CD featuring Lauper, journalist recalls zoo animals killed in war

by Minoru Matsutani

Music label Epic Records Japan Inc. on Wednesday released a CD in which American singer Cyndi Lauper and a Japanese journalist recite a well-known story from the book “Faithful Elephants” about zookeepers who had to kill zoo animals during the war.

Zookeepers in Ueno Zoo, Tokyo, were ordered to kill the animals to prevent them from escaping in the event their cages were destroyed by U.S. bombings. The story, which was first published in 1945, features the struggles and hardships the zookeepers experienced and sends the message that war has tragic consequences even for animals.

Lauper, 55, narrates the story in the CD in English and Chieko Akiyama, 91, a journalist, reads it in Japanese.

Akiyama, who began her broadcasting career soon after the war, started reciting the book in 1957 to inform the next generation of the tragedy caused by the war. She recited the story on radio on the morning of every Aug. 15, the day the Emperor announced Japan’s surrender in World War II, for 45 years until 2002.

“Faithful Elephants,” which a publisher almost stopped printing as sales did not go well at first, has become a best-seller with 2.2 million copies sold. It has also been made into TV dramas and animation.

Lauper said she decided to become involved with the project after reading and enjoying the book.

“I am very proud to be able to do a small part to add to the great work Chieko (Akiyama) has done to bring the story of the ‘Faithful Elephants’ to the world,” said Lauper in a comment sent to Tokyo-based Epic Records Japan. “It was an honor to take part. I look forward to meeting Chieko in person when my tour brings me to Japan this September.”

Lauper, a renowned singer on the U.S. pop scene in the early 1980s with the smash hits “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Time After Time,” will hold a concert at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on Sept. 24.

The four-track CD includes all new recordings by Akiyama — the original version, a radio edition and a long version — and the English version by Lauper.