Encounter with memories of the past
OHONO Noriko (Translated by Mon WONG)
In the fall of 2003, the bus I was on had to make a detour because of a landslide and I happened to stop off in a small village on the Yellow River. It was a beautiful season when red dates in the village were ripe enough for harvest. An old woman who was sitting on sunlit stone steps asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ In retrospect, it was at that moment that my long journey started.
The instant she heard my answer ‘I’m from Japan’, the calm expression on her suntanned face changed into that of fierce rage, and words of fury gushed out of her mouth. I realized at once that the village I stopped over by pure accident was one of the sites victimized by ‘the Policy of Burn All, Kill All, Loot All’ of the Japanese aggressors.
The next year, I had a chance to go back to the village with nine Japanese college students. I met again the old woman who had poured her fury on me the year before, and that afternoon we visited a neighboring village to see Chen, aged 84. That blind old man began to speak softly about his past by the bedside, where his mother had been burned alive by Japanese soldiers. Not a single word of grudge against us was uttered by him. He was talking very gently as if he were trying to bring back his remote memories and ponder over each of them in his mind. Just before we left, we hesitantly asked him what he felt about Japanese people visiting his village after sixty years. He responded, after a brief pause, saying ‘I was impressed. You really did come all the way.’
The old people like Chen had been living their last leg of life, keeping their past to themselves, without any benefit of political words of apology and compensation for the war. I thought that they had been waiting for ‘us’ as long as sixty years. Realizing that they couldn’t wait any longer, with fewer and fewer of the survivors alive each year, I decided I should do something for it in my own way since I had been waited for by them for such a long time.
Ohono Noriko 大野のり子 was born in Nagoya city, Japan, in 1947. She is now an employee at Shinano Mutsumi Senior High School in Nagano County, Japan. In 2001, she started to learn Chinese in Beijing, China, and later moved to live in Lin County of Shanxi Province, China, in 2005. She published her first book Encountering Memories: from a Village in Loess Plateau Where Jujubes Grow (published by Miraisha) in 2009.
Mon Wong is a free-lance translator.