Mamoru Shinozaki

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Mamoru Shinozaki
Shinozaki Mamoru.jpg
Native name 篠崎 護
Born February 1908
Died Early 1990s
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation Diplomat, author

Mamoru Shinozaki (篠崎 護 Shinozaki Mamoru?, February 1908 – early 1990s), a former Japanese diplomat was convicted and jailed by the British for spying for Japan before the Second World War. He was later credited as the "Japanese Schindler" for saving thousands of Chinese and Eurasians by his liberal issue of personal safety passes and the creation of safe havens during the Japanese occupation of Singapore. He was also instrumental for being the key prosecution witness during the Singapore War Crimes Trial between 1946 and 1948.[1] A book he wrote after the war called Syonan—My Story, continues to give an invaluable insight into the Japanese occupation of Singapore today.

Early life[edit]

Shinozaki was born in Japan in February 1908. His father owned a Fukuoka coal-mine and was often away on business. He was raised largely by his grandmother, who had desired him to become a monk. She arranged for him to stay at a Buddhist temple for a year at the age of six, but his father opposed the idea. As a student, he was keen in socialism, reading in secret the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, a serious offence in those days which got him expelled from his Kyoto high school. After spending a year as a ronin he entered Meiji University to study journalism. Upon graduating in 1931, he found employment as a reporter with the Dōmei News Agency. In 1934 he was posted to Shanghai, then to Nanking, and finally to Hankou, from where he was recalled. He went on to join the Japanese Foreign Ministry as a press attache in Berlin, and later reassigned to Singapore in October 1938.[2]

Second World War[edit]

Conviction and release[edit]

The Sook Ching Centre memorial at Hong Lim Complex in Chinatown, Singapore

While in Singapore as the press attache to Japan's consul-general, he took Colonel T. Tanikawa, the planning chief of Japan's Imperial Army Headquarters in Tokyo, and Major Kunitake who was on Tsuji Masanobu's Malaya Campaign planning staff, on a spying mission. Shinozaki had been shadowed by the British Special Branch detectives and was subsequently charged with helping the two Japanese officers to obtain information that might be used by a foreign power. He was tried and sentenced despite protesting his innocence (claiming that he was not fully aware of the actual agenda of the Japanese officers he accompanied earlier) to three years' hard labour and a fine of $1,000.[3]

Upon the British surrender of Singapore on 15 February 1942, he was released from Changi Prison and went on to become first adviser to the Japanese military administrator in Syonan (Singapore was renamed by the Japanese as Light of the South during the Occupation), then education officer and subsequently welfare officer in the civilian administration of Syonan. In his working capacity at the Defence Headquarters, he deliberately stored food supplies at the Thomson Road home of the Little Sisters of the Poor so that the nuns there would have a ready supply of food.[4] But his biggest single act of mercy was the huge number of good citizen passes that he produced and gave freely especially to the Chinese and Eurasians in an act of conscience after witnessing the brutal tortures and killings by the Kempeitai committed against them earlier.[citation needed]

If not for Shinozaki's personal intervention at various times, many more thousands of Chinese might have perished in the Sook Ching massacre, a pogrom in which those considered to be anti-Japanese were massacred during the early weeks of the Occupation. Countless prominent Chinese saved by him include Dr Lim Boon Keng, OBE, Tan Hoon Siang, Chen Kee Sun, Dr. Hu Tsai Kuen, Wee Keng Chiang and S.Q. Wong.[5]

These actions also made him highly unpopular with some in the Japanese military that in June 1942, he temporarily "disappeared" from Syonan with the help of the Navy to avoid their ire.[6] Shinozaki was also instrumental in the formation of the different welfare associations, the two significant ones being the Overseas Chinese Association under Dr Lim Boon Keng and the Eurasian Welfare Association under Dr Charles Joseph Paglar. The Eurasians and Chinese were the obvious targets in any anti-Japanese mopping-up drives and Shinozaki thought that these Japanese-sponsored associations would afford the communities some official protection.[citation needed]

Overseas Chinese Association[edit]

Lt-Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Commander-in-Chief of Malaya and Singapore

The Overseas Chinese Association (OCA) was a Japanese-sponsored body started on 2 March 1942 as the main representative of the Chinese community to interact with the Japanese administration and also as a way for Shinozaki to obtain the release of the many senior Chinese community leaders who were under Kempeitai arrest during the Sook Ching. Among them, Dr Lim Boon Keng and S. Q. Wong, a prominent businessman, were later made chairman and vice chairman respectively. The association set up its headquarters at the old Chinese Chamber of Commerce building in Hill Street.[citation needed]

Due to Shinozaki's frequent interventions, some anti-Chinese members of the Japanese military authorities criticised Shinozaki as being pro-Chinese. When Colonel Watanabe took over as the Chief Military Administrator, Shinozaki was removed from his post as adviser to the OCA. He was replaced by Takase, who used the OCA to exploit the Chinese community in extracting a "donation" of $50 million ($10 million from the Chinese in Singapore and $40 million from the Chinese in the rest of Malaya) as a gift to atone for their anti-Japanese activities in Malaya.[7] On 25 June 1942, Dr. Lim and 57 Chinese leaders presented the $50 million cheque to Lt-Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, the Commander-in-Chief of Malaya and Singapore. Other tasks demanded by the Japanese were the sale of lottery tickets, labour contributions for assorted Japanese defence projects and the evacuation of civilians out of Syonan. Its most successful occupation project was the organisation of the settlement of Endau which was managed solely by the association with the help of Shinozaki.[8]

Endau Settlement[edit]

The settlement schemes of Endau and later Bahau aimed to resettle some of Singapore's population in Malaya, so that they could live off the land and ease the terrible food shortage on the island during the Occupation. But most probably an opportunity by the Japanese authorities to disperse the Chinese and prevent a core of subversives from forming, should the British try to re-take Singapore.[citation needed]

In August 1942, Shinozaki, who had become Chief Welfare Officer worked with the OCA on the Endau Settlement project. To give them a good incentive, he and the OCA decided that no Japanese would be allowed in the settlement and that the whole enterprise would be managed by the officials of the Association.[9] The exception to the "no Japanese" rule was Shinozaki whose role was to keep the settlement supplied with essentials such as seeds, farming tools and rice until the crops were ready. Endau was called New Syonan and was only for the Chinese. To get Endau started, a team from the OCA had gone with Shinozaki to look for a suitable site and Endau was picked because there was fresh water nearby and the land was suitable for agriculture.[9]

The Kempeitai officers on board a train, circa 1935

By September 1943, when the first batch of settlers moved in, the jungle had been cleared, the temporary barracks-style housing was ready, a basic road was there and the plots marked out for each family. The settlers were housed in the barracks that were nothing more than covered wooden platforms with walls of dried leaves until they had built their own huts or paid someone to build one for them. The first batch of settlers were welcomed with a hot meal and were quickly given their own plots of land and assistance in building their own huts and planting their crops. Each family was given 3 acres (12,000 m2), with one meant for rice fields.[9]

Making the settlement home took sheer physical labour and many had never worked the fields before. Leeches in the paddy fields bothered the new settlers. The compensation after the hard work was the feeling of freedom from fear and Japanese supervision. By September 1944, there were about 12,000 settlers in Endau with each batch of newcomers being helped out by the older settlers until they were on their feet.[9] A small town developed with subsequent waves of settlers providing services or employment rather than farming the land. There were coffee shops and a few restaurants, a hospital, a school teaching arithmetic and Nippon-go and a simple farming life.[citation needed]

The organisation and running of Endau was by all accounts efficient as Shinozaki left the settlers to run things for themselves. Life in Endau was in fact very satisfactory compared to life in Syonan and Shinozaki was pleased to hear Dr. Lim described it as "our Chinese Utopia".[8]

The Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) in the jungles of Perak and Johor evolved from the resistance groups put behind enemy lines by the trainers of 101 Special Training School. It was the most organised of the resistance groups during the Japanese Occupation because its parent organisation, the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) formed in 1930, already had a history of organised resistance that stretched back to the 1920s and its beginnings as the extreme left-wing of the Kuomintang.[10]

MPAJA resistance consisted of attacks on Japanese troops, police stations and local policemen, informers and collaborators and anyone with even an appearance of collaborating with the Japanese. To support their anti-Japanese resistance financially and materially, they robbed, stole and extorted from the local population. They were not discriminating and Endau was not spared later. To keep the MPAJA off the backs of the Endau settlers, Shinozaki reached a secret and dangerous deal with the terrorists—he bribed them with bags of rice.[11] He would have been in very serious trouble with the Kempeitai who had already taken note of his pro-Chinese activities. Helping the MPAJA would have been the last straw and the Kempeitai were not above beheading their own countrymen for what they considered bad behaviour. In 1946, Chin Peng, the Secretary-General of the MCP had been decorated by the British for his anti-Japanese activities. By then he was leading the MCP and by 1948 would be engaged in a guerilla war with the British that came to be called the Malayan Emergency.[10]

Bahau Settlement[edit]

The town of Bahau in Negeri Sembilan today

With Endau up and running, Bishop Adrian Devals of the Catholic Church decided to take up Shinozaki's suggestion of a Eurasian settlement. When the Sembilan government offered them a piece of land in Bahau to start a settlement for Eurasians and Chinese Catholics as well as neutrals such as the Swiss and Danes, they took it despite the reservations of the advance team and also their fears of kempeitai swoops if they remained in Syonan. Shinozaki, who was a big help in Endau, could only assist the Bahau settlement covertly in order not to annoy the Negeri Sembilan administration.[9]

Bahau was problematic from the start. The land was hilly; it had a poor water supply, poor soil and poor drainage. The malaria problem at Bahau was very serious because not enough steps were taken to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes at the beginning. The Japanese had cleared the jungle in Bahau originally to put in an airfield but had been driven out by the mosquitoes earlier. Secondary jungle was already taking over the clearing by the time the Eurasians took it for their settlement. Many of the plots of land were not cultivated because the labour required to clear the cut trees and to plant was too much for many settlers weakened by malaria and other diseases. Lack of expertise also made cultivating crops difficult.[12]

Due to many hardships encountered, many Bahau settlers decided that things were not so difficult in Syonan after all and returned later. Bahau saw some 3,000 settlers by the time the Occupation ended and claimed between 300 and 1,500 lives.[9] The exact figures are unknown. The chief of those who perished in Bahau was Bishop Devals whose farming injury got infected with tetanus and he died of it in January 1945. There was no hospital in Bahau then.[citation needed]

Yet many settlers who survived disease did learn to be resourceful. People who had never done construction work before built their own huts. White-collar workers who had never grown rice or vegetables became quite good in farming. They learnt how to make a lot of things like soap, coconut oil, condensed milk, tapioca keropok, chop trees, plant vegetables, and trade in used clothing while waiting for the crops to ripen. On the plus side, in Bahau one had the freedom to talk and move without fear of the Kempeitai. In Endau, however, this freedom was clouded by the presence of MPAJA informers who generated a murky atmosphere of uneasiness whenever Shinozaki came to visit.[12]

Post war years[edit]

The Japanese surrender to the Allied forces at the Municipal Building on 12 September 1945

After the Japanese surrender, Shinozaki was captured but did not remain long in the internment camp in Jurong. Because so many survivors in Singapore vouched for his exemplary behaviour that the British roped him in to help the British Field Security Force and during the War Crimes Trials as interpreter and prosecution witness.[13] In 1973, he was interviewed by Lim Yoon Lin of the Institute of South-East Asian Studies for its oral history programme, his transcript called "My wartime experiences in Singapore" continues to give an invaluable insight into the Japanese occupation of Singapore.[4] In early 1990s, Shinozaki died of an illness in Tokyo.[citation needed]

His role in the Occupation has been told, in first-person unadorned prose, in a book he wrote after the war called Syonan—My Story in 1975. Highlights include the chilling round-ups that began one week after the Japanese arrived and the controversial Overseas Chinese Association formed to "co-operate" with the Japanese occupiers through which the $50-million "donation" was squeezed from the Chinese community and in the post war witch hunts of whether, and who, among Singapore's residents had collaborated with the Japanese.[14]

Critics and supporters[edit]

His humanitarian acts have also been recorded by Yap Pheng Geck in his memoirs called Scholar, Banker, Gentleman Soldier, the last portion in the title referring to Yap's role as a captain in the Chinese Volunteer Corps. His contact with Shinozaki came in connection with the Endau Scheme. Where Shinozaki was concerned, Yap found him to be sincere in wanting to promote the local people's welfare and even risked his neck sometimes with the Japanese military police, interceding for the Chinese people and also rendering the same services to Eurasians.[15]

In another book, Singapore Through Sunshine And Shadow written in 1961 by Eurasian doctor John Bertram van Cuylenburg, Shinozaki was described as the "arch spy of pre-Pacific war days". In writing about Shinozaki, van Cuylenburg marvelled that a man who had spied for his country and been sentenced and jailed by the British, could want to do his level best to lessen the sufferings of the Singapore people.[16]

Shinozaki was criticised due to his memoir, Syonan, My Story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore, which recorded his humanitarian activities during the Occupation, but downplayed casualty figures of the Sook Ching massacre in Japanese editions of the book. Critics pointed out inconsistencies between the book’s English and Japanese editions, with the latter containing text that appears to defend the invasion and occupation.[17]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Tan Sai Siong (27 June 1997). "Japanese official saved many from wartime pogrom". The Straits Times. 
  2. ^ Brian Bridges (January 1986). "Britain and Japanese Espionage in Pre-War Malaya: The Shinozaki Case". Journal of Contemporary History. 21 (1): 24–5. doi:10.1177/002200948602100102. 
  3. ^ Shinozaki, "Changi Prison", pp. 2–4.
  4. ^ a b Lee, "Japanese Players—Shinozaki Mamoru", p. 88.
  5. ^ Shinozaki, "Japanese Massacre", Ch. 3.
  6. ^ Shinozaki, p. 47.
  7. ^ Shinozaki, "$50 Million Donation", Ch. 8.
  8. ^ a b Lee, "Overseas Chinese Association", p. 167.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Lee, "Making Farmers of City Folks: Endau and Bahau", pp. 166–172.
  10. ^ a b Lee, "Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army", pp. 218–219.
  11. ^ Shinozaki, "Evacuation of Syonan: Endau", p. 84.
  12. ^ a b Shinozaki, "Evacuation of Syonan: Bahau", Ch. 15.
  13. ^ Shinozaki, "Japanese Repatriation", pp. 100–101.
  14. ^ Shinozaki, Mamoru (1982). Syonan—My Story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore.
  15. ^ Yap, Pheng Geck (1982). Scholar, Banker, Gentleman Soldier: The Reminiscences of Dr. Yap Pheng Geck. Times Books International. ISBN 9971-65-114-9. 
  16. ^ Van Cuylenburg, John Bertram (1982). Singapore Through Sunshine and Shadow. Heinemann Asia (1982). ISBN 9971-64-032-5. 
  17. ^


  • Foong, Choon Hon (2006). Eternal Vigilance—The Price of Freedom. Singapore: Asiapac Books. pp. 186–220. ISBN 981-229-442-2. 
  • Lee, Geok Boi (2005). The Syonan Years: Singapore Under Japanese Rule 1942–1945. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore. ISBN 981-05-4290-9. 
  • Shinozaki, Mamoru (1982). Syonan—My Story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International. ISBN 981-204-360-8. 

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