Since the establishment of the Maizuru Naval District in 1901, Maizuru developed as Japan’s only naval port on the Japan Sea coast. Immediately after Japan’s defeat in World War II (1945), the Japanese government initiated the repatriation of approximately 6.6 million people, including military personnel, civilian employees, and civilians living in Japan’s former colonies and other Japanese-occupied lands. To receive them, the government designated 10 Japanese ports, including the ports of Maizuru, Kure, Sasebo, and Hakata, as entry facilities for Japanese military and civilian repatriates. The government also established Repatriates Relief Bureaus in each designated port city.
Maizuru received approximately 660,000 repatriates and the remains of 16,000 people from the former Soviet Union, the Korean Peninsula, former Manchuria (now Heilongjiang Province), and other regions for 13 years until September 1958. The first repatriation ship entered the Port of Maizuru from Pusan, South Korea, on October 7, 1945. After the closure of the Sasebo Repatriates Relief Bureau in May 1950, Maizuru became the only repatriation port in Japan and came to be regarded as a symbol of the repatriation, associated with many sad and miserable memories.
Since Maizuru is situated on the coast facing Nakhodka Port in the USSR across the Japan Sea, most of the repatriates arriving in Maizuru came from Nakhodka. In fact, of the 664,531 repatriates entering the Port of Maizuru, approximately 460,000 (nearly 70%) were from the USSR. Accordingly, most of the collection of the Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum (opened in 1988) consists of materials donated by former internees in Siberia and other parts of the USSR.
In 1945, the Port of Maizuru, which used to be a naval port, was designated as an official port for receiving repatriates from various regions outside Japan. Each time a repatriation ship entered the Port of Maizuru, local residents welcomed the repatriates by waving small flags either at the pier or when visiting the ship by fishing boat or liner service within Maizuru Bay.
Moreover, local residents entertained the returnees, serving hot green tea and steamed sweet potatoes to console and encourage the returnees, who had endured indescribable hardships and were utterly exhausted both physically and mentally,
Each repatriation ship carried 2,000 to 3,000 passengers. At maximum, as many as four ships entered the port on the same day. From the repatriation ships, the passengers were transferred to the launches that came alongside their ships to carry them to the Taira Quay. On that quay, the repatriates took their first steps in their mother country. This was the moment they had been waiting for years. The quay was also a place of family reunion. Many mothers and wives waiting for the return of their sons/husbands stood on the quay. Some of these women rejoiced to find their beloved ones among the passengers, while many others searched for their family members in vain. The scene of many women waiting for the return of their family members evoked deep sympathy, later expressed in the song Ganpeki no Haha (Mothers on the Quay) which became a great hit. Subsequently, a film of the same title was produced and its story was made into a TV drama.
After the closure of the Maizuru Repatriates Relief Bureau in November 1958, many Japanese people began to call for the construction of a monument to commemorate the repatriation. In response, the Repatriation Memorial Park was opened in March 1970. Subsequently, three monuments were erected on a hill commanding a view of the Taira Quay. The three monuments are known as Ah Haha naru Kuni no Hi (the monument with an inscription that translates as “Oh, My Mother Country!”); Ikoku no Oka Ganpeki no Haha no Kahi (the monument to the song “Mothers on the Quay”), and Bokyo Irei no Hi (the Cenotaph for Internees Who Longed to Return Home).
In April 1988, exactly 30 years after the termination of the repatriation project, the Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum was opened within the Repatriation Memorial Park. With donations from former internees and many other people from across the nation, the museum construction was carried out by the city with the aim of passing on the history of the war, and the internment and repatriation to future generations; and communicating the vital importance of fostering world peace. In 1994, the City reconstructed Taira Hikiage Sanbashi (lit. “Taira repatriation quay”) on the site of the Taira Quay, through which approximately 660,000 repatriates landed in their Mother Country.
Since the internment and repatriation took place amid the post-World-War-II turmoil resulting from Japan’s defeat and the collapse of the Japanese Empire, only a few official records remain intact today. The scarcity of official government records heightens the value of the priceless private records in the collection of the Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum. They are unique and authentic records of individuals who maintained their humanity throughout post-war cala- mities.Nearly 70 years after the end of the war, the former repatriates have either become very old or have passed away. With the increasing numbers of people who havenot experienced the war, many people now regard the war and the repatriation as incidents of the distant past.
To retain the memories of the war and the internment, which are waning with the passage of time, the City of Maizuru decided to nominate part of the Museum’s collection for inscription on the list of the International Memory of the World Register. The City believes that inscription would be effective in passing on to our future generations the priceless materials that were miraculously shielded from scrutiny and brought home, and in communicating the vital importance of world peace.
April 1: The Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum became a facility directly under the control of Maizuru City. April 1: The Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum employed a curator, who commenced historical studies and digitization of the collection. July 20: The Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum announced its initiatives toward the inscription of its collection on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. October 15: The first survey of the collection of the Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum Survey team: 3 members Fumitaka Kurosawa (Professor, School of Arts and Sciences, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University) Motoei Sato (Director, Institute of Policy and Cultural Studies, Chuo University) Fumio Kumamoto (Associate Professor, Department of History, Faculty of Letters, Komazawa University) December 26: The first meeting of the Council of Advisers for Nomination as a UNESCO Memory of the World Chairman: Fumitaka Kurosawa (Professor, School of Arts and Sciences, Tokyo Woman’s Christian University) Vice Chairman: Yuji Kurihara (Secretary-General, National Institutes for Cultural Heritage) Members: Naoko Sonoda (Professor, National Museum of Ethnology) Craig Smith (Chair, Faculty of Foreign Studies, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies) Hitoshi Yamazaki (Manager, Industrial Promotion Division, Maizuru City) Replaced by Yoshiaki Sunahara in May 2013. <<2013>> February 18: The second meeting of the Council of Advisers for Nomination as a UNESCO Memory of the World March 26: Establishment of the Organization to Support the Nomination of the Collection of the Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum as a UNESCO Memory of the World Promoters: Mitsugu Kurahashi, Chairman of Maizuru Association of the Leaders of Municipalities and Wards Kanichi Masuyama: Chairman, Maizuru Association of Senior Citizens’ Clubs Teruhiko Furumori: Chairman, Maizuru UNESCO Association Hiroshi Ishibashi, Director, NPO Governance Maizuru Eiichi Taniguchi, Director, NPO Maizuru Association of Narrators of the Repatriation May 24: The third meeting of the Council of Advisers for Nomination as a UNESCO Memory of the World First half of July: Signature collection campaign commenced by the Organization to Support the Nomination of Collection of the Maizuru Repatriation Memorial Museum as a UNESCO Memory of the World Period: July 2013—March 2014 July 26: The fourth meeting of the Council of Advisers for Nomination as a UNESCO Memory of the World Second half of August: Displayed the key visual of the nomination campaign on expressway buses linking Maizuru with Tokyo and the Kansai region. Number of buses: two buses, one for Tokyo, the other for the Kansai region Bus company: Kyoto Kotsu Co., Ltd. Destinations: Tokyo (Shinagawa Bus Terminal) Osaka (Namba OCAT) Kobe (Sannomiya Bus Terminal) October 12-27: Nominated materials (30 items) were displayed at the Special Exhibition for Nomination as a Memory of the World. The Exhibition of Isamu Yoshida, an Internee Artist (150 paintings) was concurrently held at the Maizuru Brick Park 3rd Wing (Kitasui, Maizuru City) Reference (1): What Is the “UNESCO Memory of the World”? The Memory of the World Program is one of three major heritage programs organized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). (The other two are the World Heritage and the Intangible Cultural Heritage programs.) The program was initiated in 1992 with the aim of preserving and promoting documentary heritages of world significance. Targets of the program include written documents, books, musical scores, illustrations, and films. As of the end of March 2014, there were 300 items listed on the Memory of the World Register, including the Anne Frank Diaries (the Netherlands) and manuscripts of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Germany). From Japan, the following three collections are currently on the register: the Sakubei Yamamoto Collection (paintings and writings about a coal mine in Tagawa City, Fukuoka Prefecture), Midokanpakuki (the original handwritten diary of Fujiwara no Michinaga; collection of the Yomeibunko, Kyoto City), and Materials related to the Keicho-Era Mission to Europe (collection of the Sendai City Museum). UNESCO’s Memory of the World International Advisory Committee (IAC) carries out a screening and selects candidates for registration once every two years. Each country can nominate up to two candidates. Toward the next registration scheduled for 2015, the Japanese government decided to nominate the Toji Hyakugo Monjo Document (100 case documents of the Toji Temple, National Treasure) in May 2013. Since each country can nominate only two candidates, only one more will be nominated from Japan. This will be nominated by the local government concerned. The major criteria for screening include: Authenticity: Whether or not the identity and provenance of a nominated document has been reliably established. (It must be confirmed that the document is not a reproduction or a counterfeit.) World significance: Whether or not the nominated document is irreplaceable; whether or not its disappearance or deterioration would constitute a harmful impoverishment of the heritage of humanity; whether or not it has had a great impact over a span of time and/or within a particular cultural area of the world; and whether or not it has had great influence—positive or negative—on the course of history. Reference (2): Japanese Ports Designated for the Repatriation Project (In the order of closure of respective Repatriates Relief Bureaus) ○ Kure: November 24, 1945 – December 14, 1945 ○ Moji: November 24, 1945 – January 23, 1946 Beppu: February 21, 1946 – March 26, 1946 Tanabe: February 21, 1946 – October 1, 1946 Karatsu: February 21, 1946 – March 26, 1946 ○ Shimonoseki: November 21, 1945 – March 26, 1946 Tobata: January 23, 1946 – October 1, 1946 ○ Senzaki: November 24, 1945 – December 16, 1946 Nagoya: March 26, 1946 – February 1, 1947 ○ Kagoshima: November 24, 1945 – February 1, 1947 Otake: December 14, 1945 – February 21, 1947 ○ Uraga: November 24, 1945 – May 1, 1947 ○ Hakata: November 24, 1945 – May 1, 1947 Ujina: December 14, 1945– December 31, 1947 Hakodate: December 14, 1945 – January 1, 1950 ○ Sasebo: November 24, 1945 – May 5, 1950 ○ Yokohama: November 24, 1945 – December 14, 1945 Yokohama (Repatriates Relief Office) May 1, 1947 – July 11, 1955 ○ Maizuru: November 24, 1945 – November 16, 1958 *○: Ten ports designated in 1945 as entry facilities for repatriates