The ‘Queen of Anatahan’ is a girl who is alone on an island with 32 men.

One Women and 32 Men
One Women and 32 Men
Higa Kazuko
Higa Kazuko

In 1939, something important happened. Anatahan Island, situated in the Philippine Sea as a part of the Mariana Islands but at a distance, played a role. This island sits in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean. Anatahan is a small island, only about 4 km from Palalin, and it stretches for 9 km. The whole island is around 33.9 square kilometers. There’s a volcano on the island that’s still active. Because of this, the island doesn’t have other places where people live, just a few indigenous folks. During World War II, Japan took over many islands, and they made Japanese people work on them.

Higa Kazuko, a girl from Japan, went to Saipan, another island in the Mariana group, far from Anatahan. She was there for her brother’s business. and was born in Okinawa, Japan. Kasuko went to the Balkan Islands near Bulgaria in Europe. She worked in a cafĂ© and met a young man named Shengyi, who came from the same area in Japan as she did. They became really good friends and then fell in love. They quickly got married. Shengyi’s job sent him and his wife Higa Kazuko to Anatahan Island to grow coconuts with some local people. Another Japanese person, Masami Kusakabe, was working there too.

The three of them, the Japanese couple and Masami, worked together on the island. But when World War II started, the US military attacked Saipan, the main place near Anatahan Island. While trying to bring his sister back from a nearby island, the American Air Force attacked Shengyi, and he likely lost his life.

Kazuko ended up alone on the island with Masami. They lived there for a while until a group of Japanese people in danger from American attacks came in June 1944. There were 31 men in this group, ten were soldiers and twenty-one were sailors. Kazuko was happy they came because she and Masami were the only ones on the island and they couldn’t leave.

The island had plenty of food, like fruits and leaves, so everyone could eat for many years. But after a while, some of the men started looking at Kazuko in a different way. Historical records say that she acted in a way that made them interested, even though Masami warned her not to.

An older person in the group advised Kazuko and Masami to live away from the others to avoid problems. They found a crashed American plane on the island, which had guns and bullets. Because ten people in the group were soldiers, they knew how to use the weapons. However, a fight ensued, resulting in the death of one person the following day.

The following day, two soldiers named Tanaka and Matsu said they were in charge and made Kazuko their servant. She had old clothes, and since she was young, the men had wrong thoughts about her. One day, a sailor forced himself on her, and Tanaka killed him. Tanaka and Matsuo fought about who owned Kazuko, and Matsuo killed Tanaka. A few days later, Matsuo drowned in the sea under strange circumstances.

After that, two other soldiers took care of Kazuko, but they also died. Eventually, the island had only Kazuko and 24 others remaining. Kazuko had a strange time. The people there took care of her, but it wasn’t always good. They decided to throw away their weapons, but things didn’t get better.

As time passed, only 19 people were left. One person told Kazuko to run away with him to the forest, and she did. She saw an American warship nearby and asked for help. The ship came to Anatahan Island.

Surrender of the 19 Japanese stragglers on Anatahan in 1951

The ship wanted to take everyone back, but only Kazuko agreed. The rest of the people didn’t want to accept that Japan had lost the war. So, only Kazuko went to Japan on the ship. She had been stuck on the island for over six years. The 19 men who were with her went back home after reading letters from their families and friends.

In Japan, Kazuko became famous as the Queen of Anatahan. People said she tried to protect herself by making someone else hurt the people who accused her. She got married again at 34 and died eight years later.

Lots of articles, documentaries, and movies were made about her. She even acted in a Japanese movie, but it didn’t do well because it didn’t seem real.


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