Monday, August 3, 2009
war memories etegami
August means many things to the etegami artist in Japan, one of them being a time to reflect on war and peace, especially as it relates to the "Pacific War" (World War II). August 15 is known as shuusen-kinenbi (literally "memorial day for the end of the war"), and although another name meaning "the day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace," was officially adopted in 1982 by the Japanese government, it is still shuusen-kinenbi by which the day is commonly known. This year, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the opening of the National Showa Memorial Museum in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward, the public was invited to submit etegami depicting war and end-of-war memories. These submissions, along with letters, diaries, and other documents in the museum archives, are being displayed in the special exhibits room at the museum from July 25 to August 30.
I've scanned a few that were displayed in the August issue of Etegami magazine (mentioned in my previous post) to give you a preview of this exhibit. The etegami on the top right shows the touching reunion of a soldier with his wife and three children. In the middle is an etegami showing the cremated remains of another soldier who was not so lucky. The one on the left corner shows the evacuation of Japanese citizens from China. Many of the etegami are memories of running from burning buildings, of hunger, and of doing without. Yet, these memories often come with a joyful twist, such as the red book bag that one mother made from paper for her daughter's first day in school, and which the girl showed off to all her neighbors, though it soon fell apart. And a surprising number depict happy memories of kindnesses received from the American soldiers. One etegami that particularly caught my eye shows Japanese evacuees from China who have just stepped off the boat and await a shower of white "lice-killing powder" from the American plane above their heads.
If you are in a position to visit the museum during this exhibit, by all means do so!