Can you imagine what life was like for the people of Singapore during the Japanese Occupation (1942–45)? A lot of people had to endure many hardships and difficulties during those years.
This Children’s Season, we’ve organised a follow-up edition of online activities “at” the Former Ford Factory. Parents and children* will learn about life during the Japanese Occupation, and the hardships and resilience of our forefathers as well as listen to powerful survivor stories through our oral history interviews. Find out more about these activities and join us!
*Suitable for children aged 7 – 12 years old
You can also look out for a variety of activities and educational programmes for children and families to enjoy at the Museum Roundtable museums and online. Themed “Fantastic Critters & Where To Find Them”, children can look forward to collecting uniquely-designed critter stickers at the 15 participating museums, and learn more about the artefacts and stories that inspire the critters. Parents can also refer to the consolidated list of programmes on the Children’s Season webpage, to plan for museum visits across the end-of-year school holidays.
Turning Singapore Into Syonan
After the surrender of the British, Singapore was renamed Syonan-to, or “Light of the South”. Along with this name change came the Nipponisation of Singapore. Nipponisation, or Japanisation, was a process where the Japanese tried to make the people of Singapore act and think more like them and embody the Japanese spirit. Buildings and roads were given Japanese names and school teachers even had to learn Nippon-go so they could conduct their classes in Japanese!
Books in other languages were replaced and all subjects were to be taught in Japanese. Syonan Shimbun, 21 September 1943, p.2. (From NewspaperSG)
A Nippon-go lesson printed in the newspaper Syonan Shimbun on 21 February 1942. These lessons began appearing in the newspapers almost immediately after the Occupation began. Syonan Shimbun, 21 February 1942, p.4. (From NewspaperSG)
In addition to making people learn Nippon-go, the Japanese military wanted people to adopt other aspects of Japanese culture, such as bowing and wearing the kimono.
An article depicting local singers wearing the kimono, the traditional Japanese clothing for women. Syonan Shimbun, 10 June 1942, p.4. (From NewspaperSG)
You can find a lot of resources about the Japanese Occupation of Singapore on NAS Archives Online as well as NewspaperSG. Try your hand at searching for images and articles on World War II and the Japanese Occupation using the following keywords.
Read the following excerpt from an oral history interview with Lim Choo Sye, who lived through and survived the Japanese Occupation.
How do you think the people of Singapore felt about having to learn a new language so suddenly? Imagine you are a student during the occupation and that you must now learn Mathematics, but in Japanese. Would you be able to cope?
Radio taiso was a form of exercise that school children had to do before their classes began. Watch a video of it here.
Did you know that Singapore’s local time was changed to follow the time in Tokyo, Japan? What impact do you this this had on the residents of Singapore?
Hardships of War
There was a strong Japanese military presence in Singapore and there were many checkpoints across the island. Getting through these checkpoints was quite an ordeal. Locals had to present proper documentation to pass through these checkpoints and also had to bow to the soldiers there. Not doing so meant that they risked getting slapped, punched or even detained.
Illustration of people bowing to a guard at Japanese military checkpoint.
Besides these inconveniences, the supply lines to Singapore were disrupted because of the war and many foodstuff and essential items could not reach the island. The Japanese tried to ration the goods that were available for purchase but this was insufficient in meeting demands and soon, a thriving black market emerged.
Listen to an excerpt of an oral history interview with a Japanese Occupation survivor.
Fancy going back in time to learn more about the Japanese Occupation of Singapore? Visit us at the Former Ford Factory and see the actual site of the British surrender and view the exhibition Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and Its Legacies.
Click here to find out more about the Former Ford Factory and its opening hours.
Did you know that you can also find many digital resources on the Japanese Occupation from the National Archives of Singapore and National Library Board websites?
Explore these resources and unearth more information for your own discovery of Singapore’s history!