From Ichiki Tatsuo to Abdul Rachman: The Courageous Journey of a Japanese Hero in Indonesia’s Fight for Independence

On January 9, 1949, in a fierce battle in the remote village of Dampit near Malang, East Java, a 42-year-old man named Abdul Rachman ran courageously toward the Dutch forces before him. Bullets flew, piercing his forehead and ending his life. Yet history remembers him as a hero. Abdul Rachman was the Deputy Commander of the Special Guerrilla Forces, a group of fighters established on July 24, 1948, in Wlingi, Blitar, East Java.

Born with the name Ichiki Tatsuo in 1906 in Taraki, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, Ichiki hailed from a samurai family that experienced poverty after his parents’ divorce. At the age of 21, an invitation from a friend brought him to Indonesia, where he dreamed of building the best photo studio in the South Seas. However, life in a foreign land led him on a profound emotional and spiritual journey.

Initially, Ichiki felt superior and looked down upon the Indonesian and Chinese communities. Yet his studies of religion and philosophy opened his eyes. He realized that happiness and success could not be achieved by demeaning others. He began to integrate with the Indonesian community, leaving behind his Japanese acquaintances, and found peace despite living in poverty.

In 1937, after witnessing the success of Japanese people in Bandung, Ichiki decided to settle there. He worked as a researcher, journalist, and translator. His proficiency in the Indonesian language led him to be involved in media supporting anti-Dutch sentiments. Ichiki became increasingly convinced that Japan would liberate Indonesia.

When Japan surrendered to the Allies in 1945, Ichiki was disappointed by their decision, which betrayed their promise of independence for Indonesia. Renouncing his Japanese citizenship, Ichiki chose to assist Indonesia’s struggle. He tried to join various independence movements, but his offers were rejected.

Nevertheless, Ichiki’s contributions to Indonesia’s struggle for independence cannot be overlooked. He handed over war spoils to Indonesian freedom fighter Otto Iskandar Dinata. Although this act was misconstrued as betrayal by some factions, Ichiki remained true to his commitment to support Indonesia’s independence. Otto’s tragic death deeply affected Ichiki, who felt the loss of a friend with whom he had once fought against Japanese colonialism.

Ichiki’s achievements and dedication to Indonesia’s independence struggle earned him respect even after his death. President Sukarno honored him by placing a plaque at the Shei Shoji Buddhist Temple in Tokyo, acknowledging Ichiki Tatsuo’s significant contributions to Indonesia’s fight for freedom. Ichiki Tatsuo, better known as Abdul Rachman, stands as a genuine example of bravery, steadfastness, and sacrifice for the aspirations of a nation’s independence.