Reviewed by Jeff Kingston There is a powerful fascination in Japan about the lives and fates of the Japanese who migrated to Manchuria 1932-45. Some 320,000 rural Japanese were mobilized in this scheme to lessen population pressures in Japan, project Japanese power and promote food production in this utopian corner of the empire, but these dreams came crashing down with Japan’s surrender in 1945. Many of the repatriates have bitter memories of the Japanese army abandoning them, commandeering transport solely for military personnel while leaving civilians exposed to the invading Soviet troops and a hostile local population.
Ironically, the mass mobilization of Japanese men for the war effort sparked a labor shortage in prefectures such as Nagano where many of the emigrants hailed from, causing mine operators and factory owners to rely increasingly on forced Chinese labor. Moreover, many of the agrarian colonists sent to Manchuria were also mobilized, causing the government to maintain the emigration program until the waning months of the war so that the Japanese farms could be maintained. Such was the logic of war.