A former Imperial Japanese Army soldier has voiced opposition to the government’s move to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

“As someone who went to war, I don’t welcome it. War is no picnic,” Kiyosaku Kudo, 90, said.

Born and raised in Hiranai, Aomori Prefecture, Kudo joined the army at 19 in February 1945. Before departing from the local train station, he was told by the principal of the vocational school he graduated from that Japan would achieve a great victory in World War II because his given name Kiyosaku meant to “create a happy era.”

“Boarding the train, I was filled with pride,” Kudo recalled.

Kudo was assigned to an anti-aircraft battery to defend a radar system in Choshi, Chiba Prefecture. His unit was subjected to daily attack by Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters and other U.S. aircraft.

As a gunner, Kudo fired barrages into the air, in the general direction indicated by the bamboo baton of his superior.

“There was never enough food,” Kudo said. The trucks delivering supplies were powered by charcoal and were unable to handle inclines, so young soldiers had to use ropes to pull them up the hill to an elementary school overlooking the Pacific Ocean where the unit was stationed.

U.S. patrol aircraft occasionally dropped leaflets and the high quality of the paper surprised his fellow soldiers, Kudo said.

The gap in military muscle between the Japanese and U.S. forces was evident, but the Japanese soldiers didn’t think they would lose. “In the end, we believed a kamikaze (divine wind) would bring us victory,” Kudo recalled.

“We were not even afraid of death because we were brainwashed, I now realize. Mind control is the most horrible thing of all,” he said.

Kudo was standing guard on a bridge over the Tama River in Kawasaki when Japan surrendered to the Allied powers. Upon returning home to Aomori Prefecture, he learned that a local man responsible for air defense had killed himself.

“As he was a serious person, he may have blamed himself for the defeat,” Kudo said.

Kudo believes Japan has maintained peace for 70 years because it has renounced war.

“Deliberations on the right to collective self-defense have progressed and politicians use fine words,” he said. “But war must not be justified with fine words.”

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