As a child nurtured in a serene alpine mountain atmosphere, image of war and the carnage it brings was conceptually remote.
Having incidentally run across a book about the Vietnam war recounting the American military’s behaviour in Vietnam, along with the details of the destruction of Cambodia and Laos, led to a deep examination of the meaning of war.
This chance encounter facilitated an acute awareness of the true nature of war—understand the hidden reasons for the annihilation of civilians, erasing history and cultures of others—creating ceaseless war zones—sabotaging the advancement of humanity.
After arriving in Japan in 1987, the reality of war came into sharp focus when first observing Buddhist family alters gracing Japanese homes.
In Buddhist tradition, pictures of the deceased adorn the alter wall—often people in military uniforms also haunt these hallowed halls.
This is the first time to have personally met anyone related to anyone killed in war, their dead honoured for their sacrifice as Shinto gods residing upon countless alter walls.
ΩNE’s beloved father in-law spent his caßreer working at the Japanese national broadcaster NHK—a 1959 graduate of Waseda University—witty, stoic, with a dark sense of humour—he was 9 years old when the war ended, and he was tasked with the clean up and the rebuilding of his family.
Recorded April 15, 2020, Masatoshi Kodama talks for the first time about his experience as a child of war.
Listen to this first-hand account of war told from the eyes of a 9 year-old boy.
Around 1944, when the war intensified, all children in the 5th and 6th grades of elementary school who had no relatives in the countryside were evacuated to the countryside under the guidance of a school teacher. I wasn’t even in the fifth grade yet, but my brother was a target, so we evacuated to the Izu peninsula together.
The evacuation destination in Izu was an inn. From the kindergarten across the street, I could see the devastating Tokyo air raids on March 10 that I will never forget. It was visible from Izu, 100 km away, it was a massive air raid.
However, soon after that, Izu was inundated with American war planes carrying out air raids on Tokyo every day, and it was decided that this place was no good either, so we moved to the far away to Morioka. It was a tough trip. But when we got to Morioka station, the B29 dropped any leftover bombs to lighten the plane on its way home. There was smoke from the bombing still visible near the station. Then Morioka was deemed no good, so we took refuge in a temple deep in the mountains of Iwate. After that, my sister also arrived, and we celebrated the end of the war there.
I can a vivid recall a story on the way to the evacuation site. We had rice balls in the lunch box. All the rice balls had become rotten, and everyone wept and threw them out of the train window into the river. I still remember. Many fish seemed to be starving as well, eating the rice floating on the surface of the water.
After the war, all of us students who had been evacuated went to Tokyo together. And when I arrived at Ueno Station, one of the students went missing there. After waiting for a long time and not being found until the end, the teacher gave up and we left there. I heard that the child’s father was a soldier and later died in the war. He was a major or a colonel, and once came to visit us while we were evacuated. At that time, he pulled out his military sword and showed it to us, all of us children were very impressed. In hindsight, it’s silly.
And when I finally arrived at Ebara-machi Station, the nearest town, it was a completely burnt-out field. But luckily my house survived. The house in front of it had been burned down, but the house south of this house had not.
My father was to old and was never drafted into the war. He was working for an insurance company called Katakura Life at the time.
Since then, Japan’s recovery has been rapid. How long has it been since the war? There was a black market, and it was like starting over in a fresh hut, and at no time the downtown area was black.