June 22, 2011
The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's June 22 issue.
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What song would like to hear or even sing at the very end of your life, when you are facing your own death?
The late producer Teruhiko Kuze took up this theme in his book of essays, "Mai Rasuto Songu" (My last song), published by Bungeishunju Ltd.
Many people probably would be unable to make a quick decision, wondering if maybe this song or that one would be the appropriate choice.
Sixty-six years ago, a woman chose her last song on Kiyanmisaki cape in Okinawa Prefecture.
Kikuko Miyagi, now 82, was then 16 years old. She is one of the surviving members of the Himeyuri Gakutotai (Star Lily Student Corps), a group of female students mobilized to the front line as nurses.
In the June 22 issue of Fujinkoron, a semimonthly magazine published by Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc., author Teruyuki Kobayashi wrote about Miyagi.
The sounds of maggots feeding on the pus coming out of the wounds of injured soldiers were heard late at night, Kobayashi quoted Miyagi as recalling. Such details of battlefield life are not merely gruesome; they are truly hellish.
Miyagi and other girls desperately were trying to flee from enemy gunfire. Holding a grenade in her hand, which was meant to kill herself and several others, she and three other girls decided to sing their last song in chorus.
"Usagi oishi kanoyama [I used to chase rabbits on that mountain]..."
Soon after starting singing the song "Furusato" (Hometown), Miyagi came back to herself and felt it would be too sad to die in a situation like this, she recalled.
The Battle of Okinawa, in which about 100,000 local residents lost their lives, ended on June 23, 1945. The date has been observed as a day of remembrance of the war dead.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, I heard some people singing the song as an expression of their wish for recovery from the disaster.
"Furusato," created as a song for schoolchildren, is not a song to be sung when you say good-bye to your life. Rather, it must be a song that makes you cherish your life as something more precious than ever.
(Jun. 27, 2011)