In Saipan, a commonwealth of the United States, there is a bronze statue of a Japanese man that has been there since before the war. The man is Haruji Matsue, who successfully established the sugar industry on the island where, eventually, more than 50,000 people lost their lives in fierce World War II fighting.
Matsue returned to Japan just before the outbreak of the second world war and later died, without knowing that a statue of him was erected in Saipan. Sometime after the end of the war, Matsue’s son was watching a travelogue on TV when he spotted the statue of his father. When the son later visited Saipan he was told how the island people protected the statue against the American forces during the war.
In southern Taiwan, the statue of another storied Japanese man was not fortunate. The statue of civil engineer Yoichi Hatta, who oversaw the construction of the Wushantou dam, was found decapitated last Sunday on April 16. Completed in 1930, the dam transformed the surrounding region into one of Taiwan’s major grain-producing areas. The year after the dam was built, a statue of Hatta was placed on a hillside overlooking the dam.
The statue is seated with one leg stretched out and the other bent at the knee. This unusual pose was chosen at Hatta’s own request. He did not want, he said, a standing statue in formal dress set on a tall pedestal.
After Japan lost the war, statues of Japanese people around former colonies were quick to disappear. Hatta’s statue, however, was hidden by local residents in the office of the Wushantou dam. The Kuomintang government of post-war Taiwan prohibited the honoring of any Japanese, and it was not until President Lee Teng-hui came to power that Hatta’s accomplishments were once again openly acknowledged and the statue was returned to its original site.
Hatta was killed on May 8, 1942, when the American military sank the transport ship he was on. He was 56. Immediately after the war ended, Hatta’s wife followed him in death, committing suicide by jumping off the dam he had built. Today the couple’s story is introduced in school textbooks in Taiwan and there is even an animé film about them. A park built around the statue is a popular destination for Japanese tourists. A memorial service is conducted every year on his death anniversary.
Given this background, the decapitation of the Hatta statue is particularly disturbing. On April 17, a former Taipei city councilor admitted on social media that he vandalized the figure, and later turned himself in to the police. This man has been a strong advocate of a single, united China. Not everyone, it seems, is happy with the ties between Japan and Taiwan.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)