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The Untold Story of My Grandparents in Wolrd War II Japan

As I 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 home.

    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 trailing behind.

    My grandmother was thrilled; she could eat candy again.



 
 TakashiHine.jpg
Takashi Hine, my paternal grandfather, who's story I was not able to listen to.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
MichikoHine.jpg
 My paternal grandmother's father and older brother. 


Honorable Duty: Eiichi Suzuki, maternal grandfather

    Leaving college to join the navy at age 20, my grandfather did as every other young Japanese man would do: he thanked the country for giving him the honor of joining the navy and giving him the honorable act of serving his country.  He had to.  He had no choice.  If he objected to joining the navy or even complained about his duty, he would be killed.  So he acted honored.

    Stationed at the prefecture of Yanai, my grandfather began his dull, repetitive training to be a member of the tokkotai, the special attack corps.  As an individual in the tokkotai, my grandfather had one duty: to hit American ships in submarines no matter what, even if it cost him his life.

Training was rigorous.  Every day his team of fellow tokkotai members would row several kilometers to Hiroshima.  If one person slacked off, the entire platoon would be punished.  They ran endlessly and trained nonstop for what seemed like never-ending hours.  And, if even just one person slowed down or rested, they would receive consequential punishment.  It was one of these punishments where my grandfather lost his hearing in one ear.  A superior noted an individual’s mistake and as a result, everyone was hit across the face.  My grandfather was stuck right at his ear, damaging the bones and delicate hearing structure inside.

    After endless days of training, my grandfather was ready to fight the Americans.  Yet, when he was outside conditioning, American planes flew over the island of Hiroshima, where he had rowed to so many times before.  What looked like a sparking trail of light dropped from the plane, and my grandfather immediately turned away, fearing the sight of bombs would injure him as he had learned in training.

    A few days later, my grandfather was informed that the war had ended, and he would not have to go on his tokkodai mission.  Being spared his life, a rush of relief ran through his body.  This war that my grandfather thought was so inhumane and wrong was over, but he would not dare to say such a thing.  Everyone mourned over the loss of war and failure to protect the country.  Had he expressed his joy, people would have seen him as an inappropriate and selfish individual.  So, he acted disappointed.

 

 

 

 

TomokoSuzuki.jpg 

Many women and children joined associations like the Women's Association of National Defense of the Koga District, which my great grandmother was the president of. 

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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