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For us there's nothing to celebrate; How does Liverpool's Japanese community deal with VJ Day? Mike Chapple reports.

Byline: Mike Chapple

TAKAKO GILLIAT may have only been a small child in August, 1945, but recalls the end of the war as clearly as if it was yesterday.

'Even though I was only five, I will always remember someone coming to the entrance of our house to say that the war was over and that we had been defeated,' recalls Takako, whose family were farmers who had no electricity and subsequently were unable to hear Hirohito's broadcasted surrender speech.

With Takako is her 65-year-old friend, Yoshiko Kurokawa Shuff, who also has vivid memories of Japan's war years, especially as she lived in the bomb-strafed city of Tokyo: 'I will always remember the sound of the B29s flying over and people shouting through megaphones 'Air raid! Air raid!' she says.

The bombing became so bad that she, like many thousands of youngsters in Britain, was evacuated with her grandmother to supposed safety. But that proved to be Koreyama, a city about 90 miles north of Tokyo and a centre for aeroplane manufacture.

' There were hundreds of fire bombings,' explains Yoshiko, perhaps proving that the life of the ordinary Japanese in the war was no different to that of any Liverpudlian who remembers the Blitz would care to imagine. We are sitting sipping green tea in the relative tranquillity of Angela Davies's living room in Calderstones. Angela is the Liverpudlian vice-chairman of Japan Society North West, a forum group that aims to provide opportunities for people to understand Japanese language and culture. This Japanese ambassador and fluent speaker is also a close friend and neighbour of Takako, who has lived in the city since 1978 after marrying a Liverpool sea captain. Yoshiko also married an Englishman - a research scientist - and has lived in Chester for 33 years.

Neither of these quietly polite and charming pensioners has ever experienced any hostility while living here.

As Takako explains: 'I like Liverpool - the people here have always been very friendly to me.'

Indeed, their perception of the war is one based on regret and reconciliation that the conflict should have ever happened in the first place.

'In a way, the ordinary people of Japan were glad to have been defeated - the so-called sense of shame over surrender, that was for the military people to talk of,' explains Takako, whose family collected acorns to be ground down as a rice substitute for soldiers, such was Japan's grave plight near the war's end.

There's even a sense of ambivalence about the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, which is widely accepted as what ended the war.

'As far as the bomb is concerned, 'justified' is certainly not the word, but I suppose we have to accept it because of past military actions.'

Both women, though, feel that the second atomic bomb, which obliterated the port of Nagasaki three days later, was entirely unnecessary. This goes some way to explain why those two dates are the focus for greater attention in Japan in remembering the dead than August 14/15 when the Emperor declared to the nation it was to 'to endure the unendurable and suffer the insufferable' and surrender.

Neither Takako nor Yoshiko had any great reason to thank the Allies in its aftermath. For instance, Yoshiko's father, an army major, was taken by the Soviets and spent three years in a Siberian labour camp.

'You couldn't call it a prisoner of war camp because the 'war' was supposed be over,' says Yoshiko with a rueful laugh.

They also had to rely on food rations sent from the States.

'It wasn't very good - especially the milk,' explains Takako again with a chuckle. 'But it was nourishing and nobody died of starvation.'

Bearing in mind the circumstances if the Soviets had moved in, she also adds: 'I think the Americans felt guilty about what happened and after that they rebuilt Japan. So I suppose we were very happy to be occupied by the Americans." Angela, who was Sheffield University's first graduate in Japanese and is a languages lecturer at JMU, is at the forefront of forging greater links with Japan.

'The difficulty with relations between Japan and the UK since the war is entirely based on distance,' explains Angela, whose 25-year-old son Sam Rosen has also graduated in Japanese and is currently over there on a three-year contract as an international co-ordinator. 'But I do know a lot of former British PoWs have been over there. Consequently, attitudes have changed a lot. People who go over there discover how wonderfully friendly the ordinary Japanese man and woman in the street are

A place where the war can never be forgotten

FORTY-YEAR-OLD Kenichiro Hada is a lecturer in Japanese language and culture at Liverpool's John Moores University. He has lived in the Tuebrook district of the city for four years but he has also lived and worked in Sheffield and London for much of his adult life.

He comes from Kyushu, one of Japan's four main islands, and where Nagasaki is one of the major cities - a place where the war, of course, can never be forgotten.

'Of course there were atrocities committed and no-one would ever deny that - but I would not say some, but many, people still feel anger about what happened in the use of the extreme measures to end the war,' says Ken.

There was also a sense of injustice about how the so-called 'victors' justice' had forgotten that the Soviet Union had taken advantage of the bombs and the Japanese surrender to invade their northern territories.

'The Soviet Union was depicted as some sort of democratic state when Stalin was just as bad as Hitler - and it was the Allies who made an alliance with the Soviet Union. The Russians sent tens of thousands of Japanese PoWs to Siberia for forced labour but these incidents were never discussed.'

He adds: 'By victor's justice, I mean that only the defeated were tried afterwards, although there were some crimes committed by the Allies, not to mention the validity of the use of the A-bombs. And what seemed to be a breach of international law was the fact that the victors hastily drew up the new laws such as 'crimes against peace' at the end of the war to apply for the Germans and the Japanese.

'What happened to the Italians? Oh yes, they switched sides

Understanding the lessons of history

MITZI OHATA is 40 years old and works for Powder Systems Limited in Speke as a sales/project co-ordinator. She was born in Shizuoka, two hours by train from Tokyo. '

When I was at school, although our country is normally quite strongly conservative, lots of history teachers were left wing and taught us students about World War II mainly focusing on war atrocities and how we were manipulated by the government. 'I was wondering if the same history education about the war is still taught at school and went into internet search, and was surprised and confused by what I found. 'Now some nationalists are saying all those so-called atrocities were an extreme exaggeration and that when Japanese troops went into China or other Asian countries it was not 'invasion' to expand our territory but that we had good cause. They insist we must change the contents of the history text books used at school and wipe out all these 'fictitious' descriptions and teach 'the truth'. But what is the real truth?

'Those nationalists are saying our children lost confidence as a Japanese nation because of the false history education which is making us feel as if we had been criminals and we have to keep apologising to Asian neighbours for what we have done to them. They say these fast-growing economic countries are taking advantage of it. Although that may be pretty much the case, it does not mean we did nothing wrong. We should not tolerate this.'

But she does resent the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 'I do feel a sort of anger against what the Americans did to us. It was completely unnecessary as the Japanese military were no longer strong enough to sustain the battle, it was only a matter of time. Even had they not dropped the atomic bombs, the war would have ended within a month. The Americans knew this - they just wanted to do an experiment with a fantastically powerful new bomb using their enemy as guinea pigs. ' Even now, Americans are sort of proud of what they did to us and those soldiers who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are treated as 'heroes'. I don't think it is right. It was also a '

holocaust', no better than what Nazis did to the Jewish or the Japanese massacre of the Chinese in Nanking.'

'At least the war brought us democracy. There are lots of people, people in the generations who actually fought in the war or suffered think it was a good job Japan lost. It awakened us, modernised our belief and thoughts, released us from stupid delusion about the emperor as god.

'The down side is having to let Americans take advantage of us

No lessons from the conflict

ATSUSHI UCHIDA is a 37year-old sales and marketing manager for Gencoa Ltd, based at Wavertree Technology Park. Born in the city of Hamamatsu - the home of motorcycle giants Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki - it is located on the coast between Tokyo and Osaka. He has lived in Liverpool for 3/ 2 years. 'I didn't notice that English people celebrate VJ Day.

Ours is called End of the War day. In Japan, ordinary people don't have any ceremony.

Only those who lost their family went to the cemetery to pray and the Emperor gives a speech. Public workers or people who are attending public events do meditation. However, we ordinary people don't do anything.'

Atsushi says that schools only cover World War II in a very cursory fashion.

'It's covered in their lectures but only very briefly. As the government didn't agree to commit crimes which were done by the Japanese millitary, the text books cannot mention them.' He maintains that some of the older people still harbour animosity towards the US.

He adds, though: 'I think most of the people just generally accepted that we lost the war as Japan was far behind from their technologies. I think we Japanese converted the energy for catching up with their technologies. Then we had a fantastic recovery and made progress after the war.' He says that the traditional Japanese way of life was altered after the war, 'but I don't think there were any practical lessons gained from the conflict. I think the change started before the war and afterwards it speeded up


Angela Davies, centre, with Yoshiko Kurokawa Shuff, left, and Takako Gilliat; Lecturer in Japanese Kenichiro Hada; Bomb-damaged Tokyo in 1945; Street traders in Tokyo in 1945; The Japanese surrender in Rangoon
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Aug 10, 2005
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