Civilian survivors of U.S. air raids on Tokyo during World War II testified in court Thursday in a bid to win compensation for their suffering and, ultimately, to put the brakes on the government’s drive to amend the war-renouncing Constitution.
The suit, filed with the Tokyo District Court in March by 112 plaintiffs, alleges the government indirectly caused the attacks on Tokyo by prolonging the war and neglected its duty to compensate civilians after the attacks. They are demanding an apology and a combined 1.23 billion yen in reparations.
Mitsuru Kimori, who lost his parents and a younger brother during the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945, testified as the trial got under way that the government provided him no support after he was orphaned at age 12.
“I felt abandoned by the country,” the 74-year-old told the judges in a tearful plea.
The plaintiffs also claim the government rewarded former soldiers and their families with military pensions but forced civilians to endure injuries and losses, thus violating Article 14 of the Constitution, which states that all people are equal under the law.
Though government lawyers made no statement Thursday, they have argued the government cannot be held responsible for wartime civilian casualties.
According to the suit, Tokyo endured more than 100 air raids by the U.S. military from November 1944 to August 1945, including the Great Tokyo Air Raid on March 10, 1945, that killed 100,000 people. The plaintiffs have claimed the government never carried out sufficient research on the casualties and “trampled on humane feelings” for not building a memorial to the dead. They also accuse the government of prolonging a war that was certainly lost by at least July 1944.
Kinichi Nagai, who lost his 16-year-old sister during a U.S. attack on Tokyo on May 25, 1945, told The Japan Times the government must pay compensation and reflect on the tragic incidents.
“I still remember everything very clearly about what happened on that day, how my sister’s head was cracked open as she lay dead. She died from a direct hit of an incendiary bomb,” the 74-year-old plaintiff said during an interview over the phone earlier this week.
Nagai also voiced concern over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated intention to amend the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9.
“I look at the current Cabinet and see a bunch of young politicians who have no understanding of war and the pain it can cause. They are happy to follow the U.S. government blindly and revise the Constitution but are not aware of the consequences,” Nagai said. “That is why this suit had to be filed.”