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Prisoner of war camps in Japan

記事ID:0001821 更新日:2020年11月30日更新 印刷ページ表示 大きな文字で印刷ページ表示 <外部リンク>

Treatment of the prisoners of war

It is said that eight to nine million people worldwide were taken prisoner during World War I. The Convention Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (the Hague Convention), which was signed at the Second Hague Peace Conference held in The Hague, the Netherlands in 1907, was the first stipulation of an international agreement on the prisoners of war. Japan ratified this convention in 1911. Article 4 to Article 20 in Chapter II of the Convention stipulate the provisions on prisoners of war, with Article 4 stating that prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.

The number of prisoners captured by the Japanese military was smaller than the number on the European front, but the Japanese government was required to treat prisoners of war in compliance with the Convention. The Japanese government introduced legislation on prisoners of war by first revising the “Rules on Treatment of Prisoners of War” established during the Russo-Japanese War and instituting the “Regulations on Treatment of Prisoners of War” and the “Act on Punishment of Prisoners of War.” On September 14, 1914, the Japanese government established the “Prisoner of War InTelligence Bureau” under the direction of the Minister of War and decided that the German and Austro-Hungarian soldiers who were taken prisoner in the battle of Qingdao would be interned at separate prisoner of war camps set up across the country.

Prisoner of war camps across the country

The prisoners of war who left Qingdao on November 14, 1914, arrived at the port of Moji, Fukuoka on November 17 and entered the port of Ujina, Hiroshima the following day. At the port, they were divided into groups and sent to their places of internment. Initially, there were 12 prisoner of war camps located across the country.

Early-established prisoner of war camps

  • Tokyo: From November 1914 to September 1915
  • Shizuoka: From November 1914 to August 1918
  • Nagoya: From November 1914 to September 1915
  • Osaka: From November 1914 to February 1917
  • Himeji: From November 1914 to September 1915
  • Tokushima: From December 1914 to April 1917
  • Marugame: From November 1914 to April 1917
  • Matsuyama: From November 1914 to April 1917
  • Fukuoka: From November 1914 to April 1918
  • Kurume: From November 1914 to March 1915
  • Oita: From November 1914 to August 1918
  • Kumamoto: From November 1914 to June 1915

These early prisoner of war camps used buildings leased from temples and shrines, public facilities or private buildings. But after September 1915, full-scale camps with special facilities were established and the early camps were consolidated and relocated. In the end, Japanese prisoner of war camps were concentrated in six places: Narashino (relocated from Tokyo, Fukuoka, Oita and Shizuoka), Nagoya (relocated from another place in the city), Aonogahara (relocated from Himeji), Bando (relocated from Tokushima, Marugame and Matsuyama), Ninoshima (relocated from Osaka) and Kurume (relocated from another place in the city and Kumamoto). These six prisoner of war camps were established within the Army’s military grounds and were used until around January 1920 when almost all prisoners were released.

Late-established prisoner of war camps

  • Narashino: From November 1915 to December 1919
  • Nagoya: From September 1915 to January 1920
  • Aonogahara: From September 1915 to January 1920
  • Bando: From April 1917 to January 1920
  • Ninoshima: From February 1917 to January 1920
  • Kurume: From June 1915 to January 1920

The Kurume Prisoner of War Camp

Internment of prisoners of war began in Kurume in October 1914, and was in full operation by November 15 after the arrival of the prisoners from Qingdao. The prisoners had been interned at separate makeshift camps, including the luxury restaurant Kokaen in Kurume, and the Business Affairs office of the Otani Sect, but a full-scale internment camp started operations in June 1915 at what used to be the new Army Hospital building. Some of the prisoners from the Fukuoka Prisoner of War Camp and all the prisoners from the Kumamoto Prisoner of War Camp were also moved to Kurume, totaling 1,309 (as of October 21, 1916), and this camp became the largest one in Japan. One opinion is that the prisoners of war were treated harshly because some of the soldiers from Kurume were killed in action at Qingdao. But looking at the punishment records, it is difficult to substantiate this. Surviving records describe the many music performances that took place at this prisoner of war camp.

The Narashino Prisoner of War Camp

The Narashino Prisoner of War Camp started operations in September 1915, holding prisoners who had been interned at the Sensouji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo. Situated fairly close to Tokyo, this camp was under international scrutiny, and played a role as a model camp. Music was such an important activity for the prisoners that the camp is known for performing the Blue Danube for the first time in Japan.

The Bando Prisoner of War Camp

Initially, there were prisoner of war camps in Tokushima, Matsuyama and Marugame in the Shikoku region, but the Bando Prisoner of War Camp was established in 1917 by consolidating those camps. The camps at Tokushima and Matsuyama had already published their own newspapers, which were taken over to become the Barrack newspaper. Reprinted and Japanese editions are currently available to read. Music activities were also taken over and this camp is known for performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the first time in Japan. The movie Baruto no Gakuen (Ode an die Freude in German) is set at this camp.

The Nagoya Prisoner of War Camp

In Nagoya, prisoners were initially interned at the Otani Sect Branch Temple. But a full-scale camp was constructed at the site of the Army Engineering Corps’ military exercises in Higashi-ward in September 1915 and the prisoners were sent to the new camp, which interned about 500 prisoners. This was a small-scale camp, but it was located in the downtown area with many places of employment and contributed to developing industries in Nagoya. One of the internees, Freundlieb, was later hired by Pasco Shikishima Corporation. He eventually opened a bakery in Kobe and became quite famous.

The Ninoshima Prisoner of War Camp

Ninoshima, which is located off the coast of the port of Hiroshima, is shaped like Mt. Fuji and is thus called Ninoshima Island (resembling island). In 1917, about 500 prisoners of war who had been interned at an isolation facility in Osaka were sent to this camp. There were military facilities on this island, including a horse quarantine station. In addition, because the camp was close to a military port at Kure and was structured with fences that prevented a view of the surrounding landscape, it felt isolated. Juchheim, an internee, started selling baumkuchen, a traditional German cake, to the other prisoners. It became very popular and he continued selling it after the war.


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