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96-yr-old former Japanese Imperial Navy sailor continues to convey horrors of war

Kuniyoshi Takimoto tells students and other lecture attendees about his experiences during the war at the Shinmachi Campus of Doshisha University in Kyoto's Kamigyo Ward, on May 17, 2018. (Mainichi)

KYOTO -- "Wars are started by the old, but the ones who die are young people. The government won't protect the youth. I want you all to understand that well," said 96-year-old former Imperial Japanese Navy sailor Kuniyoshi Takimoto during a lecture at the Shinmachi Campus of Doshisha University here.

This was the second year in a row that the Osaka resident and ex-sailor, who took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway during the Pacific War, spoke at the Doshisha Faculty of Social Studies' annual public lecture event. Some 130 students and members of the public came to hear Takimoto's presentation.

"My health isn't that great, so I probably won't be attending next year," Takimoto said, but he emphasized, "It's my duty as a survivor to talk about the war just as it was," as he managed to stand for the roughly 80 minutes of his lecture.

Takimoto enlisted in the navy at 17. He was a mechanic during the 1942 Battle of Midway, and when his aircraft carrier Hiryu was attacked, it burst into flames and Takimoto was among the injured. On the Hiryu alone, 1,000 personnel lost their lives.

"Even on the ship that rescued the survivors, five to 10 people died each day from burns. It smelled like rotten meat that had been burnt," recalled Takimoto. After he returned to Japan, he saw a report by the Imperial General Headquarters in a newspaper playing down the damage that was inflicted to Japanese Imperial forces during the battle. Upon seeing the report, Takimoto said he lamented, "It is a huge lie. They are deceiving the Japanese people."

After that, while Takimoto was serving as a soldier on the Pacific island of Chuuk, the troops' food supply was cut off, and they managed by eating grass boiled in seawater. The 170-centimeter tall Takimoto's weight dropped to only 40 kilograms.

"While the officers ate rice, we underlings ate the leaves and roots of trees. I want you to know that in the eyes of the Imperial Japanese Army, the lower ranking soldiers were not even considered to be human," Takimoto emphasized. "The government, bureaucrats and politicians all lie. I want you to think carefully so you are not deceived."

(Japanese original by Yoko Kunimoto, Kyoto Bureau)

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