"Rakka eda ni kaerazu, hakyou futatabi terasazu."
-- Japanese proverb
"A blue eyed doll, made of celluloid, was born in America."
The portrait of the Emperor stares down at her, his eyes inscrutable. The girl smiles,
her large, large brown eyes filled with wonder. It is almost as if he were there in person.
"Thank you for having Daiki and me here today."
"It is no problem at all. I am just glad that you could make it." Mrs. Shingi shifts
slightly in her position on the tatami mat, and pours tea for her neighbour and friend.
"It has been such a long time since we have had tea together."
Mrs. Hiraiwa picks up her teacup and nods graciously to her hostess.
"Indeed it has. I hope you don't mind my bringing Daiki here. It is
just that Daichi is at his community group and my husband is at work
so there's no one who can really look after him."
"Of course," replies Mrs. Shingi. "There is nothing wrong with having him here.
Akako does need a playmate anyway. All she does is play with those dolls of
her's." She sighs and sips her tea daintily.
Inside the same room, a boy and a girl are sitting facing each other. While the adults are
wrapped up in their own world, drinking tea and conversing, the children sit
beside the opposite wall. The girl, Shingi Akako, is playing with her doll,
brushing her hair gently and gazing at it with much love. Her big eyes are,
shall we say, a different, pale brown, unlike most Japanese, and her hair is a beautiful
lacquered black, falling over the sides of her pale face in a mushroom-like shape.
Her fingers are just as pale as her face and
agile, as she uses them to comb through the doll's hair. However, Akako's
beautiful eyes are distant as they stare at the little doll,
and away from Hiraiwa Daiki. She seems almost like a doll herself.
The boy begins to fidget, feeling constrained and somewhat restless. He seems almost
too big for the small room, his lanky build and height defying his young age of eight. Everyone calls the Shingi girl
strange and no children would ever
play with her but, Daiki finds himself enjoying her company. He wants to speak to her, to be her friend.
Although he already has his own denno ,
Daiki feels peculiarly attracted to Akako, even though she is two years
"Akako-chan," Daiki ventures to say warily.
Akako continues to stroke her doll's hair, as if she has not heard
anything at all. But her eyes betray her, wandering slowly to Daiki's face. The
boy breaks into a friendly smile, creasing the small mole on his left cheek
into a mere dash of brown. Akako gazes steadily at the boy, her head cocked to
the side and her mouth not smiling in the least.
"Good morning, Akako-chan," Daiki tries again, undisturbed by the
Akako lifts her right eyebrow up slightly, surprised. "Good morning, Daiki-kun," she
replies, her voice curiously soft and harsh at the same time.
"Is that your doll?"
Daiki stretches his neck in order to gain a better look at the doll.
The doll's...kind of ugly, he thinks, frowning. The
doll is made from a sort of rough canvas material, her hair from what looks
like hay and her eyes from scratched black buttons. "I hope this isn't a
silly question," Daiki begins, sinking back into
his position and grimacing, "but does your doll have a name?"
"Yes!" Akako cries, surprising Daiki and completely ignoring the expression on his bewildered face.
"Well...what is it?"
"Her name is Aiko," Akako replies stiffly, shoving the doll into her lap and away from
Daiki's prying eyes.
Daiki cocks his head to one side and gazes at Akako. The girl stares at the painting
hanging behind Daiki, blind to his attention.
"Ninigi, the grandson of Amaterasu, the great sun
god of the world, was ordered to rule the earth by his grandmother.
She gave him the Three Sacred Treasures which are the magatama necklace
of Yasakani no magatama, the bronze mirror of Yata no
kagami, and the sword Kusanagi. These Three Sacred Treasures are
still in Japan today!
The boy's eyes slowly move from his sensei to the ceiling,
the poor thing finding it hard to concentrate.
"...Hoderi, Hosuseri and Howori. And it is Howori who is the ancestor of the first Emperor
of Japan, Emperor Jimmu. Emperor Jimmu's father was Iwarebiko, who was the son
of Ugaya and Tamayori, and Ugaya is the son of Howori and Toyotama. And thus,
this is how the Emperor is the son of the gods, Izanagi and Izanami." The sensei
puts the book down and grins at the class.
Daiki's forehead creases slightly, miniscule wrinkles forming on his smooth, white
skin. He can almost see Izanagi and Izanami in his
mind's eye, but their shape and form remains blurry and indistinct.
"Forgive my directness, but I wanted to speak to you today, Sensei."
Hiraiwa Daiki kneels before me, in the
traditional Japanese manner required of him. His head is bent slightly in
respect and his long arms folded in front of him, his right elbow twitching a
"Good morning, Daiki-kun," I say pleasantly. "What's the matter?"
He remains silent, unsure. I can see his eyes straining to look up and
that little mole of his staring straight at me, doing what he, as a Japanese
boy, can never do.
"It is okay, Daiki-kun," I say, trying to sound
as reassuring as possible. "You can look up. You don't have to be afraid of
Daiki's eyes remain downcast but slowly, slowly, they roll
up until his line of sight meets mine. His young face relaxes into a smile and
he even slouches a little, gazing at me.
"I see you find it difficult to believe the legends," I muse.
Daiki's lips tighten and he seems to be almost
grimacing. A little sigh escapes from his lips as he answers, "Okaasan  and
Otousan  sometimes read them to me and Oniisan ,
and Otousan always asks us what we think."
"Well, what do you think?"
"Oniisan finds them fascinating. I do too, but I do not
really understand them..." With each word, Daiki's voice lowers a pitch
until his voice is barely perceptible. The poor boy seems almost afraid.
"Don't worry, Daiki-kun, there is no one else
here," I reassure him. "Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?"
replies firmly. "I wanted to ask that if, well, I heard that Izanagi
and Izanami were formed from reeds, does it mean that the Emperor is also
formed from reeds? Because he is supposed to be a descendent of the gods."
"I definitely know that human beings are not formed from reeds.
But, good question. After hearing a tale, it's good to question its validity." I
feel almost proud of Daiki. "What you said makes perfect sense but you must
make sure never to voice it too openly."
Daiki nods solemnly. "I understand."
"Good. And…how do you feel about the emperor?"
Daiki's forehead crinkles into a slight frown
and his finger reaches to his mole, tapping it lightly.
"He is the Emperor. I don't love him like I love Otousan and Oniisan.
Everyone says he is a good person…so I don't hate him." He smiles at me
gratefully and bows. "Arigatou gozaimasu. "
Hina Matsuri  was last month and I loved every minute of it. Whether it is setting up the
doll platform, cooking, dressing in pretty clothes, going to the festival or
setting the paper dolls afloat on the brook, I was happy every moment.
I think I was happiest on the night of the Hina Matsuri
festival, because I almost never go out and that night, I did. Okaasan
usually has to work so I must stay home with her. But Hina Matsuri is very
important for every girl in Japan so Okaasan didn't work at all that day and she
even took me out to the festival. The peach blossoms were just about to open
and there was no more snow so it was a nice, cool night and everywhere smelt
like peach blossoms. When it came to floating the paper dolls down the brook
during the festival, every unmarried girl who did so had to make a wish.
My wish was for good health for Okaasan and
the Emperor and that I would do well in school.
School is very different today. Sensei told us to assemble in the hall once class
started, but we'd already had an assembly the week
before so I'm not too sure about what is happening.
"What is happening?"
"Our sensei told us that the Americans have sent dolls to Japan."
"America! But that is so far away!'
"There is a piece of paper on the seats."
"Why would they do that?'
"Our sensei says that it is for friendship and peace."
"Did you hear that, Akako-chan?" Junko-chan whispers excitedly next to me.
"There are dolls coming!"
I nod and smile at Junko-chan, then look to the front of the hall again. Sensei says that
we must not speak while we are in the hall. We must respect it, just like we
respect our home.
"I love dolls."
At this, I can't help but murmur, "Me too."
Kouchou-sensei  and some other people walk to the
front of the stage and the entire hall falls silent. Besides the principal,
there are two white people and four Japanese people. The white people look so
strange with their blue eyes and yellow hair! There is a pretty girl and an old
man; his hair is not yellow at all but white. There
are also two sensei standing up there from our school. They both look very
dressed up, in beautiful kimonos with their hair up like the women in
The other Japanese people are a man and a woman...they look very
familiar. I know I've seen them somewhere before but I'm not quite
sure where...in the newspaper? On the streets?
"Today is a very special day," Kouchou-sensei proclaims, once
the people on the stage are seated. "Today, America extends its hand in friendship and peace to
Japan, particularly to the children of Japan. They have
sent to our school, along with many other Japanese schools, a
present like no other. We thank them. I am very lucky to have
with me today the Mayor of our town, and his wife, as well as two representatives
of America, who have worked tirelessly for this cause.
On behalf of everyone in this school, "arigatou gozaimasu."
"Arigatou gozaimasu," the hall choruses.
Suddenly the sensei
with the silk kimonos stand up and in their arms are two dolls, nothing like
the Japanese dolls or like Aiko. People in the hall begin to applaud, so I applaud too.
I can only see one doll properly and I feel like gasping, just looking at her. She is
beautiful. She is quite big, much bigger than Aiko and her clothes are
so much prettier and like the clothes the women wear in Western movies.
Her eyes are blue, blue like the sky, and her skin
is like tofu, soft-looking and creamy, although her cheeks are very, very red.
And her hair! It is much different from the Americans
up there on the stage. It is red, red like her cheeks and like the red sun on
the Japanese flag. She has funny little shoes too, which are like the colour of her skin except darker.
They look a little like the shoes Westerners wear in movies. And
she has a cloak too! A good
cloak is very expensive. And her cloak is so nice, dark blue with some fur on the top. And her dress
is a light blue, with a pretty little red ribbon near her neck.
"Let us all now, children, sing the Welcome Song for our American friends," says Kouchou-sensei,
after the American representatives and Mayor have spoken. "You
will find the lyrics on the paper on your seat."
"Welcome to you, pretty American Dolls!
Happy are we, happy as can be,
To see your dainty little faces shine
With love of far-off friends beyond the sea...
You seem to us, pretty American Dolls,
Like little brothers, little sisters true.
Fair, sweet, and gentle-hearted as you are,
We will all love you and be nice to you."
The samurai positions himself carefully in
front of his enemy, his kimono of black silk swaying in time with his graceful
movements. The man standing in front of him contrasts vividly against the
warrior, standing straight up, his legs quivering slightly. He is a coward, a
coward deserving of death, having poisoned the samurai's lord.
Daiki and Akako are together, watching the
film, their eyes captivated by the moving images on the screen before them.
Daiki slouches a little in his seat and rests his head against the back of his
chair, his eyes still fixed on the screen. Akako, hearing his movement, turns
around swiftly and taps his shoulder lightly, immediately causing him to sit up
The movie ends and the coward has died, his
head sitting gracefully on the ground besides his fallen bloody body. The
samurai, eyes gleaming with tears threatening to spill, kneels on the floor. He
bows once to the east, to the Emperor, and again for his lord. Raising his
splendid sword high above his head, he closes his eyes and promptly plunges the
sword into his stomach, sliding it across gratingly. The heroic samurai has
finally avenged his lord's death and now, it is time for him to perform seppuku
and deservedly die, having failed in his task to protect his lord.
Applause sounds as the screen darkens, revealing the end. The moviegoers all rise slowly, all except
for Hiraiwa Daiki who immediately springs up from his seat and begins to stride
out of the cinema, Akako a few steps behind him, as usual. The two reach a café
familiar to them and take a seat as soon as they step in.
"'Bushido is being
crazy to die'," Daiki pronounces, quoting the feudal lord Nabeshima Naoshige.
"Well, I think it is a noble code," Akako replies primly, smoothing the folds of her cotton kimono.
"The samurai in the film was wonderful, defending his lord to the death. Don't
you find it admirable how he kowtowed to the Emperor and to his lord before he
died? What a noble man. He is like Oishi Kuranosuke .
"Oishi Kuranosuke is an admirable man," Daiki concedes, nodding his head with all the reverence that
a nineteen-year-old boy possesses. "And I agree with the Bushido virtues, even
if we aren't samurai."
"One must sacrifice
oneself for one's country, for one's lord and Emperor," Akako says wisely.
Daiki stays quiet,
unsure whether to voice his opinion. Akako would call him selfish, loving life
more than the people who gave him his life. "Wouldn't you die for your
parents?" she'd ask, unassumingly accusing. "Yes," he'd reply reluctantly,
knowing her next question. "Then what about the Emperor? He is like your father!"
"The Bushido code is
admirable," he finally says. "And so is ko ."
Akako didn't want to argue. It had been a lovely day and she didn't want to spoil it with an
argument. But – "What about chu ?"
Daiki sighs. "The Bushido code is admirable," he repeats. "And if it were still enforced today, I
would follow it wholeheartedly."
Mrs. Shingi and Mrs. Hiraiwa nod their heads in a signal of
goodbye, before scurrying quickly into their
respective homes. Inside the Shingi household,
Akako sits in the living room, surrounded by several dolls. In her hands is
Aiko, her oldest and most treasured friend, as she loftily mends Aiko's rough, pink
kimono. Five other dolls lie at her feet and Mary, the little
American doll she made several years ago as a homage to the American dolls, is nowhere to be seen. Akako feels a slight
sadness at this fact, prompting her to wonder if the rumours about war between
Japan and America are true. The American friendship
dolls are -- were? -- a symbol of peace. But are they still?
Mrs. Shingi slides the wooden door open quickly and steps in, calling, "Akako, turn on
Perplexed, Akako reaches for the little
button on the radio and pushes it down. "What is the matter, Okaasan?"
she asks, settling back into her original position.
"Shhh," Mrs. Shingi murmurs, sinking onto the tatami mat besides Akako.
"...it is a time for the one hundred million of us Japanese to dedicate all we have
and sacrifice everything for our country's cause. As long as there remains this
great spirit of loyalty and patriotism, we have nothing to fear in fighting
America and Britain..."
"There is war?" asks Akako in amazement, clenching the doll tighter. "Okaasan, is
there really war with America?"
"Shhh," her mother repeats, leaning instinctively towards the radio.
"...of our sovereign. In making known these humble views of mine, I join with all my
countrymen in pledging myself to assist in the grand imperial enterprise."
The voice of Prime Minister Tojo fades away and the music begins to sound.
Akako's eyebrows knit together in confusion. "What?" she says softly, so soft
that not even her mother can hear her. "There is war. How can there
be war with America?"
"Did you say something, Akako?"
In the house right next to the Shingis, another family,
except for the eldest son who remains in China, have gathered around the radio, listening to
the same broadcast.
"There is war with America and Britain," the father manages to say, feeling sort
of breathless. The pacifist in him feels dread, and his eyes are wide with
fear. It's as if a swift blast of cold wind has swept through his
body, leaving millions of pinpricks of snow on him. War with China is already
bad enough but...America and Britain?
"Bless the Emperor," the mother replies, a strange sense of pride
for Japan swelling in her. If the Emperor, and Japan, are brave enough to fight
against the Anglo-American imperialists then the least she could do was stand beside them.
"Across the sea, corpses lie in the water;
the mountain, corpses lie in the fields.
I shall die for the Emperor,
I shall never look back."
The song ends in the resounding beat of a drum and Daiki
can feel the beat pulsating through his entire body. What of Oniisan?
What of our family? And what of Akako? He
knows, everyone knows, how strong America and Britain are.
How can Japan, a tiny island, win against them? He can feel his heart
sinking at the very thought, comforted only by the fact that no Kempeitai  could hear him.
Everyone seems to have gone mad.
Do you really want this?
"Yes, I do."
Akako and a band of
loyal affiliates gather in their regular meeting place, an unsuspecting little
noodle house. They have already planned what their evening will entail and
together, they leave the eatery and move on to their target – Akako's old
Marching in an orderly fashion and each wearing a sash, the group almost seems like the Imperial
Japanese Army. However, civilians know not to disrupt any of their actions or
question what they say, treating them with the same respect and fear that the army
"Jusshi reisho !" the group shout, advancing down the street. "Praise his Imperial Majesty!"
The night is quiet and
the moon glitters bright over their heads. Indeed, it is a beautiful night. But,
it is not the time for moon gazing.
The radical right-wing group stops suddenly in front of the school. The school seems strangely
frightening in the night, the children's playthings abandoned and nothing but
the sound of the wind to be heard.
"I'm afraid," a young girl whispers.
Turning swiftly to the girl, Akako scowls. "If you are afraid of something as simple and natural as the
dark, I do not think that you should be here. Do you want to stay, or go?"
"Stay," she replies meekly.
"I thought so."
The group approaches the hall and enters it
quickly and easily. There is no lock on the door. Beside the large stage at the
front of the school hall stand two glass boxes, on top of two wooden platforms.
One of them is empty, but the other contains the very thing the exuberant group
are looking for.
Flicking on the switch, the whole hall
alights, and now, everyone can see it.
"A friendship doll!" someone exclaims.
Akako stands quite still, staring at the
doll. Now that she is here, she's not sure if she can do what she intended to
do. The doll is just like she remembers, not aging in the least during the past
fifteen years. Approaching the doll, an involuntary sigh escapes from Akako.
The doll really is very beautiful.
"Let us burn it!" another proclaims.
Burn it? Yes, that is what they have decided
to do but…Akako reaches out and touches the glass, wanting to nestle the doll
against her cheek the way she had so many years ago.
Are you sure Akako?
"For the Emperor!"
Yes, for the Emperor. Akako nods firmly and
lifts the glass box, revealing the doll, and sets it down on the stage. For the
Emperor, for Dai Nippon ! Her eyes gleam with excitement as she picks up the doll gingerly. But before
she can do anything else, the girl who was scolded by Akako takes it away from
her in the blink of an eye and smashes it onto the floor. Akako can see the
exhilaration that the act gives the girl and winces, involuntarily.
"For Dai Nippon!" the group exclaims in unison.
Straightening up, Akako nods and grins.
"For Dai Nippon!" She reaches into her pocket and reveals a matchbox. Akako can
feel it in her heart now, yes she can, she can feel the reverence and love for
the Emperor, and the hate, yes, the hate for America. The doll is not real, was
never real and, by his Imperial Majesty, will never be real.
"A year of war," Daiki says, his voice leaden. His hands hang limply by his side, his face white
as he kneels, facing me.
"The Emperor is still god," Daiki mutters, laughing bitterly. "Everything is thanks to him. But
the bombing of all those places, the lack of basic foods and the closing down
of anything that can remotely help the people not think about the war, he has
no part in it. Everyone's so oblivious, they're all happy. How can they be happy
when there is a war, when people are dying?" His voice rises louder with each
syllable and his hands begin to shake uncontrollably. I can almost feel the
boy's, the poor boy's, wretched state. Crumpling up in the corner, he buries his
head into his still-shaking hands.
For a moment, no one says anything. There is no
sound, no movement.
Suddenly, Daiki grabs onto his head violently,
his fingers digging deep into his skull. I can see him, I can see it all and I
wish that I can't. His eyes are gleaming with moisture, with despair, with
insanity and he can only manage to mutter, in a voice unlike his, "Oniisan is
And finally, he stops. He stops pretending for
the Emperor, he stops being in control for Japan and just does what he needs to
do, what any normal human being would do. He sobs, loudly and wretchedly, his
hands falling from his head and by his side again. Trying to grasp the wall
beside him, Daiki moans, the incessant tears falling from his eyes and onto his
face, red with all the agony and emotion. "Oniisan – this - this can't happen,"
he whispers, sobs interrupting his every word. "It can't, it can't happen…Sensei,
I know who you are, I know what you can do."
Daiki, this isn't you.
"Can't you please bring him back?" he asks
softly, his voice thick. "I never ask a favour of anyone but this is, this is
What can I say?
"I'm sorry, Daiki-kun."
At least you still have the doll.
"We know the path of duty and we follow it without question."
-- Oishi Kuranosuke
I know that there is a war. Why doesn't anyone
else think there is a war?
The economy is improving.
"The economy is improving," says Otousan.
What is the war against and who is the war for? Is it for us, the people of Japan? Can it
be for us?
If it is, then why do some of us change, and so drastically?
Out of the corner of my eye I can see Erika, the last of the American friendship dolls.
All the others have been either destroyed or mutilated. She is the only remnant of the past Akako.
"Tomorrow is Daichi's death-day."
Oniisan joined the Greater East Asian
War, voluntarily, and died.
He died, and he's not coming back, why can't he come back?
Many of my friends and denno
have gone to fight in the war, some voluntarily, some conscripted.
I wonder when will it be my turn? I know that some day, I too, will stand in
the battlefields, drenched in blood, killing. It was only
today that the radio announced the conscription ban on college students is
lifted. Oniisan, why did you go?
No one really knows how the war is going. Everyone claims
that Japan is winning.
Oniisan, why can't you come back?
If we are winning, then why are more and more men being conscripted?
"Daiki, there is a letter for you."
It is my turn. Finally, it is my turn. At least, by doing this, I can fulfill my ko.
Okaasan will be proud.
I beg of you, please.
"Thank you, Otousan."
"Next to the maiden's
The sabre, the sword –
Alas, that sword."
-- Kojiki, 712 AD
The little village of Takasago is quiet. The streets paved with grey concrete
are empty and the sunlight shines on the ageing buildings.
However, the symptoms of metropolis begin to wane, a
little further from the heart of Takasago. Grass can be seen,
long, a pale green and encased by flowers, it is a sight to behold.
The boy shyly reaches for the girl's hand, caressing it softly, his eyes absorbed with
the image of her, and only her. Together, they walk off, hand-in-hand, seeing
Akako glances at the young couple and frowns. How can people like them, strong,
healthy Japanese citizens, frolic about while Japan is in
the middle of a war? She turns to face Daiki, about to express her views but
stops, as she watches him stare at them, his face expressionless.
He hasn't been the same since Daichi-san died.
His head whips towards her, the action so fast that it surprises her. Akako takes a few
steps back instinctively, almost tripping over the large boulder.
"Easy there," Daiki says quietly, steadying her stance, letting go once she has regained her balance.
"What did you want to meet me here for?"
He sighs. Akako's back is slightly hunched, making her small figure appear even more
miniscule and delicate. Her face is still the same pale white, never changing
nor darkening and the loose kimono hangs off her undernourished body. Daiki
raises his right hand up, towards her face. All he wants to do is pull her into
his arms and promise her his life, if it is worth as much as her love. It
doesn't seem possible, that this beautiful creature can accept him, can love
him as much as he loves her. She isn't of this world, is she?
Again, he sighs and drops his hand down, back to his side. Ever since the war started and
Akako became a "radical", the two have been drifting
apart. "Akako, I've been conscripted."
Akako's lifts her head up, not knowing what to think, how to feel. Daiki's face is
still blank; "Conscripted," she ponders.
"Conscripted. To war. Daiki is going to the war
to fight for Japan, for this country, for the Emperor!
She knows that he is unhappy about such news, that he doesn't want to be
conscripted but Akako can't help but break into a spontaneous grin. But who in
their right mind wouldn't want to? If Akako was a boy, she'd be one of the
first to join a military school, unlike Daiki who chose college instead. How
can he not be happy about fulfilling his chu to the Emperor and to Japan?
"Daiki-san, that is wonderful!"
Daiki frowns. "What?"
Akako takes a step forward, her friendly grin ever mocking to Daiki. "Daiki-san, you
can now fulfill your chu. The Emperor will be pleased and you will bring
glory and honour to your family name! Do you not remember what they taught us in school?
We must fulfill our chu and die for the Emperor!"
Disbelief envelops Daiki. "What?" he repeats.
"Daiki-san, I felt shame for you when you did not apply for a military school after you
graduated from high school. But now, you can participate in the fight against
Japan's enemies! I am so proud of you."
He watches her; he watches her gleaming eyes, the brightness
that had suddenly appeared in her face and the way both her hands cling onto his arm.
Daiki is surprised; Akako is holding onto me. How come I didn't realise it, or feel it, before?
"Daiki, I am so proud of you," she repeats, leaving out the
Daiki gazes down at those large brown eyes, seeing fanaticism and that undying,
stupid love for the Emperor, not him. "What?" he asks stupidly.
Akako opens her mouth, about to reply but Daiki interrupts her, "No, stop." He
flings off her hands and accidentally stumbles back a few steps. "No,
stop," he repeats, his voice louder and more sure.
"Daiki, what is the matter?" Akako asks, her forehead a frown and her face
"Akako," he begins, his voice beginning to shake, the way it always does when he gets
this way. Turning away from her, he mouths, "I love you." No
sound comes out.
Why can't you say it?
"It hurts me so much to see you like this," he mutters.
"Like what?" He can't decipher the tone of her voice.
"Like this!" Daiki whips around, his eyes helplessly accusing. "Wrapped up
in this insane obsession with the Emperor, thinking everything he does is right
and if anyone protests, then they are wrong! Joining that crazy radical right-wing
group and stepping all over people who don't want to fight this stupid war, regardless of their
reasons. Akako, I don't want to fight in this damned war. I have my parents to
care about, to look after, and my own life to lead. Oniisan is already gone!" And I have you!
Why don't you say it?
"Daiki-san, I can't believe you," Akako says in low, levelled tones. "I can't
believe that you can betray the Son of God like that. Not only are you not
fulfilling your chu, neither will you fulfill your ko." Her
eyes contrast so greatly from Daiki's, so calm, so serious.
"If it were not for the Emperor, you and I would not be here. Your parents
would not be here and neither would mine. Japan wouldn't be the great nation
that it is today and we must repay the Emperor for doing all
these great deeds. We must fight against our enemies and defeat them and unite
Asia, under the great rule of Japan!"
"You sound just like one of those propaganda pamphlets," Daiki says, almost
scoffing, eyes downcast. Akako stands before him, no longer
the fragile girl he wanted to care for, but a strong, militaristic figure. Even
though she has no uniform, he laughs silently.
"It is not propaganda."
"Akako, ever since you were little, you've loved that Emperor," he mutters, not even
bothering to face her. "But I never thought you could do the things you did."
Daiki sighs, lifting his head to face her. It hurts him just to
stare at that familiar face and feel so unfamiliar.
"Do you remember the friendship dolls?"
Akako stares at Daiki, her face flushing. She bites her lip and nods softly.
"You love dolls, you always have and you still do. The friendship dolls were a
brilliant idea and everyone, everyone accepted them in our school."
"They were sent by the enemy," Akako says steadily. "They were an act of
pretense by the enemy."
"And you destroyed them."
"Of course. I had to," Akako replies, coldly. "We must destroy anything
in relation to the enemy."
Daiki closes his eyes and lowers his head again, feeling sick. "I never thought
you could destroy a doll."
"We must do everything we can to help Japan defeat the enemy."
Daiki sighs, again. He stands up wearily, feeling scattered and foolish, so, so
foolish, and his chest feels strangely hollow. Daiki presses his hand against
his chest and thumps it. Nothing, there is no feeling. He thumps it again,
harder this time. The only thing he can feel is the
lump in his throat.
Akako watches him, feeling something she should not have been feeling.
Who says you shouldn't feel this way?
"I don't know how to feel anymore," Daiki croaks, turning away from Akako and
beginning to walk off. But where to? His stance is ungainly and he feels as if he
is going to fall over with a mere tap on the shoulder.
She turns in the other direction and walks away, her back
erect and her stride seemingly strong. "What I did was right."
The tears fall.
"Daiki has his own mind," I say, before she
even opens her mouth. "Can't you tell that he loves you?"
Her tear-streaked face glares at me, impassive.
"I can't make him do anything." You lie.
"Don't you love him too? Or do you love only the Emperor?"
Akako opens her mouth, ready to answer, then
pauses. She seems to be considering and deliberating, lips slightly askance.
Akako resolutely straightens her posture and stares directly at me, her
beautiful eyes defiant. "Who do you want me to love?"
"Ippai namida wo ukabeteta..." 
Erika looks different. Her skin is no longer as white, and nor are her blue eyes as radiant. I look at
Why didn't you say it?
Would you have let me say it?
I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to talk about it. Forgive me for my rudeness, but all I
want to do is leave it all behind.
Leave your family? Akako? The dolls?
I don't want to leave
the dolls. They're all of Akako that's left. I don't want to leave anyone. I
just want to leave this. I want
everything to return back to normal. I want Akako to love me.
Do you want me to do that? Make her love you?
"We must fight our enemies."
"We must fight our enemies!"
"Japan will triumph."
"Japan will triumph!"
Every gathering makes me feel exhilarated but this one makes me feel more excited than any other.
I, among so many other members of our great organisation, am chosen to send off troops leaving
Himeji Air Base to fight in Southeast Asia.
There is a multitude of people crowding in front of a plane and already,
soldiers can be seen boarding. Our own organisation is divided into separate groups and
the leader is in front of mine, declaring Japan's eventual victory.
"We will win the war!" I screech. Some of the men turn around and nod their
heads. I nod back, delighted. Even though I am a girl, I feel glad knowing that
I can do something to help the war, which helps the Emperor in return.
A feeling of pride, begins to well up in me. The men are of all different sizes and shapes, each unique in
their own way, but every one of them is smiling.
Families are waving goodbye to their husbands, sons, brothers and many of the women
shed tears of joy, tears of honour. A chorus of voices begin to sing
the same song that was on after the Prime Minister's announcement and we too, sing along with them.
It makes me feel so happy to just stand here, doing something for the Emperor. Dai Nippon will win,
I know it.
Daiki is a lot bigger now and he looks different, much different from
before. He doesn't smile as often.
The little friendship doll sits in the corner
of the tent, underneath his bed (if you can call it that) covered with some
kind of cloth. Daiki looks in the direction of the doll and sighs heavily.
"You haven't smiled in a while."
Daiki's eyes are downcast. I can see bruises on
his biceps and a scar on the left of his face. "I want to kill someone." He
lifts his head up and stares straight at me, his face expressionless, his eyes
vacant. "Do you think I'm a monster?"
I shake my head. "How can I?"
"I've only been in a battle once," he
says, his voice flat. Everything that he was, the intelligent, lovely little
boy, seems to have disappeared. "Everywhere is sickening, I see blood
and dead people. And it's not just soldiers. I see dead women,
dead children, all innocent. What have they ever done?"
"The sergeant says that I'm useless and he's right. When
everybody's out there killing, glorifying
themselves and the Emperor amongst all that violence, I just run. I run and run, jumping over bodies.
There's no need to dodge bullets or avoid enemy
soldiers because there are none. And then I hide."
Daiki looks around the tent and, seeing no one,
scrambles underneath the bed. He reemerges with the doll and brushes her hair
softly. "I feel ashamed. What else can I feel? I try to do
it. I lift up my gun and I try to pull the trigger, I try to shoot. But
something in me closes up and I can't shoot. I can't thrust my
bayonet into some man's body and neither can I watch, when the army surgeons
teach recruits about first aid, on a live, human being. I
can't fulfill the Bushido code, I said I would but I just can't.
I don't know what's wrong with me."
"Okaasan would be ashamed," he mutters, his eyes focused on the doll. "And so would
Akako." Finally, the boyish man looks up at me, his eyes deep and sad. "Looking
at the doll makes me feel like I'm looking at her. I know that she's not the same
little girl in love with friendship dolls, but that little part of her is still
"Deru kugi wa utareru ."
-- Japanese proverb
Hiraiwa Daiki moans, clutching his stomach, his bayonet to one side. Every soldier has to carry a bayonet, especially when on a ship
with prisoners. They are going somewhere, who knows where, but lucky for Daiki, it is a relatively short trip with relatively few people.
Close to sixty prisoners of war are crammed in the lowest deck while the Japanese
soldiers are crammed on the highest.
Feeling weak, Daiki crawls to the side of the ship, gripping onto the faulty metal rail
and shoves his head out beneath it. Vomit pours from his mouth
and his fragile, bony body collapses onto the wooden deck.
Daiki closes his eyes and tries to shut out the voices that
seem to constantly plague him. "He gets sick in
The familiar tap, tap, tap of the general's boots draw near and Daiki can feel sick
rising to his throat again. His hands fall limply to his side. Past. Open,
shut, open, shut, his mouth looks as if it's convulsing and a series of dry
coughs escape from his pale lips.
"Hiraiwa," the general says, his voice disdainful.
Still coughing, Daiki struggles to stand up, his hands clenched tightly around the
metal rail, the only help he can get. His hands fall to his sides and he
salutes the general. "Yes, sir."
"Check on the prisoners."
Daiki refrains from moaning and nods, repeating, "Yes, sir."
His feet like lead, Daiki proceeds down the deck and into the dark, with
Satomi Kenichi following silently behind him.
Where the prisoners live is a hell, or close to it, Daiki thinks. As he descends further
down, the light begins to disappear and darkness takes over and the smell, the
smell of sweat, urine, faeces and men combine into one putrid stench wafting to his nose. Daiki's grips onto his
stomach again and groans softly.
"Come on," Satomi mutters, glaring at Daiki's back.
Even though it is dark, a small patch of light seeps through the
few portholes. Daiki can feel his heart growing
cold as he watches the men, packed against one another in the small ship,
malnourished and filthy. He can see the ribs protruding on
almost every single man and the swelling, red tumours on some of their legs,
an evident symptom of the too-common tropical disease.
Most, reluctantly, quivering, silently, bow
to the soldiers as they walk in.
Some of the prisoners sit before him, staring defiantly at Daiki, their eyes bloodshot and
bloodthirsty. Others are shoved up against the wall, their faces dirty and defeated. Hiraiwa Daiki can feel a lump in his throat, refusing to
disappear and he turns away, embarrassed, thinking
once more of that dead body falling against him.
"I think this one's dead," Satomi calls to Daiki. "Get down
Daiki sighs, knowing what is to come. He trudges through the men, trying to block
out their hushed slurs, their incessant
pleadings. He can handle the sneers and insults well enough but the desperate men, those on the
brink of death or insanity horrify him. He
doesn't want to see them, he doesn't want to hear them, no, no.
Finally, he reaches Satomi and the prisoner. "Look at him," Satomi urges, his
voice simultaneously impatient and haughty.
Taking a deep breath, Daiki bends down to inspect the prisoner. The man is a mere skeleton, large bruises
and scratches covering his chest and arms. He looks no more than eighteen, more of a boy than a man.
Daiki brings a crooked finger to the upper lip of the boy and waits for a few seconds, seeing if there
is any life left in him.
"Dead," Daiki mumbles numbly.
Satomi nods and grabs hold of the prisoner's ankles while Daiki lifts the boy up by his
underarms. Although the boy is practically a skeleton, Daiki almost collapses
again under the weight. "Can't you even lift it up?" Satomi grunts.
Daiki remains silent and together, they move the body to the upper
deck. Satomi drops the boy promptly, upon seeing the
general and salutes. "The prisoner is dead, sir," he barks.
The boy's upper torso hangs loosely in Daiki's arms.
The general ignores him.
"All right then. Throw him out."
"Yes, sir." Satomi quickly picks up the boy's ankles again and, with Daiki,
moves to the side of the ship. "On the count of three," he murmurs.
"Ichi...ni...san!" With an almighty toss, Satomi thrusts the boy's
legs over the ship and the body slips out of Daiki's hands and into the ocean.
Daiki's arms dangle over the railing, watching the foam, and the
little waves forming as the boat continues
in its journey. His hands begin to shake again, the tears that should be there clotting up into a lump in his throat.
Do you look down on me now, Sensei?
The dolls do nothing.
How can they do nothing?
They are you.
And they are Akako.
There is no me and Akako.
Sitting on a tatami mat, Akako folds a
propaganda pamphlet briskly, her delicate fingers turning the paper over and
over until it forms a perfect square. She places it gently onto a pile on the
small wooden table, the same one that Mrs. Hiraiwa and Mrs. Shingi had once
shared tea over.
The whirring of the plane engines can be heard overhead.
Patting the little pile of squares, Akako's
eyes wander to the large painting of the Emperor residing on the opposite wall.
She smiles at it adoringly. It is almost time for the annual Hina Matsuri
festival. She can remember every single Hina Matsuri festival but with the war,
there are no such things as festivals. Akako bites her lip softly, remembering
the many dolls she has made throughout the years and the wonderful platform
that grew larger and larger with each year.
But the most memorable Hina Matsuri has to
be the year when the friendship dolls first arrived.
Hiraiwa Daiki lies on the ground, beneath
the bamboo bed. He ignores the running, the screaming, the men trampling past
him and on him. The little doll that had been so dear to him over the years of
war lies only a few metres from him. "It doesn't matter anymore," he whispers.
"Don't listen to them."
Akako lifts up her little doll, Aiko. How
old is she? It's been a long time since she first received the doll as a
present from her mother. She holds it close to her heart and breathes in
He reaches his fingers out to her, wanting
to touch the soft reddish-brown hair, to feel the warmth that she always seems
to bring. She hasn't changed at all, her face still as white, as pure as ever
and her eyes, even now, offers the peace and friendship that America had once
promised. But does it matter anymore?
"I shall never look back," she murmurs.
Serena Wong's Reflection Statement on researching
and writing this short story.
 "Fallen blossoms do not return to the branch, a broken mirror cannot be
made to shine."
 "Best friend"
 Older brother
 "Thank you very much."
 A festival in Japan for
girls, which occurs on the 3rd of March.
 A form of suicide
traditionally performed by samurais and nobles during the feudal times.
Sometimes referred to as hara-kiri.
 A famous samurai warrior from Japan's national tale of duty and
honour. He was the leader of the
47 Ronin who swore a blood oath to avenge the death of their Lord, Lord Asano,
which they did.
 Filial piety.
 Duty to the Emperor, the law and Japan.
 Literally, Law Soldier Regiment; the military police.
 "Sacrifice life"
 "Great Japan"
 "She had many tears in her eyes…"
 "The nail which sticks out will be hammered."