This week’s excerpt comes from Homare Endo's poignant new memoir, Japanese Girl at the Siege of Changchun, in which she describes her childhood experience of a Chinese atrocity in the late 1940s and breathes life into post-war China-Japan relations. “Endo’s aim,” writes The Japan Times, “is not to expose a ‘forgotten’ scandal in China’s history so much as to reconstruct the terrifying event she experienced as a child.” Imbued with both stark realism and poetic meditations, this is her eyewitness, at times haunting account of survival at all costs and of unspeakable scenes of barbarity that the Chinese government today will not acknowledge.
Here’s Endo’s lyrical opening to her memoir, a passage that poetically captures the aura of a city bathed in nature’s beauty, at the mercy of time and fate, and ultimately tinged with the tragedy of human affairs:
"The evening sun in Changchun was beautiful. A flaming, almost transparent red.
When it suddenly settled on the horizon like a huge red bead of glass, the sun turned everything to gold—the trees on Xing-an Boulevard, the windows, and even me myself. Its golden red light flowed into the glass factory behind the house, fusing with the red-hot glass in the large crucible there. The glass would meld with the golden red sun, transform itself into a huge bead, and float up into the sky, shaking my soul to the roots. If I stretched out my hand, I felt I could grasp it. If I had golden wings, I felt I could fly up and pass through the red bead hanging in the sky. My world was within that golden-haloed glass bead; beyond it was the vast incalculable future.
Time and space stretched out to infinity. Looking through this glass bead, I tried to fathom what the nebulous future held."