Defeat in World War 2 left a horde of Japanese colonists stranded in northern Asia, including 13-year-old Susumu Noda, who was born and raised in the port city of Dalian at the southern tip of Manchuria. It took him 1-1/2 years to be repatriated to Japan — a country he didn’t know. In the meantime, his mother and father struggled to feed Susumu and his twin younger brothers. Japanese refugees from the north were not so lucky.
When the Russian army poured into Manchuria, the Japanese people living in Manchuria were put in a bad position.
These people wanted to go back to Japan. They had come here from Japan and wanted to make it like Japan, but now they wanted to go back. So many of them had come from Nagano Prefecture.
The people in the north, including many who were Mantetsu employees, wanted to go south to Dalian because it was a port.
The train service, however, was interrupted. When a train did run, people would be so happy because they thought they could board. But they were not permitted. The military had priority and Mantetsu officials. Ordinary people were ordered to walk. But that’s not walking distance.
But people finally did arrive in Dalian, many, many of them. How did they get there? For some that meant killing their babies or giving them away.
Individuals who arrived went to the elementary school, where each received one blanket or something like that and had to make do. They were in a pitiful state. There were children but no food. Dalian gets very cold, like -10 C. And with malnutrition, people suffered from night blindness.
In the Japanese neighborhoods, people were going through the garbage, but we weren’t throwing away anything that could be eaten as food.
Every day trucks would come and take away the dead bodies. Oh, it was so sad, those poor people from the north. They went through all that, and finally got there, thinking then they would be able to get a ship, but there were no ships. There was nothing to do but wait in Dalian.
We didn’t have that much to eat, so we couldn’t give them any.
In the year and a half before we were repatriated, I never had a single grain of white Japanese rice. We ate food meant for horses. You boil it in a pot and that was what we subsisted on for a year and a half.
The people who came from the north couldn’t even get that. There was so little food distributed by the collective. Those like us who had been in Dalian since before had things to sell, so we could get money to buy food.
Our mothers sold their kimonos. We had radios and different things to sell. The people buying were mostly Russian soldiers, although there were some Chinese too. “Harasho” is how you say good in Russian. “Atnichna” is how you say “very good.”
My mother would say that and also “atnichna” when she sold something. She would give us a little money and we could buy some Chinese bread. But we could never ever get any rice.
I had two younger brothers, twins. I was in junior high school, and they were in elementary school. So you know that we got hungry but there was nothing that could be done about that. Our stomachs were always rumbling.
In the process of repatriation, I could get work helping people carry things. I would get ¥100 which wasn’t very much money but I would go to the bakery and buy some Chinese bread and eat it.