A Japanese graphic designer, born in 1947, has gone through the trauma of being forced to hide in a Japanese prison camp during World War 2, becoming one of the last survivors of the occupation, and living his life to the full.
“The Holocaust is a horrible crime, but in Japan, it’s considered something of a national sport,” he told me.
In the midst of this war-torn land, there are still people in Japan who have survived, and they’re still doing something.
“My grandfather was one of those people,” he said.
“He was a young man, in his mid-forties, who was sent to a concentration camp.
He survived, but I think he went through the experience with a very difficult attitude.”
That attitude is evident in the art of his work.
“In Japan, we are very proud of our military men,” he explained.
“If we see them as the greatest warriors in the world, it makes me proud to be a Japanese.
But when it comes to our soldiers, the Japanese people don’t think that way.”
A Japanese soldier in the Japanese Army, 1946.
The graphic designer and his father in the foreground, with their son in the background.
They’re all wearing the uniforms of the Japanese army.
The father, a retired Japanese army general, and the young man are dressed in the same uniform as the soldier.
A military uniform that was worn by the Japanese military during World Wars.
“I was really inspired by these soldiers, and I was interested in the experience,” he added.
His father’s family, too, was taken prisoner, and he had the opportunity to see the suffering of Japanese soldiers during the war.
“It’s very hard to live this kind of life, but it’s a very important experience, because you can see yourself through the eyes of others,” he recalled.
“As a graphic designer I see myself through the military.”
In Japan, you have to do a lot of things, he explained, like design, writing, and drawing.
“There are people who can’t do these things, so they don’t understand how it feels to be the other person,” he noted.
“So I try to create an atmosphere that’s supportive, that’s not threatening, and that’s the best way to understand it.”
One of the hardest things to do in the war-stricken nation, according to the graphic designer’s father, is to look after the people who are dying.
“This is something that my father tried to do for his whole life,” he continued.
We have to go out and help the people.” “
But it’s not just our duty, it is our responsibility.
We have to go out and help the people.”
When his father went to work at a hospital, he was often asked what he thought about the soldiers who were killed.
“People ask me that question all the time, and then I tell them I don’t know,” he laughed.
“And they say: ‘Well, what do you think about them?’
So I tell people: ‘They’re your people, and you have a duty to help them.'”
The graphic design work he did during World-War II has a special place in his heart.
“After the war I had a feeling that I had to do something,” he revealed.
“That was when I started to look at graphic design as a career.”
He worked at a graphic design agency until 1991, when he began work on a book, which he has been finishing up since 2012.
“During the war, I had this idea that I’d love to make a book that would give the Japanese their own history.
But I’ve always been fascinated by the story of the war and the people.
And when I was in my early 20s, I decided to create a book about the war.”
He hopes to present the story in a visual form, something that can be read on a big screen, and “can be easily understood.”
The book was originally intended to be published in 2017.
“When I started the project, I thought it would be hard to make money from it,” he admitted.
“Because of the trauma I went through in the camps, I didn’t think it would get published at all.
But it’s gotten a lot better, so I hope that it will become a hit.”