Stories of war – part 1
Since childhood, Japanese people born post-war period grow up listening to stories of WWII. At school, we learned Japan perpetrated atrocity to expand the power to other Asian territories. In an attempt to colonize other countries, the Imperial Japanese army massacred civilians where they invaded. The government pulled out of the UN and allied with Germany and Italy. Germany surrendered in May, but Japan didn’t until the genbaku destroyed two cities. The uranium bomb, known as genbaku in Japanese, exploded above Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, killing over 80,000 civilians instantaneously. Another was dropped three days later in Nagasaki, killing more. The history book said, “our nation should never repeat the history.” The sentiment I interpreted was that we should never do the horrible things we did so that we never have the horrible thing happen to us ever again.” The history book didn’t teach us why Japan went to war against much higher military power and why they didn’t surrender earlier when they were so desperate to enforce young boys suicidal attacks with one-way fuel in their plane tank. But our teacher told us off the record that people believed in kamikaze, which naming comes from one of many typhoons that happened to pass by and repelled Mongol invasion in the 13th century.
Through our grandparents, we heard stories of our family members. My grandmother’s brother, who was gentle and intelligent but not physically strong, was taken to Manchuria against his will and fell ill there. He died soon after he returned home. My great-uncle was also somewhere in China when he stepped on a landmine and exploded with it.
Through media, we heard stories in a movie about young boys who were the Kamikaze pilots, a clay anime about a little girl who was incinerated by the genbaku in Hiroshima, and a manga about a boy who survived the genbaku and lived through the aftermath of nuclear pollution. Studio Ghibli created Grave of The Fireflies in 1988, and the entire population sobbed for Setsuko and Seita.
However, we lacked in stories of the people in the countries that our country invaded. There must have been young peasant boys who were conscripted to the battlefront and killed. Or girls who were among the people massacred in Nanjing. Some of the “Confort women,” which is nothing but a euphemism for sexual slaves, were preteen girls abducted in the street. Young people in Japan are often puzzled by the confrontation from the rest of the world about the Japanese government’s insincerity toward the once-occupied Asian nations. The lack of stories leads to the narrowed sphere of compassion and limits the language with which we convey the sincerity in our regrets and apology. It makes young people feel powerless and angry that the action of the past regime still shames the innocent new generation to this day. Urging the current politicians to do the right thing is one thing, but I also believe it is our responsibility is to tell stories of the victims of war to the next generations and do so with compassion.