Long Interview Harue Kobayashi and Kiyoko Adachi②

General Incorporated Foundation the National Congress of Industrial Heritage
Koko Kato, Managing Director

“I remember being a bit surprised when I realized, oh, that person, and that person too, was from Korea.”

“I remember being a bit surprised when I realized, oh, that person, and that person too, was from Korea.”

Food Situation Before and After the War

――Can you tell me about the food situation on Hashima during and after the war? Do you remember eating soy bean extract? In a series called “Nagasaki Peace Relay” in the Mainichi Shimbun Nagasaki version (October 9th, 2016), an interview with Mr. Koo Yeoncheol, who lived on Hashima since 1939, was published. In it he remembers, “life was completely different from what I had imagined.” He continues, “our father called us to join him in Hashima, and I went with my mother and siblings”; “the soy bean extract that was rationed was rotten. We ate it by boiling it, but we often got diahrrhea”; “even when we had diarrhea, we were struck by a wooden stick and kicked, and were forced to go to work.” Based on this testimony, is it true that the food situation during and after the war was quite horrible?

Kiyoko It’s true we all ate soy bean extract after the war. That was all that was distributed. Harue We too got diarrhea. I almost died of dysentry. I was admitted to the hospital and isolated because I was contagious.
Harue We too got diarrhea. I almost died of dysentry. I was admitted to the hospital and isolated because I was contagious.
Kiyoko When was that?
Harue I was in middle school. I remember my teacher said “I’m so sorry. I know it’s hard for you since your mother isn’t there to help you” and cried for me. So it must have been after mother died. They placed a straw mat on the floor in the hospital, and made me lie there, but not even father could enter the room, because I had to be isolated. He cried looking at me lying down from outside a small window. As a child, I thought, since my father was crying, I must be dying. You can see from that experience that we were not given priority to food just because we were Japanese.

Regarding an excerpt from the book “Chikuho / Gunkanjima” by Eidai Hayashi

――In Eidai Hayashi’s book “{Photographic Record} Chikuho / Gunkanjima -Forced Transportation of the Korean People and its Aftermath-” (Genshobo) Mr. and Mrs. Kang Sijeom Married couple say “Of the food that was distributed to the Korean dorm, about half would be snatched by the labor chief, who took it home - so only half of what they deserved would end up in their mouths”. In a climate when the food situation was already bad, is it true that the hungry labor chief stole half of the food from the Korean dorms?

Harue I don’t think anything like that happened.
Kiyoko Our brothers worked in the labor division. Things like that never happened. Everyone got rations. It was the same for the Koreans and the Japanese.
Harue Our family lived on the 5th floor of building #17 until I was in 5th grade or so.

(Source: November 11, 1939, Shimizu Kensetsu Deisgn Document)

Kiyoko I was probably around 5 years old. Our mother was still alive.
Harue But our mother was (physically) weak, and I was the oldest girl. I had to go to the tofu store in the morning to get in line to get tofu. Because the only food available was defatted soymeal. It wasn’t just the Koreans that had to eat defatted soymeal. We ate defatted soymeal too, which gave us diahrrhea. Everyone got skinny. So it wasn’t just the people that came from Korea. We ate it too, the Japanese, and kids, we all ate powder. We never ate rice. And when we were kids, the ship Yugaomaru left Nagasaki around 6 and came to Hashima around 7, and it brought bread. So you had to get in line, but because mother was weak, and my sister and the other siblings were small, I had to get in line, but the apprentice from Kosei-shokudo (dining hall) was usually at the port with a trailer, so many of us didn’t get any bread. I would go early, to first get tofu, and then get in line in the freezing cold, to finally get some bread. That apprentice always gave me one bread on a discount. I was still a child, so when I asked my dad why he did that, he said, oh he’s just teasing, because he probably likes you.

――Did the school serve lunch at the time?

Kiyoko No, there was no school lunch.
Harue No, not around that time. We went home (to eat lunch at home).
Kiyoko Even when it was raining we could get home from school without getting wet, it was so close that we didn’t need umbrellas.
Harue The place was called Shiofuri machi (tide-showering town) but we went from concrete to concrete, so we never got wet, because a roof covered us everywhere. So compared to people from Takashima, when a woman moves to Nagasaki, they said they can tell who came from Takashima and who came from Hashima. They said women from Hashima had fairer skin, because we were always covered by concrete, or from building to building, so we were never exposed to the sun.

Ms. Harue Kobayashi surveying Hashima (Ms. Kobayashi at left. Center: Mr. Sakae Matsumoto, Right: Mr. Hideo Kaji)

――You mentioned earlier that water was free on Hashima, but did a water supply ship bring water to the island every day?  In their testimony, Kang Sijeom couple said “to fill the water pot in the communal kitchen, we went up and down the steep stairs 5 or 6 times everyday from the 7th floor down to the water storage tank in the basement.” Was it the job of the Korean people to fetch water?

Kiyoko That’s a lie. There was water supply on each floor.
Harue We didn’t have to go up the stairs carrying water. There was a faucet on every floor. For kids like us who lost a parent early and could not carry heavy water even if there was a faucet, there were some strong ladies called Mizukumi-san (water fetchers) who fetched water for us. How much did it cost each time? There was a piece of paper tacked to the pillar with the “正” character (used to count the number of times) written on it to keep track of the number of times we used the service. The fee was deducted from our father’s salary. How long did we use that service for? Although by the end I carried the water myself.

――Kang Sijeom also say “although there were mountains of coal, they were never distributed to us from the mines to use as fuel.” “We dug coal in the pit, but if we were to try to take some home without permission, the job assignment officer would inspect us at the pit entrance and take it away. We were not allowed to use coal as fuel in our homes and instead we bought firewood that came from Takahama .” Did each family purchase firewood?

Harue A trader bought them in Takahama and brought them to Hashima by boat. Our father built scaffolds that were used in the pit, so he used to bring home the leftovers from the pine wood he used to build the scaffold.

--They said “sometimes there were branches of Japanese wax tree mixed in the firewood, and when the sap touched the skin, our whole bodies would get swollen and red, and occasionally we would lose eyesight.” Is it true that only Korean people were forced to buy this type of firewood? Is that the way it was?

Harue I never heard that. At least it isn’t true that only Korean people had to use firewood that was mixed with Japanese wax tree branches. If there were Japanese wax tree branches in the mix, then the Japanese people would also have gotten swollen skin and pain in the eyes.
Kiyoko By the time I was old enough to remember, we used coal. Coal was rationed, too, wasn’t it?
Harue Yes it was. Everything was rationed. I think the Korean people used coal too.

――About how many Koreans were there on the island at that time? In Eidai Hayashi’s book, it says there were about 1500 Koreans living on Hashima.

Kiyoko I’m not sure there was ever that many.
Harue 1500! When?
Kiyoko When we were kids.
Harue There’s no way. I think about 50 or 60, including kids. The Korean people lived together in the Shiofuri-town. Before the war they lived in wooden homes. And they also lived in building #30. Even if you were Japanese, when you are new to the island, you cannot live in a (good) building in the beginning. As you live there longer, first you’d get a unit on the 1st floor, and then if a unit on the 5th floor opens, then they tell you to move to the 5th. When my husband became an assistant electrician, they gave us a unit with a toilet, although there was still no bath tub, but they told us to move to a unit with a toilet. You are moved to a better unit over time.

(Source: November 11, 1939, Shimizu Kensetsu Deisgn Document)

Kiyoko Maybe it was like that for us too, in the beginning?
Harue I was too young to remember where we were before being on the 2nd floor of building #30, but I think it was like that when we first moved to Hashima. Our father worked very hard so our apartment kept improving, and in the end, we were able to move to a unit with a toilet. That should have been the same for the Korean people.
Kiyoko Single people lived in the singles dorm, right?
Harue Yes, there were dorms for them, dorm #1, dorm #2, dorm #3, dorm #4, and so on. I do remember that the singles dorms were separated for Japanese and Koreans. I was told by adults not to go near the singles dorms. Since I was a young girl.
Kiyoko They meant don’t go near the Japanese dorms either, right?
Harue That’s right. When young girls walked by the singles dorms, they’d get whistled at and teased. My father told me to avoid the singles dorms, even if I had to take a longer route to get home.

――The book also says Korean people who skipped work were treated especially harshly, and that they were relentlessly beaten by their supervisors, even when they were sick. What do you think of the abuse described as “their bodies were tied to electric poles by the job assignment rooms, and the miners that passed by were told to strike them with a stick?”

Kiyoko Oh, the job assignment rooms, I remember those.
Harue  In the Labor department.
Kiyoko People going into the pit would stop there to drop off their tags. No, that didn’t happen. It was just an office in a regular concrete building, where you go to pick up your tags, so there were no electric poles in that area.
Harue There were no electrical lines there, so I’ve never seen poles there. They (the lines) were built into the concrete. To keep it safe. So I’d never seen electric poles on Hashima.

Regarding the pamphlet from Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum
~Towers, iron grates, and search lights to monitor Korean laborers~

――In the pamphlet from Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum, it says “in 1890, Mitsubishi, who operated a coal mine in nearby Takashima, expanded its business to Hashima, a tiny island, where as many as 5300 people lived.” So many people lived on Hashima during the war too?

Kiyoko Is that true?
Harue That’s something that can be looked up.

――In the pamphlet it says “Japanese miners and workers lived in the concrete apartment buildings built in 1916, while the Korean workers were housed in shabby buildings with iron grates.” Is it actually true that the Korean workers were placed in shabby buildings with iron grates?

Kiyoko That’s a complete lie. I’ve never seen buildings with iron grates. I’ve been to Li-san’s house but I always entered normally from their front door.
Harue I’ve never seen iron grates, either.

――It also says “there was a tower 10 meters high for monitoring the Korean workers”. What do you think of that? Was there a monitoring tower?

Harue No. Hashima was so small that it was said that you can walk the circumference of the island while you finish smoking a single cigarette. I lived there for a sum of 45 years since the time I was three years old, except for the one year when I evacuated during the war, but never have I seen or heard of a monitoring tower.
Kiyoko There’s a bunch of baloney in the pamphlet. “There was a monitor in the dining hall, and if you can’t speak Japanese you’d be caught trying to run away and beaten with a belt.”
Harue There is no way anything like that would have happened. It’s a fabricated story.
Kiyoko There was a prison though, or a jail room at the police station. It was a size of four and a half tatami mats.
Harue One of my classmates was the barber’s kid, and next to that kid’s house was the police station. I think it was near building #30.
Kiyoko We used to go play at the barber’s then. There were a lot of Korean clients there too. I remember seeing people who spoke Korean while waiting their turn.
Harue Every time we went to the barber we walked by the police station where there was the jail, and we could see inside. It was always empty. Sometimes a drunk would get caught and taken to jail, but it was such a rareity that we’d go see if something like that happened. The police officers came from Nagasaki on shifts. One time we went to look at a person who was put in jail for fighting, and I remember the young police officer told us “if you fight I’ll put you in there too”. “You won’t be able to see your mom or dad if you go in there”. I remember thinking “that’s scary!”
Kiyoko So it’s possible that a Korean person would get drunk or get into a fight and end up in jail, but I’ve never heard about anyone getting beaten with a belt.

“An Embarrassing World Heritage Site Gunkanjima” ~A Searchlight for monitoring Korean laborers~

――In Korea, a picture book called “An Embarrassing World Heritage Site Gunkanjima” has been published. In it, there is a picture of a searchlight looking for men trying to escape from the island. Did something like this happen?

In the book, there is a picture of men trying to escape from the island while being monitored by a search light.

“An Embarrassing World Heritage Site Gunkanjima”, pages 19-20.

Kiyoko “What are they talking about?” is all I can say. They are saying that they used a search light and chased them with a motorboat.
Harue We aren’t talking about a scene from a movie. Motorboat? Boats had to be rowed by hand back then. Other than the rowboats there were just Yugaomaru and Asagaomaru (ocean liners).
Kiyoko As I’ve said many times before, anything that happens on Hashima would instantaneously spread throughout the island, so if anyone was questioned, or lynched, then rumors would spread fast. But I’d never heard of anything like that. It’s all lies. We have to do something about people who spread lies like that.
Harue Any lie would be disproved. We know best. We can testify, as much as needed. We aren’t senile yet.

Regarding the article in Süddeutsche Zeitung - Memorial Service on Hashima -

--In Süddeutsche Zeitung, or South German newspaper, there was an article that stated “the bodies of the deceased (Chinese and Korean) forced laborers were thrown into the ocean or abandoned mines.” (July 6th 2015, online version) If there is anything you remember about memorial services for people who lost their lives on Hashima, can you tell me about it?

Harue Once a year, since we lost our mother too, we went to the only temple on Hashima during the Obon festival (time of year when ancestoral spirits are said to return) to attend a memorial service. In the main temple we turned the big rosary around, and since we didn’t know the sutras, we just tried to blend in with the older women. Then I had to go to the bathroom and saw that in the back room there were about 50 urns lined up from old to new, in about 6 stacks of shelves. I’d never seen an urn so I asked the wife of the monk at the temple “what are these?” and she said “these are the remains of the people who came to work here from outside our prefecture, including the Korean people.” “If we treat them badly we will all be punished, so during Obon, they are read the sutras, and I give them incense and pray to them every morning and night.”
Kiyoko The wife of the monk was the mom of your classmate Hiroyasu Honma, right?
Harue That’s right. Honma-san’s mother was a very nice person. I started going to the temple after our mother died so she used to say “you are still a child but I am very impressed”. People on Hashima were religious like that. That’s why I am sure that the remains of the Korean people were not thrown into the ocean, or into caves.

Entertainment on Hashima

--Did the Korean people go to entertainment facilities, like the movie theater?

Kiyoko They went just like everyone else, and sat wherever they liked to watch the movie. There was no difference between Koreans or Japanese.
Harue They were not discriminated against. The first ones there would grab seats, because you couldn’t always sit. (Speaking of entertainment facilities), there was a cofee shop and bar called Seifuso, and the proprietress, who is now 92 or 93, happened to call me yesterday. She is still healthy and living in Kyoto now. She called me just yesterday and said “how are you? I wish you would call me some time.”
Kiyoko I have good memories of her. There were Korean customers at the coffee shop too.
Harue Yes there were. It was the only coffee shop on Hashima. It was Mori-san and two other waitstaff helping her out. It was reasonably priced so everyone went there. It was reasonably priced because the company operated the place. We all went there to get coffee together. Coffee was still a rarity then so “Seifuso” was a very popular place. It was where the men relaxed at night time. They’d stop by after work to drink bear and have fun.
Kiyoko I can picture the good times they were having there.
Harue “Seifuso” was also a place where Japanese people and Korean people mixed. There was a bond that was created through these relationships, so when it was time for the Korean people to go back home, we took the tapes they threw from the ship in our hands and cried seeing them off.
Kiyoko I really have no idea why they would call Gunkanjima Hell Island.

Relationships after the closure of the island

--I know that people went their separate ways after the island was closed, but do you still stay in touch?

Harue Some went to Honshu to rely on relatives, some went to Tokyo, and we all chose different paths, but I think it took time for everyone to get settled in their new homes. We had to set up our living environments, find work, and find schools for our children. There was one hardship after another living in unfamiliar places, so it was not easy to stay in touch with one another.
Kiyoko I’ve stayed in touch with several friends, and among them there are Korean people who have stayed in Japan and naturalized.
Harue I told you about our relationship with the proprietress of “Seifuso”, but as you know she’s quite advanced in age by now. I asked her to tell us stories from back then, but she said it was too stressful.
Kiyoko It’s too bad, since her account of the Korean people who came to her place is important.
Harue It can’t be helped. But this interview has given us an opportunity to meet with our classmates from Hashima, and I am glad I was able to unexpectedly connect with people from back then. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but once we saw each other, there was so much to talk about, and I recalled some things that I thought I’d forgotten about. Someone mentioned “Horaitei“.
Kiyoko Oh yes. There was a Chinese restaurant on the first floor of building #17, which was where we lived. The owner’s name was Nakahara-san but I think it was Li-san before he naturalized. I think his wife was from Shimabara.
Harue I stayed in touch with Nakahara-san after the island closed. After the island closed, they opened a Nagasaki-style noodle shop in front of the train station. Although it was a small shop. She’d call me occasionally and say “Kobayashi-san, the store’s closed today, why don’t you come over”, and she’d give me pork and crab - you know Chinese restaurants served crab - back when there was nothing, she’d give me things. She really took good care of me. So I never even thought about who’s Chinese and who’s Korean. She’d say “Kobayashi-san, we have good crab from China today, come over. I know you like crab.” So I’d go and there’d be 5 crabs in a box, 10 total, in boxes like this. They’re sent from China. And they’re tied with rubber bands. It made me so happy. Because after moving to Nagasaki, we weren’t able to eat that well yet. Her husband too, since we used to go to Horaitei a lot when we lived on Hashima, he was nice to us til the end. And then my husband also, he died early, so after he died they’d say “Kobayashi-san, come over, we have extra noodles.” It helped me so much. I don’t think people would help that much, normally. They helped us so much since we moved here, because we didn’t know anything. It was because we were very close from the time we lived on Hashima. We were all close.
Kiyoko There really was no discrimination. It’s not true that people on Hashima abused people from China and Korea.

――If in fact there was no abuse, then you should throw out your chest and declare that “there was absolutely no abuse”, otherwise, rumors will spread like wildfire.

Harue I believe that one day we will be able to dispel the bad reputation.
Kiyoko We have to do what we can now, by believing that that day will come.
Harue We cannot die bearing this false accusation on our backs!

Most of my interviewees in the past have been men, who shared their stories from their workplaces and schools; however, this time I was able to get the point of view of two women (including the account of the handsome Mr. Li), who spent their adolescent years on Hashima. Their tearful accounts were convincing and powerful. I still speak with them frequently over the phone. I always look forward to hearing their voices.

(Source: Supplementary Research Survey Document of Gunkanjima / Tokyo Denki University Press)

Koko Kato

“Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” World Heritage Council Coordinator,
Sakubei Yamamoto Collection UNESCO Memory of the World Project Coordinator
“Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” Industry Project Team Coordinator

Author and Director of “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution Registration Recommendation Document”, “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution Registration Recommendation Document Digest”, and other official books, DVDs, and websites on the
Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution
Visiting Professor, University of Tsukuba (April 1 2015-March 31 2016)
Managing Director, National Congress of Industrial Heritage
Special Adviser to the Cabinet since July 2015.

Graduated from Keio University Faculty of Letters
Interpreter for international conferences, CBS News Tokyo HQ. MCRP, City and Regional Planning, Harvard Kennedy School; started own company in Japan.