Micronesia under the Empire of Japan: before and after the War


Recently a visitor named ‘hoihoi’ posted some links to a series of videos about the history of Micronesia. I didn’t post the comment in question because it was fairly off-topic, but I went back and watched the videos anyway and thought they were quite interesting. The videos are actually posted by the Micronesian Seminar and cover the history of Micronesia from early European colonialism to the modern, independent era we see today.

Part 3 covers the history of Micronesia when they were entrusted to the Empire of Japan in 1923 by the League of Nations:

Life under Japanese administration was apparently strict for Micronesian kids growing up:

Under the Imperial education system, the best native students in Micronesia could only achieve carpentry jobs or work as errand boys. This seems analogous to life in colonial Korea and Manchuria where natives generally held lower-positions compared to Japanese administrators even if they mastered the education system. Like many European colonies in Asia, life in the Empire of Japan definitely was hierarchical with every race segmented into certain roles. Japanese were socially at the top followed by Koreans and Okinawans and natives at the bottom.

But it’s also interesting to see how many Micronesians have Japanese names, or can sing the same Japanese childrens’ songs that even my daughter knows. That Micronesians tried very hard to emulate Japanese fashion and food is noteworthy.

Economically, Micronesia definitely prospered in the 1920’s and 1930’s:

However, after 1941, the situation in Micronesia definitely took a turn for the worse, and Japanese troops turned on the native population with increasingly brutal force:

It’s also interesting to hear the war stories from native Micronesians as well:

I was touched by the story of one man whose father tried to convince the Japanese radio operator for the garrison on Kwajalein Atoll to just give up before the Americans arrive, but his Japanese friend couldn’t face the shame back home. They hugged and cried, and separated for good. But I was also saddened by the trauma that people on Chuuk and Peleliu suffered. Reminds me of an old post I wrote a long time ago.

Anyhow, after watching most of 3rd series and some of the 4th series, I was greatly impressed by the whole series. The War in the Pacific is a well studied subject for war historians and such, but hearing life under the Empire of Japan by Micronesians themselves shows a whole new and more complex dimension to the history there. The Japanese were friends, mentors, and at times brutal rulers to the Micronesians, but as can be seen by Micronesians today, they left a tremendous impact on life there that is still felt there.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

2 thoughts on “Micronesia under the Empire of Japan: before and after the War”

  1. Ha ha, not really. I just watched the videos. 🙂 Also, I learned about Asian colonial history in college, so it’s a subject I am comfortable with. If you asked me American/European history, I would be in trouble. 😉


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