SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
YU Ning “Mr. Sasamoto and Japan-China Friendship”
When I was writing my dissertation, I had a phone call from Mr. Sasamoto of the Japan-China Friendship Society in Komoro City (Nagano Prefecture). I had not been in touch with him for a while as I got busy with the in the dissertation. On that day, he had some event of movies and gave me a call having recalled I am specialized in Chinese film history.
I met him when I was a University student. The Japan-China Friendship Society in Komoro have a close relationship with Nanjing University, my alma mater. They sponsored “Toson (Shimazaki Toson : a famous Japanese novelist) Literary Prize in China” at Nanjing University. They organized also homestay activities of Nanjing University students. I came to Japan first as a homestay student in Komoro City and Mr. Sasamoto was a father of my host family.
I spent a week with Mr. and Mrs. Sasamoto. But it influenced my life a lot. As I was accepted to be a member of Sasamoto family, I could have a precious cultural experience assimilating into Japanese daily life. I danced in Yukata (an informal cotton kimono) at festival of Komoro citizens. They brought me to a spa on the top of mountain and famous sightseeing spot “Kaikoen”. I helped “mother” (Mrs. Sasamoto) to harvest vegetables which she cultivated at her groves. I could experience rich nature and culture of Komoro and perceive charm point of Japanese culture. I cannot learn it from textbook.
During my stay in Komoro, I have enjoyed various fresh experiences. What, I felt most impressive was a passion of Mr. Sasamoto toward Japan-China friendship. On the first day of my arrival at Mr. Sasamoto’s house, he gave me a book about histories of normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China and talked passionately that we should get along friendly, and we should never have war. And he asked me (I was major in Japanese language at that time) to be a bridge between Japan and China. He devoted himself to project for the Friendship between Japan and China after retirement from winery. I did not ask his motive of the project, but I conjectured there are some connections in his motive that he has been in Shenyang (ex-Mukden) in his junior high school days and experienced the Sino-Japanese War. I was impressed with his eagerness to develop the relations between Japan and China through public exchange activities as a civilian.
We have been communicating after my returning to China and he was very pleased for my studying in Japan. When I was studying for entrance exam, he sent me apples from Komoro to encourage me. At the entrance ceremony, he kindly attended coming from Komoro purposely as my family. When he attended the Shenyang junior high school reunions in Tokyo, he met me. He invited me to Komoro also and the “Chinese Film Week” in Tokyo. So we met almost every year (except the period of CORONA pandemic). He was keeping his Japan-China Friendship Project. He visited China as a head of group which visits China or invited Chinese University students to Japan. Not only his friendship with me but his attitude working hard for the Japan-China Friendship also encouraged my life of studying abroad.
I saw a movie in 2015 “Yamamoto Jisho, boukyou no kane, Manmou kaitakudan no Rakujitu” (The Bells for Homesickness /The Sunset of Reclamation Group for Manchuria and Mongolia) This movie is for Japanese orphans who were left behind in China after the World War II. During the War time, reclamation group have been sent to the Northeast of China (Manchuria and Mongolia area) and was left behind after the War. After I saw this movie, I could deepen my understanding of Japan-China Friendship project which Mr. Sasamoto performed with all his heart and soul. Yamamoto Jishou, protagonist of this movie, came from Nagano Prefecture same with Mr. Sasamoto and sent to the Northeast of China as a head of reclamation group three months before the Defeat. I learned from this movie about the history of Nagano Prefecture which sent the largest number of reclamation people to China and could get another or different understanding about the meaning of home staying in Komoro and friendship with Mr. Sasamoto.
I was surprised at the number of the Japan-China Friendship Society in Japan which was shown as sponsors in the ending roll of the movie. I did not know there are so many societies in agricultural areas especially. Establishment of so many societies in Japan may have some connection with confronting the history of “Reclamation Group for Manchuria and Mongolia” during the War time as “a negative legacy”. Mr. Sasamoto’s personal experience (he went to Shenyang and was repatriated from Northeast China) may be different from the story of the movie. But I think his motive power which he offered himself to Japan-China Friendship projects and face to the history of the War time came from his experience.
It became difficult to meet Mr. Sasamoto after the COVID-19 and the pandemic caused to his difficulty of his exchange activities between Japan and China. This year is the 120th anniversary of founding of Nanjing University and scheduled to have an award ceremony for the “Prize for Toson Literary in China”. He told me about his concern whether he could go to China during that phone call. There were other difficulties. He is ninety-one years old, and he is active now. He apprehends there is few young fellows in Japan-China Friendship Society in Komoro.
It is true that the exchange became difficult due to the COVID-19 and the matter of his successor is important. However, various activities in various field for the exchange between Japan and China are executed continuously. For example, Atsumi International Foundation has contributed for better understanding among the East Asia through academic events like “Dialogue among historians in Japan, China and South Korea” or “China Forum”. Those events showed me a direction as a researcher and gave me a feeling that there is a possibility in my research. I like to accelerate mutual understanding among the people in Japan and China through my research in the exchange in movies in Japan and China so that I live up to expectations of Mr. Sasamoto.
YU Ning / 2020 Raccoon, Researcher at International Christian University (Gender Research Center)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala