sat in the front row of my grandfather’s memorial service three years ago, a sudden fear struck through me. I
wondered, what would happen if one day when I left this world, no one had memories to remember me by? What would happen
if no one had listened to my side of the story, my perspective of the events in my life? These questions once again
filled my head as I placed flowers before a picture of my deceased best friend last year. I realized the importance
of leaving stories behind, whether it is stories of heroic acts in a horrific war, or stories of just fooling around with
a best friend. However big or small, stories must be told to pass on the true history of our world.
To every story, there are two sides. Living in California and learning under the
American education system, I rarely heard of the Japanese people’s sufferings during World War II. Only when I
returned to Japan would I hear my grandmother’s tales of monotonous work in factories, or stories of my grandfather’s
frightening encounters as a soldier. With this opportunity to research deeper into the history of World War II, I thought
this was the time for me to learn the other side of the story, the perspective of the war that is not covered in the textbooks.
Grabbed from the middle of what was supposed to be the ripest time of their lives, my grandparents and their families suffered
through the war. This is their side of the story, the story Americans do not hear every day, the story of the kamikaze
soldiers and the factory workers, the story of my history.
Ignorance is Bliss: Michiko Hine, paternal grandmother
My grandmother was just a child when World War II began. Entering elementary
school as a first grader right at the beginning of the war, my grandmother could not comprehend the meaning of war.
When the war began to spread over the city of Tokyo, my grandmother’s family
left their luxurious living style and moved to the rural countryside. Relocating from a two-story, western-style house
to a two-roomed, crammed, rental home my grandmother’s family felt the intensity of the war. At her elementary
school, my grandmother took lessons on how to stab American soldiers with sharpened bamboo sticks and she studied signaling
messages with flags and evacuation techniques. After school, children would rush over to farmers’ fields so they
could contribute to the war effort.
Among the chaos of the war, my great grandfather
abruptly left to serve in the army. Leaving in such a hurry, my grandmother never had the chance to formerly say goodbye
to her father.
The wartime environment in the countryside was morbid and slow.
All of the men in the city left one by one, none coming back. One similarly sluggish day, a fighter jet crashed
and burned in the field near my grandmother's house. Bored and tired form their monotonous work, a group of children
rushed to see the rare site of an American plane. Sprinting to the scene of the crash, the children stood in awe. Before
them lay a burning plane with a dying American soldier still in the pilot seat. Yet, none of the children seemed to
have seen the pilot. They were in such awe of the plane that they completely forgot about the poor American soldier
suffering in the flames of the burning plane. Instead, a sweet, sugary aroma captured my grandmother’s attention.
Following her sense of smell, she tracked down what exactly the fragrance was: burning glass. My grandmother, being
the curious child of the group, grabbed a shard of the glass and her hand naturally popped a piece into her mouth. All
the way home, my grandmother skipped and hummed, with the unexpected treat still lingering in her small, delicate cheeks.
Conditions worsened for civilians; food was short and life was meager. When the
announcement that men had returned from service reached my grandmother’s ears, she darted out of the house, into the
crowd of teary families gathered in the town square. Desperate to find her father she never got to say goodbye to, my
grandmother looked under each cap, searching for her father’s birthmark located directly under his ear. The crowd
gradually dispersed, yet she still had not seen the familiar smile and warm eyes of her father. Soon, she was the only
one left in the town square. Unable to comprehend why her father did not return, my grandmother dragged her feet back
When the war ended, the Japanese heard their emperor’s voice for
the first time in their history. Regarded as a superior and sacred power, the emperor shocked the entire country with
his sorrowful speech stating Japan’s surrender. My grandmother’s entire neighborhood gathered around a large
television set, shocked by the voice of the emperor and not retaining any information said to them. Tired of the dawdling
crowd of women, my great grandmother stood before them and announced that the war had ended. It was not until then that
the people understood the surrender of Japan. Hanging their heads down low, the women returned to their homes with children
My grandmother was thrilled; she could eat candy again.