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Saotome Katsumoto interview, 10 August 2009, part 8

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Before our collection appeared, a different collection of air raid materials had actually been published. The volume, entitled "A Record of the Tokyo War Damages," was produced by the metropolitan government. Unfortunately, it contained a few errors. For example the police department actually had two different estimates regarding the number of fatalities on March 10. One figure claimed 88,793 deaths and the other 83,793 deaths. A difference of exactly 5000 people... The problem stemmed from the fact that the printed numbers "8" and "3" look very similar. When you actually look into the details it seems that "8" is a mistake. It seems that way, but this was meant to be an accurate historical record.... Such a simple mistake is unforgivable. Another major problem was that this collection didn't contain a single survivor account. They had completely ignored the common civilian's experience. You certainly couldn't say that they had tried to present the civilian perspective, could you? Quite to the contrary, they were presenting the Imperial General Headquarters' perspective. They had simply followed in the tradition of the Imperial General Headquarters' propaganda. For example, "There were only 130 bombers that night..." 300 bombers is now the established figure. Likewise 100,000 deaths is the generally accepted estimation. Regarding such details you could say that they just hadn't had access to the American records yet. But all the same, they showed an unfortunate disregard for the civilian experience. We, on the other hand, made a deliberate point of presenting the civilian side. That's why we emphasized the inclusion of survivor accounts. The entire first two volumes are nothing but such accounts. Volume One deals exclusively with March 10, and Volume Two covers all the other raids. We reached out to people through the mass media. "Please send us your stories..." --Across the country?-- Well, mostly in Tokyo. All the major newspapers have their Tokyo editions... And the mass media were eager to cooperate. We ended up getting a wonderful response. It was somewhat problematic, however, because most of the stories we received dealt with the March 10 raid. Accounts of the other raids were more rare. There was nothing else to do, so we went directly to the areas hit in raids other than March 10. We stood in the streets and approached people directly... We passed out fliers with an appeal for contributions. "Please send us your air raid stories." We did that many times. There were seven or eight staff members. It was an editing staff... We really wanted to focus on actually editing the volumes, but we had no choice. There were no "members" of the association. It basically consisted of those directly working on the collection including the author ARIMA Yorichika. The mass media took interest in that as well. Wrote articles with photographs.... And that led to people sending in more accounts. We received a very large number. Eventually, I think we had roughly the same number dealing with March 10 and the other raids. There were about a thousand and we used every one of them in the collection. We didn't judge them based on quality of writing. Nor did we alter them substantially. If the letters were too long, we'd sometimes cut them down. And if there were obvious mistakes, we'd fix those. But in the end, our guiding principle was to stay true to the original form and use everything we got. It really is a lot of material. --But you were able to finish quite quickly, weren't you?-- Very quickly. We finished all five volumes in four years. The letters arrived within a year or so. Probably no one has actually read them all! It's not a small collection. There is an index in the back so it's quite simple to look events up place by place. You just have to find the page numbers in the index. As a five volume set, the collection went on to receive the Kikuchi Kan Prize and others. I was able to be the first to start approaching people with the idea. I really felt like I'd finished half my life's work with this one project. And I was still in my thirties.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 18 seconds
Country: United States
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 269
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 14, 2010

Saotome Katsumoto interview, 10 August 2009, part 8

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