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A Japanese media report on the Sydney Olympics said the Games marked “the end of a war-filled century.” Japan’s women athletes put in brilliant performances at the Games, as if to remove dark shadows of World War II, which imposed terrible suffering on countless women.

Naoko Takahashi, the gold medalist in the women’s marathon, was especially impressive. After winning the grueling race on a course that was very hilly, she smiled and said, “It’s been a very enjoyable 42 km.” She was relaxed and refreshing. Perhaps it is a sign of the peace Japanese enjoy.

While watching television broadcasts of the Games, I was making preparations for a memorial service to be held Oct. 10 in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture for 229 dead student officers of the Japanese Imperial Navy. They were among the students, including myself, who were recruited in 1943 for a desperate Japanese military campaign against U.S. forces during the Pacific War.

The memorial service has been held annually since Oct. 10, 1970, after survivors among the student officers erected a monument for the dead at a Shinto shrine near the wartime Tateyama Gunnery School, which we attended. At the first ceremony, I delivered a memorial address, during which some officers and relatives of the dead officers cried. Among those present were old women who had remained single out of devotion to the men they had loved. One of them lost her fiance when he was hit by fire from a flamethrower in a frontline battle with U.S. forces on a remote island.

In my message, I quoted a former comrade who had written to his old mother, “I only wish I had the time to attend to you before I die.” As I read the message, I heard people crying. This prompted my surviving comrades to preserve my address permanently for coming generations. I also remember shedding tears while drafting the message in the middle of the night.

Away from Sydney, fighting continues in Kosovo, East Timor and elsewhere. Countless innocent people have been killed. While some Japanese like myself are determined never to repeat war, most people in the world appear to be insensitive to the miseries of conflict. I only hope that the determination and energy demonstrated by women athletes in Sydney will be used to achieve permanent peace in the world, to create a world in which killing is not tolerated and all conflicts are resolved through negotiation and diplomacy. I believe that is what the women of the world are hoping for.

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