Tragic Legacy of Violence and Public Shaming Endured by Chinese Orphans Exposed | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Tragic Legacy of Violence and Public Shaming Endured by Chinese Orphans Exposed

Nonfiction writer Kota Ishii approaches the reality of the "society of the elderly without connections.

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Chinese orphans who have been left behind in China, expressing their desire to return to Japan.’ Taken in the 1980s.

Probably one of the most famous foreign criminal organizations in Japan is “Doragon.” Originally formed by second-generation Chinese orphans who were left behind in China after the end of the Pacific War. When the first-generation orphans returned to Japan about 40 years after the war, having been abandoned as children, they faced intense discrimination from the Japanese and struggled to integrate into Japanese society. Some of these individuals turned to delinquency as a result.

I myself have met with the founders and affiliates of Doragon and have heard their stories. Some have even appeared in the media to share their experiences. However, they rarely mention their first-generation orphan parents.

I’d like to introduce the journey of the first-generation orphans as portrayed in the journalistic work “Muen Roujin” (Kota Ishii, Ushio Publishing).

It all began on August 9, 1945, just before the end of the Pacific War.

Japan had established the “Manchukuo” in the northeastern part of China in 1932 and effectively controlled it. The Japanese government encouraged people within Japan to ‘migrate’ to Manchukuo, and just before the end of the war, there were over a million civilians living there.

However, on August 9th, the Soviet Army violated the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact and began invading Manchuria. As a result, most of the Japanese living in Manchukuo were forced to flee with barely the clothes on their backs.

People were dropping like flies from the cold.


The Soviet Army and some Chinese attacked the Japanese mercilessly. Many Japanese lost their lives due to looting, violence, murder, and starvation.

One of the orphaned males mentioned in the book (aged 7 at the end of the war) had a harrowing experience. His mother, along with him and his two siblings, attempted to flee but were captured by the Soviet Army and sent to a camp. His father was taken away as a soldier and was absent.

He recalls the ordeal,

“The camp was called ‘Refugee Camp.’ In autumn, temperatures dropped below freezing, and in winter, it reached minus 30 degrees Celsius. Yet, we weren’t even given proper bedding. As for food, we only got thin porridge made from cornmeal or sorghum. The portions were so meager that people were dropping like flies every day from hunger, illness, and the cold.

After being in the camp for a while, my 3-year-old brother fell ill. There were no doctors or medicine available. My mother, who was nursing him, collapsed from malnutrition. At 7 years old, I didn’t know what to do. And before I knew it, both of them had passed away. I woke up one morning to find them cold.”

The bodies were reportedly buried by the adult Japanese in the camp.

He was left alone with his young sister and prepared himself for his imminent death. It was an incredibly harsh reality for children to survive on their own.

However, a miracle happened. A Chinese couple living near the camp came and took him in (his sister was taken by another Chinese person). Thus, he became one of the Japanese orphans left behind living in China.

Many of these orphans were taken in by Chinese families in this manner. Some were entrusted to Chinese couples by their parents who couldn’t take them back, while others were picked up by Chinese couples after being separated from their parents. In different ways, they were left behind in China and had to live there.

Life in China was not easy for the first-generation orphans.

If they were taken in before the age of around 3, they naturally picked up the Chinese language and culture, growing up almost like Chinese by the time they reached school age.

However, for children around elementary school age who had already absorbed Japanese culture, they had to study Chinese language and culture as well, while still living as orphans. As a result, some of them were insulted and even harmed by Chinese people.

The adults are just laughing and watching from afar.


One female orphan (aged 9 at the end of the war) shares her experience,

“At first, because I couldn’t speak Chinese, it became evident that I was Japanese, and I faced severe bullying at school and in the local community. My classmates and seniors all joined in, hurling insults like ‘little Japanese devils!’ and throwing stones or mud at me. Even now, tears overflow when I recall those memories.

There were Japanese adults around, but they didn’t protect me, and neither did the teachers or other adults in the community. They just stood by and watched, probably thinking it was just a bit of fun. I couldn’t rebel; all I could do was endure.”

During the war, the Japanese military committed numerous acts of violence against Chinese people, and this anger was directed towards the abandoned orphans.

The orphans endured a dark and sad childhood, growing up into adulthood. After graduating from Chinese schools, they found jobs locally and gradually integrated into society. Many of them met their spouses during this time and started families.

In 1966, during this period, China experienced the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Ostensibly a political movement, it was, in reality, a persecution campaign against the powerful and wealthy. The Cultural Revolution also drastically changed the lives of the orphans who had finally settled into Chinese society.

The male character in the book recounts,

“I was married to a Chinese woman and worked for a people’s commune. Then suddenly, unfamiliar men barged in, accusing me of being Japanese and listening to Soviet radio. They dragged me to a criticism session where a large crowd gathered, and I was beaten and verbally abused. It was a lynching.

I tried to explain that there was a misunderstanding, but nobody would listen amidst the excitement. They made me wear a hat with ‘Active Counterrevolutionary’ written on it and paraded me through the town. People barged into my house, destroyed furniture, and insulted my young children as counterrevolutionary family or Japanese beasts. That was the era.”

In 1972, there was good news for these orphans. With the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, discussions were held between the two countries, and a program to assist the repatriation of these orphans (remaining Japanese nationals) was initiated. Finally, a door opened for them to return from China to Japan.

However, this led to the second tragedy for these orphans. I’d like to elaborate more on this in Part 2: ‘The Secret Story of Doragon’s Formation… The Harsh Reality Experienced by its Members.'”

Part 2: The Untold Story of the Formation of “Rara-Kwon”…The Fierce Reality Experienced by the Members.

  • Interview and text Kota Ishii

    Born in Tokyo in 1977. Nonfiction writer. He has reported and written about culture, history, and medicine in Japan and abroad. His books include "Absolute Poverty," "The Body," "The House of 'Demons'," "43 Killing Intent," "Let's Talk about Real Poverty," "Social Map of Disparity and Division," and "Reporto: Who Kills the Japanese Language?

  • PHOTO Jiji Press

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