But that changes today! Mainly because I finally got to see the Japanese drama "Blackboard ~ Jidai To Tatakatta Kyoushitachi". Or at least the first part of the three-part miniseries. Haven't found the other two yet, but the first one was fascinating to me on many levels. The story is deceptively simple, but if you look beneath the surface it provides a glimpse into the changes, both subtle and overt, that affected everyday Japanese life when the war ended. A nation that had been taught there was no way they would lose now struggled to come to terms with loss as people tried to find their place in a rapidly changing society.
Shohei Shirahama (Sakurai Sho), a schoolteacher with fiery devotion to Imperial Japan, goes to fight for his country after drilling ideas of nationalistic loyalty and an almost divine right of victory into his students. Years later, after losing an arm in the war and spending time in a POW camp, he returns home to find everything and everyone he knew has been deeply affected by the war in some way. His brother perished, widowing his sister-in-law and leaving her with a young son. His younger sister also lost her husband, and she now finds work as a hostess for the occupying Allied Forces in exchange for food. As the story progresses even his former students bear scars of war, both physical and mental. One student lost his life, leaving his younger sister to prostitute herself to survive. Shohei must come to terms with the affect his teaching had on his students, and how (or if) he could repair the damage.
In the midst of all this, a new school is built from the rubble and Shohei is asked to teach again, but he quickly learns the education system is now vastly different, having been installed by the Allied forces to more closely copy the Western world. The subject he had taught before, Japanese history, was replaced by the globalized subject of social studies, and English was now added to the curriculum.
Shohei himself is the very picture of a man tormented by what he once idolized. The war he had been eager to join not only stripped him of his arm and burdened him with survivor's guilt, but a fateful encounter in which he had killed a soldier continues to haunt him and make him question everything he had been taught--and taught others in return.
Not much else I can say but to recommend you watch it if you can find it. As an American, it was fascinating to see a war story told from a different viewpoint. As the saying goes, "history is written by the victors", and growing up I was never taught much about WWII beyond "we won, there was a parade and everything was fine until the Cold War." I was riveted by such a raw, nostalgia-free look at life for regular, everyday people that had been caught up in something they couldn't control as they picked up pieces of a shattered existence and formed something entirely new.
Discussing my own views regarding war would make this post unnecessarily longer than it should be and would only detract from the point of my post, but I must say I could truly appreciate the movie's ending and its focus on promoting the importance of peace between nations. Yes, it was a slightly heavy-handed delivery, but given the intensity of the emotions building throughout the film, I don't see how it could have been feasibly been handled any other way. The show itself received low ratings within Japan, but as an "outsider" I think it held a valuable lesson for every human being: all life is precious, and deserves to be treasured.