Aggressors' remorse: Tetsuro Takahashi

Added On September 8, 2014

Wednesday was the Victory Day of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.
China's anti-Japanese war in the 1930s and 1940s was an important part of the World Anti-Fascist War.
More than 35 million Chinese were either killed or injured during the eight-year conflict, which ended in September 1945 after Japan's official surrender.
Ahead of this year's commemorations, we have spoken to Japanese prisoners of war who were later released by the Chinese government, who expressed remorse for what they, and others had done in China seven decades ago.
Today we meet Tetsuro Takahashi, who served with the invading Japanese army for years before being held captive by the former Soviet Union and then repatriated to China.
Shandong is a coastal province in East China. It faces Japan across the Yellow Sea.
Since the 19th century, Japanese military rulers had coveted the region, rich in resources and important in geopolitical strategy.
Shandong was occupied in its entirety by Japanese forces in 1940. Since then, the province had become a key launchpad for Japanese troops' invasion of other Chinese cities.
Tetsuro Takahashi, born in 1921, joined the Japanese army at the age of 23.
He recalls his experience when he was Private First Class with the Japanese Army's 59th Division.
He says the 59th Division, along with other Japanese troops based in east China's Shandong Province at that time, had carried out the scorched earth policy widely known as the "Three Alls Policy". The three "alls" referred to killing all, burning all, and looting all.
SOUNDBITE (JAPANESE): TETSURO TAKAHASHI, Private 1st Class, 59th Division of Japanese army, WWII
"From the spring to the autumn in 1945, the troops had killed a lot of people in Shandong Province. Besides, in 1942 and 1944, many Chinese civilians had been snatched and shipped to Japan via Qingdao or Tianjin as forced laborers."
During the eight-year Japanese aggression, it is estimated that the Three Alls Policy was direct or indirect responsible for the deaths of more than 2.7 million Chinese civilians.
Takahashi also reveals that the Japanese troops had set up a number of so-called "comfort stations" across Shandong, where  women and girls were forced into sexual slavery. 
"In Jinan, there were three types of comfort stations. Some were exclusive for senior officers. Some were intended for low-ranking soldiers. There were also 'factories', referring to military brothels."
The Japanese invaders formally surrendered in 1945 and Takahashi was taken to the Fushun War Criminals Management Center in northeast China as a prisoner of war. 
In 1956, he became one of the first batch of POWs to be repatriated to Japan.
After returning home, Takahashi became a member and then a director of the Association of Returnees from China.
He says he feels regretful that some people in Japan are ignorant of the Japanese aggression against China during World War II. 
"Now, some people in Japan have no idea of the Japanese invasion of China. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has even denied that the aggression had taken place. This is really bad. So, since 1956, our Association of Returnees from China has been telling the Japanese about the truth."
The Association of Returnees from China was disbanded in 2002. But Takahashi, along with other returnees, has continued to make that history known.
Nearly 70 years since the end of the war, he says the memory still burns. 
"Whether it's 60 years or 70 years, we should never forget the fact, the history that Japan had invaded China. Having a deep understanding of it, I think, is a way of admitting the wrongs. We have to keep firmly in mind that the Japanese troops had killed the Chinese and invaded China. I will remember till the end of my life."
September 3 was designated as the Victory Day decades ago by the Chinese government.
This year it's the first time that it's officially observed, after its legalization by China's top legislature in February.