A tour of Sinuiju Yamato Imperial Boarding School in 1942, where Korean nationalism was considered a moral defect to be ‘purified’ away so that Korean ‘thought criminals’ become ‘completely Japanese’

In June 1942, a magazine called “Chōsen” (Korea) published an article that offers a stark window into a grim chapter of Korean colonial history. This publication, an organ of the Imperial Japanese colonial regime which controlled Korea from 1905 until the end of World War II in 1945, documented the workings of a Yamato Imperial Boarding School located in Sinuiju.

Photo 1: Panoramic view of the Yamato School

The purpose of this institution was as unsettling as it was clear: to forcibly re-educate Korean youth who had been accused and convicted of ideological crimes—such as supporting communism or the Korean independence movement—and reshape them into “pure and loyal” subjects of the Japanese Empire. The process, euphemistically referred to as “purifying” their thoughts, sought to strip these young Koreans of their identity and beliefs, effectively “Japanizing” them completely.

Imagine being a young Korean, merely expressing favorable opinions about communist ideology or the dream of an independent Korea, and as a consequence, finding yourself ensnared by the authorities and sent to such a school for “re-education.”

The Yamato Imperial Boarding School was not an isolated case; rather, it was part of a broader, sinister network of institutions aimed at eroding Korean ethnic and national identity. Its existence and mission bear a disturbing resemblance to the American Indian boarding schools in the United States and Canada, which were designed with the intent to “civilize” or assimilate Native American children into Anglo-American culture.

The comparison is not merely symbolic. If these Japanese-run boarding schools were anything like their American counterparts, it is likely that the Korean students endured not only cultural erasure but also physical, psychological, and possibly sexual abuse. The legacy of such institutions is a deep-seated, intergenerational trauma—a trauma still acutely felt by Native American communities today as a result of their own parallel experiences.

It is with a heavy heart that I have transcribed and translated this article, and now I post it here for wider access. I believe that it is crucial that such narratives are brought to light, as awareness is a pivotal step towards acknowledgment, reconciliation, and healing for the descendants of those who suffered under such oppressive colonial regimes.


Chōsen (Korea) Magazine, June Edition, Volume 325

Published on June 1, 1942

Published by Korea Governor-General’s Office, Chief Cabinet Secretary

Visit to the Sinuiju Yamato Imperial Boarding School

By Okinaka Morio

After my visit to the Yonghung Reformatory, I left Wonsan and took the train on the Pyeongwon Line to visit the Yamato Boarding School in Sinuiju. The Pyeongwon Line had only recently been completed, and there were very many passengers on board. It must be providing significant benefits, both tangible and intangible, to the residents living along the line.

I arrived in Sinuiju just past 3 am. Barely taking any time to rest at the inn, I hurriedly drove to the Yamato Boarding School located in West Majeon-dong, arriving by 8 am. Leaving the station to the left and climbing up the hill, I could see the school on the right. Entering through the main gate, the first thing that caught my eye was a Shinto shrine on the right side. Unfortunately, Mr. Takemura, the guardian, was in the middle of teaching calisthenics to the students in the playground, but he asked someone else to invite me to the guardian’s residence.

Photo 2: Shinto shrine

The founding mission and activities of the Yamato Boarding School have been extensively introduced in the October 1941 issue of this magazine by Mr. Takahara Katsumi, who is affiliated with the current Probation Division. Therefore, I will only briefly mention them here. Namely, the Yamato Boarding School is an incorporated organization with the aim of invigorating the spirit of the Imperial Way and deepening a thorough Japanese-Korean Unification, as well as guiding and protecting those involved in ideologically related incidents. Its members include those who are under protective observation and those who agree with the purpose of the Yamato Boarding School and wish to serve and cooperate in its activities, with the head of the protective observation office serving as its chairman.

Photo 3: Graduation ceremony, Mr. Tanaka, the Director of the Protective Observation Office, is on the stage

Thus explained Mr. Takemura, the guardian, with a passionate tone. I felt the fervor that he had for his work.

Photo 4: Mr. Takemura, the probation officer, standing around a table with the children

Currently, the school has taken in students from eleven families. These students were once questioned for their ideologically related incidents, and at the time of their enrollment, they were all quite stubborn. In other words, they could be described as politically the most extreme right-wingers among those currently under protective observation. The aim is to convert these individuals into pure and loyal subjects of the Imperial Japanese nation. Let us introduce one of them here.

Though he has since adopted a Japanese surname, let us refer to him as Mr. T. Mr. T dropped out of Meiji University and was extremely obstinate from the beginning of his time at this school. He would not even speak to Mr. Takemura. This silent treatment continued for about two weeks. During this time, the guardian shared baths and meals with Mr. T, naturally inviting him into his own life. They even sat face to face at the guardian’s house late into the night. The guardian’s warm and humane treatment eventually touched a chord in the depths of Mr. T’s being. Their souls collided. There was no petty nationalistic notion of Korean or Japanese. What existed was the stark reality of one human being to another. Formally speaking, the unification of Korea and Japan had already borne fruit.

However, I believe there is something in this case that cannot be fully expressed by that phrase. There is something deeper. It reminds me of Kikuchi Kan‘s “Beyond the Pale of Vengeance.” While the content of the two differs greatly, I believe the exalted way in which the two souls ultimately touch each other is the same. Mr. T has completely converted, washing away his stubborn old ideologies, and now stands at the school’s podium teaching the children.

Here, let us discuss the educational facilities of the school. Upon examining the primary objectives of Yamato School’s practice, it is clear that the emphasis is on reinforcing and thoroughly implementing Japanese-Korean Unification, and for this purpose, the “spread of the Japanese language” is considered a critical issue to which considerable effort is being devoted. Namely, the school has established two 20-tsubo (66 square meter) classrooms and conducts Japanese language training sessions twice a day, both day and night. Although the courses are designed to be completed in roughly two years, within this short period, all twelve volumes of the elementary school reading books are to be finished. The intention is to attain six years’ worth of proficiency in two years.

Besides the Japanese language, arithmetic, crafts, singing, and games are also taught. No tuition fees are charged. Educational materials are either provided or loaned. Generally, those who could not enter elementary schools are accepted, and there are cases where students who have completed the two-year program at Yamato School have been certified to enter the fifth year of elementary school. It is said that the joy of the parents at such times was considerable.

Combining day and night sessions, the number of children reaches a total of 660. The teachers are students themselves and work without pay.

Moreover, the teachers do not merely teach the Japanese language. They stand at the podium imbued with enthusiasm to infuse the students with the Japanese spirit. I do not have experience in teaching, so I cannot understand that sentiment. However, once one stands at the podium and takes the position of guiding innocent boys and girls, anyone would wish for their intellectual improvement. Watching the young boys and girls improve day by day, one would undoubtedly feel a great sense of joy. Those who are students of the school must be experiencing one of what Mencius called the “three joys in life” and would surely be reflecting on themselves.

Therefore, the concern that the teachers might instill bad ideologies in the children was entirely unfounded. Furthermore, by standing at the podium, they further their own devotion to becoming Imperial subjects.

Guided by Mr. Takemura, the guardian, I observed the classes. In the first classroom, it was time for arithmetic, but I remember thinking that they must have been singing, as the children’s voices were so loud that my ears almost went deaf, a memory that still comes to me sometimes.

The second classroom featured Mr. T’s class, where, as it seemed appropriate for beginners, he was earnestly teaching how to count numbers. I was surprised by the overall liveliness of the children here; they were very spirited.

I was also shown a dance by the female students. They danced delicately to the rhythm of a phonograph, holding small flags in both hands, performing pieces like “March of the Beloved Horses,” “Raising the Flags of Three Countries,” “Patriotic March,” and “Neighborhood Cell.” I am not particularly discerning when it comes to this art form. However, I was impressed enough to think that if they were dressed in beautiful costumes and performed on a real stage, they would stand out even more, so I believe the reader can imagine the general idea. I could not help but applaud.

Now, changing the topic of discussion, I have to delve into how the students were being guided. There is absolutely no theoretical reasoning here. It is all about action. Theoretical disputes will always develop into more theoretical disputes. Even if one were to convince the other side, something unsatisfactory would remain. The main thing is to convert them into Imperial subjects. It is said that many of the Korean compatriots who turned to communism or nationalistic ideologies did so based on emotion. If that is indeed the case, trying to use theoretical reasoning to convert someone who was sparked by emotion would be an unreasonable demand. Therefore, the motto here is to start from the emotional life and let them grasp the Japanese spirit.

The students from the eleven families live together in row houses adjacent to the residence of Mr. Takemura, the guardian. In other words, they understand each other through daily life and are instilled with a spirit of hard work and affection. They are even trained to do tasks as humble as cleaning the toilets, and are trained to obey the orders of those above them without question. Criticism is not at all tolerated. There is something reminiscent of military order in this. It is curious that orders are accepted without complaint, likely a result of their genuine respect for the guardian.

Next, let us touch upon one of the important enterprises of Yamato School, which is the occupational project. This project, which involves an investment of 30,000 yen in the manufacturing and sales of lunch boxes and disposable chopsticks, has its factory adjacent to the classrooms. The livelihood of the students is entirely dependent on this, with the raw material, Hondo spruce, being kindly provided by the Sinuiju Forestry Office. It is said to be an impressive achievement that in just about a year since the start of the project, a profit of 10,000 yen was made. Orders seem to be flooding in continuously. Consequently, the average monthly income per student household reaches ninety to a hundred yen, indicating a very comfortable economic life.

Photo 5: Conditions of the vocational training work
Photo 6: Conditions of the vocational training work
Photo 7: Conditions of the vocational training work
Photo 8: Conditions of the vocational training work

The students, who might once have believed in Marx’s so-called historical materialism, are now managing the industrial department themselves, and it would be interesting to know what economic theories they hold now. “When basic needs are met, one understands propriety” – the facilities of Yamato School’s Industrial Department play a significant role in purifying the thoughts of the students, a point that cannot be overlooked. This facility is not only a characteristic of Yamato School but also its considerable strength. By generating profits through their own management and using those profits to educate these impoverished Korean compatriots, there is no capitalist mechanism at work. What exists is solely the enthusiastic desire to improve each other’s lives materially and spiritually. Any student who is not moved by this must be out of sorts. It is said that the students would go so far as to lay down their lives for Mr. Takemura, and this is believed to be their sincere sentiment.

Moreover, Mrs. Takemura, the wife of the guardian, is working with the wives of the students, primarily directing the management of home economics. She kindly teaches them not only how to keep a household account book but also the finer points of home economics, instilling in them the fundamental concept of “managing a household.” In short, Sinuiju Yamato School could be said to be promoting a sort of large family communal living.

On the day of my visit, it happened to be the Day of the Imperial Rescript, and Mr. Seiichi Tanaka, the Director of Sinuiju Protective Observation, visited the school, and an Imperial Rescript acceptance ceremony was conducted on the sports field. All the “daytime students” were lined up in front of a Shinto shrine, and after Director Tanaka’s reading of the Rescript and instruction, a student representative stepped forward to lead the Imperial Japanese Vow.

Although his body was quite small, he mustered a strong voice while tensing his throat, resembling a chick imitating a mother hen. After the ceremony, Director Tanaka commented to me, “They are energetic children, aren’t they?”

When I said that I arrived in Sinuiju past 3 this morning, I was told that it was a pity because the students had their military training starting at 6 this morning, and they would have liked for me to see it. I heard that Director Tanaka stayed overnight at Yamato School and participated in the military training and that he came to the school specifically for the twice-daily Kyūjō Yōhai worship ritual today. He seems to be very busy indeed. However, he appeared to be very interested and cheerful about the work of the school. The director’s enthusiasm must surely inspire those below him and will likely greatly influence the school’s performance. Tomorrow, there is to be an entrance ceremony at the home economics school in Yongampo. I have decided to accompany them.

Photo 9: Students and families performing the Kyūjō Yōhai worship ritual

I took advantage of Guardian Takemura’s generous offer and stayed overnight at the schoolhouse. The next morning, I woke up just past six and, together with all the student families, we received the morning’s spiritual energy with all of our bodies and performed the Kyūjō Yōhai. After the worship ritual, Mr. T and another student reported to the guardian in a loud, clear military style about the previous day’s events. This was followed by radio calisthenics. The school’s day began vigorously from this point. People were already starting to gather at the factory.

I suddenly think that behind this ideological protection endeavor, laden with extraordinary hardships, lies great joy and comfort in the possibility of creating capable individuals once they have been converted.

The general public understands the work of Yamato Schools and provides considerable support both materially and spiritually, and I celebrate the promising future that lies ahead.

Furthermore, after returning home, I visited the Yamato School in Seoul but regret to say that due to editorial circumstances, I could not feature it in this month’s issue. I ask for Guardian Saiga’s understanding in this matter.

***Yamato Home Economics School

For the visit to the Yamato Home Economics School, a branch of the Yamato School in Yongampo, I bid farewell to Mr. Takemura, the guardian, and his wife and hurried to Sinuiju station. At the station, I met up with Director Tanaka and Mr. Mori from the observation office, and we boarded the train for Yongampo. Director Tanaka introduced me to Mr. Kihara Mikawa, who not only holds the title of a member of North Pyongan Province assembly but also a consigned guardian. Mr. Kihara lives in Yongampo and had gone out of his way to welcome the director. He is very supportive of the Yamato School’s endeavors, especially in promoting the development of the Home Economics School.

Photo 10: Instructors and students of the Yamato Home Economics School

In the train, I saw many of the Home Economics School students dressed in sailor uniforms. Director Tanaka seemed to enjoy talking and giving various instructions to these young women. The students must be very dear to him.

It took about an hour to reach Yongampo station, and after walking for a bit over twenty minutes, we entered the gates of the Home Economics School. The school is housed in a purely Japanese-style building of about 50-tsubo (165 square meters), situated on a 400-tsubo (1322 square meter) plot, which Mr. Kihara has lent free of charge. It seems to be a calm and somewhat old building. There are plans for a new building in an appropriate location in the future.

We were led to a guest room where the students served us tea in the Ogasawara style or something similar. The students are female graduates of the elementary schools from the Korean peninsula, and while 45 of them entered the school on July 1 last year, today an additional 40 or so will join. The training lasts one year, but those with excellent graduation results have the opportunity to stay on for further study in the research department. Four mainland Japanese women from good families, qualified as girls’ school instructors, serve as full-time lecturers, teaching Japanese womanhood, Japanese language and manners, sewing, cooking, calisthenics, ikebana flower arrangement, tea ceremony, calligraphy, childcare and hygiene, and music for 31 hours each week. In addition, observation office staff and affiliated guardians also take part in teaching some of the classes.

Photo 11: Flower arrangement class
Photo 12: Japanese language class
Photo 13: Etiquette class

The Home Economics School aims to instill in the students a purely Japanese lifestyle and naturally lead them to Japanese ways of thinking and perspectives.

Indeed, we were treated to a lunch prepared by the students, and the way the meal was served, the serving methods, were all exactly like a Japanese household, to the point that we, the guests, were rather the ones who felt out of place.

At 1:30 in the afternoon, the entrance ceremony for new students took place at the martial arts dōjō across from the Yongampo police station. Parents and families were present. During the congratulatory speech by Mr. Kihara from the provincial assembly, he advised the students to adopt purely Japanese behaviors and living actions, truly demonstrating the essence of the Home Economics School. Perhaps because of the small number of students, the entrance ceremony had a warm atmosphere.

With the visit to the Yamato Home Economics School, my busy schedule came to an end, but next, I would like to write down a few thoughts and impressions about the Home Economics School.


I hope that my account gives you a better understanding of the operations of the Yamato School in Sinuiju, but the establishment of the Yamato Home Economics School should be considered one of the most meaningful aspects of these operations. The deepening of the Japanese-Korean Unification movement will not bear fruitful results without the understanding of women, who make up half of the total population. It is particularly meaningful to target young girls who will become homemakers in the future. It is noteworthy that two hours of class time are devoted to Japanese womanhood. Additionally, a greater number of hours are allocated to various subjects for acquiring Japanese cultural education than those at higher girls’ schools, and attention is also paid to cultivating sensibilities. We also cannot overlook that they are placing particular emphasis on moral and artistic values. Furthermore, through four hours dedicated to “manners,” the school aims to instill a sense of Japanese propriety and the concept of Japanese beauty.

Originally, manners and etiquette are understood as the human cultural progression where the desire for beauty and harmony in daily life is organized over time. Therefore, living and acting according to the principles of manners and etiquette is the most beautiful and harmonious for both individuals and society, making our lives preferable, beautiful, and happy. The essence of propriety is said to respect harmony, aiming for people to live in smooth coordination and to be personable. Hence, Korean women must deeply appreciate the pinnacle of Japanese beauty through the mastery of manners and etiquette, as a prerequisite to becoming completely Japanese. By achieving this, there will no longer be any distinction between Japanese and Koreans. The Home Economics School is advancing with this policy.

In manners, there are undoubtedly both formal elements and spiritual aspects. At the Home Economics School, the formal elements are introduced first. Since the heart of manners and etiquette lies in the spiritual aspect, I believe that warm consideration is already being given to this area.

Moreover, the students of the school were sent to good households in mainland Japan for about a month to learn manners and help out, and they were reportedly very well received by each household. The Home Economics School may only be a modest existence now and has no history or tradition as it is still in its infancy. However, I have no doubt that it will play a significant role in the movement to turn Korean women into loyal subjects of the empire in the future of our Korea.

We look forward to the day when “a grain of wheat” will gradually mature and contribute to society, and when many young girls from the Korean peninsula will aspire to the school spirit of the Home Economics School. May this not end as a mere fool’s dream.


朝鮮 六月号 第三百二十五号















































  • 第一図:大和塾全景
  • 第二図:神祠
  • 第三図:卒業式、壇上は田中保護観察所長
  • 第四図:児童と卓を囲んで立ってるは竹村保護司
  • 第五図:授産業の状況(一)
  • 第六図:授産業の状況(二)
  • 第七図:授産業の状況(三)
  • 第八図:授産業の状況(四)
  • 第九図:塾生及び家族の宮城遥拝
  • 第十図:大和家政塾の講師と生徒一同
  • 第十一図:生花の授業
  • 第十二図:国語の授業
  • 第十三図:作法の授業

Source: https://archive.org/details/chosen-v44-1942/page/n410/mode/1up

See also:

  • Internment camps for young Korean schoolgirls (Link)
  • Workplace training making employees run until they collapse from heat exhaustion (Link)
  • Yuseong Farmers’ training camp to train rural leaders (Link)
  • Imperial Way Training Institutes (Link)
  • Converted Korean ‘ideological criminals’ at Yamato School in Seoul (Link)
  • Imperial Japanese penal officials brag about brainwashing Korean ‘ideological criminals’ in Yamato Schools (Link)

*Many thanks to an anonymous supporter who provided me with a copy of this colonial-era magazine.