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Dear Japanese




Over three centuries of Dutch rule over Indonesian archipelago gave rise to a population of “Indo”, Dutch-Indonesians. When Japan attacked and occupied the former Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, in 1942, many Indo males were jailed, leaving their wives and daughters to fend for themselves. Once their fathers, brothers and husbands were imprisoned in the Japanese POW camps, in search of a livelihood, Indo women started to work at Japanese offices, or cafes and restaurants serving the Japanese. This situation led many young women to have relationships with Japanese men. Those Japanese children are the fruits of relationships with Japanese based on love or economic need, while a few were from assaults. Some found out about their Japanese roots when they were around sixty years old, since the truth was often been kept a family secret over the decades.

During the Indonesian National Revolution, the Indo population had to escape to the Netherlands, leaving everything behind. For them, Japan was the enemy who stole their tropical paradise and killed many people. Many half-Japanese children grew up in the hostile atmosphere towards Japan. Also, for their mothers often were married to ex-KNIL soldiers who went through the Japanese POW camps and the harsh forced labor, many Japanese children were raised under the adoptive fathers who were severely distressed. They were traumatized because their existence was taboo, brought shame to their families. 70 years after the war, many of them are still searching for their fathers as an important missing piece of their identities, and are suffering from the lasting psychological effects of difficult childhood.

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“Dear Japanese” is a documentary made with my personal perspective as a Japanese living in the Netherlands, portraying the offspring of Japanese soldiers and Dutch-Indonesian women, born during Pacific War in Indonesia, now living in the Netherlands.

In the portraits, the models look straight into the viewers’ eyes beyond the lens. Their gaze challenges the viewer to see who they really are. A Dutch/Indo viewer might notice the dissimilarity of appearance to him, while a Japanese viewer might find striking resemblance to himself. Similarly, the ordinary Dutch landscapes may appear unfamiliar to the eyes of the photographer and the photographed. This is a subjective documentary on compatriots abroad, assembled from a personal perspective as a Japanese immigrant in the Netherlands, sharing with the models the complexity of having pride in being Japanese, coupled with feelings of alienation and guilt.

* This photo project has been published by The Eriskay Connection (Breda, The Netherlands) in 2015. ISBN 978-94-92051-12-7