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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Hanaoka Mine Incident

The first time I saw the words “Hanaoka Mine Incident”, I wondered if it was some horrible Japanese mine disaster… but no.

It was a disaster, just not in the conventional sense.

Our story begins in 1885… and is still going on today.

Opened in 1885, the Hanaoka Mine (花岡鉱山, Hanaoka Kōzan) was an open-pit mine with major deposits of “black ore” (sphalerite and galena - a mixture of zinc, lead, gold, silver, and other precious metals), located in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan in the village of Hanaoka, Akita-ken (Akita Prefecture) - an area that is now part of the city of Ōdate.

It was controlled by a company called Kajima Gumi, a company that later became the giant construction company known as Kajima Corporation.

Wait… let’s get this whole company thing done correctly:
  • 1840 - Iwakichi Kajima starts as a carpentry business in Edo (Tokyo). Company founder is Kajima Iwakichi (surname first);
  • 1880 - Iwakichi Kajima establishes Kajima Gumi, a railroad construction and tunneling company - eventually expanding into other fields like hydroelectric;
  • 1885 - Hanaoka Mine opens - god help me, I don’t know who owned it;
  • 1915 - Fujita Gumi—the forerunner to DOWA Holdings—purchased the Hanaoka Mine in Akita-ken, but still operated the Mine under the Kajima Gumi nameplate;
  • 1945 - Fujita Gumi changed its company name to DOWA Mining Co., Ltd.;
  • 1947 - Because of commercial laws under WWII Allied-controlled Japan, Kajima Gumi was reorganized and renamed as the Kajima Construction Company. It is owned by DOWA, who still own Hanaoka Mine.
All of this information was gleaned and combined from both the DOWA corporate website AND the Kaijima corporate website. It is therefore considered correct and official.

It’s what happens between after 1915 that is very important.

First of, there is the Hanaoka Mine Incident and the Hanaoka POW (Prisoner of war) Camp story.

No disrespect to anyone interested in the Hanaoka POW story, but I’m just going to look at the Hanaoka Mine Incident at this time.

Japan being Japan in the years before and during WWII, felt it was the superior nation and race of Asia, and everyone else were simply tools to be exploited. Not everyone felt that way, of course, but that was the political attitude.

Japan of the 1930s was a hot-bed of extreme right-wing politics within the military, who exerted control over the country to create a neo-mercantile economy and a hawkish colonial domination over East Asia and the western Pacific.

During the 1930s through the end of WWII, Japan undertook large industrial projects to help with its initial war-making in China and then the rest of the Pacific theater.

Whether Fujita Gumi was all in on the Japanese militarism or not (it was), it became involved in the Japanese war machine and greatly profited from it.

At the Hanaoka Mine, Fujita Gumi used local Japanese miners and peasants to work it, paying them poorly and feeding them worse. To top it off, Mine foremen would beat poor performers.

After a May 1944 rock fall buried many Japanese workers alive—and the Mine staff refused to perform a rescue, correctly figuring that there were more peasants around—the Fujita Gumi and the Japanese Imperial Army conspired to work together to bring over laborers from Korea and China. You know... other expendables... as you can be sure that talk went around about how the Fujita Gumi were treating locals.

While I can’t get a number on the Koreans brought over, I do know that in August of 1944, the Japanese Imperial Army brought 986 Chinese laborers to the Hanaoka Mine to construct a water canal, as well as do other mining details.

These laborers were forcibly conscripted, but were promised monetary payment… and while you think this would be something to have already been in the Geneva Convention rules re: conduct during a war, it was not actually added until the Fourth Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949.

According to the revised Geneva Convention: International humanitarian law prohibits an occupying power from forcibly recruiting persons in areas it controls, and limits voluntary recruitment. According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, meant to protect citizens who find themselves under the control of an enemy state, an "Occupying Power may not compel protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces." Moreover, "[n]o pressure or propaganda which aims at securing voluntary enlistment is permitted." The convention further prohibits such actions as corporal punishment, torture, and "any other measures of brutality" (article 32). (see HERE)

So… as despicable as it may seem to use civilians in this manner, it wasn’t illegal. It was illegal to use POWs, as slave labor, however. (I'm sure, dear reader, you can see all of the rabbit holes I traklled down to get all the little bits of information scattered throughout this whole Inerweb thing 0 it'll never last.)

These Chinese “workers” were forced to work in what were said to be inhumane conditions, given little food, and certainly no money… and, as such, on June 30, 1945, they revolted.

During the uprising, five Japanese Fujita Gumi supervisors were killed, but 113 of the Chinese were also killed.

You might think that was the end of it… that no one who survived it would be believed later on when the war Japan surrendered just two months later… but… there were Allied POWs at the site consisting of lots of Australians and Americans.

Sigh… okay… the POW camp was established in December of 1944, and was liberated on September 15, 1945 freeing 245 U.S. and 45 Australian POWs.

During the freeing of prisoners from the POW camp, the Allies found mass graves, unburied dead bodies, and a labor camp known as Chūsan Dormitory, with starving, rail-thin Chinese laborers.
Yeah - it's blurry, but this is a photo taken near the Hanaoka mine showing the piles of disrespected skulls and skeletons of the deceased.
So… in October of 1945, a formal investigation was established into the entire Hanaoka Mine treatment of Chinese workers.

Including the 113 workers who died during the uprising, a total of 418 Chinese workers died at Hanaoka… a higher percentage of deaths than at any other Japanese forced labor camps.

NOTE: Japan’s Foreign Ministry has reported that some 38,900 Chinese were brought to Japan for slave-like work and about 6,800 of them died. This is not a Hanaoka total, but a Japan-wide total.

As a result, three Hanaoka Mine supervisors paid by Fujita Gumi—were found guilty of Class B and C war crimes and sentenced to death.

Another Fujita Gumi supervisor was sentenced to life imprisonment, and two Japanese policemen were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. I'm unsure if they mean real policemen or Military policemen.

NOW here is where things get confusing for me, owing to the convoluted writings of others that seem to contradict one another. They also contradicted one another on pre-war ownership or failed to mention it at all as they were probably also as confused as I was.

Repeating myself:
  • 1945 - Fujita Gumi changed its company name to DOWA Mining Co., Ltd.;
  • 1947 - Because of commercial laws under WWII Allied-controlled Japan, Kajima Gumi was reorganized and renamed as the Kajima Construction Company. It is owned by DOWA, who still own Hanaoka Mine.
I repeat: according to the information gathered from the DOWA corporate website AND the Kaijima corporate website, the above information is correct and official.

Now... considering the Hanaoka Mine Incident is a black-eye on Japanese corporate society (to say the least), it is not surprising that both websites are not as complete as they could be.  

But, according to the information from the two websites, DOWA owns the Fujita Gumi company, and thus the Hanaoka Mine.

So why do all the articles I read say that the owner of the Hanaoka Mine is the Kajima Construction Company? What the hell does the old Kajima Gumi company have to do with this?

It's important because what happens 30 years later is directed at Kajima, not DOWA.

People much smarter than me (and I'm sure there are a few of you) are welcome to point out where my error is, and I'll amend if proof is proven.

According to some websites, Fujita Gumi aka DOWA Mining after a restructuring in 1947, erected a memorial October of 1949 to the Chinese workers who died at the facility. I can't find photographic evidence of it.

That may be true, but it wasn't until 1966 that a five-meter tall monument was erected near Hanaoka (see image at very top of this article).

The inscription on the back of the Hanaoka Memorial reads:

With the support of caring people from both Japan and China, we have erected this monument to friendship and never again to allow war between Japan and China. In 1944–1945, 993 Chinese, who had been brought here illegally under Japanese militarism, lived here in the Chusan Dormitory at the foot of this mud-filled dam, abused and forbidden to speak their native language. On 30 June 1945, these laborers as well as those who wanted to protect the honor of their fatherland rose up as a group to at last oppose Japanese imperialism heroically. Here lie the remains of 418 people who gave their lives patriotically to this cause. We will forever remember this incident, our prayers never again to allow war between Japan and China chiseled into stone for the grandchildren of both countries.

As well,between 1953-1964 Japan repatriated the remains of the Chinese workers.

I wonder why it took so long… so many years… but I assume those poor buggers weren’t interned in any one spot…

So… that’s that, right? Another sordid tale from Japan’s WWII past…

Except… it seems as though the past wasn’t quite forgive and forget for the survivors of the Hanaoka Mine, no matter how much Japan refuses to look at that dark spot on its soul.

Really… Japan is embarrassed by the stuff it was accused of doing during WWII - along with the national shame it felt in losing the war - it really hoped that what happened in the Pacific theater would stay buried (no pun intended).

A whole “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that was the complete opposite of what Germany did, who seemed to have fully embraced the atrocities committed by its military and political leadership during WWII.

While I can state that Japan was forced to and did pay compensation as a nation to other nations affected during WWII in the decade or so after Japan’s surrender (I have newspapers from the mid-1950s detailing some of those payments), the individual citizens hold deeper feelings on things.

While living in Japan during the 1990s, and vacationing in various Asian countries when I could, I visited many a WWII memorial… and quickly discovered that the locals - even then 50-years removed - maintained a passionate hate for the Japanese… even those who weren’t yet born when the war occurred… even those who were children in the 1990s. Pure, unadulterated hate.

Obviously I can’t comment on the state of affairs now, but a hate and distrust of the Japanese has more than likely been passed along the generations… but to what extent, I can not personally say.

So… back in the 1980s… December 22, 1984 to be exact, a group of Chinese survivors of the Hanaoka Mine “work” released an open letter demanding a public apology from Kajima Corporation, the establishment of a memorial museum, and financial compensation.

Keep in mind that the company being sued is the Kajima Corporation… a company that did NOT own or operate the Hanaoka Mine during the 1940s. At least if one pays attention to the date on the Kajima and DOWA websites.

Believe it or don't, I have also seen websites stating that the company that ran the Mine was known as Kashima (not Kajima)... but that is easily explained at the kanji (Chinese letter) used to represent "Shima' or "island" in English can also be written as "Jima". Kagoshima (Kago Island) or Iwo Jima (Iwo Island).

So... a lawsuit started up in 1984... Hmmm... we know that a memorial was set up in 1966, so it's not like Japan was shirking its role of responsibility in this horrible event at Hanaoka Mine.

So... let's assume, that despite information, people decided to ask for more from Kajima Construction Company who are owned by DOWA.... and that DOWA currently (2017) owns the Hanaoka Mine/

So why aren't they suing DOWA? Can anyone out there please help me out here?

Now... after hearing the demands of the Hanaoka survivors and their next-of-kin, we know that Kajims had absolutely NO problem in creating a memorial museum or in issuing a public apology.

Why not? The memorial may have been long overdue, and the apology is certainly a goodwill gesture.

But negotiations did hit the crapper over money.

Money is the root of all evil. But money makes the world go ‘round. Therefore the world is evil.

I’ve had that mantra in my head for decades after seeing the absurdity of those two adages.

The Chinese survivors, survivor next-of-kin and Japanese activist lawyers banded together to sue Kajima Corporation for ¥60.5 million on June 28, 1995…. which is about US$500,000 now.

Note that this is 10 years AFTER the initial public demand for an apology, museum and compensation was made.

Ten years.

Anyone (both sides) involved at the Hanaoka mine would be a minimum of 68 years old in 1995.

Only $500,000… in total? Or for each victim?

We know that there were 418 Chinese people who died at Hanaoka, but only 113 during the actual uprising. But… how many people survived the Hanaoka Mine during its length of operation as a forced labor camp2,000? 1,000?

Let’s take the low number and round up the dead and arrive at 1,500 “claimants”… that would be US $750-million or over ¥82-billion.

That’s a lot of money, if this was a case of seeking that much money PER person… again… I am just spit balling actual numbers… but that much money could bankrupt a company… and in doing do “ain’t no one gonna get paid.”

The Tokyo District Court - seeing as how the suit was filed two days before the 50th anniversary of the uprising occurred - denied the claim saying the statute of limitations had long since passed.

This was based upon a 1972 statement about normalized relations between Japan and China denies all rights to seek reparations for wartime offenses. But Chinese legal experts believe that individuals' rights to pursue legal action were not renounced by the statement.

An appeal was made to the Tokyo High Court on December 12, 1995…

Needless to say… picking at old wounds not only upset Japan, but raised the ire of much more powerful China (than it was in 1945). 

Finally, on May 31, 2000 an offer was made by the Tokyo High Court and accepted by the Red Cross Society of China on behalf of the defendants and the Kajima Corporation…

A total of ¥500,000,000 (~US$4,500,000) was to be given to the plaintiffs by the Kajima Corporation, a monetary amount to be shared amongst the next-of-kin and the survivors.

Okay… from that monetary number, we can assume that the initial compensation request was made as a per person deal, and the final and accepted offer is for ¥500,000,000 for everyone to be divided… sadly 16 years passed since the initial request for an apology and museum et al… so the minimum age for survivors would be about 74 (based on an 18-year-old minimum at the time of the incident in 1945).

Fewer survivors get compensated, though their next-of-kin are.

The amount of money given to each survivor plaintiff and survivor next-of-kin, depends on their "closeness" to the incident.... meaning a grandchild as the lone survivor next-of-kin will NOT get nearly as much as a survivor.

Here are the Provisions Of The Settlement:

Section 1. The both parties concerned reconfirm the joint statement issued on July 5, 1990. However, the defendant insisted that the joint statement does not acknowledge the legal responsibility of the defendant and the appellants took note this claim.

Section 2. In order to settle the problem described in Section 2 of the aforementioned joint statement, and to commemorate those who underwent ordeals at the work site of the Hanaoka branch office (We call them "the victims" from now on.), the defendant will entrust a 500 million yen fund to the Chinese Red Cross (From now on, we call it "the interested party.").
The interested party will receive and manage this fund, and the appellants will accept this entrustment.

Section 3. The defendant will deposit the total amount for the trust fund concerning this case to the bank account that will be designated by the attorney for the interested party, Takashi Niimi, by December 11th, 2000.

Section 4. The interested party (From now on, we will call it "the entrusted party" in this document.) will manage this fund entitled as the "Hanaoka Peace and Goodwill Foundation," and use it in the following ways:

  1. The entrusted party will establish the managing committee for the Hanaoka Peace and Goodwill Foundation (From now on, we call it as "the managing committee.") for the purpose of the proper management and use of this fund.
  2. The managing committee will consist no more than nine members. The committee chair who will be appointed from the members by a selection by these members themselves will represent the committee. However, the defendant may appoint one of the members if so desires. The members will establish the details of the organization of the managing committee and the clerical procedures for the operation of the trust fund.
  3. In the spirit of promoting friendship between China and Japan, the fund will be used for providing memorial services for the victims, the self-help efforts and care of the victims and their families, and education of their children.
  4. As the beneficiary of the trust fund, the victims and their families will receive payment, amount of which will be determined by the managing committee.
  5. When it makes the aforementioned payment to the victims and their families, the entrusted party will describe the fact that the fund was provided by the defendant as well as the provisions of this settlement. In addition, the entrusted party should obtain from the recipient of the payment two copies of a written document that demonstrates that s/he approves this settlement (with a signature or a seal bearing her/his name), and provide one of the copies to the defendant.
  6. The managing committee will determine the range of the family members who will receive the payment by reviewing the situation of each family.
  7. The managing committee will make the utmost efforts for investigating the victims and their families by procuring other agencies and organizations that have understood the provisions of this settlement.
  8. The trust will be dissolved after having achieved its purposes by the decision of the managing committee. The committee will determine how to use the remaining fund.
Section 5. This settlement aims at resolving all the issues concerning the Hanaoka Incident, and comprises the acknowledgment on the part of the victims, including the appellants, that all the issues have been resolved, and that they will relinquish the right to claim any other reparations in Japan and any other countries and regions outside it.

In the case in which others than the appellants requested reparations to the defendant, regardless of whether they were the ones who provided the document as specified in Article 5 of Section 4 or not, the interested party and the appellants must resolve this problem and prevent the defendant from bearing a burden.

Section 6. Through a mutual acknowledgment, it has been confirmed that there is no other legal claim or liability between the appellants and the interested party, and the defendant.

Section 7. The appellants and the defendant will pay legal and settlement fees on their own both for the first and second trials.

Section 8. The official document of this settlement is written in Japanese.

From what I can tell, there were only 11 true plaintiffs, and that these 11 plaintiffs will receive 30 percent of the ¥500 million, with the remaining 70 percent to be distributed by the Chinese Red Cross Society to any surviving victims and their next-of-kin.

How does it affect the world today?

It actually sets quite the precedent.

Japan, with this ruling, has set itself up for other compensation claims against other Japanese companies during WWII…

And still... it continues....  

87-year-old Zhang Guangxun (right), a survivor of the Hanaoka Incident, asks for apology and compensation from Japanese government during a press conference in Osaka, Japan, June 26, 2015. (Xinhua/Ma Xinghua)
See the image directly above... this was taken from HERE, a New China web media business... it is dated June 26, 2015... which begs the question... WTF?

I thought everything was settled in 2000???!!! 

Where they never paid? Did the apology never get sent?Actually... they were... and the Memorial Museum was built.

What is going on, however, is that after suing and winning their lawsuit against Kajima, the Chinese plaintiffs are now suing the Japanese government.

Kajima Corporation, now owned by parent company Dowa Holdings, was a major construction firm - here’s a few highlights using proper labor:

  • 1957: constructed Japan’s first nuclear reactor;
  • 1959: construction of the Tokaido Shinkansen begins;
  • 1963: construction of facilities for 1964 Tokyo Olympics;
  • 1968: Kasumigaseki building completed, Japan’s first high-rise construct;
  • 1988: completed Seikan Tunnel - world’s longest tunnel; 
  • 1994: Kansai International Airport completed;
  • 2001: Suez Canal Bridge completed;
  • 2010: Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore completed;
  • 2011: Dubai Metro train system completed.
Hmmm… I’m guessing they can afford the compensation payments.And, as you can see, the "spoils of war"  - are in evidence in Japan and around the world even today. 

As for the Hanaoka Mine itself? In 1994 it was declared to be no longer profitable, and was closed down.

I can see the reasons behind suing both Kajima (as the Hanaoka Mine owner), and The Japanese Government for being in charge (hardly) during WWII for the Japanese Imperial Army - both conspiring to bring in forced labor...

But, if Zhang Guangxun is still alive at 89 (in 2017), does he need another pay-off?

Given that Japan and China are currently having a peeing contest and squabbling over so many military things, the latest lawsuit smacks of gamesmanship... as a means to further embarrass Japan.

Since the Kajima court case was won in 2000AD, instead of waiting until 2015 - why did the Chinese group not immediately file a lawsuit against the Government of Japan?

It doesn't mean that the lawsuit wasn't the correct thing to do... it's just that the timing of it seems less about forced labor victims, and more about politics.  

It's 70+ years later... the Japanese business was successfully sued... but can you sue a country for damages after so many years?

It doesn't matter if things weren't discovered  until later or weeks after the fact, if it wasn't in the terms of surrender and the subsequent peace treaties, then I don'[t see how any country, let alone private citizen has a leg to stand on for anything.

The Chinese workers successfully played upon the conscience of the offending Japanese company... but the country has already done "it's time".

I mean, where would it stop? Can Koreans or Vietnamese sue countries that left behind land mines from the 1950s-'70s? Could surviving next-of-kin sue manufacturers of weapons or ammunition, citing that their relative would not have died if they were not creating a supply for warring countries or warring factions to purchase?

If we are talking about relatives of victims, do the Jews get to sue the Germans for the Holocaust... sue companies for making the gas in the chambers?

Do grandkids who lost time with their grandpa get to sue countris and weapons manufacturers from the Boer War - citing that it made life difficult for a parent, grandkid... and that subsequently made like difficult for the great-grand-kid?

Let me postulate this one... but using WWI as an example.

Johnny from Canada goes marching off to war - hurrah-hurrah.
Johnny gets a lungful of poisonous mustard gas, survives, goes home, dies in his late 20s from a weak set of lungs - caused by the gas.
Johnny has a 2-year-old son... grows up w/o a dad... dirt poor because mom was the sole provider.
Johnny is picked on by peers, physically smacked around by an angry mother because the kid is a further drain on her sparse resources...
Johnny's kid learns all about violent behavior.
When he grows up, he applies his violent behavior to his wife and kids. Let's say it gets him into trouble with the law...
Johnny's kid is in jail because he didn't have the proper role-model. Johnny's grand kids are now without a father to provide for them... having a crookm or violent offender for a dad doesn't help them...
And it continues... Johnny's grandkids aren't stupid, but the emotional impact is enough for dropouts, drug and alcohol abuse as teens and higher... the grand kids don't have money because Johhny's son is an ex-con who doesn't care about anything...
This could take us to the 1960s... with the cycle continuing... maybe Johnny's great grandkids are not trouble-makers, but still suffer from financial inequity... can't go to university or college... life is a struggle... and their kids... the same...

Can the great-great-grand kids sue the manufacturers of the mustard gas that could be pointed to as the downfall of the family line? Could you sue the Germans who used the gas? Could you sue the Canadian government for sending him over without the proper training or gasmask equipment? 

You can't.

There has to be a statute of limitations...

I know my above scenario is ridiculous, but as ridiculous as it seems, I am sure variations of such chaining of events did occur... how can you say it didn't.

Stepping outside again... people talk about how mental illness is a terrible thing to have - and it is... but few talk about those who have to live with people with mental illness and how much stress (financial, emotional, physical) it also places on people... some of which you won't see for another generation... I'm not laying blame here, the point is that aside from being killed by a bullet, there are much deeper side effects to people to any event...

In the case of the Hanaoka Mine Incident, I am sure that has looooooong since past - regardless if there are still survivors of the horrible event still alive today.

Andrew Joseph
PS: This took a lot of time to research and write... and I'm burnt out from the topic. I don't even want to tell you how many times I had to rewrite content as I kept finding  conflicting documents. 

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