VOX POPULI: The Silent Witnesses of Japanese Wartime Domination Are Still Present in China

Photographer Osamu Funao, 62, lives in a mountainous region on the Kunisaki Peninsula in Kyushu. He moved there from Tokyo more than two decades ago.

While growing insecticide-free rice, Funao has released photo collections of the daily lives of people in Africa and Asia.

He is now asking for donations for his next project: a collection of photos of buildings in northeast China from the era of Manchukuo, a puppet state created by Japan in 1932.

Funao visited the area several times and took photos of around 400 architectural heritages.

Why Manchukuo?

“If I had lived in those times, I would have gone to Manchuria, feeling like my world was going to expand all of a sudden,” Funao said.

He visited some cities in the region, such as Shenyang and Dalian, for the first time six years ago.

Manchukuo-era red-brick buildings featured prominently among the glittering skyscrapers.

The structures gave Funao an idea of ​​Japan’s rise to power in the first half of the 20th century, but he also wondered how the people of an invaded country viewed these buildings.

What was Manchukuo after all? A feeling of vagueness led him to start photographing these buildings.

It is estimated that more than one million Japanese lived in Manchukuo. Everything was lost in the defeat of Japan and many people were killed.

War inflicts merciless suffering on the weak. The remaining buildings in China can be silent witnesses to all these historical events.

September 18 marks the anniversary of the Manchuria Incident, when the Japanese military claimed Chinese troops shelled a railway line outside the town of Mukden, now Shenyang, and launched an action military in northeast China known as Manchuria.

It was a pivotal event on Japan’s path to World War II.

Every Chinese knows this special day, just like the Japanese know the day the war ended and the days when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We must not forget September 18 either.

–The Asahi Shimbun, September 18

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that covers a wide range of topics, including culture, the arts, and social trends and developments. Written by veteran writers from Asahi Shimbun, the column offers helpful perspectives and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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