By chance last year I read in the Japan Times about the World War II reconciliation work of Taeko Sasamoto and Yoshiko Tamura, founders of the POW Research Network Japan,
I contacted them, and they graciously asked if I’d like to see the sites where my grandfather died as a prisoner of war. Amor fati!
These courageous women grew up knowing only a sentence in their social studies textbook about World War II, they explained. They miraculously came together after 20 years of independent fascination with the Yokohama War Cemetery were they lived and had started asking questions about the war.
They founded the Network in 2002 and are as dedicated to history and peace as I am. It is an honor to know and joy to meet them. They took me and my husband, Steve, around when we happened to be visiting for a Peace through Kamishibai seminar I had enrolled in near Tokyo in November 2017.
Earlier this month I went to Tokyo again for the International Kamishibai Association of Japan (IKAJA) Kamishibai Seminar, and had a wonderful reconciliation meeting there too that IKAJA had arranged, in addition to being interviewed by NHK Japanese television and also the Mainichi newspaper.
Growing up, I always heard the story of my father’s time in the camp and growing up on Java. Years ago I recorded it. I was able to share my story of my grandfather and father.
My father, Albert E.L. Straub, was a child survivor of the Japanese concentration camp Ambarawa 7, which included being separated from his mother and two sisters at age 10 for two years to survive alone in a camp for old men and boys.
It traumatized him terribly, and the separation as a child, as Trump is doing now to child immigrants in the United States, likely contributed to his inability to recover but instead suffer debilitating migraine headaches, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder his whole life, dying of sepsis on the day I moved to Japan, June 24, 2017 at age 84.
I was always haunted by my grandfather’s story, his mystery and the war. Now I know that destiny led me to Japan and to tell this story – the horrible suffering and loss war brings – and to work for peace.
History illuminates everything, including the ghosts and traumas of of the past that haunt us as descendants until the truth and stories are told.
It’s called the retroactive healing of the ancestors: healing story. As we children inherited the same trauma our ancestors experienced, as studies show that the DNA of Holocaust and other war survivors’ children are actually changed. That’s why I am on this Mythic Yoga Journey of healing with story.
May all beings be at peace. May all beings be happy.
I am so grateful to all of my new friends at IKAJA, NHK and POW Research Network. We all plan to tour the sites again together. My goal is to continue to raise awareness of the tragedy of war and to teach youth, Never Again! Peace is the only option! Peace, for the children! A goal of mine is that I would like to see a memorial erected on the Shinagawa POW Hospital site. And to teach peace with Kamishibai!
I’m looking forward to doing more work everyone at IKAJA, NHK and the POW Research Network, including the foundation Dialogue Netherlands-Japan-Indonesia that Etsuko Nazaka, a translator of children’s literature and a member of IKAJA informed me of. Its mission is:
- To get through recognition, recognition and mutual respect to a reconciliation with the past and between all those who feel a commitment to the history of World War II (WW II) in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia; as well as the immediately subsequent struggle for independence from Indonesia
- to build a bridge of peace between the Netherlands, Japan and Indonesia
- perform all further actions, which are in the broadest sense of the foregoing or may be conducive.
I am so grateful to others who have made this possible. Especially my father whom I heard the stories of and who suffered so much. Also to my late sister, Jean E.R. Straub, who, like all of we children, war scars for generations and carried the burden of suffering from our parents. Also to my older brother, Albert William Straub, and older sister, Narada Johnson. Additionally I want to thank my mother, Ann Straub, whose passion for history and justice led me on and to never be silent on war.
Here is a photo essay of my experience in November 2017 – Mythic Yoga Journey to POW Sites in Tokyo
These stories were imprinted in my mind, heart and soul over and over and over again when I was a child.
I consider it my Mythic Yoga Journey to finally confront the ghosts of the past, to ironically live out my destiny working for peace by living in Japan and to know the truth! By telling stories and linking ourselves to conscious work with them, ancestral trauma can be healed and so can the ancestors and the world. And peace will prevail!
My grandfather, Albert Joseph Willem Straub, was born March 30, 1896 in Semarang, Java, Dutch East Indies. He was a father of three and a master mechanical engineer on tea and sugar plantations there.
My ancestors were some of the original colonialists with the Dutch East Indies Company, and I even have some S.E. Asian DNA in me, according to 23andme. So the story I heard growing up about a seafaring Captain Straub who married a princess on the island of Madura just may be true!
My ancestors were colonialists, another issue about the past I had to confront.
Growing up I knew nothing about him except that my grandfather died during World War II in a forced-labor Mitsubishi tin mine outside Tokyo.
Over the years, I began to know more and more bits and pieces about him from my father. That he liked lavender and loved children. That he was captured at the Battle of Solo River on Java in March, 1942.
That was all I knew. After incidentally seeing an article about the POW Research Network Japan’s work in the Japan Times newspaper, I contacted them and they sent me lots of information, including the archival photos and maps below. They translated his POW Card, here in the Netherlands archive.
I learned that he didn’t work in a tin mine, but, according to the Network, on four railway stations, Shiodome, Shibaura, Sumidagawa and Onagigawa, and a Mitsubishi warehouse.
After his capture, he was held in a Japanese POW camp on Java at Bandung. He was sent on a “Hell Ship” to Tokyo, arriving on October 29, 1942. He fell ill 17 days after his arrival, and died of beri-beri and intestinal cancer at the attached ward to Tokyo POW Camp, Shinagawa POW hospital on November 13, 1943.
Here is a report on the conditions at Shinagawa POW Hospital I was sent. GHQSCAP 1873 Medical Report on Shinagawa POW Hosital_2 Tokuda Hisakichi, commandant and senior medical officer at Shinagawa POW hospital in Tokyo, was responsible for many Allied deaths in the camp. He was convicted of war crimes of experimenting on prisoners by injecting them with soy milk.
The main camp was moved to Omori, Ohta-ku on July 20, 1943 and the facilities at Higashi-Shinagawa became the POW hospital. In his POW card, it’s written that he was transferred to No.1/No.8 Branch Camp of Tokyo POW Camp on May 22, 1943, but the Research Network is not sure he was there since he was in the hospital. The medical report above, however, tells that POWs were forced out of the hospital to work and to keep numbers low or stand at attention with 103 degree fevers, so he may have had to work there after all.
With Taeiko-san and Yoshiko-san, founders of the POW Research Network Japan, at Shinagawa Former POW Hospital.After Shinagawa, we took a subway to the next site where my grandfather was assigned, Camp Omori of the movie “Unbroken” fame. The former forced-labor POW camp, in which many Americans were interned, today is a playground of boat races, pachinko parlors and other forms of entertainment.
In 2015, Japan’s Mitsubishi apologized to American POWs, but as of yet has not to the Dutch. Eiko and Asako Matsui of IKAJA gave me a heart-felt apology when I was at the Kamishibai conference. I was deeply moved and we are now all considered “sisters,” as they lost their grandfather too during the war. He died in prison after being arrested for protesting the war.
The island’s owner erected a memorial to the POWS. After The POW Research Network Japan sent me the GHQSCAP Legal Section Investigation Division Report on Camp Omori. Here is the PDF. GHQSCAP Legal Section Investigation Division Report No.490_0001
Mutsuhiro Watanabe was never brought to justice. He went into hiding and reemerged in the 1950s. The U.S. didn’t persecute all war criminals because it wanted Japan to be a shining example of capitalism in Asia instead. Watanabe later became a rich man.
Education is Peace! Learn Reading by Reading History!
• A survey of 1,200 peopled aged 18 and 19 by public broadcaster NHK between June 21 to July 25 showed that among the 503 respondents, 14 percent said they did not know that Aug. 15 was the day Japan surrendered.
• Dragons fans heard chanting, “Let the Atomic Bomb drop!” at a Carps game.
WORK FOR PEACE!
EDUCATE A CHILD! TELL A STORY!
International Kamishibai Day is December 7!
Peace on Earth Good Will Toward All People!
Peace, for the children!