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Slavery in Japan

During most of the history of the country, the practice of slavery in Japan involved only indigenous Japanese, as the export and import of slaves was significantly restricted by isolation of the group of islands from other areas of Asia. However, with the expansion of the Empire of Japan in the first half of the Sh�wa era, millions of people from the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere were abducted and used to improve the industrial production and the war effort.


[edit] Indigenous slavery

The export of a slave from Japan is recorded in 3rd century Chinese historical record, but it is unclear what system was involved, and whether this was a common practice at that time. These slaves were called Seik� (���) (lit. "living mouth"). The export of slaves from Japan ceased, in part because they were more expensive than those transported overland into China.

In the 8th century, slaves were called Nuhi (����) and laws on slavery were issued. These slaves tended farms and worked around houses. Information on the slave population is sketchy. In one area of present-day Ibaraki Prefecture around 2,000 individuals, out of a population of 190,000, were slaves, but this is believed to have been a relatively low proportion. Numbers are believed to have been significantly higher in western Japan.

Slavery persisted into the Sengoku period (1467-1615) even though the attitude that slavery was anachronistic seems to have become widespread among elites.[1] In 1590, slavery was officially banned under Toyotomi Hideyoshi; but forms of contract and indentured labor persisted alongside the period penal codes' forced labor. Somewhat later, the Edo period penal laws prescribed "non-free labor" for the immediate family of executed criminals in Article 17 of the Got�ke reij� (Tokugawa House Laws), but the practice never became common. The 1711 Got�ke reij� was compiled from over 600 statutes promulgated between 1597 and 1696.[2]

[edit] World War II

In the first half of the Sh�wa era, as the Empire of Japan annexed Asian countries, from the late 19th century onwards, archaic institutions including slavery were abolished in those countries. However, during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, the Japanese military used millions of civilians and prisoners of war as forced labor, on projects such as the Burma Railway.

According to a joint study by historians including Zhifen Ju, Mitsuyoshi Himeta, Toru Kubo and Mark Peattie, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilized by the K�a-in (East Asia Development Board) for forced labour.[3] According to the Japanese military's own record, nearly 25% of 140,000 Allied POWs died while interned in Japanese prison camps where they were forced to work (U.S. POWs died at a rate of 37%).[4][5] More than 100,000 civilians and POWs died in the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway.[6] The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between 4 and 10 million romusha (Japanese: "manual laborer"), were forced to work by the Japanese military.[7] About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South East Asia. Only 52,000 were repatriated to Java, meaning that there was a death rate of 80%. (For further details, see Japanese war crimes.)[8]

Approximately 5,400,000 Koreans were conscripted into labor from 1939 to 1945. About 670,000 of them were taken to Japan, where about 60,000 died between 1939 and 1945 due mostly to exhaustion or poor working conditions. Many of those taken to Karafuto Prefecture (modern-day Sakhalin) were trapped there at the end of the war, stripped of their nationality and denied repatriation by Japan; they became known as the Sakhalin Koreans.[9] The total deaths of Korean forced laborers in Korea and Manchuria for those years is estimated to be between 270,000 and 810,000.[10]

As many as 200,000 "comfort women" [11] mostly from Korea and China, and some other countries such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, the Dutch East Indies, Netherlands,[12] and Australia[13] were forced into sexual slavery during World War II to satisfy Japanese Imperial Army and Navy members.

[edit] Further reading

  • Nelson, Thomas. "Slavery in Medieval Japan," Monumenta Nipponica 2004 59(4): 463-492
  • Yoshiaki, Yoshimi. Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military during World War II (Columbia U. Press, 2001) 240p

[edit] References

  1. ^ Thomas Nelson, "Slavery in Medieval Japan," Monumenta Nipponica 2004 59(4): 463-492
  2. ^ Lewis, James Bryant. (2003). Frontier Contact Between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan, p. 31-32.
  3. ^ Zhifen Ju, "Japan's Atrocities of Conscripting and Abusing North China Draftees after the Outbreak of the Pacific War", Joint study of the Sino-Japanese war, 2002, http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~asiactr/sino-japanese/minutes_2002.htm
  4. ^ How Japanese companies built fortunes on American POWs
  5. ^ Japanese Atrocities in the Philippines
  6. ^ links for research, Allied POWs under the Japanese
  7. ^ Library of Congress, 1992, "Indonesia: World War II and the Struggle For Independence, 1942-50; The Japanese Occupation, 1942-45" Access date: February 9, 2007.
  8. ^ Christopher Reed: Japan's Dirty Secret, One Million Korean Slaves
  9. ^ Lankov, Andrei (2006-01-05). "Stateless in Sakhalin". The Korea Times. http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/opinion/200601/kt2006010516434554130.htm. Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  10. ^ Rummel, R. J. (1999). Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1990. Lit Verlag. ISBN 3-8258-4010-7.  Available online: "Statistics of Democide: Chapter 3 - Statistics Of Japanese Democide Estimates, Calculations, And Sources". Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.CHAP3.HTM. Retrieved 2006-03-01. 
  11. ^ Congress backs off of wartime Japan rebuke
  12. ^ Comfort Women Were 'Raped': U.S. Ambassador to Japan
  13. ^ Abe ignores evidence, say Australia's 'comfort women'

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