Son of Zero pilot skeptical of Abe’s Pearl Harbor visit


The son of a Zero fighter pilot voiced hope that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s planned visit to Pearl Harbor on Tuesday will help show the realities of war.

Still, Takanari Harada, 66, the third son of Kaname Harada, who took part in the 1941 attack on the Hawaiian base and who died in May at age 99, is skeptical about Abe’s gesture.

Kaname Harada served as a fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy starting in 1937 during the Sino-Japanese War. For the Pearl Harbor operation, he provided protective cover over the carrier task force that launched the raid. He was severely injured during another operation later in the war.

After the war, Harada eventually started his own kindergarten. He only started lecturing and writing about his experiences after he was shocked to hear a child say that footage of the 1991 Gulf War was “beautiful, like fireworks.”

For the next two decades, he traveled across the country multiple times a year to explain to people about the miseries of war.

His son, Takanari, who lives in the city of Nagano, believes that Abe’s Pearl Harbor visit is merely a return gesture for Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima in May, which made him the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the city devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in 1945.

It is either that, he said, or it is for political show before the change of U.S. presidents.

“My father was involved in these (educational) activities, believing that the horror of war should not be forgotten,” he said. “I hope Abe’s visit will be a chance for those who don’t know war to become curious” and learn its consequences.

Tadayuki Kusuyama, a 77-year-old movie director who made a documentary about Kaname Harada and others, noted that many civilians, including Japanese immigrants, were victims of the Pearl Harbor attack. He also said that the attack was linked to the Sino-Japanese War.

“I want (Abe) to mourn not only for the (deceased) soldiers of Japan and the United States but also for the private citizens killed in the attack and the victims of Japan’s invasion of China,” Kusuyama said.

Recollecting his war experience in China, Kaname Harada said in the film that he witnessed Japanese soldiers indiscriminately killing ordinary Chinese people, believing them to be military personnel disguised as civilians.

Many people believe the Pearl Harbor attack triggered the Pacific War, but that conflict was “linked to the Sino-Japanese War,” Kusuyama said.

He said Abe should face the fact that Japan invaded China as the Pearl Harbor visit gives him a chance to reflect on history.