I spent about three weeks in Myanmar (Burma) interviewing many elderly people about Japanese during World War II. Some of the interviews were long, and others were short like this 14-minute interview. (Some was not on this video.) The interviews unfolded in many towns and villages, hundreds of miles apart.
I was taught as a child that Japanese were uniformly savage across Asia, and all of Asia hates Japan. Now having spent years in twenty Asian countries, I know this to be untrue.
Only 3-4 countries do not like Japan: China, the Koreas, and Japan. Everyone else seems to respect Japan and like Japanese people. Reality often differs from popular narratives.
During this comfort women research, I have visited a number of countries, including Philippines, Thailand, and Myanmar. Funding has dried up making research screech to a halt, so I have not been writing as much lately. But I did find some very interesting information before the funding spigot was turned off.
For instance, in Philippines, Thailand, and Myanmar, I have heard people say the exact thing repeatedly: That Japanese treated them like brothers and sisters. There were some atrocities and I have come across some, but there is another side. Many people were endeared to Japanese. My lessons from childhood are not holding up to the acid test of research.
In nearly all the interviews, the interviewee did not know we were coming. We travelled to sites of known battles or occupations, and basically asked, “Where are the old people.” All were willing talk.
And so this 87 year-old woman at Sittang village was at the temple in the village. She is easy to find if someone wishes to audit or follow up.
Japanese Soldiers returned after the war for many years to visit the village. Hardly the behavior of someone who committed war crimes.
And this lady is specific in the video that Japanese were good to them. A man in the village showed me the scar on his arm where Japanese inoculated him for small pox.
This lady says she was born in the Burmese Calendar year 1290, which on the Gregorian calendar is 1928. This is 2015, and she says she is 87, indicating she was born in about 1927 or 28. In the video 1927 is mentioned.
Japanese left this area 1945, so she was about 17, not 20 or 21 as she recounts. So her recollection of her age at the time seems off.
As the British pulled in to fight, she mentions on the video Japanese told the villagers to leave. This is consistent with other reports in other places. Japanese did not commit wholesale murder of the villagers, but told them to save themselves.
My apology for the low quality video. For the first couple of minutes my translator held the camera, and then I stabilized it but the framing is bad. This video is more for my notes than broadcast. (If for broadcast I would have used better gear and more care.)
As for the translation, before I would use such video in any book or major article, I would have it translated by a certified translator, but with our budget this likely will not happen.
After so many interviews like this in three countries, it looks more and more that I was taught a great deal of false history as a child in America.
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