Wartime Departures, 1931-45
As the Japanese economy soured in the late 1920s, many peddlers, as well as other Chinese immigrants, found it difficult to survive in Japan and began to depart for their home villages, accompanied by their wives and children. (Remittances from Japan to China also dropped dramatically, thus increasing the pressure on families in Fujian.) The impetus to leave grew even stronger after the Manchurian Incident of September 1931, as Japanese customers stopped buying from Chinese peddlers and the latter and their families suffered insults and other forms of hostility, including from resident Koreans angered by Chinese attacks on their compatriots in Manchuria in the Wanpaoshan Incident.
By December 15, 1931, 1,758 peddlers were reported to have exited Japan, and this exodus continued in the following year. Hence, while officials worried about the unscrupulousness or criminality of Chinese immigrants, the fall-out from one of the most blatantly illegal acts of Japanese imperialism contributed greatly to the movement of Japanese women into the Fujianese interior. And Chinese anger over the Manchurian Incident would of course complicate both these women’s experiences in China and consular efforts to contact them once they were there.
The number of Japanese migrants to Fuqing appears to have increased after 1937, as the outbreak of the second Sino-Japanese War and then the larger Asia-Pacific War led many Chinese to evacuate from Japan with their families. While many of those who retained documentation of their Japanese nationality were able to return to Japan after the war, many others remained in Fuqing for decades.
Even as the Japanese government sought to use resident overseas Chinese to build images of "Sino-Japanese Amity" and lend legitimacy to collaborationist regimes on the mainland, Chinese who remained in Japan during the war were subject to increasing regulations and suspicions. Fuqing peddlers suffered economic hardships due to new prohibitions on their movement across prefectural boundaries, and many were arrested for such violations. In Kobe, special higher police arrested and tortured thirteen Fuqing peddlers as suspected enemy spies from 1944 to 1945. Two men died in police custody, and four other died shortly after being released. Those who survived their wartime imprisonment returned to China after Japan's defeat.
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