Takasago Volunteers

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Takasago Volunteers

Takasago Volunteers (高砂義勇隊, Takasago Giyūtai) were volunteer soldiers in the Imperial Japanese Army recruited from the Taiwanese aboriginal tribes during World War II.

Background and history[edit]

After the Empire of Japan's annexation of Taiwan as a result of First Sino-Japanese War in 1894, the Japanese government pursued a policy of cultural assimilation, directed especially towards the various groups of Taiwanese aborigines.

The Imperial Japanese Army was interested in the use of Taiwanese aborigines in special forces operations, as they were viewed as being more physically capable of operating in the tropical and sub-tropical regions in Southeast Asia than ethnic Japaneses, and, coming from a hunter-gatherer culture, would be able to operate with minimal logistics support. The Japanese military recruited many young men from friendly tribes into service shortly before the start of World War II. The total number was confidential and estimates on the numbers recruited range from 1800 to 5000 men. Training was under the direction of officers from the Nakano School, which specialized in insurgency and guerilla warfare. Initially assigned to transport and supply units, as the war condition progressively deteriorated for Imperial Japanese forces, the Takasago Volunteers were sent to front line as combat troops. Units consisting entirely of "Takasago Volunteers" served with distinction in the Philippines, Netherlands East Indies, Solomon Islands and New Guinea, where they fought against American and Australian forces even before Taiwanese volunteers were recruited into service. Towards the end of the war, 15 officers and 45 enlisted members of the Takasago Volunteers were organized into the Kaoru Special Attack Corps for a suicide mission similar to that of the Giretsu Kuteitai, and attacked a United States Army Air Forces landing strip on Leyte. The Takasago Volunteers were well known for their jungle survival ability.

The most notable Takasago Volunteer is Teruo Nakamura (Attun Palalin), the last confirmed Japanese holdout who surrendered on Morotai Island in Indonesia in December 1974. Nakamura was an Amis volunteer and was discovered 29 years, 3 months, and 16 days after the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed in August 1945, having lived in solitude in the jungle for almost 20 years after leaving other holdouts in 1956.

In popular culture[edit]

Takasago Army, the sixth album by the Taiwanese heavy metal band Chthonic, tells the story of Takasago Volunteers as a way to explore the Taiwanese identity.

See also[edit]


  • Befu, Harumi.Eds. (2002). "Chapter 14: The Yamato Damashii of the Takasago Volunteers". Globalizing Japan. Routledge-Curzon. ISBN 0-415-28566-6.
  • Ching, Leo T.S. (2001). Becoming Japanese: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22553-8.
  • Trefalt, Beatric (2003). Japanese Army Stragglers and Memories of the War in Japan, 1950-75. Routledge-Curzon. ISBN 0-415-31218-3.