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Memories of War

Japanese Chinese

It has been 77 years since the end of WWII, and as memories of the war fade, we often hear concern that the people of Japan will also forget the tragedies of the war. As the day commemorating the end of the war approaches, TV and other mass media feature special programs commemorating the occasion, but these programs seem to be gradually declining in number over the years.

I am currently serving as a member of a committee that studies the effect of broadcast programs on young people. Last year, we conducted a survey on approximately 30 junior and senior high school students throughout Japan who applied to participate in the survey as monitors, and it was an opportunity to hear their views. Many monitors stated that they were newly surprised and moved by the special features on war. It was very pleasing to learn that they had been so moved by the tragedy and meaninglessness of war, but the fact that they felt something "fresh and new" suggests that memories of the war are fading.

The war in Ukraine has made it clear that there are people in power who have learned absolutely nothing about the foolishness and tragedy of war that should have been the lesson learned by all of humanity. Even in Japan, so far away from Ukraine, the tragedies of war are featured in the top daily news. Scenes of private citizens getting brutally killed are blurred, but they are shown every day.

Many people, including myself, are concerned that viewing such scenes will cause PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) in children and have a negative effect on their health. In that case, perhaps such images should not be broadcast?

I recently had the opportunity to see a video clip of a Ukrainian mother that greatly changed my feelings. Anderson Cooper, the well-known journalist and commentator, had recently managed to enter Kiev, the relatively safe capital of Ukraine, and interviewed Olena Gnes, a young mother who had been informing the world about the situation there since the early days of the war via the internet. She had taken refuge in an underground shelter with her three children, including an infant, and spoke eloquently in English about her experience.

In the interview, which was full of tension and a sense of presence, she talked about how she had recently written a phone number on her daughter's body as well as on her own so that anyone discovering their bodies could contact the family. During the interview, the subject then took up the bloody massacre of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha. Noticing the children absorbed in play around their mother and referring to the oldest child who looked 7 or 8 years old, Cooper asked if she talks to them about what happened in Bucha.

The mother's answer was clear and certain, "Of course. I want my children to remember the tragic truth of what happened."

If peace is to be maintained, how do we pass on knowledge of the realities of this world, which we don't want to show and let children know about, to children who will be the protagonists of this uncertain future world?

This question continues to puzzle me more deeply.

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.