Healing the Ancestors With Story and Kamishibai To Prevent Another War and Japan’s Re-Militarization

Yokohama War Cemetery POW grave

With Eiko Matsui, left and Asuko Matsui with me holding a picture of my grandfather at the Yokohama War Cemetery outside Tokyo. The POW Research Network brought us here and showed me a grave of another POW’s grave who may have known my grandfather. This man was hit by a train and killed after stealing food because he was starving. Photo by Mariko Iino, NHK.

A few weeks ago I was in Tokyo again for the First World Kamishibai Day for peace. I told the story Nidoto by Eiko Matsui about the atomic bombings and the need for peace. In English it’s titled Never Again.

The day before Eiko Matsui and her sister, Asako and I had visited with the POW Research Network Japan the Yokohama War Cemetery as well as Heiwa Island, formerly POW Camp Omori of the movie Unbroken fame, where my late grandfather was assigned for forced labor during World War II and later died at Shinagawa POW Hospital in 1943.

Yokohama War Cemetery.

At the Yokohama War Cemetery outside Tokyo. Many Dutch POWs were buried here, including some from the Battle of Solo River in Java, Dutch East Indies where my grandfather was captured in 1942. The POWs were taken on “Hell Ships’ under horrific conditions. The ones that didn’t survive were put in a mass grave, their remains cremated and unable to separate in ashes, so interned in a mausoleum here. Photo by Mariko Iino, NHK.

We also visited the former site of the POW Shinagawa Hospital.  NHK, the Japanese national public broadcasting, made a piece on it that aired. How Eiko-san and I connected via kamishibai on the tragedy of war that claimed the lives of our grandfathers.


Kamishibai Nidoto Never Again drop another atomic bomb Sydney Solis

Me telling the Kamishibai Never Again, Nidoto, by in English at the First World Kamishibai Day for Peace in Tokyo on December 7. Photo by Katsunori Michiyama

You can watch it here.  It’s all in Japanese but in a bit will be translated into English and 17 other languages and broadcast on radio. It was intensely emotional, and here after all the horrific things the Japanese did to my family, I was speaking out against the atomic bombings that ended the war and, as my mother insisted, saved my father’s life in the concentration camps he was in as a child so that I would even be born.

I even thought at one point maybe I betrayed my own country, mother and father. But what good is it to act just as barbaric and drop atomic bombs on innocent civilians and burn to death hundreds of thousands more? In the end, I realized, the biggest mass murderer wins.

Peace is the only option. Sydney Solis telling Eiko Matsui's Nidoto, Never Again, in English. Never drop another atomic bomb again. Photo by Katsunori Michiyama

Peace is the only option. Telling Eiko Matsui’s Nidoto, Never Again, in English. Photo by Katsunori Michiyama

I would write more, but the experience is naturally intense and needs time to digest before I can write about it again. Plus the holidays are upon us and my daughter arrives this afternoon!

But I can say that it was an intensely healing with story opportunity to retroactively heal the ancestors, as my once mysterious grandfather that was nothing but a photo above my father’s bed my whole life, his story finally told. And knowing the story is what’s so healing. That mysterious part of me no longer a mystery. His suffering witnessed and transformed into a voice for peace.

Book House Cafe in Tokyo

NHK interviwing members of the audience at Book House Cafe in Tokyo, where the First World Kamishibai Day for peace was held Dec. 7, 2018.

For peace is the only option. And I have learned so much more about the war and current events recently. We need all be alarmed and take urgent action for peace.

United States President Donald Trump is violating Japan’s Constitution set up by the United States after World War II and selling Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe weapons of mass destruction to close the trade gap, aimed at expanding sales to allies, saying it will bolster the American defense industry and create jobs at home. The Military Industrial Complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about it out of control!

The defense budget is being squeezed by massive purchases of U.S.-made weapons demanded by U.S. President Donald Trump, The Asahi Shinbun reported about Japan’s rush toward militarization. The government is ordering an additional 105 U.S. stealth F-35 fighters, including B-series craft that can be deployed aboard the Izumo. The total bill is estimated at 1.2 trillion yen.

Japan is ordering F35s and long-range cruise missiles, retrofitting an aircraft carrier, the first since WWII. There is something really wrong with that, especially since it’s to counter the “threat” of China and North Korea. China being an ally of the US during WWII against the Japanese, which the US dropped two atomic bombs on. NUTS!


With Muralist and Activist Eiko Matsui and Translator and Activist Etsuko Nozaka

The Mainichi Japanese newspaper said, “we think that it is tantamount to deceiving the public for the government to insinuate that the upgraded ships will not qualify as aircraft carriers because they will mostly carry antisubmarine warfare choppers and jet fighters will only be deployed when necessary.”


With my interpreter Keiko Nagatomo.

I think this is true, especially since I recently learned that Abe’s grandfather, former Japanese PM Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather, was a class A war criminal and tried to change Japan’s Constitution before, declassified records show and The Japan Times reported.

Known for his brutal rule of the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo in Northeast China, Kishi was called Shōwa no yōkai (昭和の妖怪; “the Shōwa era monster/devil”). After World War II, Kishi was imprisoned for three years as a Class A war crime suspect. However, the U.S. government released him as they considered Kishi to be the best man to lead a post-war Japan in a pro-American direction. As such, he has been called “America’s Favorite War Criminal.

The Book House and Cafe in Tokyo is dedicated solely to children's books.

The Book House and Cafe in Tokyo is dedicated solely to children’s books.

The US reversed its stance to fight communism, declassified documents showed, to direct Japan in a pro-American, pro-business bent, as the C.I.A. spent millions to support the Japanese right in 50’s & 60’s.

A U. S. Senate subcommittee discovered that Lockheed Corp., seeking lucrative aircraft contracts, had paid $12 million in bribes to Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and the Liberal Democrats, the current ruling party under Abe.

It is horrific to discover your own country undermined democracy, aligning with its former enemies that militarized Japan in the first place, and who want to militarize it again. NUTS!

My gradnfather, Albert W.J. Straub.

My grandfather, Albert W.J. Straub, who starved to death as a POW at Shinagawa Hospital outside Tokyo in 1943. This picture was all I knew of him and hung above my father’s bed my whole life. His story is finally told on NHK. May we all work for peace and NEVER AGAIN WAR!

But Article 9 in Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution guarantees the people a right to peace. The people of Japan – the people of the whole world – have a right to peace. As we can see, the wars were created only to make money and promote a capitalist economy, not democracy. War is a crime and a lie. War makes good people do terrible things. Let’s not repeat history. Let’s get busy educating ourselves and speaking out in the name of peace.

As it’s a dangerous time with Dictator Trump shutting down the U.S. government over a border wall with Mexico, withdrawing troops from Syria (of which deployment to was illegal anyways since Congress did not authorize it.) That plus a crashing stock market, worst since 1931, doesn’t spell much good. Putting weapon in the grandchildren of war criminals is not a good idea.

So I speak for peace. I’m a Peace Kamishibai Ambassador now. After the Tokyo event, a Japanese man came up to me and said my talk and presentation changed his mind. He used to still harbor anger and other opinions about what happened during the war,  he said, but now he realizes peace is the only option and he will speak out more.

He mentioned he felt the continued U.S. presence on Okinawa was occupation, and I have to agree, considering the central government started land reclamation work off the coast of the Henoko district to build a U.S. military base in Japan’s southernmost prefecture. 

It is destroying ecosystems and threatens native peoples,  Okinawans elected a new governor, Denny Tamaki, the son of a former U.S. Marine to stop the new base transfer, yet the work goes on against the democratic will of the people.  Also, 693 is the Number of times Okinawa school kids have taken shelter from U.S. aircraft in year since helicopter part fell in yard.

A petition on Okinawa base transfer work is now ready for a White House reply.  And everybody, mainlanders and the whole world, is urged to  speak out as one people. 

That means YOU, dear reader! Right-wing sound trucks gaisensha街宣車, with loud nationalistic music and propaganda that eerily harkens back to WWII, are heard outside my window right now as I write this…..

Speak for peace! Your ancestors and the children of the world will thank you for it!




9 thoughts on “Healing the Ancestors With Story and Kamishibai To Prevent Another War and Japan’s Re-Militarization

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