Thursday, June 21, 2007
It's the time again in Japan and especially in Okinawa. The TV is broadcasting it almost daily, the schools are having invited speakers to remind small minds of Okinawa, the survivors are relating their histories over and over and banners are everywhere about it.
It's the war, The Second World War season.
Around this time 62 years ago, 200,000 people died when the Americans and the Japanese Imperial Army made the peaceful soil of Okinawa their battleground, the only state in Japan with the real battleground. Do you know that only Okinawa people suffered the real battle of the war?
If you think Hiroshima and Nagazaki were another battleground, you are wrong. Those two places were bombed with atomic power without actual battleground. Within that 3 months period alone, 1 out of 4 local people died in Okinawa. The rest injured, homeless, tortured or barely surviving in some underground caves.
My haiku friend, Mrs. Higa is 75. She is the last remaining few of the atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima. She was about 8 years old in Hiroshima when she survived the mushroom cloud. She is the spoke-lady for the group involved in the War Prevention-awareness.
A few days ago, she invited me to attend this group and hear her speech there. I went and found myself not belonging to the younger group nor the older group.
The older people were mostly survivors of war, most of them experienced in Okinawa whereas the younger people are those backing the War-awareness movement.
Everyone has their say as we took our turns talking. The older people have lots to say recounting their sad and fading war experience. The younger few would talk of their plans in future of convincing projects. As I hear their stories, there were something odd that I need to tell them.
Their project on Peace Movement is mostly on getting the young generation to understand the meaning of war and its prevention. But I know this is very difficult to implement simply because the young people below 30 years old are not interested in politics, let alone try to understand war.
All they know about war is: it is global, it is large-scale, it is between religious fanatics and important of all, it will not happen in Japan!
Go ahead, ask any Japanese high school boys what they know about war and any one of these will be their answers.
Come my turn to speak and I spoke in Japanese unprepared, without notes and without data to back on. I speak from my heart and that was just my pure opinion.
Briefly, I recounted my late grandfather stories on his experience of war in Melacca. (Al-fatihah for him, he died at the ripe age of 90, 40 years after the war ended!) How the Japanese Imperial Army would forcefully take food from the villages, raped the women and killed anybody easily just because they wouldn't do the Japanese bow-greetings.
My grandfather, in his early 30's, were captured and sent in cargo-loads of rails and roads with other POW to Thailand to work on the Death Railway.
He survived the war with half-deaf ear because he was often beaten with the handle of the bayonet. He was thin to the bone and came home almost crawling.
They were listening to me so deeply even with my lowly, unpolished Japanese talent, mind you I was not prepared to make any speech. If I would have known earlier, for sure, I would have refused that speech.
Then come the point that I want to tell them so much. LIFE.
Before they talked so bombastically about war, about killing, about bomb. They have to instill the value of Life. The love for Life, the love for another human life. If everybody value Life, their own and others...FOR SURE, I said FOR SURE, there will be no war.
They have to teach the children in school today, the value of human life.
Their own and others.
Last year and for the past years, 32,000 Japanese killed themselves and if they can end their own lives so easily, I would think it is not difficult for them to end another human lives.
When they don't put values on human lives, I am very confident that, when and if Japan is involved in another war, they would become active and aggressive easy enough.
Actually, the way I put it across, its like saying "hey, change your style, your tactics is wrong". I think this message was understood well among them and during the Q & A session, one personal question that I dread came up.
"So, were there opposition from your parents when you married a Japanese?" (in Japanese of cours, don't hope for anybody with English language ability).
I told them my mother was too young to know about war that time. They kept her and other women folks well away in the jungle and she hardly had any bad war experiences other than being hungry all the time. Also, most young people in Msia below the age of 50 hardly know about war as it has ended when or after they were borned. So, its only with some older people now that they still feel bitter and hatred for the Japanese.
So, my marriage was approved.
I ended my speech with the reminder that they have to instill the value of Life to the younger generation to avoid war in the future.
Then I looked at Mrs. Higa next to me. She was busy snoring with her head almost under the table. Have to excuse her, what do you expect from a 75 year old granny?
When its time for her own Q & A, she would sometimes stop in a middle of explaination and asked what topic she was on *sigh*
I pat my own shoulder and felt quite proud of myself for being able to make an impromptu speech like that and most important of all, had made them understood my message.
ps: About the video on top, I heard the song on TV commercials as I was typing this entry and felt all nostalgic again of yesteryears. I doubt young readers below the 35 age-limit would know this tune at all.