Singapore Under The Japanese Occupation


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INVESTIGATING HISTORY:
SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
1942—1945
A Resource For Secondary School Teachers

CONTENT PAGE
3 Introduction
4 — 5 About the World War Two Exhibits in NMS
6 — 21 Suggested Themes and Sources
22 — 23 Resources
24 — 25 Student Resource: Reflection
26 — 28 Student Resource: Appreciating the Space
29 Student Resource: Examining Sources
30 Student Resource: Post-trip Consolidation
31 Suggested Ways to Use Annex A and B
32 — 40 Annex A: Gallery Text for Syonan-To Zone in SHG
41 — 70 Annex B: Gallery Text for Surviving Syonan Gallery

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INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

INTRODUCTION
This resource has been put together in collaboration with the Academy of Singapore Teachers (AST) for the Historical Investigation (HI) question “How were people’s lives in Singapore affected by the Japanese Occupation?”. It is designed to help you to better plan for HI visits to the National Museum of Singapore (NMS).
We have identified sources from the Surviving Syonan gallery (on level 2) and the Syonan-To zone in the Singapore History Gallery (SHG on level 1) that you can consider when designing a HI question in relation to the Japanese Occupation or planning for a visit for this HI unit. These sources are grouped according to different categories to give a sense of how people’s lives were affected by the Japanese Occupation in Singapore.
We have also suggested a few thinking questions to help students engage with the sources in a more critical manner. A sample of the gallery text and artefact captions for the Syonan-To zone in the SHG and the Surviving Syonan gallery are provided in Annex A and B of this resource.
We hope you find this resource packet useful when planning your HI visits to the museum and that your students will enjoy seeing the actual sources and being immersed in our galleries.
Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions or require further assistance in planning.
You may also email us if you require the full gallery text and artefact captions for Annex A and B.

INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

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ABOUT THE WWII EXHIBITS
IN NMS
The Fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 was a very significant moment in Singapore’s history, the impact of which still reverberates up till today. The invasion and occupation of the island by the Japanese is inscribed on Singapore’s heritage landscape with numerous memorials, trails and events commemorating the event.
The curatorial approach undertaken by the National Museum of Singapore was two-pronged. The Syonan-To zone in the SHG was envisioned to chart the military and political aspects of the Battle for Singapore and the Japanese Occupation, while the Surviving Syonan gallery was meant to show a more nuanced and personal side of the war and occupation through “people’s stories”.

A life-sized replica of a Japanese light tank in the Syonan-To zone in the SHG

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INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

I. Syonan-To zone in SHG (Level 1)

This zone begins with the Japanese Occupation of Singapore and the British defeat and surrender, followed by some key episodes during the occupation. This section features: • Artefacts that show
the fighting between the combatants.

• Oral history accounts of civilian survivors that can be heard via vintage rotary dial telephones.

• Personal artefacts of Sook Ching victims uncovered from sites.

Syonan-To zone in the SHG 

• Stories from post-surrender, including the imprisonment of British and Allied soldiers and personnel in deplorable conditions and that of Elizabeth Choy and Shinozaki Mamoru.

II. Surviving Syonan gallery (Level 2)
This gallery presents how ordinary people in Singapore coped with wartime living and what life was like under the Japanese in an immersive setting. This section features: • Artefacts that show how life
was like during the Japanese Occupation.
• Personal objects that show how people adapted and survived during wartime.
• Oral history accounts from war survivors about how they tried to lead normal lives in the face of adversity and suffering with resilience.

Surviving Syonan gallery

INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

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SUGGESTED THEMES AND SOURCES
In this section, we have highlighted several sources that have been grouped around different themes related to the Japanese Occupation. We have also provided several thinking questions that you may use to help your students to engage with the sources in a more critical manner. You may also view the sources online by going to https://roots.sg and keying in the Accession Number.
I. Culture
After Singapore fell to the Japanese, the new masters of Singapore worked tirelessly to win the support of the local populace. Films, radio programmes, songs and newspapers were all mobilised by the newly established Department of Propaganda as part of a systematic process of ”Nipponisation”. This was an attempt to mould the people of Singapore into what the Japanese envisioned as good citizens of their much-vaunted Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Possible SOURCES that can be explored in relation to the theme:
Source 1 Movie Poster of The Fall of Singapore 1942 Paper National Museum of Singapore Accession Number: 2000-07424
This poster boldly taunts cinemagoers to see “how the invincible imperial army” brought about the fall of Singapore, “a much-vaunted impregnable fortress”. The film was presented by Eiga Haikyusha (the film arm of the Japanese Imperial Army), which took full control of film distribution and all theatres in Syonan. Visiting the cinema during the Occupation period could be hazardous, however, as the Japanese were known to round up people in the gekijo (theatres) for forced labour.

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INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

Source 2 Set of propaganda postcards 1942–45 Paper National Museum of Singapore Accession Number: 1999-02042-003
This postcard is part of a set of five propaganda postcards. It depicts Japanese soldiers engaging in activities of a light-hearted nature, such as fishing, riding a turtle in the sea and carrying local children. The faces of the soldiers are deliberately left blank for the card recipient to fill in. Such material was aimed at softening the image of Japanese soldiers, with the ultimate goal of urging civilians to accept Japanese rule.
Note: You may view the other postcards either at NMS or at roots.sg
Source 3 Propaganda poster of women in occupied Malaya 1942–45 Paper National Museum of Singapore. Accession Number: 2005-00943
A group of seven women in Japanese, Chinese, Malay and Indian attire is depicted playing hanetsuki (a traditional Japanese game played with a shuttlecock) and walking hand in hand. This is a visual representation of the “vim, vigour, vitality and perfect harmony” of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere that Japan sought to establish in Malaya and beyond. In reality, however, liberating the Asian people was simply an excuse for military expansionism.

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INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

Think
1. Why were such films, postcards and posters produced by the Japanese?
2. Who was the target audience for these three sources?
3. What is your impression of the relationship between the Japanese and people of Singapore?
4. Who might be persuaded by these sources, and would any group feel alienated by it?
5. How reliable are these items in understanding the Japanese attitude towards culture in Singapore?

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INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

II. Education
The Japanese saw the learning of the Japanese language as central in inculcating the Nippon Spirit and culture among the people of Singapore. Students had to learn the Japanese language in schools and even adults who were working in the government agencies or Japanese corporations had to pick up the language if they wanted to be employable or get a promotion.
Possible SOURCES that can be explored in relation to the theme:
Source 1 Malay-Japanese dictionary 1942 Paper National Museum of Singapore Accession Number: 1996-01877
This first edition of the Malay-Japanese Dictionary, compiled by Amir Bin Haji Omar, was published in 1942. It is evident that Amir had acquired sufficient proficiency in Japanese even at this early stage of the Occupation to be able to pass on his knowledge to fellow Malay speakers.

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INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

Source 2 Japanese song book 1942–45 Paper National Museum of Singapore Accession Number: 2000-00618
This book is targeted at the children of Dai Toa or Greater Asia, including Singapore. Published by the Asahi Shimbunsha, it includes colourful illustrations to accompany songs taught to schoolchildren to instill a sense of loyalty to Japan, one of which is titled “Hinomaru”. The Hinomaru also refers to the Japanese flag, which they were taught to accept as “everyone’s flag”.
Among those who remember these songs long after the war is S. Sockalingam, who attended school during the Japanese Occupation when he was a child. The audio kiosk in the gallery includes a clip of him singing “Kimigayo” (the Japanese national anthem) and other patriotic songs.
Source 3 Standard Nippon-go (Japanese) Conversation edited by Y. Y. Lan 1942 Paper National Museum of Singapore Accession Number: 2014-01195
This textbook, compiled by Y. Y. Lan and published by the Great Eastern Book Company just three months into the Occupation period, is targeted at Chinese speakers. It uses Chinese characters and Romanisation to present Japanese characters phonetically. Also included are practical instructions on how to articulate and pronounce basic Japanese sentences. The goal of this book was to allow locals to pick up basic Japanese conversational skills in the shortest possible time.

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INVESTIGATING HISTORY: SINGAPORE UNDER THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION 1942—1945

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Singapore Under The Japanese Occupation