When his body isn’t groaning under the weight of its 81 years, and the sun is shining in the skies over his native Kyushu, Sakae Menda sometimes forgets the ordeal he suffered and knows he is lucky to be alive.

But most days, there is no blotting out that the Japanese state stole 34 years of his life, or that he thought every one of those 12,410 days would be his last. “Waiting to die is a kind of torture,” he says, “worse than death itself.”

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