The Japanisation of Singapore
During the Japanese Occupation, names for times, dates and place were changed. Singapore became Syonan-to, and street signs were replaced. The intention, as stated by The Syonan Times
, was to eliminate “the habits and customs left behind by the haughty and cunning British”. Cultural events also took on a stronger Japanese flavour, including Japanese songs, concerts, films and fashion dominating the mainstream media, while Japanese holidays and festivals began to structure social life.
The Japanese language was also deemed to be a tool of indoctrination, with lessons printed in newspapers from late February 1942, and classes broadcast over the airwaves. Students attending English-medium schools found themselves learning Japanese. Every morning, they would sing Kimigayo
, the Japanese anthem, while raising the Japanese flag, followed by deep, low bows in the direction of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.
Despite these attempts, Japanisation was largely unsuccessful as the language was difficult to master and most were preoccupied with survival.
Mamoru Shinozaki—Friend or Foe?
Mamoru Shinozaki was a Japanese government official who came to Singapore in 1938. Jailed by the British in 1940 for gathering and disclosing military defence information and local conditions to the Japanese, he was later released during the Japanese Occupation and appointed to various roles including advisor of Defence Headquarters. His tasks included reassembling the documents of the Japanese consulate and issuing protection cards to diplomats and other foreigners from neutral countries.
Shinozaki was appointed chief officer of education in the Education Department in March 1942. His immediate tasks were to reopen schools and reorganise teaching staff. In a 1985 interview, Herman Marie De Souza, who had worked with Shinozaki in the Education Department, recalled that Shinozaki helped to ‘soften’ directives from the Military Administration to accommodate the teachers. For example, Shinozaki managed to secure the release of school buildings that were being used by the military.
In August 1942, Shinozaki was appointed the chief welfare officer to look into locals’ complaints, find jobs for the unemployed and establish a labour office. In this capacity, Shinozaki also helped set up the Eurasian Welfare Association, representing the Eurasian community to the Japanese administration.
After the Sook Ching operation was launched, Shinozaki claimed he used his position to help as many people as he could, regardless of their character or reputation. He declared he had issued some 20,000 to 30,000 protection and ‘safe passage’ cards, and rescued about 2,000 detainees from the Sook Ching concentration camps.
However, Shinozaki was criticised for downplaying the death toll during the Sook Ching massacre, citing the Japanese government’s estimated death toll of 6,000 people. This was significantly lower than the estimates by Chinese sources such as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and medical doctor Chen Su Lan
Dr. Chen Su Lan led a campaign against opium addiction in the 1920s and 1930s, a revival of the anti-opium effort by Tan Boon Liat in 1906. Chen’s new anti-opium campaign began in 1929, and he was the president of the Singapore Anti-Opium Society in 1930. In 1933, Chen founded an experimental anti-opium clinic on Kampong Java Road with Dr. Lim Boon Keng. After narrowly surviving World War II, he founded the Chinese Young Men's Christian Association in 1946 and set up the Chen Su Lan Trust in 1947 to disburse funds and land for charitable causes.
, who put the figure at 50,000 to 60,000. Conversely, some memoirs praised Shinozaki, calling him someone who was sincerely interested in promoting local people’s welfare and was seen as risking his neck to do so.