Library preserves Pacific War memories

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Visitors read writings left by the late former Imperial Army Capt. Hiroshi Iizuka.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Various books and war chronicles are aligned on a bookshelf.

About 5,000 items left behind by soldiers who fought in the Pacific War, including a collection of notes written by a former Imperial Japanese Army captain and war-related books, are on display at the Eternal Library in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture.

These valuable records were discovered in an empty house and donated with the aim of passing memories on to future generations. The archive is privately run and managed by people from generations with no direct war experience.

Shigeru Urushibara, 51, looking around the inside of a building up for sale that he was considering converting into a share house, discovered a huge number of books and handwritten notebooks.

One such item is the account of an airman who died in a suicide attack on a large enemy cargo ship on Oct. 24, 1944, in the Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

These items served as the memoirs of former Imperial Army Capt. Hiroshi Iizuka, the building’s previous owner. They contain memories of his tour of service in Southeast Asia, as well as writings about his life after the war had ended.

Though Urushibara has no firsthand experience with war himself, he recalled, “I paid close attention to notes in which [Iizuka] sympathized with his fellow soldiers and felt that they must not be thrown away.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A soldier’s water flask and other items that Iizuka had painstakingly stored.

The collection also includes a large number of historical documents, such as textbooks of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, which give a firsthand look at the realities of society at that time.

Urushibara received permission to store and display the collection from Iizuka’s family, who were on the verge of throwing everything away.

The Eternal Library officially opened its doors in March last year, taking its name from Urushibara’s desire to eternally preserve the memories of those who lived during the war for future generations.

In a note penned by Iizuka more than 30 years after the war ended, there is a passage that reads: “Though more than half of my fellow soldiers, who joined the army at the same time as I did, gladly gave their youth for our nation, God’s will allowed me to set foot on my homeland once again. What a shame.”

This passage illustrates his sorrow as a survivor who lamented his own aging as well as his everlasting sentiments toward his comrades.

“Just what was the war to which he dedicated his adolescence?” Urushibara said. “Mr. Iizuka perhaps continued to passionately write with this question in mind and searched for an answer.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Lyrics to a song about soldiers are recorded in one of the handwritten notebooks.

Over 2,000 other related documents were donated by residents of the city and others who had heard about the library.

Although 76 years have passed since the end of the war, Urushibara said, “I want to make this library a place where people can come to realize that the time of the war and today are seamlessly connected,” indicating his sense of responsibility toward carrying on Iizuka’s memories.

The Eternal Library

1057 Hojo, Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture