VJ-Day, seen through Japanese eyes
It was a beautiful morning. And when I woke up, I felt rested for the first time in a long time.Skip to next paragraph
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Mother and I had slept through the night in a house a few hours away from our city. At home, we had to dash out of the house every night when the air-raid siren sounded. We had not had an uninterrupted night's sleep for a long time.
I was in fifth grade when my younger brother and I were sent to live in Mother's hometown. (Children had been ordered out of our city.) But I dreaded being left alone. I had to go back to be with Mother as soon as our summer vacation began. I was probably the only child in the city.
Today, Mother looked rested, too. We smiled. We were grateful to the neighbor who'd brought us here, and to her brother and his family, whose home it was.
After breakfast - Mother and I hadn't had a real breakfast for some time - I went for a walk.
It was peaceful here. Nobody worried about where I was going by myself. There were no air raids here.
So quiet. So serene. It seemed unreal. A young brown horse stood by a little pond near the barn. The dirt road was cool, layered with leaves from the tall trees on either side of it. I glimpsed blue sky between the leaves when they swayed in the wind.
Suddenly, I heard an airplane. I froze. B-29! I thought. Were American bombers finally coming to raid even the rural countryside of northern Japan? I felt sure I was hidden under the trees, but decided not to move until the airplane was gone.
The plane passed by. No circling, no lingering. No bombing. Was it a Japanese airplane?
Again it was silent. But now I felt uncomfortable. I told myself not to be afraid. It must have been a Japanese plane. No American airplane would come alone. They always came in groups, I thought. I felt better.
Soon I came to an open field. I saw berries growing, huge and plump, deep red. I ate some and then gathered some in a handkerchief for Mother. I turned back.
When I approached the house, Mother was in the front yard. She looked as if she had fallen. I rushed toward her.
"What happened?" I said. "What's wrong?
"Over?" I said. Mother nodded.
"The war is over?" I said. I don't have to run out of the house at midnight anymore! I thought. I don't have to worry about air raids! No more sirens!
"We lost," Mother said in a hoarse voice. "We lost the war...."
"No!" I shouted. "We can't! You said we would never lose!"
"I know," Mother said, and sank to the ground again.
I knelt by her side. All of my strength seemed to seep out of me. My mind went blank. Then, a horrible thought: What would happen to us? What were we going to do?
"We must go home," Mother said wearily.
A long, sad journey
After lunch, we set out for our city. Many people were going back. Everybody looked gloomy, exhausted. They seemed to be dragging feet made of iron.
What a change! That morning we had felt so rested, and now we felt so heavy. The way was long, and the road was crowded. Looking ahead and behind, I couldn't see an end to the line of people. Some had horse-drawn carts. Others had trucks. Most were walking.
The sky was gray, now. Perhaps dust from the road was hiding the beautiful blue sky I'd seen just hours ago. We were dusty, too. Was the sky still blue, up there?
We arrived home that evening, physically tired and emotionally numb. We moved slowly. Losing the war was shocking, but more devastating was that my faith in grown-ups was deeply shaken. They had said we would not lose.