Remembering the end of the war

We hear today that the majority of Japan’s population doesn’t know about the Pacific War firsthand. I belong to the minority that does know, as I heard the end of the war announced on the radio on Aug. 15 (1945) when I was a first grader in a small village of Nagano Prefecture. We had been evacuated there from Fukugawa (Tokyo).

My memory of that August day is still vivid. Many American planes flew very low over our heads. We children were very happy after the announcement, because we no longer needed to hide in the shelters dug along the road on our way to and from school.

Earlier my family had lived happily in Fukugawa, but the war changed our lives for the worst. We had no place to live, no food to eat, only river water to drink, no clothes to wear, no electricity. My late mother was depressed for a long time after her second daughter lost her life in the fifth grade.

We can never forget the exorbitant loss of life and material from the U.S. B-29 bomber air raids, not to mention the destruction of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, many other big cities in Japan, and most of Okinawa. And I pray that history does not repeat itself.

Some 1,500 years ago, Japan learned a lot from Korea and China — not only their cultures but also their political systems. Some people keep trying to whitewash Japan’s past cruelties toward them by insisting that there’s no evidence that the Japanese did this or that. Since we burned incriminating records, it is quite natural for some today to keep asking for proof.

Today, it’s as if some politicians, by negating Japan’s past deeds, are trying to restore the historical images of their own grandfathers. There’s no telling how many people actually became victims of the war. Why can’t Japan be as frank about its World War II history as Germany was?

It’s way past the time for Japan to admit its mistakes and apologize to its neighbors.

shigeo wagatsuma
ueda, nagano

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.