Japanese writer who documented WWII Tokyo firebombing dies

TOKYO – Katsumoto Saotome, a Japanese author who amassed the accounts of survivors of the U.S. firebombing of Tokyo in World War II to boost consciousness of the large civilian deaths and the significance of peace, has died. He was once 90.

One of his publishers, Iwanami Shoten, showed his demise. He died on Tuesday of organ failure associated with previous age at a health center in Saitama, north of Tokyo, NHK public tv reported.

A local of Tokyo, Saotome was once 12 when he narrowly survived the firebombing of the town on March 10, 1945, that grew to become the densely populated downtown space of the Japanese capital into an inferno. “I ran for my life as countless cluster bombs rained down,” Saotome recalled in certainly one of his storytelling occasions.

More than 105,000 persons are estimated to have died and one million made homeless in one evening, however the devastation has been in large part eclipsed in historical past via the U.S. atomic bombings of 2 Japanese towns a number of months later.


After the warfare, Saotome pursued his writing whilst operating in a manufacturing unit. His debut autobiographical tale, “Downtown Home” was once nominated for the distinguished Naoki literary prize in 1952.

In 1970, Saotome started visiting survivors of the firebombing to listen to their tales to let their voices be heard.

He established a civic team to file the firebombing and gather paperwork and artifacts concerning the assault, resulting in the established order of a museum, the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage, in 2002. He served as its director till 2019.

As head of the museum, he revealed magazines concerning the firebombing, whilst proceeding to put in writing books for youngsters and younger adults to boost consciousness of the tragedy.

“We must hand the baton to the younger generation” to stay retelling the tale, he stated in an interview with NHK in 2019.

Many of the survivors of the firebombing really feel they have been forgotten via historical past and via the federal government.


Postwar governments have supplied a complete of 60 trillion yen ($460 billion) in welfare fortify for army veterans and bereaved households, and scientific fortify for survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however not anything for civilian sufferers of the firebombings.

Acclaimed filmmaker Yoji Yamada, recognized for his extremely widespread movie sequence “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo” (“It’s Hard Being a Man”), featuring a lovable wandering peddler named Tora-san, was a longtime friend of Saotome. He told Japanese media that he was “deeply saddened by the loss of his precious friend with whom he discussed postwar Japan, war and peace.”

Yamada incessantly visited the firebombing museum. Sometimes Saotome took him across the space, making him a large fan of the Shibamata space, which was house to the Tora-san sequence.

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