Preview by Thomas D. Hamm
[Thomas D. Hamm is archivist and professor of History at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and a member of First Friends Meeting in New Castle, Indiana.]
"A Passage Through SEVEN LIVES" is an attractive book in every respect that is difficult to summarize. It is part autobiography, part history, part work of art, and part Quaker reflection on a nation passing through profound and wrenching cultural, political, and social changes.
The author was born Kamimura Manju into a working-class family in Tokyo in 1929. As a child, he moved to Yokohama. By the time he was 15, it was the summer of 1944, and the war in the Pacific that Japan had precipitated was going badly. Schools closed, and Manju went to work in a factory. Largely out of boredom, he volunteered for the armed forces, and within three months he was in officer training, destined for kamikaze duty. Thankfully the war ended before he could carry out such an assignment.
Most of the book is a factual, rather dispassionate recounting of World War II in the Pacific, but the author also gives considerable attention to the experience of Japanese-Americans during the war and afterwards. Quakers appear with some regularity, always in admirable roles as peacemakers and relied givers. Takahashi is candid about the brutality of Japanese militarists, and presents with admirable balance the choices that American leaders faced when they decided to use atomic weapons.
Complementing the readable prose are dozens of attractive drawings by the author. Friends seeking to understand the Asian side of World War II would find this a good place to start.
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