Many Thanks, Mr. Nishino

With Old Notes of his Young Days’ Struggle

日本浪漫学会会長 濱野成秋
By Seishu Hamano, Japan Romanticism Academia


This essay is written not only to introduce how much Mr. Nishino, teacher of Tomioka Middle School, had an astounding stressful everyday when he was at teachers’ college but also to show the process how much our country Japan struggled to achieve today’s affluent society. Mr. Nishino’s humane heart is a representative one we support now in this peace-loving nation.

1. 終戦直後のタケノコ生活と戦後の小学校





1. Peeling-off Life and Postwar Elementary School

August 15, 1945. When Japan accepted instrument of surrender of the Pacific War, we were only five years old. Until that day, because of US air raids, almost every night Japan’s big cities burned to aches, which was beyond any of Europeans’ imagination. Even after the war, all the buildings and houses, hospitals, city offices, schools fell down and no water and sewage system could give us any service and people strayed looking for food and water. Official food service system was also collapsed except for black markets. Infants and children were all very hungry and we were suffered from nutritious imbalance.
Both of my legs, often suffered from sluggish feeling since birth, could not endure everyday listless pain, and therefore what I did was only sobbing alone seated all day on the hard wooden chair of the classroom.
Even coal stoves were not available. Only UNICEF milk and US Army canned peanut and peasants’ potato rescued us from nutrition disorder death.
Inflation was terrible. An egg was 30 yen when monthly income was 2000 yen. Fresh fish were rotten without ice, but we bought it and it gave us stomachache causing typhoid fever. Kimono and antique were sold or traded with food, Takenoko seikatsu (タケノコ生活), a popular masochistic name means a lifestyle seen in those days selling any item away like peeling every flake off one by one just like bamboo shoot.
In the elementary schools everywhere lunch boxes were stolen so often. Hungry boys and girls stole friend’s lunch box and ate them in the toilet and hundreds empty boxes were thrown into the dirty manure, and the peasant coming to dispose found lots of aluminum lunch boxes. Though before the Pacific War, school girls peeled off the toast edge away, but even here in Japan where public morals are very, very neat and strict, in the wartime, poverty and scarcity made innocent boys and girls terribly subverted, which is not a good memory but we have to talk about to let you know the old days’ real story.

2. 開港前の日本は神秘の国だった








2. Japan was a Mysterious Nation

An ironical proverb says,“The fool learn from experience, the wise from history.” The Japanese, after the war, learned from both.
Eighty years ago while in the totally off-limit-time, Japan seemed to be a very mysterious country for the westerners. Some rascals schemed to invade this country for grabbing land as a colony, but such a wicked trial has never realized before, for samurai’s power together with many peasants’ support defended their land and property. Other visitors such as priests and traders found their life very poor but modest and neatly regulated. Samurai has two swards very heavy and unnecessary even in the peaceful days. Ordinary townspeople work everyday very diligent never taking off-duty days except mid-summer bon holidays and New Years.
Elementary school system or “terakoya” prevailed all over the nation, and the literacy percentage was more than 90. It was a miracle. Swords they produce are so sharp that once fighting bodies will be chopped down with this sharp blade. This shows the Japanese have advanced education, moral, manners and customs, and excellent technological sense, effective enough to fear invaders, but what would make our country strong? How should we make effort to catch up with Europeans?
It was, however, a matter for regret that during two and a half century national isolationism, Japan was actually left underdeveloped far behind the industrialized European countries and America.
It was in 1868 when Japan opened its ports to find two-thirds of all countries in the world had already colonized by the European powers and USA, and the Meiji Government was convinced that without military power stronger than those from Europe, we could not keep our nation safe and sound.
This decision was, in a sense, right, because all the near-by countries were already invaded by European colonialism, but, in other sense, such prospects were very dangerous, because military power necessarily induce wars.
You may wonder why I talk about such national history before talking on our beloved Nishino-sensei’s life. Without this explanation you will not understand well why he and his friends endured severe days during the war.





3.No natural resource in Japan

Japan consists of four major islands with lots of small islands. Unlike England where there are so many plains and hills suitable to farming and cattle breeding, Japan’s land, islands by volcano, is mostly filled with high mountains. Flat farms near the river are often damaged with flood when heavy rainfall, and small roads thread up and down through mountains, and the railroad construction is very difficult. It is therefore almost impossible to get material of pig iron for smelting to produce excellent iron. If we import all the products from abroad, we have nothing but silk to trade, and during half a century since opening ports, we sold silk products to earn money to buy ships, weapons, and automobiles.
In the 20th century, European countries strengthen industrial power so much that Asian countries were obliged to obey their policy. No other nation except Japan could not afford to keep its independency. Our country learned skill of how to produce iron from ore, and with low quality coal in Kyushu area, Yawata Iron Company succeeded in making great amount of metal, which was the starting point of Japan’s industrialization. Japanese people made great effort for half a century until we could prohibit foreign invasion, but, regretful to say, in the 1930’s western super powers such as America, Britain, Dutch, Russia, French countries gradually came to think our national power dangerous. It was another point of reflection that we should look back as a historical subject.