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Caught in the Middle: Japanese Attitudes toward Indonesian Independence in 1945

  • Ken'ichi Goto (a1)


In September 1944 the Japanese government promised to give “independence in the near future” to Indonesia. However, when Japan surrendered in 1945, the Allies ordered the Japanese authorities to suppress any move by the Indonesians toward independence. Caught between their old promise and their new role, the Japanese exhibited contrasting patterns of behaviour. This paper analyzes their reactions by using two categories, the “allegiance type” of person who adhered to Allied instructions, and the "renunciation type" who attempted to honour the promise given to the Indonesians.



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1 Yamamoto Moichirō, Watashi-no IndonesiaDai Juroku Gun Jidai-no Kaiso [My Indonesia — A Memoir on the Period of My Service in the 16th Army] (Tokyo: Nihon-Indonesia Kyokai, 1979), p. 77.

2 Shizuo, Miyamoto, Jawa Shusen Shori-Ki [An Account of the Disposition of the End of the War in Java] (Tokyo: Jawa Shusen Shori-Ki Kanko-Kai, 1973), p. 47.

3 Ibid.

4 Yamazaki Hajime, Kita-ni Minami-ni [To the North, to the South] (privately published, 1977], p. 139.

5 Shizuo, Saitō, Watashi-no Gunsei-Ki [My Recollections of Military Administration] (Tokyo: Nihon-Indonesia Kyokai, 1977), p. 221.

6 Yamamoto, [My Indonesia], p. 78.

7 Saitō, [My Recollections], p. 222.

8 Ibid., p. 174.

9 See Sako, Tanemura, Daihonei Kimitsu Nitshi [Secret Diary of the Imperial headquarters] (Tokyo: Daiamondo, 1952), p. 153.

10 The most representative study on this theme is Anderson, Benedict R. O'G., Java in a Time of Revolution: Occupation and Resistance, 1944–1946 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972).

11 Shinbun-sha, Jawa (ed.), Jawa Nenkan [Almanac of Jawa] (reprinted Tokyo: Biblio Shuppan, 1973), p. 25.

12 About the meeting between Terauchi and Sukarno accompanied by other leader, see the memoir of Miyoshi Shunkichirō who served as the interpreter, “Jawa Senryo Gunsei Kaiko-roku (14)” [My Recollections of the Military Occupation in Java], Kokusai Mondai 80 (Nov. 1966): 67.

13 Yamamoto, [My Indonesia], pp. 90–91.

14 Ibid., pp. 91–92.

15 Saitō, [My Recollections], p. 175.

16 Miyamoto, [The End of the War in Java], p. 75.

17 Ibid., p. 36.

18 Saitō, [My Recollections], p. 226.

19 Ibid., p. 42.

20 See Hajime, Kinoshita, MurdekaIndonesia Dokuritsu Hishi [Merdeka — A Secret History of Indonesian Independence] (Tokyo: Naigai Shuppan, 1958), p. 112.

21 Saitō, [My Recollections], p. 227.

22 Miyamoto, [The End of the War in Java], p. 204. On the “Semarang Incident”, see Goto, Ken'ichi, “Sengo Nippon-Indonesia Kankeishi Kenkyū Josetsu” [A Preliminary Study on the Postwar Japanese-Indonesian Relations], Shakai Kagaku Tokyu 117 (1994): 332.

23 Yamamoto, [My Indonesia], p. 165.

24 Miyamoto, [The End of the War in Java], p. 187.

25 Ibid., p. 267. See also Ian Nish, “Britain and the End of the War in Asia and the Termination of Empire”, a paper presented at the International Conference on “1945 in Europe and Japan”, Berlin, 6–9 Apr. 1995.

26 Motivations of persons belonging to this type of “renunciation” are categorized as follows: (1) sympathy for the Indonesian independence movement, (2) affection for the land of Indonesia, (3) feeling of repulsion against the Allies, (4) fear of being arrested as a war criminal, (5) marriage with an Indonesian woman, and (6) ambition to make a success in Indonesia. See Genzo, Oku, Dasso Nihon-heiIndonesia Dokuritsu Senso-no Kageni [Japanese Deserters — Behind the Indonesian Independence War] (Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbun-shya, 1980), p. 224.

27 The classical study on the independence struggle around the Bandung area is John Smail, Bandung in the Early Revolution, 1945–1946: A Study in the Social History of the Indonesian Revolution (Ithaca: Cornell Modern Indonesia Project, 1964).

28 Ichiki and Yoshizumi are usually referred side by side. This is not only due to their strong comradeship, but also to the fact that Ichiki and Yoshizumi “represent” the Army side and Navy side respectively.

29 For the life of Ichiki written in English, see Goto, Ken'ichi, “Life and Death of Abdul Rachman, 1906–1949: One Aspect of Japanese-Indonesian Relationships”, Indonesia 22 (Oct. 1976): 5768.

30 Concerning the Netherlands Indies Government's anxiety and fear of the Japanese propaganda activities in Java, see the Netherlands Information Bureau, Ten Years of Japanese Burrowing in the Netherlands East Indies (published in the United States in Feb. 1942).

31 Ichiki Tatsuo, “Dokuritsu to Gengo — Indonesia-go no Susumubeki Michi” [”Independence and Language — The Direction which Indonesian Language Should Take”],Shin Jawa 1, 2 (Nov. 1944): 50.

32 Ibid., p. 51.

33 Ichiki highly evaluates the Bushido spirit (Japanese chivalry) in the true sense of the word. This is clear from the editing policy of the Pradjurit magazine for Heiho which he himself was an editor. Furthermore, Ichiki's strong wish to transplant Bushido spirit in Indonesia is suggested from the following words: “Not only words of command but also names of weapons as well as operation terms should be in Japanese. The military terms used in the Peta at present should be permanently continued.” Ichiki Tatsuo [“Independence and Language”], p. 53.

34 Japanese who joined the Indonesian side usually changed their names into Indonesian ones. Ichiki's name, Abdul Rachman, was given him by the elderly Sutan Perang Bustami, a former journalist, whom Ichiki respected as a colleague in the Education Division of PETA. Interview, Colonel Kamal, Jakarta, 26 May 1977.

35 Sukardi (ed.), Sekitar Perdjuangan Sumeru Selatan (Jakarta, 1950).

36 Concerning the general political situation of Indonesia during this period, see Kahin, George McT., Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952), ch. 6.

37 Dcuhiko, Hata and Rinjiro, Sodei, Ninon Senryo Hishi (II) [Secret History of the Allied Occupation of Japan] (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun-shya, 1977), p. 170.

Caught in the Middle: Japanese Attitudes toward Indonesian Independence in 1945

  • Ken'ichi Goto (a1)


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