Shigeru Takabayashi, 85, is a living witness of the convoluted history of the English language in Japan around the end of the Pacific War.

In spring and summer 1945, the last months of the war, Takabayashi studied English — an enemy tongue ostracized in wartime Japan — at a branch of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy in Hariojima, Nagasaki Prefecture, which is now part of the city of Sasebo.

Every week, he and his fellow cadets received four hours of English lessons, in which they were allowed to speak only English. The English teaching staff included three dozen Japanese teachers trained by Tadao Kimura, a second-generation Japanese-American from Seattle.