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Students taking look at Vietnam War from fresh perspectives

  • February 21, 2021
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 7:30n a.m.
  • English Press

By Ryuichi Kitano, staff writer


Students born more than 20 years after the Vietnam War ended are shedding new light on Japanese involvement in the conflict through interviews with some of the participants and related people.


One of the works by members of the lab of Ryoichi Matsuno, a journalism studies professor at Chuo University’s Faculty of Global Informatics, has won a prize outside the college.


They have also been published in an in-house journal under the theme of “the Vietnam War and Japanese.”


Naohiro Koenuma, 22, who graduated from the university’s Faculty of Policy Studies last spring, created a film titled “Vietnam Senso no Kioku: Moto LST Norikumiin no Katto (Memories of the Vietnam War: Emotional turmoil of former LST crew) during his student days.


His creation was awarded a prize for excellence among other works presented by citizens, students and municipalities at the Age of Regionalism Video Festival held in November last year in Osaka Prefecture.


Koenuma interviewed the former Japanese crew member of a tank landing ship hired by the U.S. military in the 1960s to 1970s to uncover how U.S. service members, tanks and munitions were transported to Vietnam from across Japan.


“Few people know Japanese supported the U.S. military’s operations as transport ship crew,” said Koenuma, who now serves as a Mainichi Newspapers reporter. “I went on an interview on seven occasions, trying to dig deeper into the topic.”


Naoki Hakamaya, 24, a senior at the Faculty of Policy Studies, published his work “10/8 Haneda Toso: Ani ga Kataru Ototo Yamazaki Hiroaki (10/8 Haneda struggle: Hiroaki Yamazaki explained by his older brother).


The story traces a demonstration on Oct. 8, 1967, by students opposing the Vietnam War around a bridge leading to Haneda Airport, seeking to stop Prime Minister Eisaku Sato from leaving for South Vietnam.


Hiroaki Yamazaki, a Kyoto University student, was killed in the clash between protesters and riot police. Tateo, the older brother of Yamazaki, started a memorial project to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the incident in 2017.


Tateo also created a commemorative magazine and monument with his brother’s former high school classmates and others with an exhibition organized in Vietnam to display relevant materials.


“I was interested in student protests of the time,” said Hakamaya. “I got to know people who have not forgotten about the incident even 50 years later and wanted to understand what motivated them.”


Released in October last year, the 313th issue of Chuo University Press’ magazine Chuo Hyoron (Chuo review) shows 10 such stories by students.


In addition to articles by Koenuma and Hakamaya, featured works depict an Imperial Japanese Army soldier who remained in Vietnam even after the end of World War II; an anti-war American military official escaping from a U.S. base in Japan; and an Indochina refugee driven out of the homeland.


Students are also reportedly researching a protest at a U.S. military base in Japan, interactions between North and South Vietnam through table tennis, a locally deployed Japanese diplomat and the history of the Cambodian genocide.


Chuo University Press is considering publishing such pieces in another issue.

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