2020: Sensō Koji (War Orphans) in Postwar Japan

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Source: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 13 | Number 1 | Article ID 5409 | Jun 25, 2020

The Origins and Plight of Sensō Koji (War Orphans) in Postwar Japan

Mariko Asano Tamanoi

In Japan, sensō koji (war orphans) are often identified as furōji (juvenile vagrants). The dominant image of sensō koji is therefore a street child engaging in a variety of adult survival activities in such cities as Tokyo after the war’s end. This essay aims to problematize this myth. In the first part, I reconsider the meaning of koji, sensō koji and furōji as socially “constructed” terms after the onset of the Meiji Era (1868-1912). In the second part, I focus on the voices and experiences of the majority of sensō koji, who were taken into their relatives’ homes immediately after the loss of their parents. The war took the lives of many children. Sensō koji survived. However, it was only since the 1970s that they began to speak about their wartime and postwar experiences to fulfill their obligation. Did the wartime state truly “protect” the nation’s children? Their ultimate goal seems to be to answer this question.

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