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Wansei hui jia (2015)

Wansei refers to Japanese who were born in Taiwan during the colonial period. After WWII, wansei were repatriated to Japan. Since then, painful separation stories have occurred throughout ... See full summary »


Ming-cheng Huang
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Wansei refers to Japanese who were born in Taiwan during the colonial period. After WWII, wansei were repatriated to Japan. Since then, painful separation stories have occurred throughout Taiwan and Japan. "Wansei Back Home" took 12 years of field interviews and five years of filming production. It doesn't only tell the stories of Wansei, but also tells stories of friendships and family ties, life's true meaning, and bravery when facing the harsh adversity.

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Taiwan | Japan


Japanese | Min Nan | Mandarin

Release Date:

6 October 2015 (Taiwan) See more »

Also Known As:

Wansei Back Home See more »

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Did You Know?


Wansei means "born in Taiwan" See more »

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User Reviews

Powerful and moving reflection of colonialism, hometown and motherland: identity exploration
8 August 2016 | by KicinoSee all my reviews

It was so moving and inspiring that I watched it two times – several weeks apart. I look forward to reading the book based on which this documentary was made. With the same title, the book was written by the descendant of a Wansei – Japanese born in Taiwan during 1895 and 1945 when Japanese ruled Taiwan (Wan refers to Taiwan and Sei means born in both Chinese and Japanese). Tanaka Mika moved to Taiwan when she was two or three but she still remembered her grandparents and domestic helpers danced some funny steps and spoke fluent Taiwanese. It was not until they died that she realized they were born in the tropical island during those fateful five decades – they requested their ashes to be spread in Taiwan waters instead of the Japan Sea.

An artist educated in New York, the painter spent 12 years helping other Wansei locate their lost childhood friends in the land they were born in and grew up, digging up many buried memories. By the time these seniors finally went back to the place they grew up and sadly left, many of their friends were no longer alive. The film told the stories of a few Wansei and from their experience we learn about this part of history many people in Taiwan and Japan had forgot/ignored.

The documentary traced a chronological sequence, beginning with the end of the 1895 Sino-Japanese war which resulted in Japan ruling Taiwan. The Japanese government sent selected decent citizens to migrate to the then undeveloped Taiwan. These pioneers ploughed the land, introduced crops and built communities. The film focused on Hualien in east Taiwan where Japanese integrated well with the aboriginals. They helped developed the infrastructures and educated the local population. In Taipei, more Japanese worked in the government and their children educated in elite schools. Theses Japanese immigrants enjoyed their new life as their children had a great time growing up in this tropical paradise.

But when Japan lost in WWII and the Republic of China took control of Taiwan, these Japanese living in Taiwan were repatriated to their motherland, a strange land many of them had never been to. It was sad enough to abandon the liaison and everything you have built to go to a supposedly "motherland" you have no experience with. But the most painful part was you were forced to do that. Many of these Wansei believed that they would return to Taiwan, a place they considered homeland after a few years but it never happened. Back in their "motherland", they were ridiculed of their accent and felt forever a foreigner and found it difficult to fit in. For those remained in Taiwan because they married a local Taiwanese, their identities were often concealed for decades – what the film did not mention was some even chose to be mute for the rest of their lives so their identities would not be exposed. Others chose to roam on the street and refuse any relief or going back to Japan because they believed they belong to neither communities.

The film displayed meticulous details backed by thorough research and seamless editing. Excellent choices of quotes from the Wansei and their children were chosen to depict the ridiculous reality which striped human dignity at one point but praised human bonding on the other. On the one hand, we can say these "Wansei"s are the victims of war or the "have"s of colonialism. On the other hand, they happened to fall into a category of a marginality – that they might have two homelands or no homelands.

As I watched this film, I kept thinking why the British and Hong Kong people did not develop such close relationships. Perhaps the British were too snobbish to mix with the locals, unlike the Portuguese in Macao. The British officials were well respected in Hong Kong and would be well respected when they went back to the UK. Yet what perplexed me was how the relationship of Japanese colonialism in Taiwan differ from that British colonialism in Hong Kong. For one thing, these Wansei were forced back to Japan since Japan lost the war. Britain won the war and their relationship with the locals were not as egalitarian as the Japanese with the Taiwanese. I wonder what would have happened to Taiwan if these Wansei and their families still lived there?

A very powerful documentary. Very impressive that a civilization was brought to Taiwan at the turn of the century. Then almost a century later the local peoples' friendless moved the children of Wansei. Perhaps deep down, we were all human wherever we live and grow up and there is no boundary of ethnicity or nationality; but only family, friends and the love for the place we grow up.

About 300,000 Japanese were sent back to Japan after the war, approximately the same number of Chinese massacred in Nanjing. On this day, 71 years ago, the US A-bombed Hiroshima, it was reported that accumulatively 300,000 Japanese were killed from the bombing. A coincidence or a joke history played on us?

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