War victims remembered

Mainichi Shimbun, Wednesday 16 August 2000

More than 6,000 people, including the Imperial Couple, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and those who lost their family members during World War II, prayed at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan on Tuesday to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Japan's surrender.

In his speech, Mori expressed his regret over Japan's wartime aggression in Asian countries.

[WWII] has brought tremendous pain and sorrow on not only us, but other nations and our Asian neighbors in particular. I would like to express my deep regrets and condolences to them, Mori, reading from a prepared statement, said.

Mori said it is our duty to establish a lasting peace, and recognized the need to tell younger generations about the tragedy of war and human cost of building today's peace. I'm convinced that fulfilling this would be the best way to compensate for the past and ease the pain felt by the souls of those who have perished.

Approximately 3.1 million Japanese nationals died because of the nation's war efforts—in the front lines, former colonies, at home, and at concentration camps after the war.

About 10 percent of the participants in the government-sponsored ceremony were aged 80 or older.

Kazuo Taniguchi, 76, from Tatsunokuchi, Ishikawa Prefecture, who lost his 18-year-old brother Toshio during the war, was there to pay tribute to the memory of the war dead as a representative of bereaved families and relatives.

Taniguchi's brother worked at a navy amunition factory in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, after his graduation from school in April 1945. Three months after that, U.S. planes bombed the factory and destroyed it. The remains of Toshio have never been found, Taniguchi said. The end of the war was only two weeks away, he lamented.

He is concerned that the people who know about the war are getting older and WWII is becoming a distant memory.

I want to make sure that the sacrifices of our war dead won't be forgotten, Taniguchi said.

Shigematsu Kan, a 75-year-old Taiwanese who served in the Imperial Japanese Army during the war was not at the Budokan. Instead, he spoke at a peace forum held the same day in Osaka.

Kan was drafted in colonized Taiwan and sent to current Malaysia, where his senior officer slapped him in the face everyday, saying I'm gonna teach you what yamato-damashii (traditional Japanese sprit) is all about.

At an Allied POW camp, Kan was forced by the senior officer to slap a British officer only once—and he ended up being jailed for five years as a war criminal in Brunei after the surrender.

His request to go back to Taiwan was rejected and authorities sent him to Japan, where an official of the government's war veteran's bureau greeted him by saying, What are you doing here? Go back to Taiwan. Feeling betrayed, Kan vowed not to take up Japanese nationality until the government compensates him. Consequently, he has been denied a pension.

I lost the most important years of my life to the war and was betrayed by Japan. I can't die until I redress the balance, he said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday dozens of Diet members, including Cabinet ministers, visited Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto memorial dedicated to the nation's war dead.

Asian nations invaded by Japan have criticized the politicians' visits to the shrine in the past, saying they justified Japan's war effort.