Paul Maruyama is an Olympian, a member of the judo team, representing the USA at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Paul Maruyama is also an author, and the story he has to tell is personal…and incredible.
This is the story of the approximately 1.5 million Japanese who were essentially abandoned in the northern part of China, then called Manchuria, after the Pacific War. Overrun by the military of the Soviet Union, which had just declared war on Japan, Japanese military men and civilians alike were rounded up and sent to labor camps in the Soviet Union, while women and children were left in highly insecure and unsafe circumstances, including robbery and rape.
Maruyama wrote about this time in history because his father actually played a major role in ensuring safe passage of the 1.5 million Japanese in China back to Japan. In his book, Escape from Manchuria, Maruyama tells the incredible story of how his father, Kunio Maruyama, and his friends, Hachiro Shinpo and Masamichi Musashi worked together to get to Tokyo and meet General Douglas MacArthur, and convince him to send military ships to China and repatriate their countrymen.
When producers from NHK, the giant government broadcaster, read the Japanese version of Paul Maruyama’s book, they recognized the incredible human drama amidst the geo-political churn of post-war China and Japan, and decided to produce a two-part dramatization of those events.
On consecutive Saturdays of March 24 and 31 of 2018, NHK will broadcast their dramatized version of “Escape from Manchuria.” The Japanese title of the drama is “Doko ni mo Nai Kuni,” which I suppose can be loosely translated to “A Country that is Nowhere.”
In addition to filming in China, NHK has invested in talent, recruiting some of the biggest names in Japanese television and film. Seiyo Uchino (内野聖陽) will play Paul’s father, Kunio Maruyama, while Yoshino Kimura (木村佳乃) will portray Paul’s mother, Mary Maruyama. Other well known actors like Taizo Harada (原田泰造), Misako Renbutsu (蓮佛美沙子), Shinnosukke Matsushima (満島真之介), Tsurutaro Kataoka (片岡鶴太郎), and Kenichi Hagiwara (萩原健一) fill out the all-star cast.
Prior to a recent trip to Japan, Maruyama made a sortie to Shanghai, China, where he was able to observe filming on a studio lot. A street was re-created to look like a Japanese community in Shenyang, complete with store front signs in Japanese and Chinese, filled with despairing Japanese citizens, and aggressive Russian soldiers. Maruyama, who was in Manchuria with his family at the age of six, took on the scene with wonder and pride, filled with emotion.
“When I see this set and the recreation of streets of Manchuria, the actors, all the extras, the staff, here because of a book I wrote, it’s kind of overwhelming. But I’m happy because we’re able to tell a part of Japanese history that is not well known.”