This is an air raid shelter that survived WWII in the Gyokurinji Buddhist Zen Temple at Taito Ward, Tokyo. It is well kept and miraculously intact because it is made of gravestones and was a little off-center from ground zero (Koto Ward, Sumida Ward) of the Tokyo Air Raid. It's located at the private graveyard of the temple, not open to the public right now. The shelter had been buried in the ground since the war ended, but Toshio Kosaka (66), a grave keeper at the temple, dug it up 19 years ago and has been maintaining it with a sense of pride since then. In a way, he is one of war history's memory keepers.
It is distressing to imagine that evacuees who wanted to escape from the fear of death were simultaneously surrounded and protected by the dead. But there was no other way, it was a matter of life and death. I wonder what people felt and whispered to each other in the cold, damp darkness during the raids. (Taito Ward, Tokyo. 2015.08.17)
The bank of Sumida River, on which many sought refuge from the March 10 Tokyo Air Raid firebombing. But the fire spread to the middle of the river and many were drowned, their bodies filling the river like floating firewood. It took many months to clear the river because the corpses had drifted downstream with the ebbing tide and then floated back up when the tide came in. Early last summer I met an elderly woman who had experienced and survived the Tokyo Air Raid on that river bank. She said that she always prayed to the dead whenever she crossed the river, even today. (Sumida Ward, Tokyo. 2014.02.15)
"Human memory is encoded in air currents and river sediment. Eskers of ash wait to be scooped up, lives reconstituted." - from "Fugitive Pieces" by Anne Michaels
A burnt stone foundation of the Kototoi Bridge. On March 10, 1945, masses of civilians ran onto the Kototoi Bridge over the Sumida River from both shores in a panic to escape from the intense firebombing by B29s and heat wave. An estimated 7,000 people perished while stranded there and only about 40 people survived on the bridge. The bridge, soaked with ashes and body fluid, was so stained and blackened that this is still visible at its foundation today. (Sumida Ward, Tokyo. 2014.02.24)
『『“戦争犯罪”なんてものはない』彼は言った。『戦争自体が罪なんだ』』 − ブルース・チャトウィン著 北田絵里子訳 『ソングライン』から
In the late evening of March 10th, 1945, Mitsuru Kawai (82) went through bombardment by B-29s in the firebombing raids on Tokyo. He was 12 years old and lived in Sumida Ward, Tokyo. He was evacuated to nearby Chitose Bridge with his parents, sisters and brothers amid the intense heat wave. His father didn't stay there because he decided to search for his friends. He never returned, and has been missing ever since. On that bridge alone, there were about 40-50 people seeking refuge. When Mitsuru woke up in the morning, most of them were burnt to death except for a few, including his remaining family. This is the current Chitose Bridge on Tatekawa River where Mitsuru Kawai and his remaining family found refuge and survived from the Tokyo Air Raid. The width of the river hasn't been changed, but Metropolitan Expressway was constructed above the bridge after the war. In the Great Tokyo Air Raid alone, there were about 100,000 civilians killed, with about 20,000 still unidentified. (Sumida Ward, Tokyo. 2015 5.16)
" 'There is no such thing as a war crime,' he said. 'War is the crime.' " - from "The Songlines" by Bruce Chatwin
『労働が要請され、顔のない新たな現実が創造されるなかで、過去をふり返ることは当初から禁じられていた。再建は国民をそろって未来に向かせ、かってわが身に出来したできごとに沈黙を強いたのである。』 −W・G・ゼーバルト著 鈴木仁子訳『空襲と文学』から
Brick Wall of Yanaka primary school (Volksschule), burnt by the air raid on March 4,1945. On that day of the raid, estimated about 500 civilians perished in the area of Yanaka and Sendagi. (Taito Ward, Tokyo. 2014. 6.14)
"It (prohibiting any backward view) did so through the sheer amount of labour required and the creation of a new, faceless reality, pointing the population exclusively towards the future and enjoining on it silence about the past." - from "On the Natural History of Destruction, Air War and Literature" by W.G. Sebald (trans. from the German by Anthea Bell)
The day of the Tokyo Air Raid, March 10, 1945, Yoshinari Okazaki (82) was a patriotic 12-year-old boy in the 6th grade of primary school (Volksschule), waiting for graduation in Asakusa, Tokyo. He, his elder brother, sister, and his parents were evacuated to a nearby primary school auditorium, but the auditorium caught on fire, and the evacuees started asphyxiating and burning. So his father made a quick decision to have his family jump into the school swimming pool to escape from the oven-like auditorium. His family possessions were nothing but an ancestral Buddhist tablet, a family album, and a small Japanese dictionary belonging to his sister, a precious item during wartime, all bundled up and wrapped in cloth by his sister. The bundle soaked in the swimming pool with them. They huddled together with a futon above their heads in the swimming pool for about an hour and a half.
Luckily all his family survived, but he lost his home, half of his classmates and some of his neighbors. His family spent two nights at the school surrounded by charred dead bodies. Later he found that people evacuated to the school air shelter had suffocated to death and those who had escaped to a swimming pool in another school nearby were mostly dead. It was a close call.
Okazaki became a junior high school Japanese teacher after the war, but he never talked about his wartime experiences to his students. He started talking about his war experiences to the public about six years ago, after his retirement. In 1996, he organized a graduation ceremony for the class of ‘45. About 50 alumni showed up and finally received their diplomas. He keeps the fragmented dictionary as a personal memento, so as not to forget his war experiences. At the end of my interview with him in his home at Asakusa, Tokyo, I casually asked him about the famous summer fireworks along the Sumida river. He said with a sigh, “You see, even today, I can’t stand fireworks because they remind me of the firebombing and the war. So I never go to see them.“ I realized that I know nothing about real war. (Taito Ward, Tokyo. 2014.11.06)
"In many cases a true war story cannot be believed. If you believe it, be skeptical. It's a question of credibility. Often the crazy stuff is true and the normal stuff isn't, because the normal stuff is necessary to make you believe the true incredible craziness. In other cases you can't even tell a true war story. Sometimes it's just beyond telling." - from " How to Tell a True War Story" by Tim O'Brien