Karja.jpeg

bodies of empire

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. Bodies of 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.

: bodies story | Karja

In 2011 a Japanese charity in Bangkok discovered Karja Wiredja living in rags in a remote community near Thailand's border with Myanmar. Sixty-five years before he had been taken from his village in Java 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. bodies of empire: undead empire tells the stories of people permanently displaced by the Empire of Japan in Borneo, the Andaman Islands, in South Korea, and China, and brings their lives and their stories into the light at last.