The Belief That Japan Won WWII
Colonel Kikawa urged his followers to protest mistreatment by ceasing the production of peppermint, which included ingredients used in explosives, and to stop making silk, a vital wartime material for parachutes. He also advocated more direct steps, such as sabotage. By 1945, Shindo Renmei, headquartered in Sao Paulo, had 64 branches in Brazilian localities with Japanese immigrant communities. With most Japanese-Brazilians cut off from reliable news, the group exploited their countrymen. They filled the information vacuum with “news” that was mere wishful thinking. As Japan reeled from defeat after defeat, Shindo Renmei told the Japanese immigrants that Japan was marching from triumph to triumph. The claims included a decisive Japanese victory in Okinawa, where America lost 400 warships. Victory was secured by a super weapon, the “High Frequency Bomb”, which killed Americans by the hundreds of thousands and forced the Allies’ unconditional surrender.
Many believed that, or if they did not, feared to speak up because Shindo Renmei punished “defeatists”. Those who voiced doubts about how well the war was going for Japan were shunned, boycotted, and sometimes violently assailed. Shindo Renmei dismissed Japan’s surrender as “fake news” and American propaganda, and redoubled its efforts to punish those who said otherwise. In the eyes of Colonel Kikawa and his followers, Japanese immigrants were divided into two camps: good guys, and bad guys. There were the virtuous Kachigumi (“Victorious”), who knew that Japan had won the war. They were mostly the poor and poorly educated. Then there were the vile Makegumi (“Defeatists”), also pejoratively labeled “dirty hearts”, who bought the fake news about Japan’s defeat.