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Japanese Influences in Davao

Japanese Descendants in Mindanao

Unknown to many Filipinos, there are a number of Japanese descendants living in
Mindanao and most of them are in Davao City. (National Staistical Coordination
Board, 2004)
This is from the Davao based Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai, an organization formed by
Filipinos with Japanese descendants. Most of the people compromising the
organization are children of Japanese parents who opted to migrate in the
As of 2004, in Mindanao, 4,836 were recognized by this organization. Of the total
recognized Japanese descendants, 63.8% are from Davao City. The rest are coming
from the other cities and provinces of Mindanao. (National Staistical Coordination
Board, 2004)

Image Source 0-1. National Statistical Coordination Board

Why Davao became the Little Tokyo of the Philippines:
Throughout the years of 1903-1925, Japanese immigration increased significantly
and their control over Davaos economy raised suspicion as unfavorable to the
national interest. (City Government of Davao, 2011) During the 1930s, Japan was gaining
a steady foothold in Davao. Directing bot the economic and political aspect of town,
Japan then was on its way to grasp world power. (Fiel, 2005)
Shown in various exhibits of Japanese living in the city, pictures display the first
Japanese businessmen who made a fortune in abaca plantations. This event is said
to be responsible for giving recognition to abaca (Manila hemp) as the worlds
strongest cordage fiber in the pre-war era. (Fiel, 2005)
As the businesses kept piling up in the city of Davao, businessmen then haired
indigenous tribes. America in particular hired locals, but due to unsatisfactory work,
they opted to hire the Japanese workers who happened to be doing work at the
construction of Kennon Road Baguio. (Fiel, 2005)
With the Japanese workers being hired at plantations and Japanese tycoons
manipulating the social aspect of city living, Davao was then referred to as
Davaokuo or Little Tokyo.

World War II Memoirs, Pre-war, and its Aftermaths:

Memoir of Lt. Col. Anastacio Campo

Davao was a small town before the war. It only hade three commercial
thoroughfares, namely, San Pedro, Claveria, and Oyanguren. Lined with trees and
crammed with parks and monuments, prewar Davao city was composed of one
hundred thousand inhabitants of diverse descent such as, Filipinos, Americans,
Japanese, Spaniards and Chinese (Yap Morales, 2006). The diversity of the people
that consists that makes up the population of Davao was a reflection of the various
mix of culture that intertwined within its boundaries.
The architecture present in the city was the concrete representation of the
Dabawenyos history and heritage, merging the best of native Filipino, Eastern, and
Western influences, open-handedly contributing of the cultural blessing of each (Yap
Morales, 2006).

Memoir of a Japanese Soldier: Hiroyuki Mizuguchi

Davao, before the war, was a prosperous city and was often referred to as the Land
of Promise. It was filled with dreams that could have been realized for the Japanese,
Chinese, Hindus, Filipinos and other nationalities. (Mizuguchi, 2010)
Even before the war, Davao already had its number of Japanese citizens that reside
here in the Philippines. Much like Hiroyuki Mizuguchi, or fondly called Hiro, the war
was a dramatic turning point in their lives. This affected their everyday life and how
people viewed and interacted with them. Japanese owned stores were then
ransacked and stripped of their goods and dignity leaving nothing but a mess.
Everything was in a state of anarchy when Japan announced their war against our
then colonizers America. When the Japanese citizens were gathered in the
concentration camp many where beaten and thrashed as they were being escorted
to the camps. Trauma and fear then enveloped the Japanese people residing in
Davao. The Filipinos didnt show nor care to act merciful towards the Japanese
civilians due to the fact that Japanese war airplanes terrorized the city. Chaos
erupted in the streets and the atmosphere shifted to hostility.
The living conditions offered to the Japanese were not suitable for proper living.
Therefore, the Philippine government soon realized that something had to be done
to develop the existing living conditions in the camp before the Japanese rebelled
against them. (Mizuguchi, 2010)
The food was at scarcity and the supplies didnt meet the demands needs by the
people confined in the concentration camps, luckily enough the Japanese men
residing in the camp Hiro was situated in were skillful and craftsmen that they
managed to construct and improve the drainage and the sanitary facilities fit to
accommodate the large number of inhabitants.

World War II and Davao:

World War II brought upon destruction and chaos to the new city. There were several
wetbacks from the earlier economic and physical strides prior the Japanese
occupation. Davao was one of the initial cities to be occurred by the invading Japanese
Forces, and they immediately secured the city as the stronghold of the Japanese defense system.
Davaos destruction, followed by an increase of thousands of guerrillas who wanted to squat former-
Japanese owned plantations, together with a deluge of sickly refugees from the mountains, added to
the physical and economic problems of the City. (City Government of Davao, 2011)

City Government of Davao. (2011). Davao City: Historical Brief. Retrieved from
Davao City: http://www.davaocity.gov.ph/davao/profile.aspx
Fiel, C. (2005, November 21). Culture: How Davao Became "Little Tokyo". Retrieved
from Davao Today Web site: http://davaotoday.com/main/culture-2/davao-
Mizuguchi, H. (2010). the Jungle of No Mercy. Pasig : Anvil Publishing Inc.
National Staistical Coordination Board. (2004, August 13). Davao City has the
largest number of Japanese Descendants in Mindanao. Philippines. Retrieved
from Republic of the Philippines: Philippine Statistics Authority:
Yap Morales, M. V. (2006). Diary of the War: World War II Memoirs of Lt. Col.
Anastacio Campo. Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University