Mon, May 17, 2010 - Page 4 News List

FEATURE : Japanese veterans recall Nanjing in documentary


The clutch of war veterans who have publicly testified have often been harassed by right-wing nationalist groups or accused by the war dead’s families of treason and slandering the soldiers’ memories.

Matsuoka said she is fighting for a cause that has at times been life-threatening and often seemed fruitless.

She has been harassed by nationalists who have protested at her events and hurled insults, and some conservative magazines label her a Chinese spy.

Some of the soldiers themselves at first shooed her away or acted senile when they were questioned, she said. Angry wives pushed her out of their homes or prevented their husbands from talking about violating women.

It took her a decade to gain their trust and to persuade them to talk on camera, she said. In the end, some entrusted her with photos and war memorabilia, including a postcard of soldiers grinning next to a mound of skulls and another showing them playing with the heart of a victim.

“In Japan there is the saying that ‘the nail that stands up must be beaten down.’ But I’m a nail that’s sticking out so far that no one can hit it down anymore,” Matsuoka chuckled.

The testimonies she gathered are powerful.

Another Japanese veteran, former navy sailor Sho Mitani, 90, recounted how the sight of corpses rotting in coagulated blood sparked in him a mix of curiosity and disgust.

“We were living in an age where we were taught that Chinese were not human,” he said in the film. “The army used a trumpet sound that meant ‘Kill all Chinese who run away.’ We were taught from childhood in schools that Chinese were like insects.”

Mitani said it took him a decade to find the courage to openly give his witness account of scores of Chinese being mowed down by gunfire as they tried to flee across the Yangtze river.

He said he chose to speak out when Tokyo’s conservative governor Shintaro Ishihara in a 1990 magazine interview denied the Nanjing massacre as a “lie.”

“I told myself, ‘Now that’s wrong,’ because it really happened,” said Mitani, who said he witnessed killings through a telescope from a navy destroyer.

“I had to tell the truth,” the old sailor said.

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