Children of the Occupation

Children of the Occupation

NewSouth Publishing

Walter Hamilton, Journalist and Author

Towards the end of an eventful life, George Budworth, who served with the Australian Army in Japan after the war, wrote an account describing the first time he saw his son, Peter. It was not in a hospital maternity ward but on the streets of Kure one chilly night in 1954:

In broken English, the woman said, ‘Please, you look my baby, he sick’. She turned her back to Quietly [George’s fictional alter ego]. The baby was tied on her back in a kind of carryall. Quietly reached down and flipped back the lid. Looking up at him was the pinched, undernourished white face of a very young baby. Quietly could see at a glance that the child was half Japanese ­– certainly not a full blood. ‘He now six weeks; he Goshu (Australian) baby-san,’ was all she said through her sobs.

George gave the woman all the money he was carrying. She later sought him out to return the change; they started a relationship; and George formed a close bond with the child, Hideki, whom he renamed Peter and formally adopted.

In 1956, as the British Commonwealth Forces Korea prepared to pull out of Japan, George was among a handful of soldiers and civilians seeking permission to take adopted children back to Australia. In the decade since the first Australian troops arrived in Occupied Japan, such a thing had never been allowed (though war brides were admitted after 1952). In George’s fictionalised memoir, Peter’s mother, Fusako, surrenders custody of her child because she fears for his future in Japan: ‘They could never go to school, never marry, or hold any job but as labourers, in other words a life worse than death was the best these children could expect’…

…Walter Hamilton’s book Children of the Occupation: Japan’s Untold Story will be published by NewSouth in June.

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