Publication Details

Ward, R. (2006). Japanese government policy and the reality of the lives of the zanryu fujin. Portal: journal of multidisciplinary international studies, 3 (2), 1-12.


The zanryu fujin, (or stranded war wives) are former Japanese female emigrants to Manchuria who, for various reasons, remained in China at the end of World War Two. They were for a long time the forgotten members of Japan's imperialist past. The reasons why the women did not undergo repatriation during the years up to 1958, when large numbers of the former colonial emigrants returned to Japan, are varied, but in many cases, their 'Chinese' families played some part. The stories of survival by these women during the period immediately after the entry of Russia into the Pacific War on 9 August 1945, the civil war that followed, and throughout the years of the Cultural Revolution, are testament to the strength of the senzen no onna (pre-war women). At the same time, the history of how the zanryu fujin came to be in China is useful for understanding the Japanese Government's colonial policies as well as its wartime attitudes to women. The stories of survival by the zanryu fujin also highlight the lack of understanding by the Japanese Government of the realities of the experiences of the zanryu fujin in the aftermath of the Russian invasion. Until well into the 1990s, the Japanese Government maintained policies of differentiation between them and the zanryu koji (abandoned war children) on the basis that the zanryu fujin were judged to have 'freely' chosen to remain in China. As illustrated by the stories below of three women, the zanryu fujin did not necessarily initially decide to stay in China; rather, the circumstances they faced often meant they had little choice but to remain. This paper argues, then, that the stories of survival by three zanryu fujin in the period immediately after the Russian invasion are important not simply for demonstrating the reality of their lives, but for confirming that the Japanese Government's view that the zanryu fujin had 'freely' chosen to remain in China is unjustified.