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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 June 7 - 13  > Hanaoka monument, pledge to never again take up arms to fight
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2017 June 7 - 13 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Hanaoka monument, pledge to never again take up arms to fight

June 13, 2017
During wartime, the government of the Empire of Japan brought 38,935 Chinese into Japan to cover labor shortages at the request of industries and placed them at 135 sites, including coal mines, metal mines, construction sites, and ports and harbors nationwide. The imperial government forced cruelly hard labor and ill-treatment upon these people. As a result, 6,830 Chinese workers lost their lives.

One extreme example is the mines in Hanaoka (currently Odate City) in Akita Prefecture. For a period of 20 months from July 1944, abuse associated with the use of slave labor there killed 419 out of 986 Chinese workers.

Before dawn on June 30, 1945, an all-out uprising occurred to demand decent working conditions, rebelling against the mine operator Kajima (currently Kajima Construction). In the following month alone, the death toll rose to 100. June 30 is now the memorial day for the chain of tragedies at the mines which later became known as the Hanaoka Incident.

After the war, in November 1945, Kajima placed the remains of 400 Chinese victims in the nearby Buddhist temple of Shinshoji. The chief priest of the temple held a memorial service based on Buddha’s teachings on equality and told Kajima to build an ossuary. This was the start of the spirit-consoling service for the Chinese workers, which was taken over by successive priests and continues to this day.

In 1953, despite the difficult times before the restoration of Japan-China diplomatic relations, the return of workers’ ashes began. Thanks to strenuous efforts made by the Japanese Communist Party Hanaoka branch, Korean groups, some labor unions, Chinese organizations, and local residents, the remaining ashes finally went back to their home country in 1964. In the ceremony for the return of the last ashes, three Japanese people who worked hard to unearth the remains took part. Before the Chinese bereaved families, the three expressed heartfelt apology for Japan’s treatment of the victims and for physically and emotionally hurting those who had forcibly been taken to Japan to their bereaved families and all the Chinese people.

On behalf of Japanese citizens, one of the three, Suzuki Yoshio said, “We dug up and collected the remains to send them back to China and pray for their souls. We did this in order not to forget the war memories, but to remember the bad memories of the war and keep fighting for peace. Our memorial service is a pledge that both Japanese and Chinese peoples will never again take up arms to fight against each other.”

A Japan-China friendship monument is located on the hill in Hanaoka where the bones of the wartime forced laborers were scattered. The cenotaph encompasses a no-war resolution of the people of both countries.
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