Discovering The Truth About Japanese Involvement with the Banaban People' by Manabu Kitaguchi

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Discovering the Truth About Japanese Involvement with the Banaban People


by Manabu Kitaguchi, Japanese Representative - Banaban Heritage Society Inc.

Manabu Kitaguchi standing in fron of one of the smaller limestone pinnacles on

 Banaba Island, March 1996


When I was a high school student, my teacher taught to me about historical happenings during WWII. I was so surprised at that time that I started to study it by myself. My studies took me to the United States where I visited the War Memorial Museum in Washington DC, as I wanted to think about the history from another view point. Still today in Japan right wing and old politicians hold old fashion ideas and still maintain great political power in the country. But Japan is changing, as we move towards an International era of understanding, and I am one of the rising younger generation who will bear the destiny of my country. It is up to our generation to make peace with the world. This ideal had always been the main reason behind me becoming a high school teacher. I read a lot of books about WWII which had been written by the older generation, and at the same time I began to meet a lot of human right activists who had different ideas and opinions from our older generation. My friends and I began to hold open seminars and make documentary films on the subject focusing mainly on the Asian region. I have found over the years that there are a lot of other Japanese who share the same ideas as I do and who really wanted to know what was happening through out the world.


Japan is now a very rich country because we received a lot of business chances from the United States caused by the Korean and Vietnamese Wars. It was the only reason that Japanese economical power become very strong during this period. Only a few Japanese ever thought about this prior to the American Students Movement who’s ideals began to filter through to Japan. More and more people began to realise it was necessary to make peace. As a teacher we began to teach how to make world peace, and realised to do this we must learn the true history of ourselves and a broader viewpoint of World history. I was soon to realise that minority and indigenous people were greatly discriminated against and still are. I have studied many such cases through out the world, but the Banaban case is one of the most serious cases I have seen.

I was so surprised when I first heard about Banaban history, when one of my close friends held an International Conference in Tokyo when I was working in Fiji in 1993. He is a one of Presidents of NGO group in Japan and had invited some Pacific Islanders to attend the conference. At the time of the conference he knew nothing about the Banaban people and their history. A person from Nauru attended the conference and had been asked by the Rabi Council in Fiji to give a letter to my Japanese friend who had organised the conference to discuss the idea of seeking reparation from Japanese Government over the atrocities on Banaba during WWII. Unfortunately my friend never received the letter from Rabi Council and nobody knew about the letter at the conference. The International conference had more than 500 participants who were interested in `War crimes and Repartition’. Everyday the number of people who are interested in this subject is growing. We are not Socialists or Communists. We just hate social ills and love the ideal of peace and wanting to develop a good relationships with people living all over the world.


In March this year I visited Nauru, Kiribati, Fiji and Banaba islands. In Nauru I spent time at the War Memorial Museum, and arrived on Kiribati 12th. March and stayed to the 25th. March. During my time on Tarawa I made a trip across to Banaba aboard the supply vessel on the 17th. March. While on this important trip I met a lot of old people who were born prior to WWII . They taught me about the historical events including the Japanese occupation of Banaba island. I travelled aboard the supply ship to Banaba so that I could experience the every day lives of the Banaban people and their living conditions on the island today. The voyage was a very hard trip and one of the biggest and most moving experiences of my life. I crossed the Equator around midnight. The ship wasn’t that big and the weather not so good at the time. I can not express in words how I felt when I first saw Banaba island for the first time (see photos taken at the time).

All of the instant foods, gasoline, and daily things like rice are brought in from Tarawa. All mining and factory buildings are almost broken down. The old company houses which the Banabans live in are becoming very old , and I am concerned about that and the health condition of the people who now live on Banaba Island. I met Burinemone Biara a member of Kiribati Parliament on the ship on the way over and another Banaban man whose younger brother was killed by Kiribati Police during a riot on Banaba in 1975 over land and mining issues.


Nowadays a lot of Japanese citizens are interested in the ‘Reparation of WWII Victims’. Such Civil Movements are now reaching the ears of our own government but no information is reaching the Pacific area. My aim is to educate and connect people here in Japan with the people living in the Pacific region. I’m now a member of a non-government International organisation named ‘IMADR’ (International Movement Against Discrimination & Racism) which holds NGO Consultative Status (Roster) to raise issues on Economic and Social issues of minority groups at the United Nations, and I currently hold the position of secretary of the NGO office at TOKYO Headquarters. Last month I send some information about Indian peoples social situation in Fiji to a sub-commission conference in the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

If you would like to know some more information about IMADR please contact me either on -


or contact me at -

Manabu Kitaguchi

International Secretary - IMADR

3-5-11, Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo. 106 JAPAN

Tel: (81) 3-3586-7447 Fax: (81) 3-3586-7462

The United Nations published a Press Release about my work with IMADR last month. My aim is to really help and assist the Banaban People with the help of my great teacher - Stacey King, founder of the Banaban Heritage Society Inc. and Editor of the ‘Banaba/Ocean Island News’. I hope that my recent photos taken on Banaba will raise the issue of what has happened to the Banaban people and ensure that they are not forgotten by the rest of the World.

Manabu Kitaguchi 6th. October, 1996 from Japan

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