Japanese visitors offer apologies and reconciliation to war survivors here

Japanese national Tomoko Hasegawa and two other Japanese nationals apologising to a group of about 20 war survivors and their families, on Aug 20, 2018. They are members of the Healing River - Rainbow Bridge, a Christian group that has been touring A
Japanese national Tomoko Hasegawa and two other Japanese nationals apologising to a group of about 20 war survivors and their families, on Aug 20, 2018. They are members of the Healing River - Rainbow Bridge, a Christian group that has been touring Asia since 2008 to apologise and reconcile with war survivors.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Fumiko Nakazawa (right), 58, embracing the survivors of the Japanese Occupation.
Fumiko Nakazawa (right), 58, embracing the survivors of the Japanese Occupation.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Japanese Christian activists kneel and bow down as Mdm Kuan Geok Poh (left, in pink), 81, looks on.
Japanese Christian activists kneel and bow down as Mdm Kuan Geok Poh (left, in pink), 81, looks on.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Like many of her fellow countrymen, Japanese national Tomoko Hasegawa grew up not knowing much about the atrocities committed by the Japanese in World War II.

It was only decades later that she came to know of the extent of the war crimes after developing an interest in Chinese history and working in Beijing.

"I first studied Chinese history in the university... but I refused to look at (World War II) in an objective way. Now, I've found that I need to face up to all the realities of what Japan did to all these nations," said Ms Hasegawa, 58.

On Monday (Aug 20), she and two other Japanese nationals apologised to a group of about 20 war survivors and their families here. The trio are members of the Healing River - Rainbow Bridge, a Christian group that has been touring Asia since 2008 to apologise and reconcile with war survivors.

"Being able to face up to all these realities will not only help us learn about our histories, but also allow us to reconcile with Asian countries," said Ms Hasegawa, the group's co-founder.

Healing River - Rainbow Bridge, which comprises five core members, also prays for the places they visit. They have previously visited China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

At the meeting in a chapel in St Andrew's Cathedral, trio performed dances, recited poetry and kneeled in front of the audience to apologise. Audience members later embraced them and accepted their apology, amid much tears.

Some said the event brought a sense of closure to their war memories.

Canon James Wong, 79, recalled that his father, who had been working in an American bank, was killed during the Japanese invasion.

The retired pastor, who was about three years old when the occupation began, said of the Healing River - Rainbow Bridge visit: "I felt a feeling of forgiveness, like I've been finally released."

Another war survivor in the audience was retired principal Lim Keng Boon, 84, whose second-oldest brother is believed to have died in the war.

Yet Mr Lim does not bear a grudge towards the Japanese, noting that there were still kind soldiers who helped his family.

He also thanked the group for their apology. "It's very sincere of them, but the problem is with the Japanese government.

"You see, these people are from a Christian group, but the feeling is that the government should still openly address it."