1. "August 17th 2605" – concerning the Japanese contribution to the Indonesian Independence –
Copylight (Aug.22,1998) by TAKESHITA Yoshirō


In the center of the "Merdeka" (Independence) Square in Indonesia, there is the 137-meter tall Independence Commemoration Tower. In the basement of this tower, there are the Three Sacred Regalia of Indonesia (the Declaration of Independence, the national flag and emblem used at the time of independence). The First Regalia (the Declaration) consists, of course, of the declaration of independence, the signatures of Sukarno (the First President) and M.Hatta (the First Vice-President), and of the date of signature, "05/08/17" .

The Indonesian Independence happened in 1949 CE, but the year of independence is indicated as being "05". This "05" is an abbreviation of the year 2605, which was one of the two Japanese era types, the "Kouki" (), that begins with the accession of the first Japanese emperor (Emperor Jinmu ) in 660BC. Why was the "Kouki" used for the date of signature of Indonesia's declaration of independence?

For the Pacific War, Japan initiated the declaration of war between Japan, and the USA, UK and the Allies. But between Japan and Holland (Netherlands), it was the Dutch who initiated the declaration of war. Dutch East Indies (  Indonesia) was a colony of Holland, which Holland fell threatened by the Japanese military advance over the various colonies of western colonialists in the name of the "liberation of Asia for the construction of a Great East Asian Commonwealth". In order to counter the advance, the Dutch declared war against the Japan. The Japanese response to this was an attack, on March 1st 1942, against the Dutch Force in Indonesia by the 16th Army of the Java Expeditionary Imperial Japanese Army (alias the "Osamu () Troop"), consisting of 2 divisions amounting to 55,000 men, led by Lieutenant General IMAMURA Hitoshi (). The Japanese force defeated the Dutch Force twice their size in just 9 days. The Indonesian legend of "Joyoboyo" (which predicted that a yellow race of small stature would come from the North to liberate Indonesia and that they would leave by the time the flower of Jagon blossomed) helped in Japan's favor by providing the Japanese force with local popular support in defeating the Dutch.

In occupying Indonesia, the Japanese force began "stabilizing the popular sentiment" by assuring the population of the goodwill of the Japanese force through the "Proclamation Number One" proclaimed by Commander IMAMURA. It stated the following: the Japanese and the Indonesian people share a common ancestor and are of the same race; the Japanese Military Force aims to coexist with Indonesians to achieve commonwealth; the military administration will be conducted based on the principle that the Indonesians are compatriots of the Japanese people. This was a surprising proclamation for the local people. The Western colonialists conducted colonialism based on the relationship of colonialists as ruler vis-à-vis the ruled local population. This proclamation was not just one of those untrue paperwork aimed to falsely assure and lead people to submission and an eventual deception. The Japanese Force kept its word until and including the end of the War. This succeeded in gaining the popular support of the local people.

The Japanese Military Administration instructed locals in order to ameliorate agricultural techniques, constructed lower schools, encouraged education of young children, published the news paper "Indonesia Laya", abolished the use of English and Dutch, helped organize the local Indonesian languages into a common Indonesian language, adopted the Indonesian language as the official language, granted the right for more than 5 people to assemble, encouraged the appointment of Indonesians, allowed the Indonesian nationalist movements, allowed the participation of Indonesians in politics, established a Central House of Councilors under the Military Administration, established a House of Councilors in each provinces and each special cities, organized youth groups and police agencies ran by the locals all over Indonesia, created the basis for the Indonesian Patriotic Volunteer Army (PETA). Many of these actions constituted the steps for Indonesian independence.

Commander IMAMURA who conducted the popular military administration was discharged of his position as Commander of the Java Army after 10 months of occupation due to a conflict of opinion with the Japanese General Headquarter. After the end of War, he was declared a criminal of war and imprisoned in the Chibnan prison in Batavia. IMAMURA (who was Major General by the end of war) faced the high possibility of being sentenced to death (several of his men had already been executed). Meanwhile, Sukarno, the father of Indonesia's independence and leader of the Indonesian Independence movement, planned to abduct IMAMURA from prison, just before the probable execution, in order to save his life. But as IMAMURA was released from prison just before the execution, the plan was canceled.

So back to the question "Why was the "Kouki" used for the date of signature of Indonesia's declaration of independence?" It was probably used as a sign of respect and gratitude to the positive contribution made by IMAMURA's military administration, and to the 2000 Japanese soldiers who chose to join the Indonesian Independence Volunteer Army in fighting the war of independence rather than to return back to Japan (many of them remained in Indonesia even after the Independence).