Fraternizing unions are surrounded by notions of betrayal, disloyalty and disgust. Intimacy between members of belligerent states rarely can count on much approval. Relationships between Japanese men and Indo-Dutch women during the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands East Indies (1942-1945) had to deal with this condemnation. One of the forgotten legacies of this conflict are the children born out of these unions. Considered inconvenient and compromising consequences of wartime intimacy, their background was glossed over by their mothers and the Indo-Dutch community from right after the events.
From the 1980s onwards, Japanese-Dutch descendants in the Netherlands started coming out of the closet and the search for their unknown fathers began. At that time travelling to Japan was still a difficult endeavor and very expensive. It was only after the establishment of the Peace and Friendship Program in 1995 that the Japanese government invited ex-POWs and children of Japanese fathers to visit Japan.
For the Japanese government the aim of these travels was to ‘promote a spirit of reconciliation with Japan and the Japanese people’. Did these trips serve the same purpose for adults who wanted to know more about their unknown Japanese fathers? Do feelings of nostalgia about the imagined fatherland change after a visit? Do visits help Japanese-Dutch descendants to establish new senses of belonging and reconcile with the past? In my presentation I will focus on the meaning of these travels on the basis of interviews with Japanese-Dutch offspring, both before and after a visit to Japan.
Dr. Eveline Buchheim is a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for War-, Holocaust- and Genocide Studies (NIOD) in Amsterdam. She is the author of “Hide and Seek: Children of Japanese Fathers and Indies European Mothers”, in: Blackburn, Kevin and Karl Hack (eds.), Forgotten Captives in Japanese-Occupied Asia (London 2008).