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Saotome Katsumoto interview, 10 August 2009, part 5

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People who had lost their homes were the first priority and they had special tickets. These special ration tickets were attached to the documents issued to prove their refugee status. They could use these to get served quicker at ration stations. Of course, there wasn't much rice, but they could get whatever was being issued in place of rice. People like us whose homes had remained standing had to wait even longer. So, while the air raids themselves were horrible, what I remember to be the most awful about those days was the ever-present feeling of hunger. I think the fact that I'm still this weak today is an aftereffect of that experience. It was impossible to get enough to eat during the most important years of physical development. People often ask: "What was the hardest part of living during the war?" I think they expect me to answer that it was the air raids, but the raids themselves only lasted for a given period of time. Of course it was terrifying, but the hunger was chronic--it just didn't stop. You'd eat the rice-replacement rations in the morning and immediately be wondering when the next meal would be. And after lunch, you'd likewise start wondering what you'd be able to eat for dinner. I just wanted to have a full stomach once before dying. --How long did that continue?-- Well, the war itself ended on August 15. But living conditions were this poor for long after that. Things really just got worse after August 15. It was like that for five years, although things gradually improved with time. The burned out wasteland and black market era continued for a long time. Japan was only able to overcome this period when the Korean War began. The country experienced a special procurement boom as the wartime industries rebounded. Of course Japan wasn't directly involved in the fighting, but the head of the allied armies was America. They couldn't carry everything over everything they needed for the war effort... The Pacific Ocean was in the way. So they began placing all their orders with Japanese companies. People looked at it as a big machine spitting forth money. It was a complete reversal. Everyone was starving. Everyone was starving, but we knew the B-29s were now taking off for the Korean Peninsula from Okinawa, not the Marianas. Okinawa, Fukuoka... They took off from all the US airbases. And it was very easy to imagine what was happening to the people on the ground over there... In fact, I'd say that one big reason I decided to record my air raid experience was this fact of the B-29s bombing Korea from Japan. The people over there... I had no direct relationship with them. But it was a terrible thing to think about everyday. And it was definitely a kind of starting point for my postwar life.

Video Details

Duration: 3 minutes and 58 seconds
Country: United States
Language: Japanese
Genre: None
Views: 252
Posted by: japanairraids on Sep 14, 2010

Saotome Katsumoto interview, 10 August 2009, part 5

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