March 10… (Introduction)

(This is the Introduction of my third book (collection of haiku-style poems), “Haiku Poems III”, which is half-finished for publication and still pending due to my illness. I decided to put out its Introduction here for fear that it may disappear in case something happens to me. I hope my blog friends will read it together with the Introductions of the two preceding books, “Haiku Poems” and “Haiku Poems II”. I wish I could send you all the pdfs of them.)

Introduction (to “Haiku Poems III”)

Still vivid in my memory,

I saw it happen on the night of March 10, 1945,

The ending year of the World War II.

On that night, Tokyo exposed to the severest air raids of the war.

Almost entire city was engulfed in a fire storm burning the sky.

When the fire got close only a few blocks from our house,

My father decided to abandon it.

After he briefly told my mother where to meet again,

He started digging a hole in the front yard.

I knew he was to throw into the hole the statue of Buddha, that he worshiped every morning, a book of family history, and other things important to him.

I was then seven years old.

The statue and other things he was to save from the fire were only trinkets to me.

What was left of food was wrapped in cloths, and my mother tied them around her wrists.

She also carried my baby sister on her back.

The one end of a thick string was tied around her waist, and the other end of it was given to me.

I was told to hang on to it tightly that I might never to be lost in the crowd after we joined the horde of people who were flowing along the road in front of our house to escape away from their burning houses.

I saw some bodies lying on the side of the road.

Maybe they had to rest a while or that was as far as they could walk.

“I saw so many bodies flowing in the Sumida River.”

“There were mountains of bodies in the Hibiya Park.”

Those were what some of the people in the crowd saying to each other, that I could hear.

The ground-to-air guns kept booming.

It was then that what was burned to my brain happened.

There was a sudden, a moment of flash in the dark sky.

Apparently, an enemy fighter was hit.

Then I saw a woman in the crowd with her hands steepled in the form of prayer toward where the flash occurred.

Then, I noticed some other people followed her with their hands tightly pressed palm-to-palm in the form of prayer, too.

Todays’ world dictators tell their people, “The Americans are devils trying to invade us to take everything from us.”

I was being told the same thing then, and I earnestly believed it.

I expected a joyous shouting in unison from the crowd at the downing of an enemy fighter.

Half a word of antiwar or even a slight pacifist gesture was a subject to arrest.

But no police or vigilant agents were around.

That incident has firmly stuck to my mind for more than 70 years till now.

I have come to believe peace is truly what the people in general always want from the bottom of their heart, no matter what the dictator tells them.

“The military and government idiots,” my father used to say.

Had he been an ordinary citizen, he would be under arrest on the spot.

But he had lots of money and had connections with noble families. The police wouldn’t dare to touch him.

My father was a sailor and the source of his money was smuggling. The contrabands included the “ticks”, the tiny wrist watch for ladies, which could not be produced in Japan then.

Every time he crossed the Pacific, he returned home with pocketful of them, a piece of then could be sold for a fortune in Japan then. Strangely, the government condoned such smuggling.

Some of the “ticks” were presents to powerful families of the now-defunct nobility that had daughters.

 “I was the first Japanese ever climbed to the top of the Empire State Building,” my father would boast, and I believed him.

“How can Japan lick a country that makes things like that?” he would say.

“Oh, those military idiots and demons, they placed Emperor incommunicado so that they could misquote the Emperor to deceive the people.”

When he said the word “Emperor” he straightened his back.

Every time he started saying anti-war things, people around him scurried away.

“I don’t care if you don’t go to college. But go abroad just to see Japan is not the only county in the world. America would be the best place to go,” he used to say to me.

After the air raids, that killed more than 100,000 people, the war went on some five more months during which I was separated from my family to evacuate from Tokyo.

We kids in our area were sent to the northeastern rural area, but only scarce food followed us. I guess I kept myself alive by instinct by hunting for frogs, hornet hives for grubs, or anything I thought was edible.

The war ended with the explosions of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which burned another hundreds of thousands of people to death.

The A-bomb attacks give me a mixed feeling. Without them, the war continued and I would be trained to kill or to be killed under the military government.

I didn’t go to university. Instead, by coincidences, I went to America. There the people I might have been trained to kill were very kind to me.

What I learned while I was there was that, “The people make the government; not the government, the people.”

Then how should we deal with a tyrannical government using violence to control the people?

I’m reminded of a 5-7-5 poem written by Kobayashi Issa, who lived during the Tokugawa Shognate military dictatorship:

Suzume no ko

Soko noke soko nok

Ouma ga toru

My translation of it:

Oh, sparrow chicks there

Out of the way, clear the way

A horse is passing

I feel the patience and the perseverance of the poet, trying to achieve peace peacefully through poetry.


About AshiAkira

AshiAkira. Author of "Haiku Poems" and "Haiku Poems II" ( Old resident of Tokyo.
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48 Responses to March 10… (Introduction)

  1. gary j says:

    Dear Sir, you are a blessing to this person, me. I do not know how to thank you. Lucky to survive the military I am. Not that war, just another war. How my heart sends the words to my mind now, to speak of love and the respect of nature. How we are brothers, dust of stars. I love you with all my heart. Thankyou.

  2. Ashi, thank you for the wisdom, the talent and endless inspiration you’re sharing. You’re gift to all of us. Warmest regards and take care always.

  3. Lovely intro Ashi, for a lovely book! Much success!

  4. May good fortune and happiness surround you in health and the world.

  5. I hope your illness isn’t too severe, and that you feel better soon.

    This is a powerful intro, Ashi. I had no idea that you lived through World War II: what a horrible time. I wish people could look back and remember what happens when they embrace hateful ideologies.

  6. Deeply felt and beautiful.

  7. Wise and beautiful, Ashi, and a most precious gift to all. ❤

  8. Long life to you, AshiAkira! Take care of you!
    ”Suzume no ko

    Soko noke soko nok

    Ouma ga toru”

  9. Thank you so very much for sharing this intro story, Ashi. I hope that your health continues to improve each day and wish you much success with your upcoming poetry book. You are a blessing to me.

  10. Wonderful — the dream and hope for peace. In our visit to Nagasaki, i was overwhelmed with the holiness of the peace park. I could have stayed there all afternoon, drinking in the hope — except for the selfie photographers what a travesty. I was really impressed by the verbiage in the museum, though. Nowhere did I see “When the American’s dropped the bomb.” Everywhere I saw “When the bomb fell.” A loving and wise move toward using words to emphasize the destruction of war rather than encouraging the kind of hatred that fires it. I so admired that museum and the park.

    • AshiAkira says:

      Thank you for the comment. If you care to know what I have on my mind when I write something for my blog, here it is:
      Who (or what) were truly responsible for the A-bomb explosions in actual use? I cannot tell, but I have a feeling people like the real perpetrators still exist in our society. It’s the responsibility of us ordinary people to educate ourselves to become strong enough to prevent recurrence of such a tragedy. Poetry, music, philosophy, science, etc. are our tools, for the use of violence only begets violence. It’s not a mere belief or expectation that the time will come when we will truly live peaceful lives. We are to do what we can to expedite.

  11. Lara/Trace says:

    Deep Deep Deep
    That is your heart
    Those are your words

  12. Olivia May says:

    I have read and learnt, thank you.

  13. dornahainds says:

    Oh! And Wow! 🥀😎

  14. vesna says:

    Dear Mr. Ashi Akira, your way with words is powerfull, in prose and in poetry equally. I wish you all the best! Your devoted reader, Vesna

  15. Ralph says:

    Sir, your story must be told and people must be made to understand that war is horrendous and it is always the civilians who suffer the most. I am so sorry that your family had to endure such horrors and I hope that now your life is a peaceful one. Best wishes. Ralph

    • AshiAkira says:

      Thank you, Ralph, for the message. I appreciated it so much. Yes, war is a terrible thing for ordinary people. I’m now very old but live a peaceful life. I do what I can through my blog to let people know how important for us all to live peaceful lives. AshiAkira

  16. succesulpe says:

    We thank you for your thoughts and the sensibility of the haiku poems you publish.

  17. A must read for life’s lessons…thank you, sir! And good luck!

  18. mabelfrancis says:

    I’m speechless as I read through this introduction and cannot fathom how unfair the life has been to you and your people. If those of us understand why war is bad is because we have learnt from survivors like you. I hope your story reaches many!
    I hope you take care and get better soon.

  19. This was wonderful. I wish you better health and happiness

  20. Nathan says:

    What a powerful post. Thank you for sharing this.

  21. Pingback: Poetry Reviews: J Matthew Waters, AshiAkira, Laura Grace Weldon – lara trace hentz

  22. My apologies for being so late in reading and responding to your amazing post. It was so painful to read, and yet I found myself wishing that everyone in the world could read it. I’m so very sorry for all you and your family had to endure. It’s heart-breaking. Thank you for sharing it, and giving us a chance to reflect on it, and to resolve to live lives that promote peace. I will quote from your comment above that says it all so well:

    “It’s the responsibility of us ordinary people to educate ourselves to become strong enough to prevent recurrence of such a tragedy. Poetry, music, philosophy, science, etc. are our tools, for the use of violence only begets violence. It’s not a mere belief or expectation that the time will come when we will truly live peaceful lives. We are to do what we can to (make peace a reality).”

    Thank you again for sharing your story, my friend. It is an honor to know you.

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