Japan's "Other Voice" Dead
Wednesday, August 1, 2007 Posted: 10:41 PM JST
Japanese writer Makoto Oda, who has been called "the other voice of Japan", died Monday. He was 75. Oda was one of the cofounders of Beheiren (Citizens' League for Peace in Vietnam), an organization that actively demonstrated against the War in Vietnam. It helped 20 US soldiers who were conscientious objectors to flee to countries like Sweden. Oda, who lived in Nishinomiya, experienced the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and immediately started to assist survivors. Especially the elderly who didn't get the support they needed. He was also an active member of the Article 9 Association, set up to protect the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's constitution.
I met Makoto Oda for the first time in 1995. At his home he told me how his experience of WWII had created his world view. Oda was eight years old when eight days after Hiroshima and only 20 hours before the war ended, 800 US airplanes firebombed Oda's hometown Osaka, changing it into a living hell.
"After the fires." he told me, "I came out of the shelter. I found pamphlets that had been dropped from the airplanes. 'The war has ended,' they said. I was flabbergasted. If the war had ended, why did all those bombs need to fall? What did all those people die for?"
Together with Kenzaburo Oe, Oda became Japan's most famous peace activist. He was also a visionary. His 1981 book H: A Hiroshima Novel built a bridge between the experience-based Hiroshima literature of Japan and the futuristic nuclear war literature of Western writers.
Oda –especially in his later years– was not an easy man to get along with. He demanded a lot, both from himself and the people around him. But he gave more back to society than he ever asked from it.
His death is a great loss for Japan and humanity. I will miss him.
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