2010-08-15

Faithful Elephants.

At around noon 65 years ago, Japan officially surrendered ending WWII. Called VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day) outside of Nippon, in Japan, the day is known as the "memorial day for the end of the war", 終戦記念日, (Shūsen-kinenbi) though the official name for the day is "the day for mourning of war dead and praying for peace", 戦歿者を追悼し平和を祈念する日 (Senbotsusha wo tsuitōshi heiwa wo kinennsuru hi).
SEE:


But enough of all that. Let's talk about something really serious...the murder or elephants and other animals at Ueno Zoo.

"There are numerous Japanese depictions and stories of the wartime slaughter of animals at Ueno Zoo: from the enormously popular and influential picture book Kawaisōna Zō (The Pitiful Elephants), originally published by Tsuchiya Yukio as a short story for children in 1951, then as a picture book in 1970 with 163 editions to date–to the recent TV drama Zō no Hanako (The Elephant Hanako). The story has also travelled outside Japan, with two English and one French translations of Kawaisōna Zō. Most of these depictions portray the slaughter of the animals as motivated by the wish to protect humans from more or less immediate danger and accept the starvation of the elephants as unavoidable."

Scammed from Starving Elephants - The Slaughter of Animals in Wartime Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo. Read the rest of the story at that link...it is not a happy story.

My online Japanese teacher explains further about the book, かわいそうなぞう here. "It is a true story about three elephants at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo during World War II. I read it for the first time when I was in elementary school. I remember it was very sad and I strongly hoped that a war would never happen again. I haven't read it for a quite a long time, but I recently had the opportunity to read the story again. I still found myself with tears in my eyes while I read it. Chieko Akiyama, a 93-years-old journalist, has been reciting the story on the radio every August 15th for over 40 years."

Here is the opening paragraph in English.

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the Ueno Zoo. Their petals are falling in the soft breeze and sparkling in the sun. Beneath the cherry trees, crowds of people are pushing to enter the zoo on such a beautiful day. Two elephants are outside performing their tricks for a lively audience. While blowing the trumpets with their long trunks the elephants walk along large wooden logs.

and the closing paragraph:

Later, when the bodies of the elephants were examined nothing was found in their washtub like stomachs – not even one drop of water. With tears in their eyes, the zoo keeper finished his story. “These three elephants – John, Tonky and Wanly – are now resting peacefully under this monument.”
He was still patting the tombstone tenderly as the cherry blossoms fell on the grave, like snowflakes.



You can read the rest of the story at Faithful Elephants.

I can't find a version in Japanese of this story anywhere and I'm not sure if this Japanese version is a parody or not, it sure sounds like one.



 
Did you know that Cyndi Lauper has read the English version of it? I couldn't find a copy of it, instead let's cheer you up a bit with...
 

 
If you want Faithful Elephants, you'll have to pick up a copy yourself.
 
If I haven't done a good enough job of depressing all of you, here are the themes of  the saddest anime ever, 火垂るの墓, (Hotaru no Haka) or The Grave of the Fireflies.
 

 

 
Warning, the Live version is no less sad...
 

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