Last Sunday, we celebrated the Remembrance Day in the UK.
Every year, when I see people wearing Poppy flower pins, I wonder why we don’t do something like this in Japan. We do have ceremony on 15th of August for “shusen kinenbi”, literally the end of the war anniversary, but we do not get involved enough. May be because we lost the War? It seems that people want to forget about it and get over with it as quick as possible. And I have an impression that the ceremony is to morn the war victims who died inland and praying for peace and not much about soldiers who served the country during the War.
Recently, one of my sons became interested in our family history and asked if he could see some old photos circa 1945.
“Did anyone go to the War?”
Yes, my grandfather, your great-grandfather.
I asked my father to dig out some photos, and he found some which I had have never seen before.
This is my grand father.
My older son looks a bit like him.
He was sent to China for 8 years. He had a very rough journey coming back, getting robbed in the train and all. It took him over a year to get back to Japan. When he finally returned, all he had was a backpack and an empty lunch box.
Here is another photo.
This was taken on the day my father’s uncle was leaving to attend the War. The little boy in the centre is my father.
As the war continued, all healthy male were drafted into the army. You would receive “aka gami” meaning red letter.
Red letter” refers to the draft notices received by men during the war. These were hand delivered by army soldier or special delivery men. It was considered a great honor to receive a call to service by the Imperial Army, and families would celebrate out in the open, but, understandably, many recipients and their loved ones secretly dreaded the arrival of such notices.
Some of those who drafted were as young as my son or even younger.
The lady in the first row of this photo is the mother and she is about to see her third son off. No wonder she looks so sad.
My father was introduced to his father a few years later from this day. I remember my grandfather as a gentle man, always very kind to me and my brother, but he never developed bonding with my father.
My son seemed touched and quietly excited to find out about his ancestors. We will look for more photos next time we visit my parents. My mother was born and grew up in Hiroshima and surely, she has a lot of stories to tell.
Each family has a history, and I would like to keep the record for my sons and the generations afterwards.