POWs/Forced Labor: Japan

Kajima Corporation-Hanaoka
Mining (Hanaoka Incident)

Filed: June 28, 1995

During WWII, 986 Chinese were brought to Hanaoka (present day Odate in Akita prefecture) copper mine, run by the Kajima Corporation, and forced into labor.  Before the end of the war, on June 30, 1945, a riot erupted amongst the laborers at the copper mine due to poor food, living conditions, and forced labor, killing 113 Chinese.  By the end of the war, total deaths at Hanoka reached 418.  In 1989, 11 former Chinese workers and family members of deceased Chinese workers who had worked for Kajima Corporation during WWII requested an apology from Kajima, an indemnity of 5 million each (5 billion in total), and the construction of a memorial hall for the workers.  On July 5, 1990, the plaintiffs and Kajima Corporation issued a joint statement (English or Japanese-see bottom of page) recognizing Kajima's responsibility as a corporation for forced labor and offering an apology to Chinese survivors, family members of the deceased, and the other Chinese forced laborers it had employed during WWII.  Kajima admitted its responsibility for all 986 Chinese who were forced into labor between August 1944 and June 1945 and promised to open talks on compensation with the former workers and surviving families, but it expressed its intentions not to pay damages to individual victims.

After negotiations on compensation ran into difficulty, the plaintiffs filed a class action suit at the Tokyo District Court on June 28, 1995 demanding 60.5 million in compensation (5.5 million per plaintiff; or $65,000) for a ‘service for the dead,’ the construction of two museums (one in Hanaoka, one in Beijing) in memory of the Chinese laborers, and an apology.  On December 10, 1997, the Tokyo District Court dismissed the claim without hearing testimony based on the fact that the statute of limitations had expired.  However, the court recognized that Kajima had violated its duty to provide safety and care to its workers, but because it was forced labor and no legal contract was signed, Kajima had no legal responsibility. (Japanese text of court's decision)

On December 11, 1997, the plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Tokyo High Court.  On September 10, 1999, Judge Masato Niimura of the Tokyo High Court issued an advisory opinion for an out of court settlement.  On November 29, 2000, both sides accepted the Court’s mediated/proposed settlement (it is not a court-ordered judgment of culpability).  See English or Japanese 

The contents of this settlement are: 

  • Kajima will contribute 500 million ($4.6 million) to establish a fund, called the Hanaoka Peace and Friendship Fund, to be used for the relief of the 11 plaintiffs and 986 other persons forced into labor by Kajima

  • The money will be put in trust with the Chinese Red Cross Society as an expression of sympathy for deceased.

  • The 11 plaintiffs will receive 30% of the 500 million with the remaining 70% to be distributed by the Chinese Red Cross Society to any surviving victims.

  • Both sides reaffirm the July 5, 1990 Joint Statement.

  • Representatives of the plaintiffs, Chinese Red Cross, and a member from Kajima will constitute the steering board of the Fund if the company wishes. 

Chronology of Events

History with Comments

Statement by Niimi Takashi, Attorney for Plaintiffs
On the occassion of reaching settlement

(scroll down to third item on page)