"In the wake of defeat, approximately 6.5 million Japanese were stranded in Asia, Siberia, and the Pacific Ocean area. Roughly 3.5 million of them were soldiers and sailors. The remainder were civilians, including many women and children--a huge and generally forgotten cadre of middle-and-lower-class individuals who had been sent out to help develop the imperium. Some 2.6 million Japanese were in China at war's end, 1.1 million dispersed through Manchuria." (Dower: 1999, pp.48-49.)
I personally know (or rather knew, as many of them have since died) more than ten Japanese who were living abroad at the war's end. Their stories of repatriation are interesting ones.
My father-in-law was born on a ship that was returning to Japan a month before the surrender. I guess his parents had seen the writing on the wall and chose to get out of Dodge before things really turned really ugly. The Battle of Okinawa had finished only a few weeks earlier (June 22) so the waters between Taiwan and Kagoshima (where they were originally from) must have been crowded with Allied battle ships and aircraft carriers getting ready to mount an attack on the Japanese mainland. How their ship was able to pass safely is a mystery to me.
There were some 300,000 Japanese living on Taiwan, 90% of whom were expelled by April of 1946.
Another woman I know grew up in Taiwan. She was the daughter of a police officer on the island. The father of yet another woman was born in a small town on the southeastern coast of Taiwan. His family had been well-to-do, but lost everything when they left.
The father of a woman I know was a doctor in the Japanese Army in Manchuria. 1.6 to 1.7 million Japanese fell into Soviet hands "and it soon became clear that many were being used to help offest the great manpower losses the Soviet Union had experienced in the war as well as through the Stalinist purges." (Dower: 1999, p.52.) As a doctor, he was pretty much free to go were he liked and may have even had one of more Russian lovers during his time there. He remained in the USSR for I believe 8 years after the war. He was one of the few who did not want to be repatriated.
"From a logistical standpoint, the repatriation process was an impressive accomplishment. Between October 1, 1945 and December 31, 1946, over 5.1 million Japanese returned to their homeland on around two hundred Libert Ships and LSTs loaned by the American military, as well as on the battered remnants of their own once-proud fleet." (Dower: 1999, p.54.)
That answers a question I had about how so many people were able to return to Japan when four-fifths of all Japan’s ships had been destroyed. “The imperial navy had long since been demolished. Apart from a few thousand rickety planes held in reserve for suicide attacks, Japan’s air force—not only its aircraft, but its skilled pilot as well—had virtually cased to exist. Its merchant marine lay at the bottom of the ocean.” (Dower: 1999, p.43)