The year is 1945. Japan has been ravaged as a nation, and many of its larger cities have been bombed into an unrecognizable mess. Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s core business districts are flattened wastelands of radioactive rubble, and hundreds of thousand of Japanese citizens have been killed. Most of those citizens had nothing whatsoever to do with the war. They were just living their live, and some politician somewhere decided they were going to go to war with the United States, as well as committing atrocities all over the pacific rim.
It was a difficult time. The most hardship many in the US had to endure was some fear, economic hardship, and rationing. The hardships those in Japan had to endure were… much worse. Families were shattered, and children became orphans. Or worse.
When the American servicemen came onto the shores of Japan, I’m sure they encountered many children who were in very bad shape. They had lost their parents, may have been living in squallid conditions, and in a very real way, the same people who had been the day prior bombing the ever loving whatever out of their country were now their rescuers. The servicemen had a difficult task ahead of them – to gain the trust of those who they had previously been enemies with.
I don’t know all the details of this time. I’m not a WWII historian. Frankly, I don’t think I could be. It was a horrific time. But after Japan was conquered, it became a time for peace, for reconciliation, and for reparation.
And the American servicemen brought chocolate.
The Japanese children didn’t know how to say much English. In fact, I think it being “taught” in schools is very much a postwar thing. But they learned how to say two words: “gimme choco”.
See, the mind of a child, no matter what the nationality, is simple and uncluttered. They did not understand war. They did not understand what happened to their cities, or their parents. But if you came to them offering to make their lives better – and with a little bit of luxury added on in the form of chocolate – the healing could begin. We offered chocolate, and they learned that we had chocolate. It didn’t make everything better, but it made things just a little better.
Adults deserve the consequences for what they do, but the children never do, and to their credit, the American servicemen understood this as well. NO ONE likes to see children affected by a war, and those who do are sick indeed.
Babymetal is a “Kawaii Metal” band whose songs, well, pretty much everything about them, tends to be layered with many different levels of meaning, and their song “Gimme Chocolate” is one of them. On the surface, it is simply a song about a girl wanting a little chocolate but is worried about her weight.
And then superimposed on that is onomatopaeia for machine guns.
Eighty years since, Japanese children say “gimme chocolate” not because they lost their home and parents, but because it tastes good, but they’re worried about their weight so they’re not sure whether or not they should have any.
The children of Japan in 1945 did not have this worry. They had many more pressing things to worry about.
Eighty years later, few people live who remember those times. Adults who are in their mid eighties might have been one of those children who shyly asked for chocolate in the only English they knew.
Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.
I do hope that in the future, children continue to be able to ask for chocolate because they want it, not because it’s the only comfort they have.
War is hell. It was hell on everyone involved, and it still is. And the children, of any nationality or race, do not deserve to be exposed to it. It is good that Babymetal, in their own inimitable style, has reminded the Japanese of that fact. The American media is asleep at the switch. They are openly advocating for war, both internal and external. Perhaps there should be, as uncomfortable as it is, a reminder of the horrors of what they are attempting to unleash.
And maybe we should start with a small Japanese child, clutching a ragged stuffed animal, which is maybe the only thing she owns, asking a serviceman for chocolate.
For that is what war wreaks.
This was a very hard post to write. I hope you get something from it.