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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2015 Autumn Issue]>Contemplating war in this milestone year

Hakumon CHUOIndex

News & Chuo University News

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II

Contemplating war in this milestone year

Professor Emeritus Morikuni Sugawara

A lecture to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II was held on July 8 on the Tama Campus of Chuo University. For about 90 minutes, Professor Emeritus Morikuni Sugawara (who specializes in Japanese political history) stood and delivered a passionate speech.

This year marks 70 years since the end of World War Two. As such, there has been much discussion for the concepts of war and peace.

According to Professor Emeritus Sugawara, the conditions at Chuo University during and after the war were unimaginable. In June 1939, Chuo University distributed a pamphlet entitled "Five Rules of Self-Discipline for Students during Wartime" (original text without modification) to all students, faculty, and staff, and ordered that the pamphlet be carried at all times.

Four army soldiers came to the Surugadai Campus. This was the beginning of military drill education. Students received military drill education at the Yoyogi Parade Ground. Photographs show students returning to the university after participating in off-campus military field exercise. These valuable materials and photographs are stored in the collection of the Chuo University Office of Historical Materials.

At that time, Chuo University consisted of only three undergraduate schools in law, economics and commerce. Only 5% of Japanese students entered university.

Students return to the University after participating in off-campus military field exercises (1937; Main Gate and South Gate of Surugadai Campus Buildings; from the collection of the Chuo University Office of Historical Materials)

1941 was also the year that declared war on America and England. From that point forward, there was rapid militarization of Chuo University and all other Japanese universities. There was mobilization of labor services for manufacturing weapons and of agriculture support for foraging for food supplies. In 1942, the date of graduation was pushed forward to September. Then, in 1943, a farewell party was held at Tokyo's Jingu Gaien Stadium for students being sent to the war. This was when the majority of students were sent to the front.

Following the end of the war, the democratization of Japan was enacted by orders from the GHQ (General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers). At Chuo University, there were serious consequences including the expulsion of the former president from his position in education.

In April 1946, the Chuo University Newspaper ran a headline reading "Resurrection of Our School: Steady Return to Learning—Renewed Spirit of Reconstruction."

Military drill education held at the Yoyogi Parade Ground (year unknown; from the collection of the Chuo University Office of Historical Materials)

"What is your opinion of war?" asked Professor Emeritus Sugawara at the end of his lecture. "It is important to hold your own clear opinion."

The commemorative lecture was held in a classroom of Building No. 3 and was filled to capacity with more than 140 people. In addition to students and graduates, many ordinary citizens also participated. The lecture was covered by the mass media and featured in newspapers and other news media the following day. The lecture was held as part of the "War and Chuo University Project."

We must recognize the happiness we are blessed with today

Yuka Nagatsuka
Student Reporter, First-Year Student in the Faculty of Letters

I have heard about World War II from my grandmother, who was an elementary school student at the time. If my memory is correct, I was also in elementary school when my grandmother told me her story.

A munitions factory which manufactured bullets and other weaponry was located close to the elementary school where my grandmother studied. One day, when the children were returning home from school, an air raid warning was issued for the area. The children split into two groups: children who went home, and children who returned to school. My grandmother decided to return to school, while her friend hurried home. Around the time that my grandmother arrived at school, her friend was killed in the air raid.

Although my grandmother survived, she might have been killed if she had decided to go home with her friend. If my grandmother had perished, she never would have given birth to her son, my father, and I myself would never have been born.

It is shocking to think that such a simple choice could mean the difference between life and death. My grandmother's story left me with a deep impression that I will never forget. Although my grandmother passed away, I am deeply grateful for how she shared her experience. It is a wartime episode which I must never forget.

Two terms from Professor Emeritus Sugawara's lecture caught my attention. The first was "human and material resources," while the second was "selfless devotion."

The term "human and material resources" was proceeded by the phrase "make proper use of."

As you know, the phrase "selfless devotion" refers to abandoning personal interest and desires in order to faithfully serve one's master or the government. Although these two terms were introduced casually, they filled me with fear. These terms required Japanese citizens to strike down the enemy nation without the right of individual refusal. Also, it is appalling how the lives of human beings were treated as a disposable resource.

The lecture also discussed non-Japanese students who came from Japanese colonies during the war. These students were forced into military service under the name of "military volunteers." In those days, coming to Japan required a keen mind and financial resources. Only the elite could make the trip. The war crushed the hopes and dreams of non-Japanese students who came from the colonies.

Of course, Japanese students were also forced into military service. It is no exaggeration to say that students at that time were judged solely on their willingness to strike down the enemy nations of Japan. Academic record and character had no meaning.

This year, many special programs and articles on the 70th anniversary of the war's end have been run on television and in newspapers. Most of these documentaries focus on students who had great dreams for their future lives. What the war has stolen from people is of indescribable value and can never be replaced.

Recently, numerous protests regarding the national security bill have been held in front of the National Diet Building and surrounding area. Many of the protestors chanted slogans of "We must never cause war to happen again!" and "I will never send my child to war!"

Of course, we must never repeat the horrors of war and must never destroy the dreams of students by sending them to battle. However, it is too simple to criticize war solely based on the feeling of not wanting to fight.

In this milestone year, I thought about war and peace as best as I could. I can only imagine the feelings of people who lived in those turbulent times. Students were mobilized, fought enemies on the front lines, and sacrificed their lives for Japan.

The hardships and frustrations cannot be imagined by people living in modern times. We must recognize the happiness of being able to dedicate our lives to studying, seminars, and club activities on campus.

More than anything, we must remember that this dark past also took place at Chuo University. I learned this from the lecture given by Professor Emeritus Sugawara.