Organized Panel Session
Following the collapse of Japan’s Empire in 1945 approximately 6.9 million Japanese were repatriated from the former colonies and occupied territories to the main islands of Japan. Recent research investigates how repatriates dispersed unevenly across the country and came to be concentrated in particular areas such as Hokkaido. Furthermore, repatriates went where they had a connection such as a family member or a distant history of migration. By 1950 Hokkaido had the largest number of repatriates of any prefecture (approximately 500,000). Of this number, almost two-thirds came from the former colony of Karafuto (southern Sakhalin).
This paper examines the arrival to and resettlement in Hokkaido of Karafuto repatriates. Analysing newspapers, repatriate newsletters, local government documents and memoirs I argue that Karafuto repatriates played an important – but previously under-examined – role in the regional identity building that took place in Hokkaido in the 1950s. I focus on repatriate groups’ leaders to establish what their aims were and how they differed from those of ‘ordinary’ repatriates. In particular, the connections that developed between these leaders and local politicians in Hokkaido suggest that Karafuto repatriates were a significant part of the electorate whose wishes could not be ignored.