Saturday, July 30, 2016

Which was the best era in Japan? An interview with my grandparents who were born in the early 20th century

(Interviewing them and writing this article in May 2001, adding pictures in 2016)


Introduction



My grandparents on the day of their town's traditional festival

My grandparents will be 90 years old soon, three times my age. I wanted to know how the world they have seen has changed, so I interviewed them. (cooperating in creating questions by a friend of mine Mr.Kinami)



Profile of my grandparents


Grandfather
Born in 1911. He worked for Japanese National Railways, and was in charge of the planning office of the Osaka Administrative Bureau of Railways, etc.
He enjoys playing music. He plays the violin, trombone, and shamisen(Japanese guitar). He also likes collecting coins and stamps, and gardening. He is a heavy smoker, and a coffee-drinker. But amazingly, he is very healthy, he even smokes the strongest nicotine cigarettes.


My grandfather practicing the violin in their junior high school days in the 1920s

Grandmother
Born in 1912. After graduating elementary school, she was put to work. After getting married, she brought up one girl and four boys. She likes reading novels and gardening.


Interview Part 1: About the public at large


Q: In your opinion, which was the best era in Japan? : Before the war*, soon after the war, "high growth of the Japanese economy" era**, "bubble" era***, and the present.
* World War II
** circa 1955-1970
*** circa 1986-1990. Boom economy made stocks and real estimates incredibly high. This unsubstantial prosperity left some huge problems in the Japanese economic market, afterwards.

A: (Grandfather) I like the present days because we have lived without restraint.
(Grandmother) I like the present days because we live in an affluent society.
And I also think "before the war" era was good. People didn’t covet material belongings.

Q: Do you feel that there has been a moral degeneration in Japanese society? They say there is a marked decline in public morality, On the other hand, some other people say that we have embraced the process of reducing discrimination, etc.
A:(Grandfather) I think it is getting better. I feel that we are in the process of reducing some discrimination.
(Grandmother) On a superficial level, I think the present society is the best. There are many problems in society, but I don’t think that juvenile delinquency has increase as they say on the news.

Q: What has changed the most in the world?
A:(Grandfather) Cars have changed the world very much. But I think that motorization is the subject of discussion. First, it isn't effective that people use a car when they don’t really need to. People don’t realize problems (traffic jam, traffic accident, etc.) of using car. People should use public transportation. Second, They have caused a lot of environmental pollution. At least, diesel cars must be banned.
(Grandmother) When water pipes were laid, I felt it was very convenient. And I will never forget the way I felt when we bought a TV set and a washing machine.



Interview Part 2: About the war and Hirohito, the emperor


Q: What did you think when the Pacific War started?
A: (Grandfather) I thought that it was a very serious thing, but I wasn’t surprised, because the Manchuria Incident, etc. had already broken out and had escalated into the Pacific War. Therefore I didn’t feel that the Pacific War broke out suddenly.

Q: How did you feel when the war was over?
A: (Grandfather) I only felt that I had escaped death.
(Grandmother) I gave a sigh of relief.

Q: In your opinion, did you think Japan could win the war?
A: (Grandfather) I thought Japan couldn’t win against the U.S. After many air raids, when I saw Kobe city from the second floor of a building in Osaka* I felt it was the end of the battle.
* It is 30km (20miles) from Osaka to Kobe. Osaka has many tall buildings, so normally you cannot see Kobe even from the tenth floor of a building.
Osaka after the 1945 air raidOsaka station after the 1945 air raid (quote from Wikipedia Commons)

(Grandmother) I thought Japan couldn’t win, too. During the war, when I said to a neighbor “Can we trust news releases from the Imperial Headquarters*?" she reproved me for the carelessness in saying so because it was unsafe to criticize the Imperial Headquarters.

*The top of Japanese Army. It released untrue news of Japan’s victories in the war despite their continual defeats during the second half of the war. Even now, Japanese use the word “the Imperial Headquarters’ releases" when companies, or the government releases untrue public announcements.

Q: When people were called into the army, was it really an honor for them?
A: (Both of grandfather and grandmother) In our opinion, nobody was happy to be called up, instead this usually meant their call to death yet it was honorable. However, men who couldn’t pass the standard and were not called up because of their physique were ashamed.
*People in Japan had a wartime custom in which they celebrated the man who was called into the army.

Q: Why did people accept the U.S. Occupation Army without rebelling soon after the war, even though the Japanese government had said, “The U.S. and the U.K. are the evil ogre and the beast" during the war?
A: (Grandfather) My co-workers and I discussed how Japanese National Railways welcomed the Occupation Army at a conference when they landed at the port of Wakayama (next to Southern Osaka). One of the reception members said, “I will attempt to wreck the train the Army members ride!" Of course his proposal was rejected, but he remained a member of the reception. Surprisingly, he later said, “The U.S. Army is great. They are gentlemen." when he was back from the reception.
I hadn’t heard what had happened in detail at the reception, but, in my opinion, the first members of the Occupation Army were picked based on their previous knowledge of Japanese people and culture. I didn’t hear any bad news about them during the occupation era. And I think that it was brilliant that the Army was very plentiful when the Japanese has no material things. It made it easy for the Japanese to open their hearts to the Army.
But, on the other hand, I think that the Japanese people surely feared the Army. When I went to a station to welcome the Army, there were no Japanese people near the station. Maybe they stayed in their homes all day long. However, three days after the arrival of the Army, I saw almost all the GIs accompanied by Japanese women in a train.
(Grandmother) They say, “When the Army comes, women never go out" very often.

Q: Did you think the Showa Emperor (Hirohito) was a God*?
A: (Grandfather and Grandmother) We didn’t think that the emperor was a transcendent human or the descendant of God. But we thought the Showa Emperor was an excellent man, so, we thought most Japanese people respected him at that time. Or else riot would break out.
*The Japanese government stated and educated pupils that the emperor was the descendant of God. But soon after the war (in 1946), the Emperor himself declared that he was a mere human.

Q: After the war, did you think that the Occupation Army would execute the Emperor?
A: (Grandfather and Grandmother) We didn’t think so. We thought the American Government didn’t tend to go to extremes, so they would not be so severe.

Q: Were you shocked by the picture of the small and neatly dressed Emperor posed next to the big and relaxed posture of General MacArthur?
Macarthur hirohito
MacArthur and Showa Emperor

A: (Grandfather) I felt that the emperor had no choice but to take the picture posed this way. And I found that the picture showed the Emperor’s determination to save Japan.



Interview Part 3: about life


Q: What is the most important aspect of life?
A: (Grandfather) First, it is health. Next, you must have a good partner. A woman is the power source of a man, I think. A man’s life is based on a woman. And it is key to be loved by people. Friends are very important.
Enjoy your life. I think it is meaningless if you don’t enjoy your own life.
(Grandmother) Health. I always take care of my husband’s health.

Q: What was the happiest event in your life?
A: (Grandfather) It was the time when I passed a promotion exam and became a proper government employee. And, it was when the war ended.
(Grandmother) It was the time when a spinning mill that I worked for gave me “allowance for filial piety" when I was a teenager.
My salary at the mill was one yen per day, so I earned 30yen per month. (I took only one day off per month) But I paid 18yen per month for medicine that my father needed.
One day, an employer called me suddenly and asked me how much I paid for my father’s illness. "I receive enough salary", I said, but he raised my pay to 50yen per month as "allowance for filial piety" starting the next month.

Q: What is the sad or sorry events of your life?
A: (Grandfather) When I was transferred to a rural station because of my boss felt me as insolent at my newcomer age.
(Grandmother) I cannot remember any sad events.

Q: What are events that you were surprised especially?
A: (Grandfather) I had no events that I can remember soon.
(Grandmother) I was anxious about my husband’s surgical operation (It succeeded)

Q: In your opinion, what is the key that you can maintain happy married life?
A: (Grandfather) I think it is love, even it is a conventional comments. I believe that a secret key is generally conventional.
(Grandmother) I think it is thankful mind. And, I thank that parents in law were very kind.

Q: What do you think you should have done?
A: (Grandfather) I am satisfied with my own life. Especially I feel lucky because I spend my business period that was substantial.
(Grandmother) I should have taken practice to write sentences formally.



My grandmother died in Dec 2003, my grandfather died in Dec 2011. Both of them passed away suddenly - without pain.



Osaka station in 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Great Tokyo Air Raid - More Victims than the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb

The Great Tokyo Air Raid
The Great Tokyo Air Raid on March 10, 1945 from Wikipedia Commons public domains


On the day following my business trip to Tokyo, I visited The Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage. I learned the following.



The scale of the Great Tokyo Air Raid


According to the contents of The Center, the US carried out its bombing raids on 120 of Japanese cities. The death tolls were 410,000 including atomic bombs / 200,000 excluding atomic bombs / 100,000 in one night of the Great Tokyo Air Raid, on March 10, 1945. That means the amount of the victims of the Great Tokyo Air Raid accounted for a half of all victims of normal bomb air raids in Japan.

cf. TIME - A Forgotten Horror: The Great Tokyo Air Raid



The contents of the Center


The Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage


Many photos are displayed in the Center. The most shocking ones were as follows; (from Wikipedia Commons public domains)

-burned bodies
-burned bodies of a mother and her baby. Mother's back wasn't burned because of having carried her baby.


The Center has a good collection of data, chart and maps. I appreciate that the collection includes not only Tokyo but also ther places in Japan, as well as victims of non-Japanese.
- The records of air raids all over Japan
- The records of air raids in other countries, for instance, Dresden, Berlin, Hong Kong and Guernica.
- The records of air raids that Japan did (Chongqing, China)
- The records of Korean victims in Japan


Other Exhibits
- goods for air defence among regidents
- burned cap of a baby
- melted dishes sticking a roof tile
- a miniature of a room of standard home at that time
- leaflets of the US airborne propaganda (The Japanese government prohibited to pick such leaflets out, however, some of them remain. The contents of them were interesting. They were well-informed about Japan and Japanese history but too logical for Japanese people, I think. I think that Japanese people have tendencies to feel strongly logical explanations as offensive pursuits.) ( To be clear, personally I love logical explanations.)
- Things related children education, for example textbooks, magazines and posters. You can see a big change at the end of the war.
- many others



Curtis Emerson LeMay


At a small video booth, I watched the TV program about the Air Raids, which was broadcast by NHK (Japan's public station) in 1978/

The TV crew visited the mansion of Curtis Emerson LeMay, who was the planner and the commander of the Great Tokyo Air Raids. When I saw the scene, I remember the movie "13 days" describing the 1962 Cuban Crisis. In the movie, LeMay (of course an actor played as him) appeared as the top of the US Air Force. I presumed that one of the reasons why he got to the top was the success of the Tokyo Raids. (By the way, LeMay insisted on the air raids to Cuba at the Cuban Crisis. If President Kennedy accepted LeMay's argument, WWIII would have broke out, I think.)

LeMay said to TV crew of NHK, "I have nothing to say for Japanese reporters","No interviews" and "You may film my medals."A glass cabinet appeared. It is the showcase of his many medals. One of them is the one from the Japanese government in 1964. Why did the government give the medal to the man who commanded the massacre its citizens? The reason why was his cooperation to build Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

After watching the program, I checked this award out. When the government decided on the award, many diet members and citizens, including victims of the Air Raid, were against that. The Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (Liberal Democratic Party) gave an account to them, "Now, Japan has a friendly relationship with the US. If a US person earned an achievement, it is natural to reward for that, in spite of the past." I think that this incident is one of the symbols of the LDP's policy of "subservience to the US".

cf. Related Post; Why is the US military in Japan?

Meanwhile, the Showa Emperor didn't give the medal to LeMay directly, despite in the ordinary course of decoration events the Emperor gave medals directly to receivers.



The couse of the damage spreading


After learning above in the Center, I looked over the fire protection policy at the time of WWII as follows;

-In 1937, the Japanese government released the Guideline of Air Defense. It contained the principle "In the event of an air raid, never evacuate except for old people, children and sick people.
-In 1941, The Air Defense Law released, including "prohibit to evacuate" and "duty to fire extinguishing" This law was never changed till the end of the war.
-After the Great Tokyo Air Raid, newspapers said, "Never Run, Guard", "Protect Our Homeland"

Why did the government release such a policy? Was it better a policy of evacuation in order to keep soldier power and labor power than the "non-evacuation" policy? The committee of The Air Defense Law answered on Nov. 20, 1941, "The damage won't be massive. We have to be more afraid of confusion among citizen and corruption of people's will to accomplish the war than the real damage."



My opinion


The leader of the Great Tokyo Air Raid was the US Air Force. Therefore, the US Air Force at that time had direct responsibility for the Air Raid. However, the Japanese Government also had a big responsibility because of its decision to provoke war with the US and its policy not to protect its citizens' lives. I, as a Japanese citizen, must bear watching the current Japanese Government intending to do some of the same actions.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Visiting The Residence Restriction Area in Fukushima


"Road Restriction: Difficult-to-Return Zone"

The 2011 Tohoku earthquake had a death toll of 15,894, 2,561 missing and 6,152 injured (Natinal Police Agency (in Japanese) as of March 10, 2016). What's more, 171,000 evacuees from their devastated homeland as well as radiation from Fukushima nuclear power plant.(Reconstruction Agency (in Japanese) as of March 29, 2016)

Fukushima, located in northwest Japan, is far from my home in central Japan. Many people may think that Japan is small country, it is true, but it takes several hours to go from my home to Fukushima. Therefore many people in central Japan including me don't have chances to go there. So I didn't realize the reality of Fukushima. A friend of mine who lives in adjoining prefecture of Ibaraki invited me to go around "The Residence Restriction Area" in Fukushima. I accepted his invitation.


The Three kinds of Limited Area in Fukushima


Limited Area in Fukushima
Quote from Fukushima Revitalization Station (Fukushima Pref. Official)

In order of the amount of radiation;

-Difficult-to-Return Zone (pink); Off limits. The government made the barriers and the gates with help from the police. Residents cannot return their homes for the foreseeable future. Tokyo Electronic Power Company (TEPCO - the owner of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant) compensated 14,500,000 yen (136,100 dollars or 119,700 Euro) for residents' suffering.

-Residence Restriction Area (yellow); The government permits residents to come to their homes (staying for the night is prohibited). TEPCO compensated 2,400,000 yen (22,500 dollars or 19,800 Euro) for the residents' suffering for two years.

-Zone in Preparation for the Lifting of the Evacuation Order (green); The government permits residents to come to their homes (staying for the night is prohibited) and operate their agricultural or forestry businesses. It proceeds with preference reconstruction and decontamination. TEPCO compensates 1,200,000 yen (11,250 dollars or 9,900 Euro) for the residents' suffering for one year.



No-Restriction (Normal) Area



Hisanohama area. Compared with my first photo (taken in 2011), all debris was demolished.



Zone in Preparation for the Lifting of the Evacuation Order


Tomioka Station
Tomioka Staion in 2008.


Tomioka Station in 2016.



Residence Restriction Area (Tomioka)



A Poster advertises The Cherry Blossom Festival of This Town in 2011, is still here in 2016



A crashed Police Car from when policemen guided people evacuees.



Driving in Residence Restriction Area






Cherry Blossom Road



This Signboard which says "Plesase view the cherry blossom from your car due to the high radiation levels in this area."


Beyond this point "Difficult-to-Return Zone"(Off-limit)



Return way



The Sign telling "No Bikes" in order to prevent direct contact from radiation.

Monitoring Posts. The Japanese Government tells to avoid to working outside if over 3.8 microSV/h



Changing my perception


Before visiting, my understanding about the area was merely limited to "map" and "data". However, driving throughout the area, I have physically realized the real size of the restriction area. Walking in the abandoned town, I imagined the ex-residents' whose everyday lives were destroyed. When I hear the news about people who evacuated from the area, I always recall scenes from this trip. Now I think that all the people who discuss the nuclear power plant issues, regardless whether pros or cons, have to visit the area.



Other Fukushima Towns outside Restriction Area


After visiting the restriction area, I took a trip to Aizu in Fukushima, which is over 120km from the area. Aizu and many other cities located in Fukushima but they still have normal everyday lives in these cities.






Related Posts


-A Day in Fukushima Nov 6, 2011, 8 months after the Big Earthquake
-My second trip to Fukushima June 02, 2013

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Shirakawa-go Traditional Houses in the Gassho Style




Shirakawa-go (village) is special for three points as follows: First, there are many old Japanese style houses which are very difficult to see any other place, what's more, these houses are used by village people in their actual lives.

Second, the style of the houses "Gassho Zukuri" is unique. "Gassho" means "palms placed together", "Zukuri" means "style" or "structure". Gassho Zukuri is a feature of the houses is the steep roof (of 45 degree to 60 degree), and the structure is called gassho zukuri because the houses resemble palms placed together and fingers pointing upward in prayer. No nails or other metal materials are used. (quoted from Japan National Tourism Oraganization)

Third, the houses (including Gokayama area, near Shirakawa-go) are registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. This status is the only one in Japan for old houses.

As for me, I like the shape of Gassho zukuri very much since I was a child. I have many reasons as mentioned above, I decided to go to Shirakawa-go. This village is just what I'd expect.


Access and Entrance



Many tourists may choose the way to Shirakawa-go, from Tokyo or Osaka to Nagoya by Shinkansen bullet train, then to Shirakawa-go by bus. It takes about three hours from Nagoya to Shirakawa-go.

FYI:Access to Shirakawa-go - Shirakawa village office

I like train trips, so I got in a train directly connected between Osaka and Takayama (nearest train station of Shirakawa-go). It takes 50 minutes from Takayama to Shirakawa-go. This way costs more than the way from Nagoya to Shirakwa-go by bus, however, I enjoyed this better way.



Many shightseeing spots in Japan have poor guides for foreigners. As for Shirakawa-go, tourist maps are available in seven languages at Tourist Information Center, which is located in front of the Shirakawa-go bus stop.


When you walk over a bridge near the bus stop...


The scenery totally changes from modern to old, with many people. (this day was Friday.)



Inn



I had reserved this inn "Furusato" (home village). It isn't equipped with air conditioners. The TV is only in the dining room. Guests rooms are divided not by walls but by shoji (partitions / doors made by thin wood pain and paper), therefore everyone can hear you and vice versa.

Such "inconvenience" didn't make me disappointed. The climate in Shirakawa-go in September was comfortable (in Osaka and Tokyo, still hot and humid), other guests who stayed this inn the same night were polite and quiet.

On the other hand, rest rooms are modern and convenient. I feel this attitude - going together "maintain old good things" and "bring modern things" at other spots of Shirakawa-go. It seems to be the theme of this village.

The landlord recommended that you should use an external spa facility because the bath of this inn is small. She gave me a discount ticket of the facility.

The accommodation charge was 8900yen including dinner and breakfast, I think it is reasonable.



The men in these pics are the sons of the Japanese Emperor. (center is the crown prince, right is his younger brother) The landlord said they stayed at this inn when they were university students. I know that the Japanese Emperor family is relatively modest and non-gorgeous but was surprised at these pictures which showed such people stayed at this common touch inn.





A guest room for me.



Soba noodle





Soba noodle for lunch at "Nomura". It was good - never "a typical dull restaurant at a sightseeing place"


Flowers and Gassho-style houses



The Wada House



The Wada family were the leaders of this village. Nowadays, Wada family members live in this house. (you can see the Satellite antenna on the roof in an above pic) This house is designated as "Important Cultural Property" by the Japanese Government because this house is well preserved even for being constructed over 300 years ago. In addition, the size of this house is the biggest in this village. This is well worth seeing.

FYI: The Wada House - Shirakawa village office







This sign says, "Beyond this point, Wada-family's living space. Please do not open the door"


A silkworm factory floor.



Overview



Path to the hill which you can see the overview of this village from. Buses available to the top of this hill, but a healthy adult can walk to the top of the hill for only 10-15 minutes.


Overview.



Bath



"Shirakawa-Go-no-Yu", the bath which the landlord of "Furusato" recommended. It is in the gender-segregated. New and comfort.


Outside view from the rest space of the bath.



Inn Dinner





The main dish was "Hida-beef", famous tasty beef of this area. Worth a try.


In my room, I drunk a bottle of sake which was made at the local brewery. Staying at a genuine Gassho-style house, it was my dream from my childhood.



Next Morning



Sunny day.


Breakfast.


Next visit to the hill.


Gassho-style barns. I was surprised that Gassho style also applied to such small barns.



Takayama


At noon, I went back to Takayama station by bus.


I love ramen. I appreciated this ramen of restaurant "Kyo-ri" with fascinating soy-source flavor of soup.


No crowd was in this road from the station to the popular spot Sanmachi street...


When you walk into the street, you find such a crowd. Many tourists were there. (this day was Saturday.) I admit that this street has classical beauty, however, congestion made the value worse. In Shirakawa-go, many people also gathered, however it is a village, it has many streets and spaces. Sanmachi main street is only one, so many people concentrated on one narrow street.



You can go through Sanmachi street in only ten or less minutes by foot. At the end of the street, there is the Takayama Municipal Government Memorial Hall, which used to be the city office in the past. At this spot, you may enjoy the classical beauty of this area with a smaller crowd than in Sanmachi street.



I went back to Osaka on the return train of the outward one. Throughout two days, I really enjoyed the old Japanese houses and streets, with many tourists.