May 15, 2010
Hiroko was born in 1933.
She was a daughter of a Buddhist priest.
She loved reading books – all the classics like “Wuthering Heights”, “Little Women” and so on. Shebuilt a dream to be a writer.
School teachers started telling her and everyone elsethat Chinese, Koreans, Americans, Indonesians and all the rest of the world were all beasts and they didn’t deserve to live. Japanese were the children of God. Everyone believed it.
The war started, and the Japanese military started murderingeveryone, everywhere they went. Some good teachers that were more humane, and were loved by their students, never returned home, after they were sent to the fields of war.
The war was finally over after four or five years, in 1945,a few days after Hiroko saw the gigantic mushroom cloud in the distance over Hiroshima.
After the war, her brother was sent to Kyoto, where he was being trained to be apriest in a well-known temple. Hiroko’s sister packed potatoes, rice and other items in a bag, and traveled by ship one day to bring them to her brother in Kyoto.
After seeing her off, Hiroko and her mother took a trainhome that night. Because of the crowd on the train, they were standing up. There was a very tall American standing right in front of them. A few days before, Hiroko had found some empty food cans that US soldiers had discarded by a river. She had eaten the sweet grapes left inside.
On the train, her mother - the preacher’s wife - said to twelve-year-oldHiroko, “Don’t look at him! Put your face down!” She communicated this not with words, but by sending a signal that Americans were demons and devils.
After a few moments, the soldier took out a bag filled withcandies from his military rucksack, and put the entire bag in little Hiroko’s hand-made cloth pouch. Everyone in the train was shocked, and at the same time they watched enviously since everyone was hungry.
Mother told the girl not to eat it, as if it was poison.
When they got home, they took out the bag of candy andsaw all the candies wrapped in the most beautiful papers that they had ever seen. Hiroko ate it, and felt that it was the most wonderful taste she had ever experienced.
He was not a devil. He was extremely sweet.
* * *
Fifteen years later, in 1960, Hiroko had her second baby,and that was me, Eiji.
I give thanks to that soldier from America. Hirokocould have been dead from hunger without those candies. But more than the fact that it was a life-saving food, it was a heart-saving present. I wouldn’t have been here now either, of course.
Thank you, soldier, for showing Hiroko that the world haslove that’s far stronger than hate. Hiroko became a very sweet person instead and that saved my life. Mr. Soldier, I will pass it on to future generations.
* * *
In September of 2008, I took Hiroko to the Jewish ConcentrationCamp in Dachau, outside of Munich. I showed her how many, many groups of school children, mainly from Germany, were being led through the camp by their teachers. As they listened to the teachers’ stories, none of the students said a word. They just listened.
I asked Hiroko, who was a teacher for many years in Japan,“Do you think that Japanese schools would take students to the camps and prisons that the Japanese military built, and explain what they did there?”
Hiroko replied, “No chance. They will never leave thecamp sites visible. They will destroy everything and will deny their existence.”
When she rides a train now, there are so many youngpeople occupying all the seats, playing computer games, reading manga comic books and putting on makeup. None of them give seats to the older people. They make them keep standing.
Hiroko says, “They are not human.”
Now, Hiroko is writing a lot about those days.
Eiji Yoshikawa is a retired Pro Boxer who majored inFrench literature and did his thesis on Jean Cocteau and Cinematography. He founded the "Peacemakers", Japan's first neighborhood watch, and spends much of his time visiting schools and communities teaching children about non-violence. In 2004, Japan Inc. Magazine called him the "Compassionate Pugilist". We are proud to offer "Letters from the Compassionate Pugilist" as our first guestcolumnist. Contact Eiji at www.eiji.tv or via email.
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