August 15: The dawn of a new day (extract)

by. Dr. Daisaku Ikeda

My family had been forced

to evacuate our home, 

to stay with relatives

in Nishi Magome. 

However, this refuge, 

this house set amid peaceful fields, 

took a direct hit 

from an incendiary bomb. 

With all our worldly 

possessions inside, 

it was instantly engulfed in flame. 

With our relatives’ consent,

my father constructed a tiny hut 

on the same lot,

with a small sheet 

of scorched tin for a roof.

We had no mosquito netting,

so now, instead of bombs,

we faced the assault

of squadrons of mosquitoes.

On that day of August 15,

my father, face flushed with emotion,

murmured to himself,

“My sons will now return.

My eldest, Kiichi,

my second, Masuo,

my third, Kaizo,

and my fourth, Kiyonobu,

are coming home.

One from Burma

three from China—

they’re coming home.”

He uttered these words, 

breath catching painfully 

in his chest, 

as one awakening 

from a dream. 

My diminutive mother 

prepared dinner,

excited as a young girl:

“How bright it is!

Now we can keep the lights on!

How lovely and bright!”

That summer,

my father was fifty-seven,

my mother forty-nine,

and I was seventeen.

August 15 was the day, 

the moment we emerged from a 

deep and hellish gloom, 

regaining as a family 

some happiness and cheer. 

Although some of my siblings 

wept at Japan’s defeat,

deep inside everyone was relieved:

How good, they thought, 

how good that the war 

is over at last. 

Eventually 

the sad news came—

my eldest brother 

was dead, 

killed in action in Burma.

While many were discharged 

and returned quickly 

to their homes, 

one year passed, 

and then another, 

before each of my 

three surviving brothers 

managed to return home 

quietly alive.