Mamoru Shinozaki

Singapore Infopedia


Mamoru Shinozaki (b. 19 February 1908, Fukuoka, Japan1–d. 1991, location unknown2) came to Singapore in 1938 as a Japanese government official. He was convicted and jailed for espionage in 1940, and released after Singapore surrendered to the Japanese during World War II. Appointed to roles such as adviser of Defence Headquarters, chief education officer and chief welfare officer during the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), Shinozaki became known for issuing protection cards to save lives during the Sook Ching operation as well as for his involvement in the Endau and Bahau settlements.3 After the war, Shinozaki was a witness in several war crimes trials, including that of Japanese officers involved in Sook Ching.4 Shinozaki was later criticised for downplaying casualty figures of the Sook Ching massacre,5 and alleged to have given an inaccurate account of the formation of the Oversea Chinese Association (OCA).6

Early years
Shinozaki was born in Fukuoka, Japan. His father owned a coalmine, and his childhood was spent under the care of his grandmother who wanted Shinozaki to become a monk. However, his father opposed the idea. As a teen, Shinozaki was interested in socialism, reading the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and was expelled from his high school in Kyoto for joining a banned socialist group.7

Nevertheless, Shinozaki resumed his studies a year later, enrolling in a journalism course at Meiji University. After graduating in 1931, Shinozaki joined the Denpo Tsushinsha (later known as Domei Tsushinsha), a Japanese news agency. He was posted to Shanghai, China, in 1934, and subsequently worked in the Chinese cities of Nanking and Hankow. In Hankow, he joined the Japanese Foreign Office as a press attaché, and was eventually posted to Berlin in 1936. Two years later, Shinozaki was transferred to the staff of the Japanese consulate general in Singapore as a press attaché.8

Espionage conviction in prewar Singapore
In Singapore, Shinozaki’s initial role was to provide updates for Japanese newspapers, but he was later asked to report to the Japanese government on local conditions and British military defence.9 He socialised with British servicemen stationed in Singapore, often holding parties for them at his residence on Wareham Road. Shinozaki’s close contact with the servicemen, coupled with the heightened British concern over Japanese presence in Singapore at the time, built the case for the Special Branch (today’s Internal Security Department) to place Shinozaki under surveillance from July 1940.10

On 21 September 1940, Shinozaki was arrested by the Special Branch. Earlier that month, Shinozaki had led two Japanese military officers – Lieutenant Colonel Tanikawa Kazuo, a senior Army General Staff planning officer, and his assistant, Captain Kunitake Teruhito – to various locations in Singapore, Malacca and parts of Johor including Kota Tinggi and Mersing. The purpose of the trip was to survey military installations and study the British defence capability.11 Among the observations gathered during the tour included the lack of defence in the northwestern part of Singapore and the heavy defence in the south to guard against an attack by sea.12 Colonel Masanobu Tsuji, chief officer of the research unit that planned the Japanese invasion of Malaya, later recounted in his memoir that the two officers had provided “important suggestions” pertaining to Malaya.13

Shinozaki was found guilty on two charges under the Official Secrets Ordinance: soliciting military information from a British Army serviceman that would be useful to a foreign power; and collecting information regarding troop movements that would be prejudicial to the interests of the British Empire. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of rigorous imprisonment and a $1,000 fine or an additional six months’ simple imprisonment.14  Shinozaki was incarcerated in Changi Prison.15

Although Shinozaki denied in his memoir, Syonan, My Story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore, that he had been a spy,16 he admitted that he tried to make contact with British soldiers to find out the positioning of British defences in an oral history interview conducted in 1973.17 

Fall of Singapore and Sook Ching
After Singapore surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, Shinozaki was released from Changi prison and appointed as the adviser of Defence Headquarters, a rank equivalent to lieutenant colonel. His tasks included reassembling the documents of the Japanese consulate and issuing protection cards to diplomats and other foreigners from neutral countries.18

Soon after Shinozaki assumed this position, the Japanese military launched the Sook Ching operation on 18 February 1942 to identify and eliminate suspected anti-Japanese elements among the local communities, particularly the Chinese and Eurasians.19 During the Sook Ching war crimes trial held from 10 March to 2 April 1947, Shinozaki testified that 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. He also said that he was approached by locals and foreigners such as the French Roman Catholic Bishop Adrien Devals, who sought his help to secure the release of some of the detainees especially children and women.20

Oversea Chinese Association
According to Shinozaki’s account, the idea of setting up the OCA was broached during his meeting with prominent Straits Chinese Lim Boon Keng in Toyo Hotel amid the Sook Ching operation. Shinozaki noted that the OCA was to appear on the surface as a Chinese organisation that supported the Japanese Imperial Army. However, its real objective was to help secure the release of influential Chinese personalities detained during Sook Ching, and to protect the Chinese community at large. To show that the association was controlled by the Chinese rather than the military, Shinozaki also suggested the association be named differently from similar organisations in Japanese-occupied territories, such as the Peace Maintenance Committees. In the end, the name “Oversea Chinese Association” was chosen.21

When the OCA was ordered to raise $50 million for the Japanese military in March 1942, Shinozaki said that he was not involved in the process. Around that time, oversight of the OCA was transferred to the Military Administration Department, and Shinozaki was commanded to cease any further involvement with the association.22 By August that year, the OCA had been returned to the municipal administration and Shinozaki became an adviser to the OCA.23

Appointments in the Education and Welfare departments
In March 1942, Shinozaki was appointed chief officer of education in the Education Department. His immediate tasks were to reopen schools and reorganise teaching staff.24 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.25

In August 1942, Shinozaki was appointed as the chief welfare officer. Among his duties were to look into locals’ complaints, find jobs for the unemployed and establish a labour office.26 In this capacity, Shinozaki also helped set up the Eurasian Welfare Association, which represented the Eurasian community to the Japanese administration. Charles Joseph Pemberton Paglar, a prominent Eurasian surgeon, was appointed to head it.27 EWA later organised the Bahau settlement.28 

In a postwar interview, a sister who managed the Little Sisters of the Poor Home on Thomson Road during the war said that Shinozaki ensured a continual food supply to the home.29 Shinozaki also helped to seek medical treatment for Lady Lucy Thomas, wife of former British governor Shenton Thomas, when she was ill.30

Endau and Bahau settlements
In 1943, due to food shortages in Singapore, the Japanese administration launched resettlement schemes to relocate people to farming communities outside Singapore in order to reduce the local population.31 This led to the establishment of the Endau and Bahau settlements in peninsular Malaya.32 Shinozaki was tasked to oversee the resettlement projects, and he in turn approached the OCA to organise the relocation of Chinese people to Endau, Johor.33 

Shinozaki persuaded the OCA to agree to the project by promising that the new settlement would offer freedom to residents because it would be run entirely by the OCA without the presence of military authorities.34 In November 1943, the OCA formed 10 bureaus to manage the new settlement, and the first batch of settlers moved into Endau in February 1944.35 Due to numerous factors including the financing and management experience of the OCA, as well as the location of Endau which had been picked by the OCA and Shinozaki, Endau developed rapidly.36

Encouraged by the success of Endau and the prospect of escaping from the surveillance of the Kempetai in Singapore, Bishop Devals and the EWA, led by C. J. Paglar, decided to take up Shinozaki’s offer to set up another settlement in Bahau, Negri Sembilan. The Bahau settlement was for Eurasian and Chinese Roman Catholics, with the first batch of settlers leaving for the new settlement at the end of 1943.37

Unlike Endau, however, the location of Bahau was not ideal as an agricultural settlement because of the soil quality and the area was prone to malaria. Coupled with the lack of financial backing and farming experience of the Eurasian settlers, Bahau encountered many problems including disease and malnourishment.38

Shinozaki attempted to rally the residents by arranging a trip to Endau to show how the settlers there were organising themselves.39 He also provided the residents with basic necessities such as rice and medical supplies, but the supplies were insufficient.40 The harsh living conditions eventually created conflict between Shinozaki and the settlers.41

According to Philip Carlyle Marcus, a Bahau resident, Bishop Devals once had an argument with Shinozaki, accusing the latter of not providing the facilities the settlement sought. Marcus felt that Shinozaki really wanted to help the settlement but was unable to do so due to his lack of resources and authority.42

Postwar years
After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Shinozaki was interned in a Jurong camp along with some 6,800 other Japanese.43 However, the Chinese and Catholic communities petitioned the British on his behalf and he was released.44 Shinozaki then worked with the British field security service as a translator and interpreter, assisting in the repatriation of Japanese citizens. He also translated Kempeitai (Japanese Military Police) reports on Malayan communists.45

Shinozaki was a witness in a number of postwar trials. Besides the 1947 Sook Ching trial, he was also called as a prosecution witness in the trial of Paglar, who was accused of collaborating with the Japanese and charged for treason.46 During the trial, Shinozaki defended Paglar stating that the reason Paglar co-operated with the Japanese military was because he wanted to protect the Eurasian community.47 Shinozaki also testified that he had ordered Paglar to work with the Japanese.48 The case against Paglar was eventually withdrawn and he was acquitted.49 Shinozaki felt that his testimony was one of the reasons for this outcome.50 

In 1947, Shinozaki was repatriated.51 Four years later, he attempted to re-enter Singapore by ship. Colonial immigration authorities denied him a visa, thus preventing him from going ashore, but he received visitors on board the vessel, including Lim Boon Keng.52 In 1975, Shinozaki was allowed to enter Singapore to promote the English-language translation of his war memoir, Syonan, My Story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore.53 The book was later said to have inconsistencies with its Japanese edition.54

Shinozaki remains a controversial character among scholars and the Chinese community.55 For instance, Shinozaki’s account on the origins of the OCA has been disputed by academics and scholars such Cheah Boon Keng and Tan Yeok Seong, who was secretary of the OCA.56 Cheah wrote that Lim Boon Keng and the founding members of the OCA had been tortured into forming the association so that they could raise the $50 million for the Japanese administration.57 Tan, on the other hand, noted that the OCA was initially formed as the Peace Maintenance Committee in March 1942 to raise the $50 million donation before it was later renamed. In his account, Tan also recounted the harrowing experience the Chinese leaders faced as they struggled to come together to form the association amid death threats from the Japanese.58

Shinozaki’s intention to rescue those who were detained under Sook Ching also came under scrutiny by the Chinese press and community when he testified during the Sook Ching war crimes trial that the officers who carried out the operation were kind in nature but had to carry out the atrocities because they were following orders.59 

In addition, he was criticised for downplaying the death toll during the Sook Ching massacre. In his memoir, Shinozaki cited the Japanese government’s official estimate of about 6,000 as the number of Chinese killed during the Sook Ching massacre.60 This was significantly lower than the estimates by Chinese sources such as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and medical doctor Chen Su Lan, who put the figure at 50,000 to 60,000.61

Notwithstanding the detractors, there were those who spoke well of Shinozaki and lauded his display of humanity during the war.62 For example, Yap Pheng Geck wrote in his memoir that Shinozaki was sincere in wanting to promote the local people’s welfare, and there were times when he “risk[ed] his neck” to do so.63 In another book, Eurasian doctor John Bertram van Cuylenburg, noted his surprise that a man who spied for Japan ended up doing so much for the people.64

Alvin Chua & Lim Tin Seng

1. Mamoru Shinozaki, My Wartime Experiences in Singapore (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1973), 1. (Call no. RSEA 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
2. Tommy Koh, et al. eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006), 473. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
3. Natalie Soh, “Japanese Saviour, the Schindler of Singapore,” Straits Times, 12 September 2005, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 117–24.
5. S. K. Chua, “The Japanese View of the War 50 Years After,” in The Price of Peace: True Accounts of the Japanese Occupation, ed. Foong Choong Hon (Singapore: Asiapac, 1997), 326–39. (Call no. RSING 959.57 PRI-[HIS])
6. H. Fujio, “Malaya and Singapore during the Japanese Occupation,” in Kratoska, P. (Ed.). Malaya and Singapore during the Japanese Occupation, ed. Paul H. Kratoska (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1995), 47. (Call no. RSING 940.5425 MAL-[WAR])
7. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 1.
8. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 1–2.
9. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 3.
10. Brian Bridges, “Britain and Japanese espionage in Pre-War Malaya: The Shinozaki Case,” Journal of Contemporary History, 21, no. 1 (January 1986): 25. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website); Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 3–4.
11. Bridges, “Britain and Japanese espionage in Pre-War Malaya,” 25, 29.
12. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 4–5; Bridges, “Britain and Japanese espionage in Pre-War Malaya,” 29.
13. Masanobu Tsuji, Japan’s Greatest Victory, Britain’s Worst Defeat (New York: Sarpedon, 1997), 3, 6. (Call no. RSING 940.5425 TSU-[WAR])
14. “Shinozaki Sentenced to Three Years in Prison and $1000 Fine,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 23 November 1940, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 7–8.
16. Mamoru Shinozaki, Syonan, My Story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore (Singapore: Times Books International, 2011), 19. (Call no. RSING 959.57023 SHI-[HIS])
17. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 4.
18. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 13, 16, 19–21.
19. Lee Geok Boi, The Syonan Years: Singapore under Japanese Rule 1942–1945 (Singapore: National Archives of Singapore; Epigram, 2005), 105. (Call no. RSING q940.53957 LEE-[WAR])
20. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 20–24; “All-Day Gunfire in 1942 Massacre,” Straits Times, 12 March 1947, 1. (From NewspaperSG); Lee Khoon Choy, oral history interview by Audrey Lee-Koh Mei Chen, 29 January 1981, transcript and MP3 audio 27:39. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000022), 131–32.
21. Shinozaki, Syonan, My story, 52–53; Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 27–29, 37–38.
22. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 34–36.
23. Shinozaki, Syonan, My story, 56.
24. Shinozaki, Syonan, My story, 57–58.
25. Herman Marie De Souza, oral history interview by Tan Beng Luan, 17 August 1985, transcript and MP3 audio 29:51. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000592), 29–30.
26. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 59–60.
27. Denyse Tessensohn, “The British Military Administration’s Treason Trial of Dr Charles Joseph Pemberton Paglar, 1946,” (master’s thesis, National University of Singapore, 2007), 28–29; Constance Mary Turnbull, A History of Modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009), 204. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Eric Charles Pemberton Paglar, oral history interview by Low Lay Leng, 25 August 1983, transcript and MP3 audio 29:31. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000299), 31–32; MyrnaBraga-Blake, ed., Singapore Eurasians: Memories and Hopes (Singapore: Times Edition, 1992), 83. (Call no. RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
28. Lee, Syonan Years, 168.
29. Romaine (Sister), oral history interview by Liana Tan, 7 April 1983, transcript and MP3 audio 26:42. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000262), 62–63.
30. Shinozaki, Syonan, My story, 59, 65–67.
31. Tan Tik Loong Stanley, et al. eds., Syonan Years, 1942–1945: Living beneath the Rising Sun (Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, 2009), 258. (Call no. RSING 940.530745957 TAN-[WAR]); Paul H. Kratoska, The Japanese Occupation of Malaya: A Social and Economic History (St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1998), 277. (Call no. RSING 959.5103 KRA)
32. Tan, et al., Syonan Years, 1942–1945, 258.
33. Tan Beng Luan and Irene Quah, The Japanese Occupation 1942–1945 : A Pictorial Record of Singapore during the War (Singapore: Times Editions, 1996), 135. (Call no. RSING 940.5425 TAN-[WAR])
34. Tan, et al., Syonan Years, 1942–1945, 262; Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 135.
35. Tan, et al., Syonan Years, 1942–1945, 262–63, 267.
36. Lee, Syonan Years, 166–68; Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 135–36; Gay Wan Guay, oral history interview with Low Lay Leng, 11 July 1984, transcript and MP3 audio 29:35. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000374), 173.
37. Tan, et al., Syonan Years, 1942–1945, 278–87; Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 136.
38. Tan, et al., Syonan Years, 1942–1945, 278–87; Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 136.
39. Philip Carlyle Marcus, oral history interview by Chua Ser Koon, 20 August 1982, transcript and MP3 audio 27:51. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000183), 92.
40. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 136; Herman Marie De Souza, oral history interview by Tan Beng Luan, 17 August 1985, transcript and MP3 audio 16:41. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000592), 60; Philip Carlyle Marcus, oral history interview.
41. Philip Carlyle Marcus, oral history interview.
42. Philip Carlyle Marcus, oral history interview.
43. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 104.
44. Soh, “Japanese Saviour”; Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 106–07.
45. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 109–13.
46. Tessensohn, “British Military Administration’s Treason,” 69; “Paglar Case: Charge to Be Framed on Monday,” Straits Times, 26 January 1946, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
47. “Special Court Decides Paglar Has Case to Meet,” Malaya Tribune, 26 January 1946, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
48. “Paglar Case: Charge to Be Framed on Monday,” Straits Times, 26 January 1946, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
49. “Cases against Goho, Paglar Withdrawn,” Straits Times, 24 March 1946, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
50. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 116–17.
51. Shinozaki, Wartime Experiences in Singapore, 113.
52. “Shinozaki Comes Back to Singapore,” Straits Times, 28 January 1951, 5; “Many Visit Shinozaki,” Straits Times, 10 February 1951, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
53. “Our Sins during the War – by Mr Shinozaki,” Straits Times, 10 May 1975, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
54. Akashi Yoji and Yoshimura Mako, eds., New Perspectives on the Japanese Occupation in Malaya and Singapore 1941–1945 (Singapore: NUS Press. 2008), 265–66. (Call no. RSING 940.5337 NEW-[WAR])
55. Chua, “Japanese View of the War,” 326–39; Tan Sai Siong, “Japanese Official Saved Many from Wartime Pogrom,” Straits Times, 27 June 1997, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
56. Tan Yeok Seong, History of the Formation of the Oversea Chinese Association and the Extortion by J.M.A. of $50,000,000 Military contribution from the Chinese in Malaya (Singapore: Nanyang Book Co, 1947). (Call no. RCLOS 940.53109595 TAN)
57. Cheah Boon Kheng, Red Star over Malaya: Resistance and Social Conflict during and after the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941–1946 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2003), 24. (Call no. RSING 959.5103 CHE)
58. Tan, History of the Formation of the Oversea Chinese Association, 1–7.
59. Lee, Syonan Years, 307–08.
60. Shinozaki, Syonan, My story, 49; Chua, “Japanese View of the War,” 326–39.
61. David Koh Wee Hock, ed., Legacies of World War II in South and East Asia (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2007), 51. (Call no. RSING 940.5425 LEG-[WAR]); Chen Su Lan, Remember Pompong and Oxley Rise (Singapore: Chen Su Lan Trust, 1969), 185–87. (Call no. RCLOS 940.5481 CHE); Cheah, Red Star over Malaya, 23.
62. Tan, Japanese Official Saved”; Soh, “Japanese Saviour,” 5; P. F. De Souza, “Spy and Humanitarian,” Straits Times, 19 August 1946, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
63. Yap Pheng Geck, Scholar, Banker, Gentleman Soldier: The Reminiscences of Dr. Yap Pheng Geck (Singapore: Times Books International, 1982), 68. (Call no. RSING 959.5700994 YAP)
64. John Bertram Van Cuylenburg, Singapore: Through Sunshine and Shadow (Singapore: Heinemann Asia, 1982), 149. (Call no. RSING 959.57 VAN-[HIS])

Further resources
Ralph P. Modder, The Singapore Chinese Massacre 18 February–12 March 1942 (Singapore: Horizon Books, 2004), 70–73. (Call no. RSING 940.5405095957 MOD)

Shinozaki Makes a New Re-entry Bid,” Straits Times, 14 September 1956, 6. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.  

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