Summer of 1945

April 4th, 2013 by admin

Midsummer of 1945, the Second World War ended. I was 6 years old. That spring, I entered the very strict private boarding school in the mountain outside the city of Osaka. The mountain was full of wild cherry blossoms, slight gentle sweet fragrance filled up the area of the school. Japanese mountain cherries are so different from the ones by the Potomac River, each flower is tiny and independent and 5 petals are all singles – so delicate. But together, visually it forms like a pink cloud. Then when the wind gently caresses, all pink petals fall down dancing like snowflakes, then covers the ground in white-pink, as if pink carpet is laid. I enjoyed so much lying down on it and let all the pedals fell on my face and my body soaking deep into the sweet fragrance. It was a heavenly place. But school curriculum was vigorous. Every morning when the east sky became slightly white, we ran up to the top of the mountain and did short Yoga- like exercise till the sunrise. We put hands together to salute the sun and thank the universe for allowing us being there. We also thanked our ancestors and our Emperor by reciting some verses honoring him, for which to this day I don’t understand because the words were in archaic Japanese. I felt each morning extremely purified and happy at this moment. Then we came back down to the school, ate thin porridge of mainly wild edible plants and potato or barley. Portion was very small but it was so delicious. By the summer, food was very scarce. There was of course no rice because all crops had to be sent to soldiers. When rained, we went out to gather the snails and they were roasted for that night’s dinner. In the sunny afternoon we collected grasshoppers and the cook flied them and they were delicious. and crunchy The lunch consisted of about 20 roasted soybeans. We had to chew 50 times each pea. They were delicious, too, soft sweetness melted in my mouth by each bite. We have nothing of sweet candies, chocolate and knickknacks. Perhaps we were hungry but I don’t recall that. Every afternoon we were in the field caring our vegetables, playing with chickens and, in June, we learned how to plant the small rice plants into the muddy ground. All in all we were very happy, peaceful and studied very hard. Each Saturday afternoon, my mother and one of our male servants, often a gardener, came to pick us up (my elder sister, me and 2 cousins) for the weekend to which we looked forward so much.

That Saturday early August, my mother did not come. I watched in tears the huge orange ball of sunset. I was forever staring at the dirt road leading up to the school till the path disappeared into the darkness. Time passed so slowly. I saw the road no more. A teacher ordered me to go to bed and I cried into a sleep. In the middle of the night, we were woken up. “Your mother and servant are here!” shouted my teacher. They told us there was no train, and road and bridges were blocked as American was supposed to attack us. They walked over 20 miles to fetch us, and we were going to walk back!! We started descending from the mountain. My mother told us not to use flashlights because enemy planes can spot us. Suddenly the air raid began. Many. many B29 passed right above our head, so close, with thundering noises. Then I saw a beautiful sight of fire works at Osaka City down below. It was so fast. Then the fireworks became huge and long fire. It seemed to extend forever left to right. On gardener gave me a huge red tomato as big as my face. I bite into it, watching fireworks below. The delicious and juicy fragrance filled my mouth and the whole body..

We run, hiding between rocks and trees from bombs as a few came near us. Then we waited in a cave, cuddling together. Then suddenly, it was silent. We started to walk down, and walked along the train tracks. I was on the shoulder of the gardener. My mother was leading to sing all the folk songs and children’s songs we knew as we marched. The moon was very blight and stars were so numerous. The Milky Way ran across the whole sky. The sky gradually became white and the sun rose. and we finally got to our country estate.. Grandmother gave us the cooked sweet potatoes. It was so delicious, and I fell into deep sleep in my futon. The next night, relatives who escaped and survived the raid arrived to our home. Their legs and arms were broken, tied up to sticks, their clothes were burned and torn, smell of burned flesh was horrible and terribly dirty. I cried. That night, the entire Osaka was burned – all children, women, and old folks with all their belongings and their homes. There were no husbands or sons because all male were in the army. In fact, in entire Osaka’s, no, entire Japan’s household, there were no male. Two of our cousins did not make out of the fire. But three (one grand aunt, and two daughters) made it. Forever after, I saw on one of the daughter’s face a huge burn scar. which she still has, I imagine.

About ten days later, back in the school, we were told to gather in the hall in our best clothes and sit neatly with our head bowed down. . Radio broadcasted the voice of our Emperor. It was the first time in our history that the Japanese heard his voice. Adults were all sobbing. The voice was very high but very gentle. I could not understand his words but I knew something very serious happened. Our principle went outside, naked, to the yard and took out a Japanese sword. He was wild, cutting all the trees around, shouting that, he will cut all Americans, then he will commit hara-kiri. A few weeks later, American MP came and our school was closed down. It was the last time I saw our beloved principle and other teachers My mother explained that American did not like our school. They said our school was Shinto oriented and Shinto was not allowed. Later, American changed even the Japan’s history books. Shintoism is a beautiful WAY OF LIFE. It is a worship of Nature, Universe and your Ancestors, humbling ourselves to the almighty of Nature.. very similar to the thinking of the Native American. Unfortunately, somehow, Shintoism artificially got connected to the military. I can understand young children of Middle East growing up hating Americans. I experienced it myself. Only the history can give results. Memories always erases painful part somewhat, and recalls pleasant part such as the taste of a tomato in the mountain and beautiful fireworks over Osaka. But, I believe, knowing Japanese samurai spirits, if it were not for Showa Emperor’s broadcast ending the war, Japanese would have fought till her last person died out. I thank Emperor for this. Everything turns out to be for the better. After the war the United States helped us so much and we became close friends

Already 60 years has passed bye since that night. Perhaps my age group is the last one to remember the World War II. Many Japanese young people sometimes surprise me by saying “Is it really true we fought Americans?” After living in the United States for over 40 years and knowing wonderful people in America, even I can’t imagine this happened. Once I hated Americans. I love U.S.A. deeply and this is my home.

My personal experiences teach me that if only I can catch ahead in time any discord, wrong vibration between myself and others, I could avoid the conflict. When I sense some uncomfortable difference of opinion, or attitude, etc, if it is at the very beginning, I can often change this by chatting, or meeting with open heart, or calling, or sending followers or friendly messages. Even by the tone of the voice of just to say “hello” could turn the course. Once we put on colored sun glasses, the world we see is only through that color. We must see with wide open naked eyes, and try to understand. Maybe the compromise can be found before we put on the sunglasses. We might be able to avoid the situation that we have to fight. The world is so complicated but I wonder often why this could not be applied between powers. After all we are all human beings, politicians and leaders of the world as well. It all boils down to a person’s understanding or feeling or combination of such. Maybe we may create a space outside of the United Nations, where there are no politics involved.

Sixty years has passed since that night. There are so many memorials this year throughout the world commemorating the end of the world war II. In Japan, when a man become sixty, we celebrate his birthday saying he becomes baby again. We cloth him in red jacket just like a baby. We celebrate his rebirth. This is a wonderful custom. This summer, I would like to celebrate the new born peace on this planet with hundreds of friends at Mt. FUJI, on July 30 midnight to the SUNRISE on July 31 It is called SUNRISE OF COMPASSION.

Please join us and come to Japan. with me Kazuko Tatsumura May 2005