In an attempt to enlighten foreign residents of Tokyo about Japan’s World War II experience, the Minato International Association has published an English translation of the first-person war accounts of 50 Minato Ward residents.
The anthology, “Memoirs on War — Aspirations for Lasting Peace,” contains vivid portrayals of wartime struggles with everything from firebombs and food shortages to growing disillusionment with the Imperial government.
In the essay “The Fire and My Baby on My Back,” a woman recalls her desperate attempts to save herself and her child during the heavy firebombing raids at the end of the war. “A man told me that my padded dressing gown had caught on fire, so I stripped it off me and hurried onward. Soon I caught fire on my back again,” wrote Riyo Komiya, an 81-year-old Minato resident. “So I held my baby to me and kept pouring water from the river over myself to quench the fire … Before long I realized that my baby had stopped breathing.”
Another Japanese survivor recalls how willing he was to join the war effort at age 12, even though two of his brothers had already died in battle. “I said, ‘Two brothers who devoted their lives to the Emperor should be more than honored, and I’ll do my best to kill Americans and build the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere,'” wrote Hisayoshi Suzuki, 57. “I was a sixth grade student in elementary school who had been indoctrinated with too much education about militarism, I couldn’t understand my mother’s feelings.”
Even after World War II, the world witnessed the Vietnam War and more recently the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, Yoshiya Mikami, chief director of the Minato International Association, wrote in the foreword. “Such a succession of bloodlettings have (sic) strongly impressed us anew that human beings are no better that the brutes.
“However, human beings also long for peace and I strongly believe the rapid exchange of information and publication of accounts like this one will help deter belligerence everywhere,” he wrote. The book is currently on sale for 1,000 yen at the association’s office in Minato City Hall.