Please view the main text area of the page by skipping the main menu.

Young man's diary recording feelings at end of World War II on display at Japan museum

This photo provided by the Museum of Ehime History and Culture shows Yoichi Hashizume's nine diaries, now historical documents.

IMABARI, Ehime -- A young man's diary, written from the late stages of the Pacific War to the postwar period, is now on display at a museum in Japan's Ehime Prefecture.

    The nine volumes of the late Yoichi Hashizume's diary were donated to the Museum of Ehime History and Culture in Seiyo, Ehime Prefecture, as historical documents by his surviving family in 2019 and 2020. Some of them are now on display as permanent historical exhibits.

    Hashizume was born in 1927 in the prefectural town of Nakayama (now part of Iyo), and passed away in 2014. As a boy, he studied at Matsuyama Junior High School (now Matsuyama Higashi High School) and then Matsuyama Higher School (now Ehime University). However, he was mobilized as factory labor during World War II, and experienced U.S. bombing. He was 18 when the war ended.

    Hashizume's discouragement, disappointment, anger, as well as resentment toward wartime leaders and newspapers are sharply recorded in his diary, providing a clear reflection of Japan at that time.

    Hashizume wrote in his diary almost without a break from 1943 to 1950, adding plentiful illustrations to his words. The diary was not intended for submission to the school, and contained detailed descriptions of students during and immediately after the war, the reality of labor mobilization, and his own thoughts and feelings.

    This photo provided by the Museum of Ehime History and Culture shows Hashizume's March 19, 1945, diary entry, in which he wrote about air raids in Niihama, Ehime Prefecture, during his mobilization as a student laborer.

    The museum introduced Hashizume's diary in the latest issue of its research bulletin. Makoto Hirai, a curator specializing in modern Japanese history called the diary "a description of a sensitive teenager that has great power to appeal to people of the same generation." He intends to share the diary during school visits and other occasions.

    One of the diary's covers reads, "mobilization throughout the year." In 1944, as the war situation grew steadily worse for Japan, mobilization of schoolchildren across Japan became year-round. Hashizume was sent to work for the then Sumitomo Machinery Industries in the prefectural city of Niihama, and lived in the company's dormitory.

    On March 19, 1945, the area was hit by an air attack, and in his diary, he wrote: "After eight enemy aircraft made a total of 16 strafing runs of two rounds each, they made a single turn over Niihama and left to the east, as if to confirm the results. At this time, the anti-aircraft guns fired 14 rounds. Not a single round hit a target."

    There is a 12-day gap in the diary from Aug. 15, 1945, the day the war ended. On Aug. 27 of that year, the 18-year-old Hashizume wrote, "I was so surprised, disappointed, discouraged, and extremely angry that I did not even want to write or open my diary, but from today onward, I will write again while uplifting my spirit."

    Among the entries from September to October 1945, there are some harsh criticisms of the newspapers, which continued to stir up Japan's fighting spirit until the dying days of the war, but did an about-face afterwards, focusing on helping to establish a democratic Japan.

    "I'm furious. Until Aug. 14, they had been writing things like 'America and Britain are evil,' and now they're saying, 'They're so cheerful.' The newspapers are one of the leaders. They must commit to their resolve. And yet, a month later, they are still full of excited passages like, 'And so they stood up bravely.' ... In short, today's newspapers are sycophants of the U.S. and the U.K." (Sept. 15, 1945)

    This photo provided by the Museum of Ehime History and Culture shows the smiling Hashizume depicted in his diary, which describes his junior high school graduation ceremony in March 1945.

    "I wonder if we have been tricked into dancing to our leaders' (not just the soldiers) tune until now." (Oct. 1, 1945)

    On Dec. 31, 1945, Hashizume closed the year of suffering, distress and a turning point in his life with the words: "Let's walk with dignity, swing my arms, vigorously and cheerfully, and keep my chin up."

    He then reportedly went on to Kyushu University, and worked as a doctor in southwest Japan's Kyushu region.

    (Japanese original by Nobuto Matsukura, Imabari Local Bureau)

    Also in The Mainichi

    The Mainichi on social media