 years old at this time; her status is not clear). Engaged in farming, she indicated that she had no intention of returning to Japan. But like Ogura Nobu and other women, she no doubt made tactical decisions based on changing circumstances.
In addition to women married to men in Fuqing, Kaneko's group also helped with the repatriation of four men who had been adopted as children and taken to China during the war. For powerful accounts of these experiences, see the memoir of Fujimoto/Chen Sōbi, and Chen Youxiong/Tomoo's account in Kaneko's reportage.
Tied as they are to the longer history of women's movements between Japan and Fuqing, these mobile stories must be situated within the larger context of Fuqingese/Fujianese/Chinese migration to Japan in the post-Mao Zedong reform era.
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