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Japanese war witnesses speak

By Han Junhong in Changchun | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-15 09:15

A group of Japanese veterans, their relatives and a former Japanese politician began a weeklong visit to Changchun, Jilin province, on Tuesday to promote peace by sharing oral histories of their nation's invasion of China.

"They are all witnesses of the invasion and war. The average age of the six people is 83. The oldest is 93; the youngest is over 70," said Li Suzhen, vice-president of the Sino-Japanese Oral History Association, which organized the tour.

The visit takes place in the week before the anniversary of the Mukden Incident (Sept 18, 1931), drawing attention to the event that sparked Japan's invasion of China. The objective is "to preserve peace and prevent war from happening again", Li said.

Yamabe Yukiko, born in 1929, is a Japanese citizen who has long been engaged in fostering friendly relationships in China.

The 89-year-old Yukiko, who now uses a wheelchair, came to China with her father during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) when she was a teenager. In 1946, she volunteered for service in the People's Liberation Army and returned to Japan seven years later.

Yukiko has been to China more than 60 times to do research on Unit 731, Japan's notorious biological warfare project in China during World War II.

"I am a witness to Japan's invasion of China," she said. "Their crime can never be forgiven. The Japanese government always ignores our voice no matter what we say. I want to work with Chinese victims to reveal the truth, and I hope Japan can truly regret its war crimes."

Hongou Eiyo, 93, is leading the group of visitors. He served in a Japanese military hospital when he was 19 and became a surgeon in the Chinese Army after Japan lost the war.

"I was shocked about Japan's crimes against China. This time I want to tell what I saw in China, and express my regret. I really hope relations between Japan and China can develop into friendly ties," he said.

Li Suzhen said the oral history group includes 13 elderly Japanese men, but seven of them were too old and weak to make the trip.

"They will share their experience through videos," she said.

Li has devoted herself to interviewing Japanese veterans and recording their oral histories.

"I want to pass on the war memories, and let younger generations have more access to the history," said Li, adding that it's urgent to record interviews with Japanese veterans because they are old and their firsthand accounts, if not captured, will be lost in a few years' time.

During the weeklong activity, the speaking group will have a conversation with Chinese university students and participate in the commemoration of the Mukden Incident, when Japanese soldiers faked an attack on a railway in northeastern China using dynamite. Japan subsequently used the incident to justify a full invasion.

Zhang Yi contributed to this story.

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