About the 灣生 Wansei

TAIPEI. 被雨水. 臺北市. Have you noticed something special about this manhole cover? A small detail hinting at Taiwan’s colonial past… it’s adorned by Taipei’s Japanese coat of arms.

灣生 Wansei is the abbreviation for 臺灣出生, a term attributed to Taiwan-born Japanese, during Japanese ruling. At the end of World War II, Taiwan was handed over to the Republic of China, led by Chiang Kai-Sek’s KMT party. All of a sudden, a whole generation of Japanese who had known Taiwan as their only home, were sent back to Japan. A challenging transition for many of them, often estranged by, and victim of discrimination back in the motherland.

Not a lot has been written about this group of people, almost unheard of in Taiwan’s history, and I am fairly new to this subject as well, but here’s a nice article on the Wansei, and this documentary (in Chinese) from Formosa TV.

Last year, 灣生回家 Wansei, Back Home (trailer, FB, flyingV) came out, the documentary portrayed a few Wansei, and their emotional trip back to Taiwan. The film was produced by Mika Tanaka 田中實加(陳宣儒), and based on her book 灣生回家, depicting the story of 22 Wanseis. I haven’t watched it yet, but reviews out there sound rather positive.

This year, another movie on the same topic hit the screens: 海的彼端 After Spring, the Tamaki Family… (site, FB, zeczec). I caught wind of this at the last minute, but luckily right on time to attend the last showing at the in89 Pier 2 Cinema, a fairly new venue housed in two repurposed old sugar warehouses.

The story revolves around Grandma Tamoyo with the TAMAKI family, the largest immigrant family in Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, they embarked on a journey back to Taiwan – where they’d long stayed before World War II (Taiwan Docs). These Taiwanese have been swinging in different countries and regimes for sixty years and are now living in Japanese society. It’s a tale of the forgotten people in the history of East Asia (TFF).

The documentary is narrated by the grandson Shingo, a heavy metal guitar player and singer. Aside from the family’s story and anecdotes, it was a nice touch to include some historical footages, and explanation to help understand the complex political situation at the time, mostly, the handover of Taiwan from Japan to the Republic of China, and the US occupation of Okinawa. Such events, making it all the more challenging for the Tamaki family to get socially reintegrated in the Japanese society.

The Tamaki family now resides on Ishigaki island, home to many Wansei. In the movie, the elders are seen communicating in Taiwanese with each other, and even congregating to celebrate the Earth Lord 土地公’s birthday. The Dragon Boat festival ritual of making zongzi 粽子 also still lives strong in the Tamaki household, at least, as long as Grandma Tamoyo is around.

I warmly recommend watching this documentary to get even better acquainted with Taiwan, and its history. A more elaborate review can be read here. Some upcoming showings are scheduled in Taoyuan, Taipei, Yuanlin, Kinmen, and Hsinchu, and hopefully more in Taiwan, and on other continents!


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