The Wushe Incident, 80 years on

by on Friday, 04 March 2011 Comments

“My people are being forced into too much labour work, causing great anger amongst them.
After the incident the two of us were captured by our people, we cannot do anything, we must go now…”

Suicide note written by Ichiro Hanaoka (Dakis Nomin) and Jiro Hanaoka (Dakis Nawi)

Foreign rulers

Every foreign ruler who once governed Taiwan had to face the problem of governing the indigenous people. In the time of the Qing government, the Hans were not only developing the land of the plains, but they were also developing the hill and mountain areas. To prevent the indigenous people from human-headhunting, the Qing government would setup mountain-pass-defences (building lookout-posts and sending people to guard them). At the same time, the Qing government were also recruiting tenant-farmers to develop land, often transcending the territory of the indigenous people, making their living space smaller. Armed conflicts between the Hans and the indigenous people became inevitable.

The Qing government imposed an isolation policy on the indigenous people when they were governing Taiwan. In the 61st year of the Kangxi Emperor, after the “Cishan Zhu Yi-gui incident”, the government banned the Hans from entering the mountain area.

In the time of Qianlong, plain resources gradually depleted as a result of Han development, the living space of the plains was getting smaller and smaller. The Qing government adopted the “To protect the indigenous people and their wealth” policy, banning Han from tenanting and selling the lands of indigenous people. However, even with this policy in place, the indigenous people were still losing their land continually invaded by the Han, causing regular conflict between the two sides.

When the Japanese began governing Taiwan, about 35 000 indigenous people had been “converted” or “half-converted” into Han and there were about 112 000 – 113 000 indigenous people still living in the mountain area. The ideology behind governing the indigenous people at the time was similar to how white American settlers invaded and occupied the lands of the Indians - the “civilised” people assume the right to develop the lands of the “uncivilised” people, rationalising the action of taking resources from the mountain area. To govern the indigenous people, the Japanese government would arrange marriages between Japanese and indigenous people, in an attempt to lessen the hatred the indigenous people had for the Japanese. The Japanese government encouraged police officers who were working in the mountain area to marry daughters of the indigenous people’s chieftains. However, after these police officers returned to Japan, they often left their wives behind, or even induced them into prostitution in Japan and Taiwan.

Conflicts due to politically-motivated marriages

There were both happy and unhappy cases in this type marriage. An example of a fortunate case would be Taimu, who became the wife of the prestigious head of the Wushe police branch after her Japanese husband Satsukai Tasukumasu was promoted to the position. Another example would be Beika Leida, the daughter of the chieftain of Maliba tribe. Beika Leida married to Shimoyama Jihei and had two sons and two daughters. Shimoyama Jihei, however, remarried a Japanese girl and returned to Japan. He left Beika Leida and the four children behind in Taiwan. Luckily for Beika Leida, the Japanese arranged for her to work in a local police station so she had something to do for a living. In contrast, Tewas Rudao, the younger sister of Mona Rudao, wasn’t as lucky. Tewas married Kondou Gisaburou who was later re-assigned to the police station in Hualien Harbor. Although Kondou Gisaburou brought Tewas Rudao with him to Hualien Harbour, he died in a mission falling down a valley. Tewas returned home to Mahepo Community by climbing across numerous mountains. She later married a man from her tribe and bore two daughters, but unfortunately they both died later. The Japanese never looked after Tewas from this time onwards. For Mona Rudao, what happened to his sister would make him anti-Japanese, a factor in the rise of the Wushe Incident later on.

Twenty days before the Wushe Incident (in the morning of year 1930 October 7th), two Japanese police officers - Katsumi Yoshimura and Okada Takematsu, were walking past the house of Mona Rudao, the chieftain of the Mahepo tribe. At the time, a youngster of the Mahepo tribe, Daho Mona Rudao and a girl Rudao Bawan were holding a wedding ceremony. Members of the tribe came to celebrate the occasion by killing cows and sheep for a feast. The oldest son of Mona Rudao, Tadao Mona saw Yoshimura walking past, so he invited Yoshimura to come inside for a drink. However, Yoshimura saw Tadao was holding a piece of meat on his hand, stained with blood. He disliked Tadao’s “dirtiness” and assaulted Tadao with his cane. For an occasion that was meant to be joyful, Tadao got angry and together with Mona Rudao’s second oldest son Bassao Mona, pushed Yoshimura to the ground. Mona Rudao later brought his two sons to apologise to Yoshimura by offering him a gift of wine; however, Yoshimura did not accept the apology, he told Mona Rudao that the incident has already been reported to higher Japanese authorities and that Mona Rudao and his two sons would receive punishment soon.

When the Japanese were governing Taiwan, not only were there tragedies caused by the arranged marriages, many construction works were also being carried out which forced the indigenous people into labour works; if they refused, then they would be severely punished. The Japanese police officers were forcing the indigenous population to provide their construction labour for free. The Japanese government continued to open up new construction works and set up police stations at every tribe and fortified point, as well as building roads, suspension bridges, Japanese dormitories and so on. During the construction period, the Japanese did not take into consideration whether it was the hunting or the harvesting season for the indigenous people, the Japanese blindly forcing them to continue construction. This stirred dissatifaction amongst the indigenous people and further built up their resentment towards the Japanese.

 

The break out of the Wushe Incident

On October 28th of every year, the Japanese government house would hold a shrine festival to commemorate Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa. October 27th was the day when Wushe would hold its annual athletics festival. About two hundred Japanese attended the festival; police officers were unarmed on that day.

While the Japanese national anthem was being played at the festival, the indigenous people, who were in the area preparing for an ambush, rushed into the sports venue and began killing the Japanese. The festival was turned hellish scene.

During the Incident, a Han shopkeeper - Liu Liang-tsai - who flaunted his powerful connections to bully others and had been named by the indigenous people as a “fake Japanese”, was killed as they vented their resentment. Another two Han were mistakenly slaughtered as they were wearing Kimonos at the time. The rest of the victims were Japanese. A total of one hundred and thirty-nine Japanese died in the incident and seven police stations were burnt down.

The Wushe incident stunned the Japanese officials. The government sent out about four thousand police officers and troops using canons, aircraft and other weapons to attack the Wushe area. However, the Japanese were still unable to force the surrender of the anti- Japanese uprising. In the end, the Japanese adopted the “using indigenous people to fight against indigenous people” policy, encouraging and rewarding other tribes who did not participate in the Wushe incident to turn against those who did. Different tribes set about killing one another, causing great misunderstanding amongst the tribes.

The Japanese who survived the Wushe Incident became even more hostile against the surviving family members of the anti-Japanese indigenous uprising. In April of the sixth year of Showa (year 1931), the Japanese ordered the Atayal people who had been forced to join the Japanese army to slaughter a hundred and ninety-five surviving family members of the anti-Japanese indigenous people who were unarmed, and decapitated a hundred and one heads of these people. This event is known as the Second Wushe Incident.

In the eighth year of Showa, indigenous people found a human’s remains which was much taller than an average man, it was determined to be the remains of Mona Rudao.

 

The tragedy of the Hanaoka brothers

Cultural differences (the Japanese did not respect the customs of the indigenous people - such as face tattooing, the practice of “putting one’s hand on another’s shoulder and drink like brothers” and so on), together with the arranged marriages policy and forced labour upon the indigenous people, all contributed to this tragic slaughtering event. However, hatred doesn’t solve the problem, if there is a lesson to be learnt from this piece of history, it is that rulers have to be more respectful of those who are being governed.

In the Wushe Incident, every victim and their surviving family members have their own stories to tell. Among them, what happened to the Hanaoka brothers would probably be the most tragic of all.

The Japanese have always seen the Hanaoka brothers as a successful case of the indigenous people being “moralised”. The elementary school in Wushe normally only accepted Japanese students, however, the Japanese were trying to lasso and “civilise” the indigenous people, so they sent the Hanaoka brothers and others to Japanese schools to study.

Ichiro Hanaoka graduated from the training school at National Taichung University of Education. He became a level B security guard at the Wushe branch. Jiro Hanaoka graduated from the advanced course at elementary school in Puli, he was a guard in Wushe. Both Ichiro and Jiro accepted marriages arranged by the Japanese government.

Right after the Wushe Incident, there was a rumour that the incident was instigated by the Hanaoka brothers and they were accused of having betrayed the Japanese. After the Japanese regained Wushe, they found a suicide note outside Jiro’s house which was wriiten by Ichiro and Jiro ”We are leaving this world now. Our people are being forced into excessive manual labour, causing great anger. After the incident the two of us were captured by our own people, we cannot do anything, we must go now” The Hanaoka brothers, who received Japanese education, got caught in between the complex racial issues of the two sides. Ichiro and Jiro took twenty-one of their family members to Kotomi mountain where they committed suicide. Ichiro cut the throats of his wife and children before committing “harakiri” (putting a knife into his own stomach to commit suicide). Jiro and his family members adopted the traditional Atayal way of hanging themselves on a tree to commit suicide, only his Japanese wife lived. It is said that she did agree to die with the rest of the family, however, her husband Jiro convinced her to live on in order to protect the baby in her. His wife became the most important survivor and witness of the Wushe Incident.

Whenever there was a discussion on the Wushe Incident about the Hanaoka brothers in the past, different speculations would come up. Some suspected that the Japanese murdered the Hanaoka brothers and their family members and then made the murder scenes look like they were committing suicide. Some said that the Hanaoka brothers were on the Japanese side, while others said they were on the side of the indigenous people. Teng Hsiang-yang, a scholar of tribal history who found the widow of Jiro Hanaoka, stated that when Jiro was committing suicide, he was wearing the Japanese feather- constructed clothing inside with traditional Seediq Bale clothing on the outside and equipped with a Seediq Bale knife on his waist. After the widow saw the suicide scene of Jiro Hanaoka, she said: “Jiro must have so much he wanted to tell us.” She also said: “the Hanaoka brothers were on both the Japanese and the indigenous people’s sides, they died gracefully! Not only were they conducting themselves in such a way that they were able to face the Japanese who brought them up, but also their own people!” “They would not have died so gracefully if they were strongly leaning toward either the side of the Japanese or the indigenous people!”.

Translated from the Chinese by Jason Cheng. Illustration by Şirin Tanrıtanır

Fang-Yu Shi (石芳瑜)

Shi Fangyu. Formerly translator, now primarily creates her own works which are found in newspaper supplements, magazines and blogs. Former winner of the China Times prize in literature, the Lin Rongsan prize in literature, the BENQ Truth, Purity and Grace first prize etc. 

文字工作者。曾任譯者,目前以創作為主。作品散見報紙副刊、雜誌、部落格。並曾獲時報文學獎、林榮三文學獎、BENQ真善美首獎……等。

Website: blog.roodo.com/paulineshyr

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