Title of essay : Biography & History
Reminiscences of the Japanese Occupation Name : G. JAYHINDY
Year of Intake : 2001
Programme : Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Social Studies Name of Tutor : Dr Kevin Blackburn
Date of Submission : 26 October, 2002
Address : National Institute of Education 1 Nanyang Walkway
Reminiscences of the Japanese Occupation
For the purpose of doing this oral history project, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to interview an individual who had survived the Japanese Occupation. In his seventies, Mr Rajoo is my uncle. He showed great enthusiasm and related his experience in Tamil during the 3 hours interview. His accounts shed light on the ways how individuals inject meanings to a particular subject.
Mr Rajoo was born in 1930. He was the second son in a family of 10 children. His family lived in a village in Sembawang which was near to one of the Naval Base which was owned by the British. When the Japanese invaded Singapore, Rajoo’s family staying in North of Singapore then they moved as far as Tampinese. His family used a bullock cart to transport some of their properties. They stayed away from their home for a year. Then they returned to their village. So he had a chance to witness the Japanese rule in other parts of Singapore as well as his own hometown.
The Dark Years of Japanese Occupation
The impending presence of the Japanese on Mr Rajoo’s daily life was felt as early as 1941. As a 11 years old boy, his family and he faced severe shortage of food and other necessities like medical. ( Q1 ) When the British surrendered, they did not want Japanese to enjoy the fruit of their labour. All the rice in the warehouse was sprayed with limestone. As limestone is white, the Japanese did not suspect any foul play by the British . So those who ate the rice had diarrhea . Japanese took over much of the foodstuffs and other goods for the use of their army. Due to the food shortage, essential food stuffs like rice, salt and sugar were controlled. Ration cards which limited the amount of food for each person was given out. ( Q4 ) His family lived on a simple diet and found other food substitutes for those food items which were scarce. Tapioca and sweet potatoes were used as substitutes for rice ( Q3 ) and palm oil or coconut oil was used as cooking oil. Even in schools pupils grew and took care of the vegetable plots. This was the widespread situation in Singapore during the Syonan-To years. Many historians have written about the food scarcity during the Syonan rule. There are a lot of evidence to state that during the Japanese rule, many people suffered from malnutrition and diseases as they did not have well balanced meal. Those taken as prisoners of war also suffered under the iron grip of the Japanese and many died out of malnutrition.
Transport during the Japanese reign
Mr Rajoo recalls bicycles being widely used as mode of transport during the Japanese reign. (Q6) So much so that even after the Japanese surrender, Rajoo and the other villagers working in the Sembawang Shipyard used bicycles as means of transport to travel to work. Tri-shaw which consisted of a bicycle with a side-car attached for a fare-paying passenger replaced the former richshaw. He stated that the Japanese bicycles had only thin solid rubber tyres. He also recalls in the interview to have seen a lot of motorcars before the Japanese rule and not during the Syonan-To period. Some historians state that there must have been tens of thousands of vehicles, many new and the majority of the rest in good condition were used by the Japanese. These great fleet of transport fell to the Japanese as booty, when they captured Singapore. However, the lack of spare parts, or technical skill, or both, made...
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2. Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History , New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995.
5. Paul Ashton, On The Record: A Practical Guide to Oral History , Sydney: North Sydeny Council, 1994
Social Studies Textbook 4B : Discovering our world. The Dark Years, 1999.
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