alive

Almost 9 million civilians moved from one territory of Japan's empire to another. Many died while in service to the empire. Most eventually returned to their homelands after the empire collapsed. But hundreds of thousands of men from Southeast Asia vanished. Thousands of women in relationships with Imperial Japanese Army soldiers disappeared with their children and their men. alive :the undead empire tracks these missing people down. It tells their stories: the slave laborers abandoned, stateless and penniless far from home for the rest of their lives; the women and children sent away with their soldier partners and never heard from again.

: alive story | Karja Wiredja

In 2011 a Japanese charity in Bangkok discovered Karja Wiredja living in rags in a remote community near Thailand's border with Myanmar. 65 years earlier he had been taken away to work on the notorious Thai-Burma railroad. When Japan's empire in Asia collapsed in 1945, Karja was left stranded, impoverished and stateless in Thailand. The Japanese charity returned Karja to his small hometown in central Java but it was too late: his family had vanished and people could barely understand his way of speaking the local language. Karja is just one of hundreds of thousands of men from Southeast Asia who were taken far from home, forced to work on Japan's imperial projects, and never returned after the war ended. The imperial patterns of displacement and decimations of people persist well beyond the end of the empire itself. alive :the undead empire seeks men like Karja in Borneo, the Andaman Islands, and in northern Thailand, and brings their lives and their stories into the light at last.