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Memoirs of student who died in Pacific War to be designated as cultural property

Tokuro Nakamura, left, and his younger brother Katsuro can be seen in this photo taken during World War II, provided by the Wadatsumi Heiwa Bunko Hall.

TOKYO -- Some 47 documents including a diary and letters written by a former Tokyo Imperial University student, who died off the coast of the Philippines during World War II, are set to be designated as cultural property.

Tokuro Nakamura, who was born in 1918, was opposed to war but died in 1944 after being ordered to the frontlines in Leyte in the Philippines. The Koshu Municipal Board of Education in the central Japan prefecture of Yamanashi is carrying out the procedures as his younger brother, who passed away in 2012, had evacuated to Koshu during the war and remained there to live.

The documents are expected to be administered under ordinance by the municipal Council for Cultural Affairs in March and become Japan's first designated cultural property focused on the Pacific War, according to the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

After designation, the documents will be properly preserved and items that had previously not been released to the public will be disclosed. The designation of the documents is likely to contribute to research on the ideologies of students who died in the war and the historical background of the memoirs.

Parts of letters that Nakamura had written to his family and a diary that he kept for a long time were included in a posthumous anthology and a book issued by the Wadatsumi antiwar organization. Although the documents reveal the man's antiwar sentiments -- such as how he declined mandatory military training for students -- a large portion of the memoirs had remained unavailable to the public.

The last letter Tokuro Nakamura sent to his family in June 1944 can be seen in this photo taken at the city Hall in the Yamanashi Prefecture city of Koshu, on Feb. 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Suzuko Araki)

Nakamura expressed his true feelings that he was unconvinced about the need for war in the diary that he kept secret from his superior. The man secretly handed over this diary to his younger brother Katsuro during a meeting.

There are also notes and photos taken by Nakamura as an alpine club member at a high school under the old education system when he was known as one of Japan's most famous mountain climbers.

Katsuro started his own medical practice as a gynecologist after World War II in Koshu. In consideration of Nakamura's feelings of resentment, he played a leading role in the editorial work of the posthumous anthology published in 1949. Katsuro had kept the documents left by his older brother, which are currently preserved by the municipal government. Some items are on display at the Wadatsumi Heiwa Bunko Hall that opened in 2008.

Researchers have been studying about Nakamura as one of the students who died in the war. Hosei University professor emeritus Hiroyuki Okada said he "can come close to understanding Nakamura's feelings," if he can gain access to all the documents and not just the portions that were selected by editors.

"It is possible that history can be distorted if we lack actual documents," commented municipal education board chairman Kazuhito Hosaka. He added, "Records can be preserved accurately by being designated as cultural property." Hosaka also mentioned that he aims for Nakamura's memoirs to be designated by the prefectural government and the national government as cultural property.

"There is a concern that designating items in relation to war as cultural property will be seen as glorifying war. However such items are worth being strictly preserved under ordinances," stated Agency for Cultural Affairs Senior Cultural Properties Specialist Masayuki Takanashi. "The historic value of documents as records has increased due to the decreasing number of people who can talk about their wartime experiences."

(Japanese original by Suzuko Araki, Science & Environment News Department)

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