Motto: Hakkō ichiu
Anthem: Kimigayo "君が代"
"His Imperial Majesty's Reign" '
The Empire of Japan at its peak in 1942:
|Status||Military occupation by the Empire of Japan|
and largest city
and national language
|Common languages||Chinese, Malay, Tamil, English|
|Religion|| De jure: None|
De facto: State Shinto
|Government||Military occupation by a One-party totalitarian military dictatorship under an absolute monarchy |
|Historical era||World War II|
• Pacific War begins
|8 December 1941a|
15 February 1942
|Nov 1944 – May 1945|
|15 August 1945|
• Singapore surrendered to British Military Administration
12 September 1945
• Singapore becomes a Crown colony
1 April 1946
|Time zone||UTC+9 (TST)|
|ISO 3166 code||JP|
|Today part of|
|Syonan or Shonan|
Part of a series on the
|History of Singapore|
Syonan (Japanese: 昭南, Hepburn: Shōnan), officially Syonanto (Japanese: 昭南島, Hepburn: Shōnan-tō) was the name for Singapore when it was occupied and ruled by the Empire of Japan, following the fall and surrender of British military forces on 15 February 1942 during World War II.
Japanese military forces occupied it after defeating the combined British, Indian, Australian, and Malayan garrison in the Battle of Singapore. The occupation was to become a major turning point in the histories of several nations, including those of Japan, Britain, and Singapore. Singapore was renamed Syonanto (Japanese: 昭南島, Hepburn: Shōnan-tō), meaning "Light of the South Island" and was also included as part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (Japanese: 大東亜共栄圏, Hepburn: Dai Tōa Kyōeiken).
Singapore was officially returned to British colonial rule on 12 September 1945, following the formal signing of the surrender instrument at the Municipal Building, now known as the City Hall. Singapore would go on to be a sovereign city-state 20 years later in 1965. The experience of Japanese rule continues to be commemorated with Total Defence Day, which is marked annually in Singapore on 15 February, the day of the surrender of the British to the Japanese in 1942.
The Japanese captured all of Malaya during the Malayan Campaign in a little more than two months. The garrison defending Singapore surrendered on 15 February 1942, only a week after the invasion of the island commenced. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the fall of Singapore "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history".
The Kempeitai (the Japanese military police), which was the dominant occupation unit in Singapore, committed numerous atrocities towards the common people. They introduced the system of "Sook Ching", meaning "purging through purification" in Chinese, to get rid of those, especially so ethnic Chinese, deemed to be hostile to the Empire of Japan (anti-Japanese elements in the local population). The Sook Ching Massacre claimed the lives of between 25,000 and 55,000 ethnic Chinese in Singapore as well as in neighboring Malaya. These victims, mainly males between the ages of 18 to 50, were rounded up and taken to deserted spots and remote locations around the island, such as Changi Beach, Punggol Point, and Siglap and killed systematically using machine-guns and rifles. Moreover, the Kempeitai established an island-wide network of local informants to help them identify those they suspected as anti-Japanese. These informers were well-paid by the Kempeitai and had no fear of being arrested for their loyalty was not in question to the occupation forces. These informers worked at Kempeitai screening centres where the Japanese attempted to single out anti-Japanese elements for execution. Japanese soldiers and Kempeitai officers patrolled the streets often and all commoners had to bow to them with respect when they passed by. Those who failed to do so would be slapped, punished, beaten and some people would even be taken away to imprisonment or even face execution.
To discourage Western influence, which Japan sought to eliminate from the very start of their invasion, the Japanese set up schools and education institutions and pressured the local people to learn their language (Japanese). Textbooks and language guidebooks were printed in Japanese and radios and movies were broadcast and screened in Japanese. Every morning, school-children had to stand facing the direction of Japan (in the case of Singapore, looking northeast) and sing the Japanese national anthem ("Kimigayo"). Japanese propaganda banners and posters also went up all around Singapore, as did many Japanese Rising Sun flags raised and hung across many major buildings.
Basic resources, ranging from food to medication, were scarce during the occupation. The prices of basic necessities increased drastically over the three and a half years due to hyperinflation. For example, the price of rice increased from $5 per 100 catties (about 60 g or 0.13 lb) to $5,000 by the end of the occupation between August and September 1945. The Japanese issued ration cards, also known as "Peace Living Certificates" to limit the amount of resources distributed to the civilian population. Adults could purchase 5 kg (11 lb) of rice per month and children received 2 kg (4.4 lb) accordingly. The amount of rice for adults was reduced by 25% as the war progressed, as much of the scarce rice supplies were sent to feed the Japanese military.
The Japanese issued "Banana Money" (so referred to due to the image of a banana tree printed on most of such notes of the currency) as their main currency during the occupation period since British Straits currency became rarer and was subsequently phased out when the Japanese took over in 1942. They instituted elements of a command economy in which there were restrictions on the demand and supply of resources, thus creating a popular black market from which the locals could obtain key scarce resources such as rice, meat, and medicine. The "Banana" currency started to suffer from high inflation and dropped drastically in value because the occupation authorities would simply print more whenever they needed it; consequently on the black market, Straits currency was more widely used.
Food availability and quality decreased greatly. Sweet potatoes, tapiocas and yams became the staple food of most diets of many Singaporeans because they were considerably cheaper than rice and could also be grown fast and easily in backyard gardens. They were then turned into a variety of dishes, as both desserts and all three meals of the day. Such foods helped to fend starvation off, with limited success in terms of nutrients gained, and new ways of consuming sweet potatoes, tapiocas and yams with other products were regularly invented and created to help stave off the monotony. Both the British colonial and Japanese occupation authorities encouraged their local population to grow their own food even if they had the smallest amount of land. The encouragement and production were similar to what occurred with "Victory Gardens" in Western nations (predominantly in Europe) during World War IIas food supplies grew ever more scarce. Ipomoea aquatica , which grew relatively easily and flourished relatively well near water sources, became a popular food-crop just as it did the other vegetables,
After taking Singapore, the Japanese established the Shonan Japanese School (昭南日本学園, Shōnan Nihon Gakuen), to educate Malays, Chinese, Indians, and Eurasians in the Japanese language. Faye Yuan Kleeman, the author of Under an Imperial Sun: Japanese Colonial Literature of Taiwan and the South wrote that it was the most successful of such schools in Southeast Asia. During the occupation, the Japanese had also opened the Shonan First People's School.
Singapore was the target of various operations masterminded by Allied forces to disrupt Japanese military activities. On 26 September 1943, an Allied commando unit known as Z Force led by Major Ivan Lyon infiltrated Singapore Harbour and sank or damaged seven Japanese ships comprising over 39,000 long ton s (40,000 metric tons ). Lyon led another operation, codenamed "Rimau", with the same objective almost a year later and sank three ships. Lyon and 13 of his men were killed fighting the Japanese. The other 10 men who participated in the operation were captured, charged with espionage in a kangaroo court and subsequently executed.
Lim Bo Seng of Force 136 led another operation, code-named Gustavus, he recruited and trained hundreds of secret agents through intensive military intelligence missions from China and India. He set up the Sino-British guerrilla task force Force 136 in 1942 with Captain John Davis of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Operation Gustavus was aimed at establishing an espionage network in Malaya and Singapore to gather intelligence about Japanese activities, and thereby aid the British in Operation Zipper – the code name for their plan to take back Singapore from the Japanese. Force 136 was eventually disbanded after the war.
In August 1945, two XE class midget submarines of the Royal Navy took part in Operation Struggle, a plan to infiltrate Singapore Harbour and sabotage the Japanese cruisers Takao and Myōkō using limpet mines. They inflicted heavy damage on Takao, earning Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser the Victoria Cross. From November 1944 to May 1945, Singapore was subjected to air raids by British and American long-range bomber units.
Naval facilities and docks in Singapore were also bombed on eleven occasions by American air units between November 1944 and May 1945. These attacks caused some damage to their targets but also killed a number of civilians. Most Singaporeans, however, welcomed the raids as they were seen as heralding Singapore's liberation from Japanese rule.
On 6 August 1945, the United States detonated an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Sixteen hours later, American President Harry S. Truman called again for Japan's surrender, warning them to "expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth." 8 August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on and on 9 August 1945, the Soviet Union invaded the Imperial Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Later in the day, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb, this time on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Following these events, Emperor Hirohito intervened and ordered the Supreme Council for the Direction of the War to accept the terms the Allies had set down in the Potsdam Declaration for ending the war. After several more days of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a failed coup d'état, Emperor Hirohito gave a recorded radio address across the Empire on 15 August. In the radio address, called the Jewel Voice Broadcast (玉音放送 Gyokuon-hōsō), he announced the surrender of Japan to the Allies.
The surrender ceremony was held on 2 September, aboard the United States Navy battleship USS Missouri, at which officials from the Japanese government signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, thereby ending the hostilities.
On 12 September 1945, a surrender instrument was signed at the Singapore Municipal Building. This was followed by a celebration at the Padang, which included a victory parade. Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia Command, came to Singapore to receive the formal surrender of the Japanese forces in the region from General Seishirō Itagaki on behalf of General Hisaichi Terauchi. A British military administration, using surrendered Japanese troops as security forces, was formed to govern the island until March 1946.
After the Japanese surrendered, there was a state of instability anomie in Singapore, as the British had not yet arrived to take control. The Japanese occupiers had a considerably weakened hold over the populace. There were widespread incidents of looting and revenge-killing. Much of the infrastructure had been wrecked, including the harbour facilities and electricity, water supply and telephone services. It took four or five years for the economy to return to pre-war levels. When British troops finally arrived, they were met with cheering and fanfare.
Banana money became worthless after the occupation ended.
To keep alive the memory of the Japanese occupation and its lessons learned for future generations, the Singapore government erected several memorials with some at the former massacre sites:
Spearheaded and managed by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Civilian War Memorial is located in the War Memorial Park at Beach Road. Comprising four white concrete columns, this 61 meters tall memorial commemorates the civilian dead of all races. It was built after thousands of remains were discovered all over Singapore during the urban redevelopment boom in the early 1960s. The memorial was officially unveiled by Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew on the 25th anniversary of the start of the Japanese occupation in 1967.It was constructed with part of the S$50 million 'blood debt' compensation paid by the Japanese government in October 1966. Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Lee said:
We meet to remember the men and women who were the hapless victims of one of the fires of history... If today we remember these lessons of the past, we strengthen our resolve and determination to make our future more secure then these men and women for whom we mourn would not have died in vain.
On 15 February every year, memorial services (opened to the public) are held at the memorial.
The site of this monument lies within the compound of the Hong Lim Complex in Chinatown. The inscription on the monument reads:
The site was one of the temporary registration centres of the Japanese Military Police, the Kempeitai, for screening 'anti-Japanese' Chinese.
On 18 February 1942, three days after the surrender of Singapore, the Kempeitai launched a month-long purge of 'anti-Japanese elements' in an operation named Sook Ching. All Chinese men between 18 and 50 years old, and in some cases women and children, were ordered to report to these temporary registration centers for interrogation and identification by the Kempeitai.
Those who passed the arbitrary screening were released with 'Examined' stamped on their faces, arms or clothes. Others, not so fortunate, were taken to outlying parts of Singapore and executed for alleged anti-Japanese activities. Tens of thousands were estimated to have lost their lives.
For those who were spared, the Sook Ching screening remains one of their worst memories of the Japanese Occupation.
— National Heritage Board.
The site of this monument is located in Changi Beach Park (near Camp Site 2) in the eastern part of Singapore. The inscription on the monument reads:
66 male civilians were killed by Japanese Hojo Kempei (auxiliary military police) firing at the water's edge on this stretch of Changi Beach on 20 February 1942. They were among tens of thousands who lost their lives during the Japanese Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians among Singapore's Chinese population between 18 February and 4 March 1942. Tanah Merah Besar Beach, a few hundred meters south (now part of Singapore Changi Airport runway) was one of the most heavily-used killing grounds where well over a thousand Chinese men and youths lost their lives.
— National Heritage Board.
The site of this monument is located off Punggol Road in northeastern Singapore. The inscription on the monument reads:
On 23 February 1942, some 300–400 Chinese civilians were killed along Punggol foreshore by Hojo Kempei (auxiliary military police) firing squad. They were among tens of thousands who lost their lives during the Japanese Sook Ching operation to purge suspected anti-Japanese civilians among Singapore's Chinese population between 18 February and 4 March 1942. The victims who perished along the foreshore were among 1,000 Chinese males rounded up following a house-to-house search of the Chinese community living along Upper Serangoon Road by Japanese soldiers.
— National Heritage Board.
The Japanese occupation of Singapore has been depicted in media and popular culture, including films, television series and books
Changi is a planning area located in the geographical region of Tanah Merah in the East Region of Singapore. Sharing borders with Pasir Ris and Tampines to the west, Changi Bay to the southeast, the South China Sea to the east and the Serangoon Harbour to the north. Changi, excluding the two water catchments and islands of Singapore, is the largest planning area by land size.
Tomoyuki Yamashita was a Japanese general of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Yamashita led Japanese forces during the invasion of Malaya and Battle of Singapore, with his accomplishment of conquering Malaya and Singapore in 70 days earning him the sobriquet "The Tiger of Malaya" and led to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill calling the ignominious fall of Singapore to Japan the "worst disaster" and "largest capitulation" in British military history. Yamashita was assigned to defend the Philippines from the advancing Allied forces later in the war, and while unable to prevent the Allied advance, he was able to hold on to part of Luzon until after the formal Surrender of Japan in August 1945.
Changi Prison Complex. often known as simply Changi Prison, is a prison located in Changi in the eastern part of Singapore.
The Sook Ching was a systematic purge of perceived hostile elements among the Chinese in Singapore by the Japanese military during the Japanese occupation of Singapore and Malaya, after the British colony surrendered on 15 February 1942 following the Battle of Singapore. The purge took place from 18 February to 4 March 1942 at various places in the region. The operation was overseen by the Imperial Japanese Army's Kempeitai secret police and subsequently extended to include the Chinese population in Malaya.
Lim Bo Seng was a Chinese resistance fighter based in Singapore and Malaya during World War II. Before the outbreak of War World II, he was a prominent businessman among the Chinese community in Singapore. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke, he participated in anti-Japanese activities in Malaya and Singapore. During Japanese occupation of Malaya and Singapore, he was tasked to establish Force 136, a guerrilla task force backed by Special Operations Executive (SOE). However, he was captured by Japanese forces and died while interred. After the war, he is remembered as a war hero in Singapore.
Malaya was gradually occupied by the Japanese between 8 December 1941 and the Allied surrender at Singapore on 16 February 1942. The Japanese remained in occupation until their surrender to the Allies in 1945. The first Japanese garrison in Malaya to lay down their arms was in Penang on 2 September 1945 aboard HMS Nelson.
Changi Beach Park is a beach park located at the northern tip of Changi in the eastern region of Singapore.
The Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation, usually called the Civilian War Memorial, is a war memorial and heritage landmark in Singapore next to Esplanade MRT station. It was built in memory of the civilians killed during the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II. The Civilian War Memorial sits on serene parkland in the midst of busy city traffic near Singapore's Padang and City Hall. Located within the War Memorial Park at Beach Road within the Central Area, Singapore's central business district, it is usually easy to spot in most backdrops encompassing the CBD landscape. It was gazetted as a 65th national memorial on 15 August 2013.
Syonan Jinja was a former Shinto shrine at MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore. Built by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II, the shrine was destroyed directly before British forces re-occupied Singapore. The National Heritage Board declared the site a Historic Site in 2002, although no plans have been made public to develop or to protect the site.
Dalforce, or the Singapore Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army was an irregular forces/guerrilla unit within the British Straits Settlements Volunteer Force during World War II. Its members were recruited among the ethnic Chinese people of Singapore. It was created on 25 December 1941 by Lieutenant Colonel John Dalley of the Federated Malay States Police Force. The unit was known to the British colonial administration as Dalforce, after its chief instructor and commanding officer, John Dalley, whereas the Chinese in Singapore only knew it as the Singapore Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army. This formation took part in the Battle of Singapore and some members conducted a guerrilla campaign against Japanese forces during the Japanese occupation.
The Selarang Barracks incident, also known as the Barrack Square incident or the Selarang Square Squeeze, was a revolt of British and Australian prisoners-of-war (POWs) interned in a Japanese camp in Changi, Singapore.
Mamoru Shinozaki was a journalist for Dentsu and spy for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in pre-war years, a military executive in Japanese-occupied Singapore, and a businessman and writer in post-war years. He is known for the Shinozaki Case in 1940, and for his testimony in the War crimes trial in 1947 for the Sook Ching massacre.
The Bukit Batok Memorial is located on top of the tranquil Bukit Batok Hill upon which once stood two war memorials built by Australian POWs to commemorate the war dead of the Japanese and the Allies who fought during the decisive Battle of Bukit Timah in Singapore during the Second World War. The two memorials were destroyed after the war and only the road and stairs that used to lead to them mark its legacy today.
The Kempeitai East District Branch was the headquarters of the Kempeitai, the Japanese military police, during the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942 to 1945. It was located at the old YMCA building, at the present site of Singapore's YMCA Building on Stamford Road. Opened in 1911, the distinctive Art Deco YMCA building was the site of interrogation and torture of many innocent civilians, including the war heroine Elizabeth Choy. After the war, the Singapore government erected several memorials with some at the former massacre sites. In 1995, the former site of the old YMCA building was gazetted by the National Heritage Board as one of the eleven World War II sites of Singapore.
The Ee Hoe Hean Club, founded in 1895 and located at Bukit Pasoh Road in Chinatown, was a millionaires' club in Singapore. Besides functioning as a social and business club, members of the club were actively involved in the political development of China in the early 20th century. The club supported the 1911 Xinhai Revolution which overthrew the Qing Dynasty, and later the establishment of the Republic of China. During World War II, it was the headquarters of the anti-Japanese China Salvation Movement in Southeast Asia from 1937—1942. On 18 October 1995, the club was gazetted as a Heritage Site by the National Heritage Board of Singapore.
Changi Air Base or Changi Air Base (West) (Changi West Complex), formerly RAF Changi, is an airfield military airbase of the Republic of Singapore Air Force located at Changi, in the eastern tip of Singapore. Sited at two locations to the east and west of Singapore Changi Airport, it co-shares runway facilities with the civilian airport and currently occupies a third runway slated for future expansion for civilian use by Singapore Changi Airport. Together, the two airfields house 121 Squadron, 112 Squadron, No 145 Squadron, the Field Defence Squadron, the Air Logistics Squadron and the Airfield Maintenance Squadron. The air base badge carries the motto Together in Excellence.
Punggol Point Park, formerly known as Punggol Point, is located in Punggol, north-east of Singapore.
War Memorial Park is a park in Singapore, located at the junctions of Beach Road, Stamford Road, Nicoll Highway and Bras Basah Road in the Downtown Core of Singapore's Central Region next to Esplanade MRT station. The Civilian War Memorial is located at the center of the park as a memorial to civilians who died in Singapore during World War II. It is managed by the National Parks Board.
The Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army was a paramilitary group that was active during the Japanese occupation of Malaya from 1942 to 1945. Composed mainly of ethnic Chinese guerrilla fighters, the MPAJA was the biggest anti-Japanese resistance group in Malaya. Founded on 18 December 1941 during the Japanese invasion of Malaya, the MPAJA was conceived as a part of a combined effort by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), British colonial government, and various anti-Japanese groups to resist the Japanese occupation of Malayan territory. Although the MPAJA and the MCP were officially different organisations, many saw the MPAJA as a de facto armed wing of the MCP due to its leadership being staffed by mostly ethnic Chinese communists. Many of the ex-guerrillas of the MPAJA would later join the MCP in its open conflict with the BMA during the Malayan Emergency.
Japan–Singapore relations or Singapore–Japan relations refer to the bilateral relations between Japan and Singapore, two highly developed Asian countries which share historical, economic, and political ties. While the two countries first established bilateral relations in 1966, some of the earliest relations date back from before the 15th century during the Muromachi period as well as the Ryukyu Kingdom. This continued for centuries until the most notable interaction with Japan's invasion of Singapore during World War II. The invasion led to a takeover of the country, after which Japan occupied Singapore for approximately four years before withdrawing following their loss in the war.
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Japanese occupation of Singapore