I arrived at Nakhodka on July 6th, 1948. The ship to take us back to Japan did not arrive for a long time. Although it made us worry that we may be taken back to the gulag again, everyone had hopeful looks at this time.
Since there was no labor, we played baseball etc. Inspections of our possessions were so thorough. We were told to leave all written things and printed matters. Therefore, I had to throw away the Russian dictionary I was carrying with me all the way, and sewed the family photo I brought from home in Japan into the collar of the military jacket as stuffing. I also sewed two photos of the memorial monument that we constructed in Yelabuga into the bottom area of the belt for the army uniform pants. I also brought back the photo of my portrait in military uniform which was hastily taken at a studio in Kazan. It is a very valuable souvenir because not too many others had a chance to take a photo in theSovietUnion.
On August 11, we boarded the ship, Eitokumaru, at the port of Nakhodka. We were full of joy with the reality of Domoy (going home) finally coming to us. However, we still had a small amount of doubt whether it was true or not because we were deceived so many times.
As we were climbing the ramp onto the Eitokumaru, weonly had one backpack made of cloth. There were no cabins. We had to just roll onto the floor of a spacious area to sleep. Nevertheless, we were so happy with the white rice which was served after such a long time that we enjoyed every bite of it.
On the ship, it was not all happiness and joy. I witnessed the activities called people’s trials to denounce someone, which I heard wasgoing around often in some of the other gulags.
Up to that point, democratic activists in gulags were blaming so called reactionaries in the public discussion. (However, in Yelabuga where I was, nothing like that happened in our gulag.) Totally opposite action took place onthe boat to go back to Japan—one by one, officers who were leading democratic movements in gulags were taken out to the public discussion instead, and in the end, everyone began to beat them up by punching and kicking.
Later, I heard that this kind of retaliation was more common among the people who were in the gulag where a lot of denouncing took place. The worst story I heard was that people threwoverboard the most domineering leader of the democratic movement. When officials in charge compared the numbers of people who gotaboard and got off,there were definitely fewer people getting off. They tried to find out what happened, but they could not pursue it.
On theEitokumaru ship, I did not see such an ugly action, but a few of them were really beaten up. I saw some officers with their faces swollen toareddish black color or with completely red eyes.
We arrived at Maizuru on August 14th. It was exactly three years after the end of WWII on August 15 in 1945 when my long long life as an internee finally came to an end.
In Maizuru, there was one of the three navy ports oftheJapanese navy, and there used to be a large-scale arms and ammunition factory for the army, but now, it has become the land of dreamsthat the repatriates beganthe first step back into their own country. The arms and ammunition factory was totally ruined afterthe bombing by the American army. Such ascene presented the tough reality of loss ofthe war to our eyes.
One by one, we had to go through the annoying amount of showers of awhite chemical called DDT from head to toe. After that, there were various procedures to follow. Officers from the agency to support the repatriates gave us directions to fill in the report of our backgrounds. We were told to write onthe paper that said, “outline of the history of the actions after 1943.” However, we had to depend on our memories to fill in because small notebooks or anything that had records were all taken away by the Sovietsbefore getting on the ship in Nakhodka.
After staying in the dormitory for the repatriates for three nights, we were put into different groups to head for different directions, and were taken to the trains for repatriates. Everytime the train stopped at a station, many people welcomed us. At the station, many things were sold, but we only had a thousand yen bill that we received. It quickly disappeared after buying some food.
After three years ofliving the cruel life as an internee, I only received one thousand yen! I was so upset, but I could not state it out loud when I thought of many of my comrades who lost their lives in Siberia and could not come home. I was so fortunate that I could experience the joy of coming home.
As the train proceeded, the scenery from the window showed the intensity of the war the damage to my country wastruly devastating. The bigger the city was, the more damage was done. Kyoto was the only city that was saved.