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Saotome Katsumoto interview, 10 August 2009, part 6

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During the spring of 1946, the year after the war ended, I began working in a small neighborhood factory. In today's terms, I'd just finished junior high school. In those days, junior high school only lasted two years. The elementary schools (which had been renamed Citizens' Schools during the war) lasted for six years. After that came the two years of what we'd now call junior high school. At the time, most students were finished with their education after junior high. They'd then start working. If you wanted to keep studying, you had to go to a night school. The number of students who went on to university after finishing with the basic education provided under the old school system was very low. In my class of sixty or so students, I'd say perhaps two or three did... ...of my classmates in the old junior high system. So a poor academic history like mine is hardly rare. I just worked everyday in the factory, sweating for my daily pay. It was really just a subsistence job. During my adolescence, I did feel sorry for myself. But at the same time, I couldn't help wondering about the cause of the war and why it couldn't have been avoided. My brother here in the photograph... There were nine years between us. He was a teacher and he was the one to give me books that addressed those questions I was having. My brother had been a tool of the militarists and had sent many of his students out to the front lines. He was also eventually drafted into the Imperial Navy. When he came back, he was like an empty shell. He spent his days wandering around the wasteland trying to find information about his former students. It was a terrible time for him. I don't think he could forgive himself for the way he had taught his students. However, he felt it was his responsibility to now teach us younger children about such topics, so he began to read up on the new constitution and the process leading up to the war itself. And he passed those books on to me. Most of them came from two series published by the Iwanami press. People lined up in the ruins to buy them. Everyone was starved for the written word. I became absorbed in them myself even though I didn't understand everything I was reading. I understood parts. And little by little the parts I understood became very interesting. I couldn't put them down and I eventually began to write myself. Then the Korean War began in 1950 when I was seventeen. It was at this time that I decided to write about my experiences. I had a book finished in 1952. It was about 300 pages. Just an honest account of my experiences.... At the time, there was a great shortage of paper, so getting it published was very difficult. Now there are many options for self-publishing or whatever, but at the time it really was difficult. But one person took an interest in my writing and another got it nominated for the Naoki Prize. They told me I could write and I believed them. After that I just wrote and wrote like mad. I did the most writing of my career during my twenties. But I continued working at the factory until I was twenty-five. I lost my job when I was twenty-five and I've been unemployed ever since.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 9 seconds
Country: United States
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 250
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 14, 2010

Saotome Katsumoto interview, 10 August 2009, part 6

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