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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: September 7, 2015 NO. 37 SEPTEMBER 10, 2015
A Change of Heart
How a turn toward peace changed one Japanese veteran's life
By Miao Xiaoyang

Yokichi Kobayashi

Among those who fought Japanese invaders during the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression were not only Chinese but also international combatants, including the Anti-War Alliance of Japanese People in China. Kiyoshi Kobayashi, a captured Japanese soldier who joined the Eighth Route Army led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), was a member of this alliance.

On September 2-3, Yokichi Kobayashi, the eldest son of late Kiyoshi Kobayashi, was invited to Beijing to attend the activities commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory of the war of resistance and the World Anti-Fascist War as secretary general of the Japanese veterans' delegation. In a recent exclusive interview, Yokichi Kobayashi shared his father's story with Beijing Review.

Kiyoshi Kobayashi was born in April 1918. In 1939, he was sent to the Chinese battleground. In a battle in east China's Shandong Province the following year, Kiyoshi Kobayashi was injured and captured by the Eighth Route Army.

"In the battle, my father was hit by a stone in the head and fainted. When he woke up, he found himself lying on a stretcher of the Eighth Route Army. An officer who spoke Japanese told him that they treated captives well. At first, my father doubted that. But later, many simple things helped my father change his mind. For instance, the Eighth Route Army soldiers dressed my father's wounds carefully and changed his clothes regularly. They also returned all his belongings to him," said Yokichi Kobayashi.

"Inspired by the CPC and the Eighth Route Army, my father converted. As time went on, he gained a clear understanding of the aggressive nature of the war that Japan launched against China. He determined to fight for peace," Yokichi Kobayashi said.

In autumn 1941, Kiyoshi Kobayashi submitted an application to join the Eighth Route Army. In 1942, with the help of the army, Kiyoshi Kobayashi and some other converted Japanese soldiers established the Jiaodong branch of the Japanese anti-war alliance.

Kiyoshi Kobayashi

As Kiyoshi Kobayashi was familiar with the state of mind of Japanese soldiers in the war, his major work was persuading Japanese soldiers through a loudspeaker to give up war. "In many battles, the efforts of my father led to the surrender of soldiers," Yokichi Kobayashi said, adding that his father was recognized widely for these efforts.

In 1944, Kiyoshi Kobayashi published an article titled My Introspection in a local newspaper to expose the crimes of Japanese aggressors. "My father's self-reflection greatly encouraged the Chinese to fight under harsh conditions. His bravery also gained himself a great reputation in the counter-Japanese base in Shandong," Yokichi Kobayashi said.

After the war, Kiyoshi Kobayashi chose to live in China and didn't go back to Japan.

"My father always said he loved Japan, as Japan is his motherland where he grew up, and his relatives and friends live in Japan," Yokichi Kobayashi said. "My father was born Japanese but died Chinese."

Kiyoshi Kobayashi died in the northern port city of Tianjin in 1994. Yokichi Kobayashi buried half of his remains in the city and brought the other half back to Japan.

"My father left us a rich spiritual legacy," Yokichi Kobayashi said. "It has been 70 years since the end of the war, and the world has changed remarkably. As a descendent of a Japanese Eighth Route Army soldier, I have an obligation to inherit my father's mission to tell the next generations that the China-Japan friendship is hard won and we must cherish it and ensure that it will last forever."

Copyedited by Kylee McIntyre

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com

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