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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2015 Winter Issue]>Student Soldiers to the Frontline - Harrowing Experiences and Reflection on Peace

Hakumon CHUOIndex

News & Chuo University News

Nagoshi (3rd year student) and Professor Matsuno at right.

Symposium: 70th Anniversary of the End of the War

Student Soldiers to the Frontline - Harrowing Experiences and Reflection on Peace

On October 21, the War & Chuo University Project hosted the War & Chuo University – Symposium: 70th Anniversary of the End of the War at the Tama Campus.
October 21 was when the “Send-off Party for Student Soldiers” was held at Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Gaien Stadium in 1943.

Symposium: 70th Anniversary of the End of the War

Opening Address : Shozaburo Sakai (Chancellor & President)

Opening Address : Moriho Hirooka (Professor at the Faculty of Law)

Coordinator : Masahito Matsuo (Professor at the Faculty of Letters)

Panel : 
         Akio Tsuchida (Professor at the Faculty of Economics)
         “The Asia Pacific War and the University”
         Daishi Okada (Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law)
         “Wartime Regime & Founding of Chuo Engineering College”
         Ryoichi Matsuno (Professor at the Faculty of Policy Studies)
         “Interviewing People who Lived through the War”

Moderator : Yasuyo Nakajima (Dean, Faculty of Law)

Symposium – 70th Anniversary of the End of the War

A scene of military drill education in the courtyard of the Surugadai Campus (ca.1935-1937) <Photo: Chuo University Historical Archive>

Nearly filled to capacity, the Lecture Room 8304 (400 seats) of Building No.8 was also open to the public. Many of the audience members are of the generation of the students’ grandparents.

At a historical juncture – 70 years since the end of the war and 130th anniversary of our foundation – this is a project designed to look back on the era of the war and Chuo University, and to pass on the awareness to the next generation. This event compliments the commemorative lecture on the “70th Anniversary of the End of the War” given by Morikuni Sugawara (Professor Emeritus) on July 8.

As Professor Shozaburo Sakai (Chancellor & President) opened saying “I hope this becomes an opportunity for everyone to think about the value of being able to live in peace”, the attending students’ faces at once became more alert. Living in that time, I would have had no escape but to stare directly into the face of the war; doubtful if my hopes and dreams would have ever borne fruit.

Professor Akio Tsuchida (Professor at the Faculty of Economics) spoke about “what the student soldiers were doing in the faraway battlefields” in his “Asia Pacific War and the University” in which he introduced two Chuo alumni.

Genta Uemura graduated from the specialized course (School of Law) in 1942 and entered the Faculty of Economics in the same year. Enlisted in 1943, he was killed in battle near Ginowan, Okinawa in April 1945, aged 24. He left behind diaries in which he reflected on life after his enlistment.

Akio Otsuka was enlisted to the Navy immediately after graduating from the specialized course in 1943. He was killed in battle in April 1945 off the coast of Kadena, Okinawa, aged 23. He also left diaries.

The attending students were visually tense, perhaps empathizing with the student soldiers who were sent to the front at roughly the same age as themselves.

State Policies and Chuo University’s Response

The panel on stage

Next, Daishi Okada (Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law) talked about the state policies and the response from Chuo University in “Chuo University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering – From Science & Engineering Schools under Wartime Regime”.

On October 12, 1943, the government enacted the “Wartime Emergency Measures Concerning Education” by a cabinet decision, in which the conscription exemption was removed from all students of humanities subjects but those on the science & engineering, and teacher training courses. This decision swiftly led to the “Send-off Party for Student Soldiers” of October 21.

Furthermore, the government ordered to reduce the number of enrolment at humanities universities and colleges, as well as to integrate into the science universities and/or closure.

As universities struggled to cope, Chuo University applied for the establishment of “Chuo Engineering College” on December 30, 1943 (enrolment capacity: Mechanical Engineering 100; Aeronautics 100); on April 1, 1944, the college was inaugurated. On the same day, student recruitment for the Faculty of Commerce and the specialized course (School of Commerce) was halted. The existing students of the Faculty of Commerce were transferred to the Faculty of Economics.

The establishment of the Faculty of Engineering had been in the pipeline for the previous 10 years as a project and 1945 – the 60th anniversary of the university’s founding – had been earmarked as the completion date. This plan was realized in the form of the Engineering College’s inauguration, which was a means of the “university’s survival” in the wartime.

After the war, the eradication of the wartime structure was set in motion, such as replacing the aeronautics course with the industrial physics course.

In 1949, with the 4 year “New University” System being introduced, the Engineering College was reorganized into the “Chuo University Faculty of Engineering”, and in April 1962 it was renamed the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

The full capacity audience was enthusiastically attentive

Ryoichi Matsuno (Professor at the Faculty of Policy Studies) showed the original video entitled “Testimony of a Former Kamikaze Volunteer: Chuo University and War” on the large screen.

The recollections of the 91 year old former Kamikaze soldier, a Chuo alumnus who now lives in Kyoto, were clearly shocking as the ripples of uneasiness ran through the room. One week after the end of the war in the training camp on the Korean Peninsula, the young soldiers were ordered to gather in the woods behind, in full uniform wearing the military sword: “Thought it may be communal suicide”.

What the commander had to say was this instead: “You are university students. You are what Japan needs now. Even if you are taken prisoners, do not succumb to humiliation but keep thinking of ways to save Japan”.

“I work as a storyteller because I want people to know the truth. I shall keep looking for peace”, the former soldier spoke through tears.

After the video, Daiko Nagoshi (3 year student at the Faculty of Economics) went on stage and spoke of his experience on visiting him in Kyoto to produce the video: “I will keep alive the words of the people who lived through the war”.

This symposium was realized by making public a class of “History of Political Ideologies A2” which is taught by Moriho Hirooka (Professor at the Faculty of Law).

At the end of the symposium, we were invited to visit the exhibition entitled “70 Years after the War – Renewing Thoughts on the War and Chuo University” held as part of the current project.

The student reporter who was born in the Heisei Era wrote his impression after attending the “War & Chuo University” – Symposium: 70th Anniversary of the End of the War.

Reflection on the war that has not yet ended

Shogo Katagiri, student reporter (1 year student at the Faculty of Law)

The first thing that struck me in attending the symposium was Prof. Hiroaka’s feelings towards his own father.

His father apparently never spoke of the war, even to his own son. When he called on his father asking, “isn’t sharing the experience of the war something meaningful?”, the father passingly looked as if reacting, yet “ultimately only showed an expression of a mixture of sadness and resignation”.

I was remembering the words of the American sociologist George Herbert Mead: “If we become able to evoke a truly universal feeling of horror in people, then we would be able to solve the problems before we have to really experience the horror” (Bridgebook Sociology, Kazushi Tamano ed., Bridgebook Series, Shinzansha, p.72) – even a father cannot easily tell his son of the cruelties of war.

Perhaps Prof. Hiroaka’s father was also frustrated because he could not find what to tell his son no matter how much he tried to search for the right words, yet at the same time having to remember the harrowing war.

I should also mention Prof. Matsuno’s video presentation entitled the “Testimony of a Former Kamikaze Volunteer: Chuo University and War”.

Prof. Matsuno had been feeling the lack of knowledge of the war in the young generation through his seminars, and this made him think hard about how to pass on the experiences of the war to the next generation.

He came up with the idea that “the students should do interview themselves, not only listening to the people who experienced the war and the storytellers” and this trial is continuing. The 10 min. long video interview produced by the team led by Daiko Nagoshi (3 year student) was shown.

The interviewee volunteered while still studying at Chuo University and became a pilot. The gentleman calmly answered the questions with a gentle smile, but he shed tears immediately as he is reminded of the moment when he saw his mother again after he just returned home from the battlefield.

Watching this video, I was nearly in tears myself, shaken by the far more direct contact with his inner feelings, something different from emotions evoked by reading what is written.

I could feel first-hand, the true power of the videos which Prof. Matsuno pointed out.

This video can be viewed online ( window). I urge everyone to watch and feel the sentiment of this gentleman who revisited his awful past for us, the fellow Chuo University students of today.

Some impressions I would like to share in attending this symposium: of course there have been many chances to acknowledge this thing called war, through news of domestic and international politics. Yet, in attending this event and hearing the raw testimony of the former student soldier, I became aware that “war” I have been imagining through news was something akin to the “means”.

“I will never be able to apologize enough to the guys who died before me” - an alumnus’s devastating cry and the sense of guilt from which he will never escape as long as he lives, made me strongly feel that, no matter what, war should be avoided.

Wars must be avoided, because wars must be avoided: this “tautology,” as logicians would call it, really does not explain anything. However, in this case, this is perhaps what is right.

I myself am not unconditionally able to accept this intuition. Even if we don’t want war, there is nothing we can do if the opponent attacks us. True, we Japanese have the traditional spirit of holding talks, which continues from the era of Nihon Shoki and Kojiki. Yet this will be simply meaningless on those that have no ear. We need more time to think about how to solve this conundrum.

There is, however, one clear truth here: for us human, Japanese and the Chuo students, the reflection on wars is not over. If we forget the past in the messy concoction of everyday information, we will end up repeating the same mistake.

If we forget our forebears’ messages, we are going to kill them twice by making them lose the significance of the fact that they lived. Even if we cannot decide on the right and wrong of warfare, we need to follow in their steps and pass on them to the next generation. As a younger generation, we must not lay their wishes to waste.

“War & Chuo University” Project

The “War & Chuo University” Project was set up by the Deans’ Council at Chuo University and aims to provide an opportunity to rethink about the war and Chuo University to its students, staff, alumni and society at large, as well as to feed back its fruit to education, through lecture meetings, symposiums, and exhibitions, centred around 2015 in the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.