Young Pioneer Tours

Manchukuo: Japan’s puppet empire within China

At Young Pioneer Tours we do like our unrecognised and former countries, and we indeed visit many of them. There is one sorta-country that we’ve regrettably neglected until now: the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo.

Manchukuo was founded by the Empire of Japan after the invasion of Manchuria in 1932. Initially known as the State of Manchuria, the region adopted the more grandiose title of “Empire of Manchuria” from 1934-35. It also had a really cool (and definitely free-of-foreign-influence) head of state: China’s last emperor, Pu Yi.

The flag of Manchukuo

Manchukuo was officially set up as a homeland for the Manchu people (the sometime rulers of China), although they were actually an ethnic minority in the melting pot of White Russians (politically rather than ethnically), Han Chinese and ethnic Koreans.

Politics of Manchukuo

Emperor Puyi of Manchukuo

China’s last emperor, Puyi, had previously ruled China from the age of 2 before being deposed by a warlord who captured Beijing. Desperate for friends, Puyi turned to the Japanese, who eventually spirited him away to Manchuria and installed him as the puppet emperor of Manchukuo.

The Prime Minister of Manchukuo was also appointed by the Japanese, leading to many accusations that the country was a puppet state. But ask yourself this: would a Japanese puppet state have been recognised by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and (for some reason) Costa Rica?

How did it end?

Sadly all good things must come to an end, and after the Japanese surrender in World War 2 the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) moved in, and everyone lived happily ever after.

What area did Manchukuo cover?

Most of northeast China, parts of Inner Mongolia, and cities such as Harbin and Shenyang. If Manchuria was its own country, it would be a bloody huge one.

Is there much left to see of Manchukuo?

Your best bet to see remnants of Imperial Manchukuo is to go to Changchun, where Puyi spent the lion’s share of his time as puppet emperor. Here you can see the ‘Eight Departments of Manchukuo’ – a collection of buildings that were used to administrate the puppet empire. You can also see the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo, where Puyi lived/was held de facto prisoner.

As for Puyi himself: he ended his days in ignominy, sweeping streets in Beijing and trying to learnt to brush his teeth and tie his shoelaces for himself.

See part of former Manchukuo yourself on our Harbin and North Korean Borderlands tours!