Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The War After the War

"There was a war before you were born. Many Japanese died because of that war. So, the Japanese declared no more wars. Despite the pledge, we may be drawn into another war. Mind you, it may come anytime! Let's examine what life is like in war time and post war time. You are fortunate being surrounded with an abundance of food. However, almost all food in Japan is imported. Once war is triggered, incoming food supplies will be stopped. How can any nation survive without food? When I was a child, country farming flourished. People were always conscious of the labor of farmers and were thankful for their harvest. 'Itadakimasu' means true appreciation before enjoying a meal. It is important to remember that many Japanese died from starvation during and after the war. Many of us abhor wars. The best advice is to never engage in war. I strongly emphasize that war is always destructive, never constructive. Above all, respect one another. Those of us who experienced war will be gone by the time you grow into adulthood. Please heed our advice. Please mull over the information received from this book. Discuss war with your friends. Discussion amongst yourselves is absolutely essential. Learn the importance of negotiation. Pay attention to what's happening all over the world and strive to make it a better place. Namaste"

So wrote Akiyuki Nosaka, in the epilog of the Grave of the Fireflies in 2006. It was in l967 that Akiyuki Nosaka, a Conte (short story) writer, singer, essayist was awarded with the "Naoki" Award, a Japanese literary award for his Grave of the Fireflies along with America Hijiki.

40 years have passed since then. As I was in the U.S., I didn't know until recently that he became a politician. He campaigned to serve in the lower house, failed in his first try, won the second campaign and served one term, then went back to his original literary profession. He also won awards around the turn of the century, including the Kyoka Izumi Award. He is a controversial, sometimes quite obnoxious person. I learned he suffered a stroke in 2003 and was in rehabilitation. I saw his latest photo with a cane and his trademark dark glasses and a white hat. He stands erect and looks vigorous. I saw his column in the Mainichi Newspaper entitled "With 7 Falls and 8 Rises." Actually he said he had rolled down 7 times and fell down 8. He admitted that the title was his wishful thinking. Now he has just started writing his Will to Japan. I'd like to read it.

He was slightly older than me but we were part of the same generation who lived through WWII and hungry young days. "Grave of Fireflies" is his biographical story. Seita and Setsuko were brother and sister who lost their mother in the air-raid of the Allies and were taken to live with their aunt's family. Their father was a naval officer, gone to war. Seita and Setsuko were mistreated by their aunt, so they made the lakeside cave shelter their home away from their aunt's house. There were no lights in the shelter at night except for fireflies caught in their mosquito net. Abused and neglected by kin and undernourished, Setsuko died first. Diarrhea ridden Seita followed shortly thereafter wandering out at half destroyed Sannomiya Station, Kobe. An empty "Sakuma" brand can was held in Seita's hand and contained only a piece of Setsuko's small bone. It was a can used all the time by Setsuko. When she found it empty, she put water in and drank saying "so sweety". This story haunts me whenever I pass through Sannomiya.

My father was drafted into the army at age 40 as a coast guard in Kochi. I remember, in the 1940's (not a teenager yet), I used to ride my bicycle to the countryside to ask farmers for crops - rice and wheat (impossible to obtain as they were rationed items), carrots, daikon (radish), green peas, sweet potatoes, Japanese cabbage, etc. Green peas were grandpa's favorite. I always rushed home with whatever I got, but I particularly hurried when I had green peas just to see grandpa's smile. There were days I came home without any harvest. Strangely enough, I don't remember how I paid. I'm sure I paid. Mom gave me some money from her purse. After my father's homecoming, we rented a tiny plot of land in Sakurai about 25 kilometers away from our home, and planted sweet potatoes. Our entire family walked all the way with a cart full of hoes and spades to cultivate the land for our survival. Alas, I will never forget the delectable taste of the first year crops.

Wishing Nosaka's health and recovery, I look forward to reading his Will to Japan available soon to us. Let us be happier without war and without nuclear bombs.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Important, Very Important History

Let me start with an excerpt from Wikipedia about the flight of B-29 Bockscar, loaded with the second A-Bomb called "Fat Man" on August 9, 1945. On my way back from Washington D.C. in August 2006, I stopped at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Pattterson Air Force base and saw the Bockscar on display. I saw Enola Gay at the Smithonian Institute.


"Kokura was the primary target, but when Bockscar arrived at its rendezvous point off the coast of Japan the third aircraft of its flight was not present. After fruitlessly waiting 40 minutes, Sweeney and Bock proceeded to Kokura but found it obscured by clouds. Sweeney had orders to drop the atomic bomb visually if possible, and after three unsuccessful passes over Kokura, conferred with weaponeer Commander Frederick Ashworth (USN). They agreed to strike the secondary target, Nagasaki.

A combination of factors including confusion about a malfunctioning transfer pump made fuel consumption a critical factor. Ashworth did not want to be forced to dump the bomb into the sea and decided to make a radar bombing run if necessary. However, enough of an opening appeared in the cloud cover to allow Bombardier Kermit Beahan to confirm Nagasaki and the bomb was dropped, with ground zero being about 3/4 mile from the planned aiming point. This combined with Nagasaki's position on the foothills (as opposed to Hiroshima's mostly flat terrain) resulted in lower overall casualties than in Hiroshima, with much of the blast confined in the Urakami Valley.

Because of the delays in the mission, the B-29 did not have sufficient fuel to reach the emergency landing field at Iwo Jima, so Major Sweeney flew the aircraft to Okinawa, where, despite being unable to make contact with the control tower, he made a safe landing with virtually empty fuel tanks."


Yes, the primary target of the Bockscar mission was Kokura and not Nagasaki! VERY FEW PEOPLE KNOW THIS! Bockscar had given up bombing on Kokura because of cloud cover. How fortunate Kokura was and how unfortunate for the Nagasakians.

Recently I read a book written by one of the Kokuranites who was 12 years old then. This person remembered the clear morning sky on August 9, seeing a lone B-29 high above gradually shadowed by the dusky clouds. It then turned and flew away from Kokura. She thought the B-29 she saw must have been Bockscar that dropped the Fat Man in Nagasaki and had been puzzled since that day about the sudden change of weather at the time. She thinks she had her long time riddle solved from reliable sources that the dusky cloud cover was a man-made smoke screen. Per Wikipedia, Enola Gay deployed and flew over Kokura as the weather observation plane. The writer might have seen Enola Gay and not Bockscar. Another explanation is as follows. Yahata Iron & Steel in Kokura was air-raided the night before. The Tinian Bockscar and the air-raid bombers of August 8 had not talked to each other. Kokura was covered with smoke from the raid the night before. The Bockscar was given orders directly from President Harry S. Truman and even General Douglas MacArthur was not notified of his decision until the last minute.

My city, Imabari, was air-raided on the night of August 5. I thought it had no relation to the bombing of Hiroshima which took place on August 6; but there was! To isolate the A-Bomb target city from surrounding cities for food supplies and rescue efforts, Himeji, Tokuyama, Ube, Shimonoseki and Moji were raided in July. Imabari, along with Uwajima, Fukuyama were raided just before Hiroshima.

The Tinian based A-Bomb B-29s, meanwhile, were on their decoy flights for meteorological observation for 15 days prior to the day of attack. Every morning one B-29 flew at exactly the same time without escort fighters as if it was there only to monitor the weather. This was done not to alert and provoke defense from the ground forces and it tricked both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Residents of Hiroshima saw the bomb parachute coming down after the air-raid warning cleared.

All the air-raided cities were said to have read the warning bills. I hadn't seen any. Cities warned were raided as warned, except Hiroshima, Kokura and Nagasaki. Reportedly, a few wise men sensed something was wrong and felt uneasy.

Hiroshima, the target city of the first A-Bomb, "Little Boy" three days earlier, was the home base of the Japanese Imperial War Headquarters, and the 5th Army Squadron. Kokura had the Imperial Army Arsenal and Ordinances. The main Kyushu Army Squadron once stationed in Kokura was relocated to Kurume years ago. Kokura made most of the army weaponry and also balloon bombs.

After my return from the U.S. and having settled down in Kitakyushu in the mid l990s, I spent many days at the Central Library to learn about Kitakyushu, my new adopted city after Imabari, Osaka, Tokyo, New York, San Diego. I was able to find the air raid records of Yahata Iron & Works but not of any Kokura Arsenal and Ordinance. I befriended someone my age who graduated from Kokura high school and was able to read his school alumni bulletin. This friend had worked at the Kokura Arsenal in his school days. His information was helpful. It is shocking to discover Kokura was the first target and its epicenter could have been the library where I was currently sitting. Kokura had extensive underground passages and shelters but nobody knew how effective they were.


As of August 9, 2007, 143,124 Nagasakians were on the death toll; Hiroshima close to 200,000. We have about 250,000 victims alive who hold certified entitlements to receive medical aid under the Government's A-Bomb Survivors Law. One feature of the A-bomb is that the statistic is open ended. The A-Bomb changed the war. An atomic bomb eliminates the city, history and blood lineage. What happens when humans know they have no future. It becomes meaningless to live, to work, to learn, or to try anything.

Enola Gay carried the gun assembly Little Boy that used highly enriched uranium. Bockscar carried the implosion assembly Fat Man that used plutonium. There was no 3rd bomb in existence but the Allied Forces hinted "more to come and soon" as further threat against Japan if necessary.

Another August 6 is approaching. Just behind the Central Library of Kokura is a miniature Nagasaki bell and a small memorial built for Nagasaki victims of the A-Bomb attack. Leis of a "thousand origami cranes" were wet when I visited on a rainy day a week ago. Agapanthus were in bloom in white and purple. Kokuranites are to gather here to pray at 11am on August 9 and I will also be there.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sarusuberi (Crepe Myrtle) Flowers

"Sweltering Sky
Enduring Crepe Myrtle"
- Kyoshi Takahama

Crepe Myrtle is a summertime beauty. It's a bare tree in the winter and slow to blossom in the spring. The Japanese named the tree "Sarusuberi", a tree whereby even a monkey slips and falls because the bark is thin and peels easily. This tree is originally from China. The Chinese call it "Bai ri hong", which translates literally as "100-day red".

Kagano Chiyo (1703-1775), a famous Haiku poet from the Edo Period sang:

"Bloom and
fall over and over - Sarusuberi flowers
last for the entire summer"

The color varies from red to pink to white. I read that Crepe Myrtle gets it name from the crinkly look of crepe paper.

I have a special bond with Crepe Myrtle. Before returning to Japan after 20 years in San Diego (1994), I bought a Crepe Myrtle and donated it to the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego's Balboa Park. I dedicated it to the memory of Yukichi Ikeda (see the photo), a Japanese expatriate.

Here is his story.

Wives of Japanese expatriates typically join their husbands in the U.S. after 3 or 4 months of first arriving. The idea is for expatriates to get their feet wet in their new work environment and secure housing for their families. The day Ikeda's wife was to arrive was a Saturday. Yukichi and I were in the same foursome at an intracompany golf tournament at Admiral Baker Golf Course located in Mission Gorge. Yukichi was about 30 years old, honest, handsome, likable, hard working, and a good golfer. His golf that day was excellent, possibly because he was to pick up Miyoko at the airport after the tournament.

A few days after the tournament Yukichi left work earlier than the rest of us, saying he was taking his wife to a fine restaurant for dinner. We cheered him on; he blushed, then left quickly.

That same day, I went for my daily swim before going home and was paged over the intercom. My wife was in a panic and said that Ikeda had been shot and was taken to the hospital in Point Loma. I panicked myself and dressed quickly, then sped off to the hospital, praying all the way for him. Upon my arrival, I found him in a coma as his stretcher was being moved to another ambulance to transport him to University of California, San Diego Hospital. He was breathing, but unconscious. Miyoko was there, obviously in shock, pale and in tears.

The story was that while the couple headed toward the restaurant from the parking lot, two men blocked their way and demanded money. The robbers went to snatch Miyoko's handbag and Yukichi moved to block them to protect her. A shot was fired and the bullet entered his nose, circled inside his brain and lodged there.

The Japanese money Miyoko carried was intact in her purse. The robbers fled empty handed after shooting Ikeda.

An unfortunate confrontation; a very cruel crime!

Yukichi never regained consciousness. Upon arrival of his kin, he was taken off life support.

The police interrogated Miyoko for a description of the robbers, but she was unable to give any detailed information. She had faced black men for the very first time in her life.

The incident happened in 1980, almost 30-years ago. The case remains unresolved.

A collection was taken for Miyoko but she refused the money. We reserved the money to do something in his memory. Since I once served on the Board for the Balboa Park Japanese Garden, I knew they might accept a horticultural donation when the garden was built. I chose a Crepe Myrtle because it bears long lasting flowers in the summer to attract visitors.

Crepe Myrtle usually is not planted in the traditional Japanese Garden as it gives tropical and southern landscaping. But it just matches with temples and pagodas as I found it in the Rurikoji Temple in Yamaguchi City (see the photo above). The temple for the Ouchi Clan, through Ashikaga and Sengoku period 1180 to 1557, is known for its beautiful 5-storied pagoda (built in 1442) ranking among Japan's three most

Ikeda's father left a message that Yukichi had intended life long employment in San Diego. Saburo Shiroyama* (1927-2007), a famous writer who created a new genre of business fiction, was around us a few months afterwards and he quoted Yukichi's father's message in one of his books.

Today the Japanese Friendship Garden and Tea House is serving tea ceremony demonstrations regularly. It is an ideal wedding ceremony location.

Yukichi Ikeda in memoriam


* Saburo Shiroyama's works include
1 "War Criminal: The Life and Death of Hirota Koki" (落日燃ゆ)
2 "Man's True Dream" (男子の本懐)
3 "Love Diary" for his deceased wife (そうか、君はもう いないのか)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Last One To Go

I treasure John Dower's book Embracing Defeat and I keep it at my elbow for frequent reference. For one thing, it helps remind me of the hardship days of Japan's defeat, and for another, it helps me to accept the loss of my grandmother. I still pray for my grandmother, who has been missing since August 5, 1945, the night an air raid dropped incendiary bombs on Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, my hometown in Shikoku. The A-bomb exploded on Hiroshima the following morning, but my family had no way of knowing, because we lost our home and turned adrift.

Now, thumbing through the book, it has quite a few postwar episodes; but the most unforgettable and intriguing one is about a Japanese scientist who handwrote a message in English on a piece of paper on the day the U.S. Occupation Forces showed up, and thus saved his marine biological lab.

He wrote:
"This is a marine biological station with its history of sixty plus years. If you are from the East Coast, some of you might know Woods Hole or Mt. Desert or Tortugas. If you are from the West Coast, you may know Pacific Grove or the Puget Sound Biological Station. This place is a place like one of these. Take care of this place and protect the possibility for the continuation of our peaceful research. You can destroy the weapons and the war instruments, but save the civil equipment for Japanese students. When you are through with your job here, notify the University and let us come back to our scientific home." He signed it, "The last one to go."

Perfect English. The appendix of Dower's book noted that the scientist was Katsuma Dan (1905-1996), an eminent Japanese biologist. I searched the Internet and found Katsuma Dan was an American trained biologist and had worked at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Station. No wonder he was good at English. That English note was picked up by the U.S. Squadron, and the commander sent it to the Woods Hole Marine Station in MA. The Woods Hole Station kept the paper. You can read the paper in his own handwriting at this Web site.

I found out the facility where Dr. Dan left his message is the Misaki Marine Biological Institute which belonged to the University of Tokyo. The Japanese Navy set up its submarine base there and the entire area became a hidden fort. His Institute had to live with the Navy during the war. Thanks to the quick wit of Dr. Dan, the facilities were kept intact. The institution celebrated its
100th anniversary a few years ago.
A little more history on Dr. Dan. He was the second son of Baron Takuma Dan. Takuma Dan (1858-1932) was an MIT graduate and mining major, involved in Mitsui Mining in Miike, Kyushu. In 1931, the baron was assassinated by the "Ketsumeidan" terrorist group. Ikuma Dan (1924-2001), the famous opera composer of "Yuzuru", the "Evening Crane", is Katsuma's nephew. Ikuma died on his performance trip in Beijing, China.

Katsuma Dan married his colleague Jean Clark while working at Woods Hole, and upon their return to Japan, both Jean and Katsuma worked at the Misaki Lab, leaving many papers drawn from their accomplishment in embryological fields. Misaki maintains a microscope used for discovery by Jean Dan for public display. Katsuma served Tokyo Metropolitan University as President (1965-1973), and Jean taught at Ochanomizu University. The couple founded the Jean and Katsuma Dan Fellowship Programs, which have assisted about 80 biology students to date. The Dans most likely loved the ocean wherever they were. It is recommended that this story be included in grade school textbooks.

As a youth fresh from school and a new Tokyoite, I explored the ocean around Tokyo. One summer I extended my trip to Kamakura further south to Miura Peninsula. I'm sure I passed through Misaki on the way to offshore Jogashima Island. I think the Misaki Marine Biological Station is a little south of today's famous Aburatsubo Yacht Marina. Today, a bridge connects Misaki City and Jogashima Island.

In my day, we had to take a boat to see the stone monument of Hakushu Kitahara's poem. The poem, written by Hakushu (1885-1942), is now sung by children as a sailors' song. I still remember the tasty top shell dish I enjoyed on the island, with sea food cooked in its own shell.

Here's a rough translation of the Hakushu's poem.

"It keeps drizzling.
O'er the rocky shore of Jogashima.
The rain of the Rikyu Gray (Rat).
Is the rain pearls,
or fog of dawn,
or my subdued sobbing.
A ship sails
around the tip of a Tohria.
Your ship hoisted wet sail.
I row a ship.
I pull an oar to a song,
the song - the captain's spirit.
It keeps drizzling."

As a returnee myself back from the U.S., I am fascinated with Dan's story. In the U.S. I spent 10 years on the East Coast and 20 years on the West Coast. During my stay, I had a chance to travel to Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Chesapeake Bay and Puget, Oregon shores, Pismo Beach, Morro Rock, La Jolla, etc. My memories run like revolving lanterns, just as I drove on the coastal routes, either east or west, and each memory brings back very special colorful scenes of family and/or friends.

One of my favorite passages from literature on the subject of ocean scenes is this quotation from Anne Morrow Lindberg's book, Gift from the Sea. "No man is an island, said John Donne. I (Anne Morrow Lindberg) feel we are all islands in a common sea." This is the very thought I have these days, as one who was raised living by the sea, and as a devoted ocean lover. I would wish to be engaged in the ocean related job like Drs. Dan if I were ever to be reborn.

While net surfing, I discovered the Web site of Dr. David Colman, Professor at McGill University which has pretty much the same information as reported above. (There is also a piece written in Time Magazine dated December 10, 1945, entitled, "Appeal to the Goths".) Dr. Colman adds:

"Professor Katsuma Dan went on to become the resident of Tokyo Metropolitan University from 1965-1973 and continued to publish superb science well into the 1980's, and the Misaki Marine Biological Station is a thriving research facility today. Dr. Dan inspired generations of students and scholars with his work and, as evidenced by this story, tapped into a fundamental respect for the importance of scientific research that crossed political and cultural boundaries."

Please send any comments about the Director's Corner to I contacted Dr. Colman and exchanged email a few times. He was very pleased to hear from me.