CHINA / POLITICS
"The Eighth Route Army Treats Us as Friends, Brothers and Comrades." — A Cradle of China-Japan Friendship on Baota Mountain
Published: May 21, 2021 04:04 PM
In November 1940, the CPC Central Committee and the General Political Department of the Eighth Route Army decided to establish a special school — Yan'an Japanese Worker and Peasant School, in order to reeducate the Japanese prisoners of war (POW) and defectors during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. On May 15, 1941, the school was officially opened at the southern foot of Baota Mountain, Yan'an.

Group photo of trainees from Yan'an Japanese Worker and Peasant School at the foot of Baota Mountain

Group photo of trainees from Yan'an Japanese Worker and Peasant School at the foot of Baota Mountain

"There's no car or train. What a backward place it is! Can the Eighth Route Army defeat the Japanese troops merely with its second-rate weapons? How are we going to live together with the Eighth Route Army who lives on poor diet of millet, corn and beans?" This was how the Japanese POW Oyama Mitsuyoshi felt when he first arrived in Yan'an in early 1941, as narrated in his article How We Fourteen Japanese Came to Yan'an.

It was not easy to change the mentality of the Japanese POWs. At the beginning, they showed instinctive hostility and even attacked the Chinese rescuers. Yet the Eighth Route Army still treated them with sincerity and humanity, respected their personal dignity and beliefs. In the Worker and Peasant School, no high walls were erected or guards posted. No coercive or oppressive measures such as physical punishment and beating were used against the Japanese POWs. The Japanese trainees in the school were treated as foreign friends. Despite the harsh conditions, they were rationed to 7.5 kg of rice, 7.5 kg of flour, 1.5 kg of pork and 15 kg of vegetables per month per person at a time when sometimes even millet rice was a luxury for the CPC cadres and soldiers.

Oyama Mitsuyoshi wrote that the Chinese captain took good care of them and always tried to meet their requirements as much as he could. The Eighth Route Army made every effort to improve Japanese trainees' life. The Chinese soldiers vacated their own rooms, welcomed and treated them with concrete actions and educated them with facts. Given all this, even the most incorrigible ones would feel grateful and would never want to commit bad acts again.

Nakakoji Shizuo, another trainee, recalled that they could make their own decisions on their study, life and extracurricular activities. All teachers spoke Japanese at class and what they taught was easy to understand and very popular among the trainees. The school provided diverse courses from Marxism-Leninism, political economics and social development history, to Japanese issues, Chinese issues, Chinese culture and language. Baseball and volleyball were also included in regular courses. Every day in Yan'an, the Japanese students could feel the genuine kindness towards them and the vitality of Yan'an where democracy was thriving.

Ice will eventually melt in spring. With the change of their mentality, the Japanese trainees were granted the right to vote and to be elected. When the second general election was held in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia border region in 1941, in accordance with the principle of democratic governance, the Japanese trainee Mori Takeshi was elected as member of the Consultative Council of the border region, and another trainee Nakakoji Shizuo was elected as member of the Consultative Council of the Yan'an City. They got to directly participate in the work of the democratic government of the border region.

In October 1941, at the Congress of Representatives of Eastern Peoples Against Fascism held in Yan'an, 35 Japanese trainees, including Oyama Mitsuyoshi, took an oath to officially join the Eighth Route Army. They wrote in the Letter to the Commanders and Soldiers of the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army "You didn't insult us, kill us or treat us as the enemy, but gave us full freedom, equality, safety and favorable treatment. The Eighth Route Army treats us as friends, brothers and comrades." In the later period of the war, the Anti-war Alliance, mainly composed of graduates from Yan'an Japanese Worker and Peasant School, was reorganized into the Japanese People's Liberation Alliance. Some Japanese comrades made the ultimate sacrifice for the anti-war cause.

On August 30, 1945, the Yan'an Japanese Worker and Peasant School, which had been running for more than four years and trained and educated hundreds of Japanese soldiers, finished its historic mission. The friendship between the Eighth Route Army and Japanese trainees forged in Baota Mountain is still fondly remembered today. This part of history shows that the Chinese nation has the backbone to defy aggression and the courage to fight back, and at the same time cherishes peace and benevolence all the more. The Chinese people strive to achieve peace and justice by pursuing international justice and the greater good.

A wounded Japanese member of Anti-war Alliance in China shouts at the enemy

A wounded Japanese member of Anti-war Alliance in China shouts at the enemy



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