Vietnamese offspring of Japanese WWII soldiers visit the land of their fathers

Kyodo, JIJI

Thirteen Vietnamese fathered by Japanese soldiers who remained in what is now Vietnam after World War II visited Japan last week to meet one of the soldiers and visit the grave of another.

The Vietnamese, now in their 60s and 70s, are among the offspring of hundreds of Japanese soldiers who remained in French Indochina after the war, but later returned without their families.

Thirteen of the offspring and members of their families traveled to Japan at the invitation of the nonprofit Nippon Foundation. They returned to Vietnam on Tuesday.

Japan invaded French Indochina, part of which is now Vietnam, in 1940 during World War II. Of the Japanese troops deployed there, an estimated 600 remained after Japan’s surrender in August 1945 and joined the independence movement to fight against France’s attempt to re-establish its colonial rule in the First Indochina War between 1946 and 1954.

Many of them returned to Japan after the end of that conflict and their families faced discrimination and other hardships.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko met with a widow and descendants of Japanese war veterans in Hanoi earlier this year as part of their efforts to soothe some of the wounds left over from the war.

The visiting Vietnamese expressed their delight at a news conference in Tokyo last week after setting foot in Japan.

They said their long-awaited dream of visiting Japan had come true.

For Phan Hong Chau, 67, this was his first visit to Japan. He said he felt he had “returned home” when he arrived at an airport in Japan. He added that he was very happy that his long-held dream had come true.

Hong Nhat Quang, 67, head of the group, said he would like to continue exchanges with Japanese relatives.

After the news conference, the group toured the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo.

Also while in Tokyo, they visited the grave of a soldier who fathered one of the Vietnamese. And on Monday, they met a former soldier in Osaka Prefecture who is the father of another one.