Now 73 and sitting in his Tokyo home, Yohachi Nakajima fights back tears when he thinks of his Chinese adopted mother and the farming village he once called home — a boy lost inside imperial Japan’s crumbling empire.
He was just three years old when Tokyo surrendered on August 15, 1945, ending World War II but also leaving about 1.5 million Japanese stranded in Manchukuo, Tokyo’s puppet regime in northeastern China.
Farmers, labourers and young military reservists had migrated into the region from the early 1930s, attracted by government promises of a better life as Japan marched across Asia in a brutal expansionist campaign.
Nakajima’s father Hiroshi was among those drawn to Manchukuo, but the frontier life proved miserable and the elder Nakajima was drafted into the military just three weeks before Japan’s surrender. His fate is unknown.
Ill and poverty-stricken, Nakajima’s mother sought out a local family to care for her son.
“Japan was an invader for them, clearly,” Nakajima, who now lives in Tokyo, told AFP.
“It must have been pure humanity that convinced them to adopt and raise me, a child of the aggressor.”
The malnourished boy, stomach bulging from starvation, was brought into the centre of the village as curious locals looked on. Read more