A dark night of the ending year of the war
70 years ago and I was 7 when the major air raid attacked our town
I was hanging on as I was told to the one end of a rope
The other end was tied around the waist of my mother
So that I would not be lost in the crowd as we walked
A dark night but there was light in the sky
It was the reflection of fire storm on the ground
There was nothing they could do
But abandon their houses and flee from them for their lives
A dark night and the fire was only about 100 meters from our house
When my father decided then that we leave the house and join the crowd
But he said he would stay on in the house to do what he could
To save whatever he could in a hole he dug in front of the house
He was to burry a statue of Buddha and other things of value to him in it
In the dark of the night my mother carried my baby brother on her back
Some food and other things we might need if we could survive
Were wrapped in cloths and they were hanging from her hands
I walked as fast as I could so I won’t be left from the crowd
The people in the crowd do not speak a word but only walked
A dark night and they don’t seem to know where they are going
They were only walking from their burning houses
They aren’t sure if they will have places to return when the air raid is over
They are walking only because they don’t want to die
We only followed the crowd
Then I saw what I’ve never forgotten for the past 70 years
In the sky of the dark night, there was a flash of light
One of the booming cannons must have hit a plane
It was no doubt an enemy pane
What appeared to be a parachute jumped out of the plane
The white object quickly disappeared in the darkness
Some people in the crowd who saw it stopped walking
They steepled their hands toward the plane bowing their heads
Other people also stopped walking pressing their palms together
I felt strange because from what I heard people talk about “American devils”
A joyous shout from the crowd in union seemed to be more in order
But all the people were bowing their heads in prayer
At 7 I was too young to know anything
But instinctively knew they did not want the war
They were simply forced to follow what the military ordered them
In those days, I knew even a slight hint of an antiwar word
Or a praise for an enemy in the war
Would be subject to arrest by special police
There were always the vigilante in the neighborhood
But my father was dangerously outspoken
As a sailor on oceangoing ships, he had seen the enemy country
“America is not a country that Japan’s military can lick,” he would say
I was too young to understand the words he uttered
But the words still ring in my head today
“I was the first Japanese to be on the top of the Empire State Building”
That’s what he often boasted and I believed him
He talked of the Paramount Theater, Gone with the Wind, Golden Gate Bridge, etc.
“The carpet in the theater is so thick my shoes were buried in it,” he’d say
“They can make that kind of a color picture. How can anyone beat them?”
“Those idiots in the military,” he would shout
“If they had been to America and seen things there
“They wouldn’t even think of a war like this
“They are simply idiots. Just because they have big ships and guns
“They think they have all the power in the world”
Our neighbors would scurry away whenever he shouted things
They were afraid they might be caught by the vigilante and taken to the police
But my father was free from such arrest
My father had lots of money
Smuggling was how he made sumptuous amount of money
His main contrabands were tiny wrist watches called “ticks” for ladies
Wealthy noble families of those days would pay fortunes for them
Japan then had not the technology to produce such things
They were ideal items for the ladies of the noble families to flaunt
My father brought home a pocket-full of them after each sailing
For some reason, the government connived at such smuggling then
The money made him an outstanding person in the neighborhood
The “ticks” also helped him to make connections with powerful families
So neither the special police nor the vigilante could touch him
“Those military idiots have the power of violence to control others”
His words still sound in my mind, with some meaning now
“The military must always be under the rule of the Emperor and the government
“But once a conflict breaks out with other countries, they overpower
“They are now keeping even the Emperor incommunicado”
He would bow his head every time he said “Emperor”
“Don’t you ever join the military when you grow up,” he’d say to me
“I don’t care if you don’t go to school, but go abroad – America, for instance
“And learn that Japan is not the only country in the world
“There are other people there. Their culture is different from ours
But the people are just like us”
More than 100,000 people died in the air raid on our city on that night
While walking in the crowd, news went around from mouth to mouth
Many people jumped into the Sumida River to escape from the burning houses
There was a mountain of dead bodies in the Hibiya central park
They were all people who did not want the war
Five more months the war went on killing many more hundreds of thousands
The explosions of atom bombs over two cities put an end to the war
Another hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died in the explosions
They were the same sort of he people with whom I walked in the crowd
They would steeple their hands and bow their heads even at the death of enemy fighter
Had the war continued, I would have forcibly been trained to be a soldier to kill and die
Instead, even in those distorted days after the war, I had a chance to go to America
My father was right.
No mothers and fathers of those killed in the war held enmity toward me
They didn’t want the war themselves in the first place
I met a mother of a fighter pilot who went missing and found dead decades later
She talked to me about her son in so many occasions
She sounded extremely angry
But not to me though I was a person from the former enemy country
Her anger was directed to someone, or something, else that I want to know
(Aug. 2015, AshiAkira)
This is incredible. I can feel everything through your words. Thank you for sharing such a personal, priceless memory.
I had 5 uncles who served in that war. One was shot down over the Sea of Japan. He was rescued by an allied sub. But that was all I knew. None of them talked about the war, the tales were too terrible to tell.
Thank you again for sharing this. I’m honored to read your words.
I truly thank you for reading the story and making such a kind comment.
I wanted to reblog to share it with others, but couldn’t seem to do so. I was moved by the simple, raw power of your words. Thank you for sharing!
I don’t know how to blog either. You read it so deeply. I am encouraged enough.
I still want to figure it out. Your words should be read!
I’d most appreciate if you would pass it on to your friends but please don’t make any troublesome effort.
I will do my best! It needs to be read! Hope you are staying cool…
After heavy rains, I’m enjoying a cool evening, but summer hot temperatures are forecast for whole day tomorrow. Must be early morning there, have a great day.
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Thank you for sharing from the heart this revealing story. I’m deeply touched by it, and will not soon forget your words.
Thank you for reading the story. There is a move toward preparing for a war. I only hope the history will not repeat itself.
Ashi, My heart goes out to you, such a lot to carry.
Thank you, Bill. Very kind of you.
Spine tingling. What a time to have lived through.
Thank you for reading the story. I wish more people would realize how important it is to have peace on earth.
Absolutely. I wish you had a reblog button. I’ve never reblogged anyone’s posts before, but I wanted to reblog this one.
You are so kind. Unfortunately I don’t know anything about reblogging. I wish I were a little more mechanic about the computer. 🙂
This experience that you have shared brings tears to my eyes, Ashi. When I imagine the innocents suffering and dying It is heartbreaking, and still the innocents die in wars around the globe. Thank you for sharing this, it reminds us that war touches us all and the collateral damage is intolerable. Much love to you!
I really appreciated your reading the story poem. You are always so nice and kind.
So powerful, so poignant – so enriching. All the more, Ashi, from the perspective of knowing such terror and helplessness when in the same “community” some want war and others don’t…the very best in this is to know that for the “lucky” ones life can offer control of destiny and peace. THANK YOU FOR THIS! I am touched.
I thank you for reading my story poem and offering such an incisive and kind comment. Have a beautiful weekend.
You enjoy too, Ashi 🙂
Powerful and intimate, my friend. Your experiences shaped you; it is no wonder to me now you have such a fine touch with haiku….
gigoid, aka, Ned
Thank you for the kind comment. I simply appreciated.
What a powerful story told in a poem, Akira-san… Much thought, feelings and remembering of horrible moments… Superb.
Humanity is so peculiar. Here, our two countries were deadlocked in a vicious war 70 years ago. While a minority understandably harbor Ill will towards a once enemy (on both sides of the ocean), Japanese Jieitai now train alongside the same 1st Division US Marines they fought against in the Pacific. If they had to go to war now, I am positive one would give their life to protect the other.
I apologize for missing your wonderful story until now… 宜しくお願い致します。
Thank you for reading the story. Very much appreciated. Wars are unnecessary severe suffering for the weak, and they are still going on in many parts of the world. Makes me so sad.
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An outstanding piece of work. Thank you for sharing it with us. Most memorable line?
“There are other people there. They are just like us”
Thank you for reading the story. Much appreciated.
This poem tells it all. So many of the Syrians struggling to get to Europe, or any place of safety, are your men who do not want to be soldiers or have to kill people, they would rather study and earn a living.
I wish all of them good luck. They are victims of the greedy dictator. I’m worried that the same sort of thing might happen here The history is likely to repeat itself. This time, not against America, but with America.
Mr Ashiaki this poem is itself a story of heartful cries.. i couIn’t help wondering how you must feel. I worry for you. Thank you for being alive and sharing this. 🙂
Thank you Missmonsoon for reading the poem. What I’m worried about now is that the government-proposed bills that allow Japan to send armed forces overseas were passed by the parliament just this morning in disregard of our Pacifist Constitution. This is tantamount to dictatorship. The history is now becoming likely to repeat itself.
Human minds can never be understood Mr Ashiaki. There are some who worry war and its consequences, some who want revenge….But that act will only be a doom. i wish there was a way, one could get into thick skulls of thoses…
You are right. Trying to understand your mind is trying to look at your face with your own eyes. You have to settle with looking at your face reflected on a mirror. But still we must be intelligent enough by now to settle out disputes without the use of violence. Charlie Chaplin said in his movie, “Violence begets violence.” I think he is right. We have to stop being so primitive. 🙂
Very true but alas…there are many who don’t get this. They will spread the fire, few of us who are willing to splash the water will only vaporise.
I hope everyone reaches out for your blog. A tale from a survivor ought to start a ripple of effect 🙂
Knowing there is at least one person who reads my stuff so seriously gives me the encouragement of a million people. 🙂
Ashi, I am speechless. I’ve read and re-read this bit words don’t come to me right now. this is such a raw piece that’s come from the very depths and I can almost visualise the intensity of that night. Bravo! And I hope never again, anywhere else in the world…
Thank you. I’m glad you read the story. A war is a hell on earth. We should spare no effort to prevent it. (If it’s not too much. Please read Dictatorship Coming Back which I wrote today at: https://ashiakira.wordpress.com/story-poems-2/dictatorship-coming-back/#comment-1000 .)
Yes, I read that too 🙂
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You caught it well and expressed it well
A great poem
It reassured me that there will always a way open
In a right direction
As long as there is the determination in the core of your heart
That you will live a right life
Your poem is so beautiful, poignant and wrenching, Ashi. I can’t believe Japan has made the decision to re-arm, but I know darn well the US pushed it into this because of China’s huge increase in military spending and financial crises, and North Korea’s insane sabre rattling. I’m afraid a lot is going on behind the scenes with alliances and mis-alliances. China has imperial ambitions, no oriental nation is safe, And they have the largest standing army in the world. Putin is playing a role stirring things up, he was just in China. WHEN will we learn to live in peace? So distressing. So futile. You have a blessing and talent, Ashi, to persist in hope, throwing at these ugly beasts cherry blossoms, butterflies and the exquisite insufferable pangs of the human heart. Anger, hatred, violence in the name of a worthy cause are our fatal flaws as a species. Thank God for the redemption of the beauty of poetry and its persistence in the human heart against all odds.
Thank you so much for taking the trouble of writing such a helpful reply.
I think everything you said about the current world condition is true. To cope with such a condition, I suppose the contents of the bills forced through the parliament are acceptable to some extent. But manipulating and ignoring the constitution in order to pass the bills make me feel cold water run through my spine. The US drafted the Pacifist Constitution for Japan in those days. It was to pull the teeth out of Japan so that it would never become a fish bone in the throat again. But Japan became a loyal ally to the US, and the US needed Japan on its side. This is more so militarily in the today’s world. Those “idiots” surrounding us can think of nothing but satisfying their greed, and violence is the only means they can think of to get what they want at the cost of the peaceful lives of the weak.
Though nothing is wrong with Japan’s siding with the US for policing this dangerous part of the world. But I feel much more danger if the government takes over the ability to freely interpret the constitution as it likes in order to use the military force in the world theater again.
If you think Japan is a democratic country, I’m afraid you are only half right. Our head of the government is elected indirectly through the parliament. And the current ruling party has held the majority seats in the parliament almost all the time since the end of the war. This happened because our electoral system is made up of small electoral districts in each of which the residents know each other, including who would vote for whom in elections. And the ruling party keeps the strong control grip on most of the districts.
So it is easy for ambitious politicians to lead the country to a military power again. The Pacifist Constitution is the decisive safety catch to prevent this. The intention of the US to write the constitution as it was written might have been to keep Japan militarily weak and obedient. But it perfectly reflected the desire of most of the people who refused ever to have another war.
Thus the Pacifist Constitution is the greatest gift ever given to us in our history. We had the “idiots.” So why not “brilliants” this time to keep the constitution alive for another 70 years to come. After all it should be the job of our leaders to lead the world to peace and prosperity. I don’t know of such a leader in our world history, but it does not mean we can’t have one. 🙂
Dear Sir, many times I read this. Seven uncles and my father were involved in this great conflict. My favourite uncle was a medic on the Kokoda trail, he only ever told amusing anecdotes, he never had bad language for Japanese, had respect. His was the only funeral I attended. The others would beat me and had bad language. I became a soldier to make my parents proud… (I was 18).. in the end, none are alive, no one is proud. Now I must suffer my foolish youth, for it destroyed a marriage, lost my children, crippled my soul. Warrior, what fool am I. It is so hard to find peace of mind. One day if time permits I would go to Yasukuni shrine and cry for all of us…
Nature (heaven and earth) is meant for all of us to live happy life in peace. We can achieve that purpose if we give our attention to the happenings in nature instead of doing something against (destroying) it. In my case, I fry to see nature through poetry. I’m on the way to publishing a second collection of my haiku poems. I plan to send the manuscript to the publisher in June or July. We all have something we can do even though in a small way to prevent tragic conflicts.
That is good for you to do. Your works have given me great joy and contemplation. May this peace of mind you have taken from your experience help to enlighten persons not even yet born. Nature enabled me the courage to seek Buddha and to give my sister a kidney, and now I do many work with different people (art therapy) but hidden amongst this is night of shame and sleep little, the tragic dark becomes stronger, daily smiles and compassion, feel it is time to let go of worldy possession. one way or another. what great adventure is this dream of love when all my love falls like cherry blossom, is poetry and poignant, but only for a moment. Unseen and hidden like a smile that means well but it is dark…please forgive me to show my self to you, but I do this nowhere else. No burden to you. I am either very close to one thing or another or I am living a lie…
Please talk to me whenever you like. I’m always here to listen. I am not much of intelligence, but talking itself often helps one understand what’s inside hitherto hidden. Thank you for reading my story poems. I’m thinking of publishing them also in a book after the haiku poems. So far only one book of the haiku poems has been sold but I’m hoping there will be more people who will read.
I’m deeply touched by your story poem!
Thank you. I’m pleased you read it.
Sir, I am totally intrigued by your words. No one can thank you enough for sharing this.
Thank you so much for your kind words. I am honored.
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Thank you for the kind support.
This story is raw and powerful my friend. I am so appreciative you wrote this.
Thank you for reading the story and making the kind remark.
You write with your heart. your words just spring alive. thank you for this poignant story.
Thank you again for reading and commenting on my work. Much appreciated.
so glad to have come across your blog. cheers!
So was I to visit yours. The same to you.
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Thank you for the support.
My father met a ghost
Really? Thank you for reading my story.
I enjoyed your sight – the ghost he met was survivor’s guilt – but he was only 19, and who is ever ready for war.
I realized after that the second line had only 6 syllables, so I correct it to:
My father met his own ghost
best – bw
Excellent. And thank you again.