The Japanese experience in Taiwan:
the immigrant village during the Japanese period
（Associate Professor, Department of History, Tamkang University）
The names of many townships, towns and villages in eastern Taiwan have a slightly Japanese flavor to them, such as Chihshang (Ikegami) Village, Rueisuei (Mizuho) Village and Fengtien (Toyota) Village. Much of the architecture and irrigation engineering tells us about the policies and management direction of the Japanese government during the period when it governed Taiwan. However, when the Japanese were defeated at the end of the Second World War, the departure of the Japanese from Taiwan and painstaking neglect by the KMT ensured that this period of history gradually sunk into obscurity. This week’s Window on Taiwan is written by Lin Cheng-jung, associate professor in Tamkang University’s history department, who looks at this period of Taiwan’s history under Japanese rule from a historian’s perspective.
The only way to solve the domestic population problem:move to the colony of Taiwan
Around the turn of the last century, Japan was influenced by Western ideas of liberal colonization, consideration of the rapidly increasing population, national defense and industrial adjustment led those people with foresight in Meiji Japan realize the importance of developing the Japanese race overseas. From the perspective of the population argument in particular, emigration overseas had already become the one and only solution to the rapid growth of the Japanese population. In 1895, thanks to the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Taiwan became a colony of Japan, and this brought a glimmer of hope as a solution to Japan’s population problem.
Starting in 1906, the Taiwan Governor’s Office intermittently drew up plans to encourage Japanese citizens to emigrate to Taiwan. Since the fertile, flat areas of Taiwan had already been developed by the local inhabitants, suitable lands for Japanese immigrants were limited, and the land that was available had poor soil. The plans for “immigrant villages” for the Japanese in Taiwan were mostly broken off for this reason. However, after several years of suspension, the Governor’s Office would once again begin to plan a new wave of immigration. The process of governing Taiwan was closely tied up with changes in Japan’s domestic politics, economy and society, and the establishment of an immigration project for the new immigrants was related to economic problems in contemporary Japanese society, particularly as a solution to the economic problems of rural villages. This was also the main factor behind the interest shown in agricultural immigrants in particular, among other kinds of immigrants.
The four stages of the immigration project
We can divide the immigration project on Taiwan into four stages, from establishment to end: early privately-run immigration projects, early government-run immigration projects, later privately-run immigration projects, and later government-run immigration projects. The difference between government-run and privately-run immigration projects was that the former were not run for profit, and the latter were, so as to help develop land for immigrants to inhabit. However, all of the above belonged to groups of immigrants. Apart from these, there were also individual immigrant type enterprises which existed alongside these. Also, according to the different occupations of the immigrants, we can make four further distinctions of agricultural immigrants, laborer immigrants, fishermen immigrants and commercial and industrial immigrants. If we discuss the timeframe of the immigration periods of resident, then we can separate the immigrants into two kinds: short-term (or seasonal) immigrants and long-term immigrants. Although there were all kinds of immigrants, the mainstream immigrant livelihoods continued to center around agriculture. Below are summarized the stages of Japan’s immigration project in Taiwan and the results of its management.
The establishment of the first phase of privately-run immigrant ties in mainly with 1906, after the Russo-Japanese War, the “period of vigorous growth for enterprises” and the “post-war panic of 1907~1910.” In order to stop Japanese capitalism prematurely sinking into the contradictory situation of a surplus of capital, and to resolve the stagnation of agricultural production and the impoverishment of agricultural villages after the Russo-Japanese War, Japan tried giving out land in Taiwan, with permission to develop it, to encourage Japanese citizens to emigrate to Taiwan. There were 38 pieces of land in all which immigrants were to be allowed to develop, but in actual fact only nine of these pieces of land attracted immigrants to come and operate on them. However, the immigration project of the initial phase failed, since many of the immigrants either ran away, returned home or changed jobs.
The initial phase of the early government-run immigration project was based in the knowledge that “the colonization of Taiwan by the Japanese people is a necessary part of Japanese rule,” and whether it was to regulate Japan’s excess population, or get the Japanese people accustomed to developing tropical regions, or to assimilate Taiwan’s defenses and people, the existence of the immigration projects was always necessary. In 1909, the Taiwan Governor’s Office set about making plans for a government-run immigration project, to tie in with Taiwan’s colonial function, and even trained people to increase the role of the agricultural colonists and tried to play a leading role in advancing the immigration project.
In considering where to locate immigrant districts, the Taiwan Governor’s Office for the moment limited suitable areas to eastern Taiwan. Consequently, when the government-run immigration project started to operate, they focused on developing the Harbor Offices at Hualien and Taitung on the East Coast. Although 15 areas were designated as suitable destinations for immigrants during this period, it proved impossible to reach a consensus with Aboriginal people over the land to accommodate the immigrants in the Taitung region, with the result that the areas actually attracting immigrants to come and develop them were limited to three village below under the jurisdiction of Hualien Harbor Office: Chiye (Yoshino) Village, Fengtien (Toyota) Village and Lintien (Hayashida) Village. In 1917, the discontinuation of the government-run immigration project was announced. Two different explanations are given for this. One is that the Taiwan Governor’s Office had already achieved its goal of model immigration, and there was no longer any need to continue with the government-run immigration project. However, prior research made a negative evaluation of the government-run immigration project, and in order to develop these undeveloped areas in the east, the costs of obtaining the land, building immigrant villages and on top of this, unforeseeable natural disasters finally led to financial difficulties and it became impossible to carry on the program satisfactorily, and so it was wound up.
The establishment of policies encouraging and subsidizing later privately-run immigration projects came about mainly because the earlier government-run immigration projects had been, from the moment they started, run in the not-for-profit category. This meant that from that point on, huge sums of capital were paid out, and the Taiwan Governor’s Office realized the need to re-orientate the operational direction of the immigration project. In 1917, having drafted a set of “Essentials to Encourage and Reward Immigration,” the first to benefit was the Taitung Sugar Manufacturing Company. With financial aid from the Taiwan Governor’s Office and investment by the company itself, the Taitung Sugar Manufacturing Company and the Taitung Development Company, which was established later, constructed 11 immigration villages in the Taitung area. By 1924, however, because of the difficulties in obtaining land for the Pijun Irrigation Region, it was quite impossible to balance revenue and expenditure, and on top of this, the Bank of Taiwan took an unyielding stance towards granting loans to the company, and it became increasingly difficult to promote the company’s achievements. Many of the immigrants fled and finally the company folded.
The latter-stage government-run immigration project was established in 1932, and although extant documents don’t explain the objectives for the advancement of the entire project, they must have been related to impoverishment of Japanese agricultural villages from the beginning of the Showa era (i.e. beginning of Emperor Hirohito’s reign, 1926) and the establishment of the “Southward March” policy. With what they had learnt from the failures of the immigration projects over the past 20 years, irrigation engineering and construction was now an integral part of the immigration project.
Accordingly, under the operation of the national company, the Taiwan Colonization Company, the later government-run immigration projects can be divided into to stages: the first was from 1932 onwards, when the Taiwan Governor’s Office devoted itself to development in the new immigrant villages in Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung Prefectures, and the redevelopment of old immigrant villages in the east. The second stage tied in with the central government’s “Southward March” policy, and with the semi-governmental, semi-privatized Taiwan Colonization Company as a peripheral organization, and Taiwan as the center of this policy, all kinds of industrial exploitation and development was carried out in Southern China and Southeast Asia. Starting in 1943, the state of affairs in the war began to turn very clearly against Japan, but the immigration project was not discontinued as a result, because the Taiwan Governor’s Office believed it to be of the utmost importance for Japan’s southern development plans to lay some foundations, regardless of whether or not the local population became subjects of the emperor.
The significance of the Japanese immigration project
During the Japanese occupation, the Taiwan Governor’s Office exhausted itself in devising policies to promote the immigration project on Taiwan. However, Japan relinquished Taiwan on losing the war, and consequently, we lack substantial official reviews and reports on the results of the later government-run immigration project. Immigration to Taiwan had little if any effect on resolving Japan’s population problems, but in terms of sustainable management in the colony itself, the significance has been enormous. The operation of the immigration project had at least four meanings: (1) Japanese citizens would have to live in Taiwan long-term to build foundations for a Japanese race on Taiwan. (2) To encourage the integrated coexistence of Japanese and local people, to speed up the objective of Japanifying the local population. (3) The immigrants would have to be military personnel for the local region, so that when local people weighed the pros and cons, and considered national defense, they would be more willing to wield real effectiveness. (4) The experience of the immigration project could be used as a resource for future forays of the Japanese people into tropical regions.
Edited by Tina Lee/ translated by Elizabeth Hoile