Documentary shows former Imperial Navy pilot’s cry for peace

JIJI

A documentary about a late Japanese wartime fighter pilot who tells people about the miseries of war is finding audiences in a theater in Nagano.

The film depicts the story of Kaname Harada, who in his late years started to talk about his experiences from World War II, during which he shot down many enemy aircraft as a pilot of a Zero fighter for the now-defunct Imperial Navy.

With the number of people who survived the war becoming fewer and fewer 72 years after Japan’s surrender in the war on Aug. 15, 1945, the director of the film, Tetsuo Miyao, 67, said he wants those who watch the film to “learn how precious peace is and also think how we can maintain the peace.”

The Nagano theater started to screen the film, which has a Japanese title that translates as “Kaname Harada: Prayers for Peace — the 100 Years of a Former Zero Fighter Pilot,” late last month. It will be showing until Aug. 25. People involved in the filmmaking said they will consider screening it at theaters across Japan.

After the war, Harada, who took part in Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 1941 and the Battle of Midway between Japan and the United States in June 1942, long remained silent about his wartime experiences.

Shocked by the words of a pupil at the kindergarten he ran describing images of the 1991 Gulf War as “beautiful like fireworks,” however, Harada started speaking and writing about his own experiences of war. He was 75 at the time.

Harada continued to talk about his experiences across Japan until he died at the age of 99 in May last year.

Miyao met Harada for the first time in September 2014 when the former fighter pilot gave a lecture while standing for two hours. Harada collapsed at the end of the lecture as he was exhausted.

Overwhelmed by Harada’s enthusiasm, “I strongly felt his wish to convey to current generations the things only people who lived at that time knew,” Miyao recalls. So Miyao, who used to work as a news reporter making programs at a commercial broadcaster in Nagano Prefecture, started shooting to record Harada’s story.

A few months before Harada’s death, Miyao told the former pilot of his decision to make a documentary film about him.

Harada told the director that he could not lecture any more due to his weakening physical condition but that he would fully cooperate with the film, Miyao recalls.

Among the vivid scenes in the film is one in which Harada talks about how he felt when he saw the sad face of the pilot of an enemy plane as his fighter came near to shoot it down. “I’ll be killed if I don’t kill you. That’s what I thought,” Harada says in the film.

On why Harada continued to talk about his experiences, Miyao says, “I believe that Harada wanted us to think seriously how we can prevent wars and learn lessons from history.”