JAPAN - In 1990, Zhao Yujie, a young teacher of Japanese at a high school, decided to fully exploit her linguistic skills by applying for a job at Jilin Provincial Archives. Although she wasn't aware of the fact, Zhao had applied at exactly the right time. The management of the archives was searching for Japanese speakers to help decipher a huge number of records, totaling about 100,000 documents, made by the Japanese and detailing the activities of the Imperial Army during the occupation of China.
Recently, 89 of the 100,000 files discovered in Changchun, the provincial capital, have been made available to the public for the first time. The documents were buried following Japan's surrender in August 1945. At the time, Changchun, then called Hsingking, was the capital of the Japanese-controlled puppet state of Manchukuo, which covered most of Manchuria.
Eighty-seven of the files describe the activities of Kwantung Kempeitai, or military police corps, while the other two detail the work of the Manchukuo central bank. Because around 90 per cent of the files were written in Japanese, the words, photos, audio material and blueprints provide clear descriptions of the behaviour of the Japanese troops in the period 1931 to 1945.
The documents provide insights into Japan's invasion, its battle plans and colonisation strategies, and key episodes such as the Nanjing Massacre, the use of sex slaves, or "comfort women" as they were known, bacteriological experiments on prisoners and civilians, suppression of an anti-Japanese army in China's Northeast, and the inhuman treatment of civilians, soldiers and Allied prisoners of War.
"As the largest batch of Japanese archives covering the period from 1931 to 1945 to be discovered so far, these files are of great historical value. They detail Japan's cruelty to the people of the countries it occupied," said Dong Hongmao, director of the Institute of Japanese History at the Jilin Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.