Daragon’s Hidden Reality! Second-Generation Descendants Struggle in Extreme Poverty in Japan, Receiving Less Than 20,000 Yen per Month in Pensions | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Daragon’s Hidden Reality! Second-Generation Descendants Struggle in Extreme Poverty in Japan, Receiving Less Than 20,000 Yen per Month in Pensions

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

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In March 1981, a man was reunited with his family for the first time in over 30 years

The Chinese Remnant Orphans were Japanese children left behind in China at the end of the Pacific War.

After returning to Japan in the 1980s, they found new difficulties awaiting them. Following on from Part I: “Beaten and Stung Up”, I would like to introduce the unimaginable tragedy of the Chinese orphans, quoting from the book “Mukonen senronen” (The Unmarried Old Man) written by Kota Ishii and published by Ushio Publishing Co.


Primarily in the 1980s to the 1990s, the Japanese government initiated the Repatriation Support Program for the return of remaining Japanese nationals. As a result, approximately 6,700 people (including family members, totaling over 20,000) successfully returned to Japan for permanent residency.

However, not everyone returned immediately. The orphaned children had been taken in by Chinese families at a young age and raised as their own. Even without blood ties, they felt immense gratitude towards their caregivers. Simply because the repatriation program had started didn’t mean they could hastily return to Japan.

One of the orphaned women featured in the book struggled with such dilemmas. She says:

“I was only 2 and a half years old at the end of the war, so I didn’t remember my Japanese family, and I regarded my foster parents as my real parents. So, I didn’t feel any strong desire to return no matter what. Besides, I was married to a Chinese man, and there were considerations regarding his parents as well.

The final decision to return to Japan came after my husband’s mother passed away. Until then, I felt hesitant about leaving my mother-in-law in China and taking my husband and children to Japan. However, with her passing, I resolved to cross the sea.”

I had forgotten both the Japanese language and Japanese culture.


On the contrary, even after the repatriation program began, there were people who couldn’t reconcile with their Chinese families and decided to stay in China.

However, life in Japan for the repatriated orphans became extremely difficult. Having lived in China for about 40 years, they not only lacked acquaintances in Japan but also had forgotten Japanese language and culture.

The Japanese government established the “China Repatriated Orphans Settlement Promotion Center (later renamed)” for such repatriated orphans. It was decided to provide Japanese language instruction and settlement support to the repatriated orphans over about a year.

However, the reality was not so easy. Repatriated orphans, who were in their 30s to 50s, found it difficult to learn a new language. Additionally, having married and had children, they had little room for maneuver in their lives and had to work as soon as possible. As a result, they ended up in poorly paid and unstable jobs without acquiring much Japanese.

A male repatriated orphan speaks as follows.

“I found my aunt in Japan in 1987 and came to Fukuoka, but at that time, the environment for language training was not well-established. So, I had to learn Japanese through self-study while working.


I did various jobs such as factory work and cleaning. What was difficult was being treated as a foreigner everywhere I went, being called ‘hey, Chinese’ and experiencing discrimination and bullying. Chinese people at that time were much poorer and in a weaker position than they are now, so there were Japanese people who looked down on us or were mean to us. Because of that, no matter what job I took, I ended up having trouble with Japanese people and couldn’t keep it up for long.”


Even though they were discriminated against and called Japanese in China, when they returned to Japan, they were now called Chinese and bullied. Unable to speak the language well and without any friends, they had no choice but to grit their teeth and endure.

 The second-generation descendants of the “Doragon” crime group mentioned at the beginning of the article are the children of these first-generation orphans. If they came to Japan as elementary school students, they entered Japanese schools without understanding the language.


Children like these were bullied in Japanese schools being called Chinese. Because they didn’t understand Japanese, they couldn’t even ask for help from their teachers.


Moreover, as seen from the earlier examples, parents were struggling to make ends meet by juggling multiple low-wage non-regular jobs. As a result, households were impoverished, and children were placed in neglectful environments. As testified by members of Doragun, parents’ stress often manifested as abuse towards the second-generation children.


With such backgrounds, it became inevitable for some of these second-generation children to become disillusioned with earnestly attending school and form gangs with peers in similar situations. Of course, not all of them followed this path, but it’s not hard to understand why some of them turned delinquent and engaged in misconduct.


The second generation is ineligible for support payments.


Even among the second generation, there are various situations. Members of the Daragon group came to Japan when they were around elementary school age and experienced discrimination at school.

However, for the second generation who came to Japan at a somewhat older age, they didn’t have the option to blend in due to their age. As a result, many of them, like the first generation, struggled with low-wage irregular work without understanding much Japanese.

Currently, the Japanese government has established the “Support Payment System for Japanese Descendants Left Behind in China and Elsewhere” to support the livelihoods of the remaining orphans, providing financial assistance. This allows them to maintain a certain standard of living even without savings.

However, this system only applies to the first generation, leaving the second generation ineligible. As a result, there is a significant disparity in treatment between the first and second generations.

The second-generation man featured in this book speaks as follows,

“I am not a descendant left behind, but a child of descendant left-behind women (women who survived by marrying into Chinese families amidst the chaos of war). This also falls under the treatment of the second generation. I came to Japan at the age of 49, so I hardly learned Japanese.

I did various jobs like cleaning, factory work, and ironworking, but bullying was severe, and there were times when I didn’t receive any pay. I am almost in the same situation as the first generation. However, since the system does not apply to the second generation, I still only receive a pension of 19,000 yen per month. This means I have to work until I die.” (Conversation through an interpreter)

It’s a challenging issue for the government to determine the extent of compensation. However, it can be said that the problems arise from categorizing both the children of descendants left behind in China at a young age and the children of women who married Chinese individuals as “second generation.”

Finding a solution is not easy, but it’s crucial to recognize that issues related to these descendants left behind still persist in Japan.

  • 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 Kyodo News

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