A Japanese Memoir of Sumatra, 1945-1946: Love and Hatred in the Liberation War.
Captain Fusayama trained as a dentist before the war, and in later years became a professor of dentistry in Tokyo. Soon after graduating he was pressed into military service, however, retraining at the Military Communication School before being posted as a wireless officer to the Imperial Guard Division. His war began in China in 1938, but on March 12, 1942 he landed with his Division on the coast of East Sumatra. He spent the war rather agreeably between Aceh and Medan. "My life in Medan was ... as pleasant as if I were already released from army service" (p. 23).
He learned passable Indonesian, and befriended a number of Indonesians, notably the families of two of the leading Toba Batak intellectuals in the city, Volksraad member Mangaradja Soeangkoepon (Siregar) and Dr. Nainggolan. Through them he conducted what he called his "folklore studies" of Batak culture, perceiving many similarities between Batak and Japanese mythology. In 1975, a year after revisiting Sumatra for the first time, he published a book in Japan on the "Mystical Batak People", largely compiled during these wartime "studies". They no doubt tended to confirm the conviction he had formed from reading some of the ethnological theories popular in Japan before the war, that Japan had been colonised 2,000 years ago by "proto-Malaysians" moving from the Asian Mainland progressively to the Indonesian and Philippine Archipelagoes and then Taiwan (p. 21). This theory animated much of his pleading during the difficult revolutionary time that the Japanese and Indonesians were brothers who should not fight each other.
Most of the memoir is concerned with the five heady months between the Japanese surrender and his confinement in the Japanese camp awaiting repatriation in mid-January 1946. Fusayama's contacts with leading nationalists, and his sympathy for their cause, gave him a crucial mediating role in those months of rising anti-Japanese tension, and for six weeks in December-January he was formally placed in the Imperial Guards Division Liaison Office for Indonesian affairs in Medan. Japanese-Indonesian relations deteriorated rapidly, culminating in the Tebing Tinggi affair of 13 December when General Sawamura responded to an escalating series of atrocities against Japanese soldiers by a brutal attack on the Republican activists of Pesindo in that city, in which more than a thousand died. He provides interesting detail on the motives and personalities of the Japanese actors in this drama, notably the mild Captain lio, whose 60-man liaison unit in Tebing Tinggi was massacred by the pemuda after surrendering their few arms to them; and the "warm and sincere" Major-General Sawamura, who eventually responded so ferociously in part because of his own guilt in having forbidden some of the isolated groups of Japanese to defend themselves before they were massacred.
Fusayama also has some new details about the role of Japanese deserters fighting on the Republican side, and about Pesindo Pasukan 5, a shadowy fighting organization of Bataks and Malays influenced by Soangkoepon and Nainggolan, but led by the thuggish Sihite. This organization played a part in the political polarization of East Sumatra, apparently being used by some elite elements and perhaps even by the Dutch or British as a counterforce to the more radical pemuda. Its demise in early 1946 under accusations of being an enemy agent was a prelude to the social revolution which swept away the Malay rulers in March 1946. Fusayama has some poignant details about the crisis which overcame these would-be nationalists as they attempted to ride the tiger of the revolution.
This memoir will be most widely appreciated, however, as a Japanese view of the Indonesian revolution in Sumatra. A supporter of the revolution, Fusayama himself was caught in many dilemmas as he watched it turn against his own people. The quiet cooperation he sought behind the backs of the Allied Military Administration was put under terrible strain by cruelties on both sides, and he left Sumatra with the knowledge that the relationship had soured into hatred. He was therefore overjoyed when the Sumatra veterans began to make nostalgic trips, and to be welcomed warmly by some of their former clients and pupils in Sumatra. "I felt an unspeakable contentment that the love between the Japanese and Indonesians ... was no illusion" (p. 145). He himself returned in 1974 in connection with a dental conference, and in 1979 and 1990 as a guest of grateful Indonesian comrades.
These emotive visits encouraged him to publish this memoir in Japanese in 1981, and then to translate it himself into English. In about 1988 Fusayama visited the English military historian Louis Allen at his home in Durham, and it was Allen who recommended the memoir to Cornell for publication. How much the text has been edited by others is not made clear. It is in adequate if not elegant English, and the difficult task of rendering names from Japanese into correct romanization has been well done (I noted only two mistakes in the names of estates, Malihat for Marehat and Herbetia for Helvetia). There are a number of precious line sketches and photos of the period, presumably from Fusayama's own collection. Saya Shiraishi provides a poignant brief introduction which whets our appetite for the many other fascinating stories which might be told by Japanese about their Sumatran adventure.
Anthony Reid Australian National University
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|Publication:||Journal of Southeast Asian Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 1996|
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