Mythic Yoga Journey to POW Sites in Tokyo

POW Research Network Japan

POW Research Network Japan. Taeko Sasamoto, left and Yoshiko Tamura.

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. 

OpaandPaloma

My father, Albert E.L. Straub, and daughter in February 2017 a few months before he died. Before I went into the Osaka Peace Memorial in 2016, I clled my father. He said, “Tell the people of Japan that I love them.” Healing trauma and telling the stories of war that must be told restores joy and goodness in ourselves and in the world. We must teach youth the history of war so that it is never repeated again. Peace, for the Children!

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.

Albert W.J. Straub

Albert Joseph Willem Straub

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.

My colonial Dutch East Indies ancestors, far right, with fan.

My maternal colonial Dutch East Indies great-grandparent, far right, with fan. Tegal, Java, 1898. Joris Haringjuizen and Josephine Gout.

 

Straub Family Java, Dutch East Indies 1933. My grandfather, grandmother, aunt and father as a baby.

Straub Family Java, Dutch East Indies 1933. My grandfather, grandmother, aunt and father as a baby.

My gradnfather, Albert W.J. Straub.

This picture of my grandfather, drawn in 1940, hung above my father’s bed for most of my life I spent in Boulder, Colorado.

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.

Shinagawa Station Tokyo

At Shinagawa Train Station, Tokyo

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.

Map of Shinagawa Hospital island. This map shows the bridge from where we viewed the island and POW site.

Map of Shinagawa Hospital island. This map shows the bridge from where we viewed the island and POW site.

ShinagawaPOW

In front of a map of Tennōzu Isle, with a picture of my Dutch grandfather that my father always kept in his house. I took this picture with me after my father died at age 84 on June 24, 2017 in Boulder, Colorado, the day I moved to Japan.

ShinagawaPOWHospitalBarracks

Shinagawa POW hospital barracks shortly after WWII, via POW Research Network Japan. Condominiums now stand on this site and are in the subsequent photos in this post.

ShinagawaPOWWWIIHospital

Map of Shinagawa Hospital ward during WWII. Part I. Getting so close to my grandfather I never knew and by visiting the place he died and hearing his story is incredibly healing.

ShinagawaPOWHospitalWWII

Map of Shinagawa Hospital ward during WWII. Part II. I wondered what my grandfather experienced, what he thought about – his family he was separated from. Would he ever know that a grand-daughter would visit this site one day where he walked or was ill? I read how cold the winters were in official documents, the horrible conditions, no medicine. I think of the horrible conditions of that the people of Japan endured during the war. Why we work for peace! Never again!

Site of reclaimed island Shinagawa Hospital shortly after the war. It is now called Tennōzu Isle with restaurants, shops, galleries and condominiums on it.

Site of reclaimed island Shinagawa Hospital shortly after the war. It is now called Tennōzu Isle with restaurants, shops, galleries and condominiums on it.

The record of my Grandfather's internment and death of beri-beri and intestinal cancer at Shinagawa during WWII.

The record of my Grandfather’s internment and death of beri-beri and intestinal cancer at Shinagawa during WWII. The age of death is incorrect. He was born in 1896, so his actual age of death was 47.

Detailed map of Shinagawa hospital on the reclaimed island created with POW forced labor as the main site before summer, 1943, when it was moved to Camp Omori and as casualties mounted, Shinagawa became the main POW hospital It includes the bridge from where we stood to get a view of the site.

Detailed map of Shinagawa hospital on the reclaimed island created with POW forced labor as the main site before summer, 1943, when it was moved to Camp Omori and as casualties mounted, Shinagawa became the main POW hospital It includes the bridge from where we stood to get a view of the site.

OpaStraubShinagawa

Picture of my grandfather and I on the bridge overlooking the former site of the POW Shinagawa hospital where he spent a year and died on November 17, 1943.

OpaStraubPOWShinagawaHospital

On the river and bridge on the original map next to condominiums built upon the exact site of the former Shinagawa POW hospital during WWII where my grandfather died.

With Taeko-San and Yoshiko-San on the bridge at Tennozu Isle, with the former Shinagawa Hospital site where my grandfather died a POW was and is now condominiums. A playground is being built there too. Yet there is no historical marker like at Camp Omori about the history that occurred there. In the United States Japanese Internment camps are being closed off to the public. WHY? We cannot be denied history. The truth must be told! War is hell! Especially for children! The Japanese people, The American People The world's people want peace!

With Taeko-San and Yoshiko-San on the bridge at Tennozu Isle, with the former Shinagawa Hospital site where my grandfather died a POW was and is now condominiums. A playground is being built there too. Yet there is no historical marker like at Camp Omori about the history that occurred there. In the United States Japanese Internment camps are being closed off to the public. WHY? We cannot be denied history. The truth must be told! War is hell! Especially for children! The Japanese people, The American People The world’s people want peace!

We tried to get a better view of the POW hospital area where my grandfather spent the last year of his life, but it was locked by a gate. Never again!

We tried to get a better view of the POW hospital area where my grandfather spent the last year of his life, but it was locked by a gate. Never again! No More war!

Tennōzu Isle Subway station, the reclaimed island where Shinagawa POW camp was located. "The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word, “unspeakable.” Atrocities, however refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the power to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are the prerequisites both for the restoration of social order and for the healing of individual victims." from Trauma and Recovery - The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Violence to Political Terror by Judith Herman, M.D.

Tennōzu Isle Subway station, the reclaimed island where Shinagawa POW camp was located. “The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word, “unspeakable.” Atrocities, however refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the power to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are the prerequisites both for the restoration of social order and for the healing of individual victims.” from Trauma and Recovery – The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Violence to Political Terror by Judith Herman, M.D.

My father's dog tag when he was interned starting at age 9 until he was 14 in Japanese and Indonesian concentration camps on Java, Dutch East indies (Now Indonesia) during World War II. One of the mysteries that the Network solved for me was why the Japanese removed my father at age 10 from his mother and sisters to another camp. It really psychologically scared him for life. They said because it was the age to work. I asked also about a roster of camp detainees, because my father up to the day he died wondered what happened to a friend of his who disappeared. That will be for the next trip. War is hell, especially on children. Why we must all work for peace! Peace, for the children! Japanese and Americans all agree! Only the monied class and politicians want war!

My father’s dog tag when he was interned starting at age 9 until he was 14 in Japanese and Indonesian concentration camps on Java, Dutch East indies (Now Indonesia) during World War II. One of the mysteries that the Network solved for me was why the Japanese removed my father at age 10 from his mother and sisters to another camp. It really psychologically scared him for life. They said because it was the age to work. I asked also about a roster of camp detainees, because my father up to the day he died wondered what happened to a friend of his who disappeared. That will be for the next trip. War is hell, especially on children. Why we must all work for peace! Peace, for the children! Japanese and Americans all agree! Only the monied class and politicians want war!

Shinagawa_AntiAirCraft_Playground

At Shinagawa. A playground is being built where the former anti-aircraft was positioned. Hope for the future! Peace is possible! If you want it!!! OM SHANTI

Getting a view of the former WWII POW Hospital at Shinagawa from the bridge. With my super hubby and support in this emotional time,

Getting a view of the former WWII POW Hospital at Shinagawa from the bridge. With my super hubby and support in this emotional time,

Shinagawa_POW_Hospital_WWII_Former_Site

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.

Camp_Omori_WWII

The reclaimed island location of Camp Omori. If you’ve ever seen the movie, “Unbroken,” this is the place. My grandfather was assigned this camp, but not sure if he was there, as records show he was in the hospital. Records, however, report that patients, some with 103 degree fevers, were forced out to work to keep hospital numbers low. So who knows what really happened.

The POW camp of Camp Omori of "Unbroken" fame, shortly after WW II. I have issues with the movie, but I'd say, based on my father's oral accounts of his experiences on Java, a lot was true. It is now Heiwa-jima, Peace Island.

The POW camp of Camp Omori of “Unbroken” fame, shortly after WW II. I have issues with the movie, but I’d say, based on my father’s oral accounts of his experiences on Java, a lot was true. It is now Heiwa-jima, Peace Island.

Goddess_Kannon_Peace_Memorial_Camp_Omori

At Heiwa-jima, which means “Peace Island.” At the Peace memorial with Kannon Bodhisattva statue marking the former site of forced labor Camp Omori with POW Research Network Japan founders Taeko Sasamoto and Yoshiko Tamura. The island is now a high-end boat racing, pachinko, entertainment space. If not for this memorial by the island’s owner, no patron would know of the suffering because of war that happened here. And it’s not just the Japanese who started the war. Terrible suffering they inflicted for sure, but the U.S. and other countries also have their responsibility for what led up to the war. Japan was at peace for 250 years until U.S. Commodore Perry showed up with his “gunboat diplomacy” stating modernize or get colonized. History teaches so much! Read up on it!

Peace_Memorial_Camp_Omori_POWResearchNetworkJapan

At Camp Omori memorial site on Peace Island, Shinagawa, Japan. Taeko-San reads the message about the memorial here reads about the people of Japan’s wish for peace. The Japanese, the people of the United States of America, the whole world, they want peace too!!!!

Barracks_Former_Camp_Omori_Japan_WWII

The former site and barrack area of POW forced labor Camp Omori. Taeko- San told me a story that one of the POWs their organization took around told her when viewing from this spot, that once a geisha walked by across the river and waved in kindness to the men in the camp. What do you know about the history of your home or city? There may be boat races, pachinko parlors, fun and amusement there now, but what about the past? We must remember history so that we don’t repeat it! Wherever you are in the world and are reading this, what story can you tell?!?!?! We need your war stories so that youth and the world will never forget!

Goddess_Kannon_Camp_Omori_Japan_POW

The Goddess Kannon. She is mercy and hears the cries of suffering in the world. At Heiwa-jima, Peace Island, Japan. Former Camp Omoro Forced Labor site during WW II. Erected by the owner of the island as a memorial.

Hope for the future. At Heiwa-jima, the former site of POW forced labor camp Omori that my father may have labored at if he wasn't dying at Shinagawa hospital. Education is peace. By educating and caring for youth, peace is ensured. By denying history, be it Japan, the United States or any other country, humanity is not served. I believe that the United States, embroiled in endless war and provoking N. Korea into war, will one day have to answer to its atrocities at Guantanamo Bay and for what the United Nations is calling war crimes against humanity for its support of Saudi Arabia's strikes on civilians in Yemen. The ancestors will not rest until it happens!

Hope for the future. At Heiwa-jima, the former site of POW forced labor camp Omori that my father may have labored at if he wasn’t dying at Shinagawa hospital. Education is peace. By educating and caring for youth, peace is ensured. By denying history, be it Japan, the United States or any other country, humanity is not served. I believe that the United States, embroiled in endless war and provoking N. Korea into war, will one day have to answer to its atrocities at Guantanamo Bay and for what the United Nations is calling war crimes against humanity for its support of Saudi Arabia’s strikes on civilians in Yemen. The ancestors will not rest until it happens!

Education is Peace! Learn Reading by Reading History!

Japanese kids, like US kids, don’t know much war history, so end up vandalizing their own war memories. Teens arrested for vandalism of Okinawa mass suicide site say they didn’t know 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.

• The 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report found that only 18 percent of 8th graders were proficient or above in U.S. History and only 23 percent in Civics. 

• Dragons fans heard chanting, “Let the Atomic Bomb drop!” at a Carps game.

• TV Asahi cancels performance of K-pop group BTS over A-bomb shirt.

OM SHANTI!

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!

 

World Peace Kamishibai

 

 

 

 

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