Early in August of this year (2002), Inomata,
an executive committee member of the Japan-Australia
Society, sent an old unfinished oil painting
(size 4) to Cook, an ex-POW living in the
suburbs of Sydney. The letter e-mailed on
the same day reads as follows:
This is a picture I exhibited at the
Takada Normal School Students' Exhibition
that was held at the Stainless Steel
in October. I was working there as
of the school labour service corps.
19 years old then, which means that
this picture 58 years ago. . . . .
Painted with scanty paint, it is quite
for you to think that this picture
unfinished. Paint was very scarce and
to obtain in those days. The picture
the Sea of Japan as seen from Arakawabashi
Bridge, which crossed the Arakawa River
the Naoetsu POW Camp. Actually, there
a munitions plant located on the far
side of the scene. I omitted it on
since we were prohibited by the military
police to sketch or take pictures of
On 10th December 1942, those 300 Australian
POWs from Singapore, including you,
crossing this bridge with much anxiety
little hope. It was winter and the
must have been all white with the snow
the bridge and banks. There would have
raging waves from the Sea of Japan
up angrily on the beaches. During that
severe cold spells and hunger spread
among the prisoners. Besides, during
period between March 1943 and February
constant overwork and inhuman treatment
the death of 60 Australian soldiers.
When the war came to an end on 15th
1945, I was not working at the Stainless
Steel Mill any more. On 7th May 1945,
days after the bombardment of Kuroi
which was located near the factory,
drafted into the army, leaving my farewell
note behind. For three months after
I was being trained in suicidal attack
the invading Allied tanks that would
on the beaches of Tokyo Bay.
This picture would have been my posthumous
work if the war had lasted only a few more
weeks. Therefore, the scene depicted in it
is a most unforgettable one to me. You might
have ambivalent feelings about this scene
since you had a hard time as a POW near here.
I am sure, however, that you and I can share
the same feeling as victims of war. The picture,
I hope, will remind us, who belong to the
same wartime generation, of our common experience
of hard work at Naoetsu. It is impossible,
however, to share one picture between you
and me, who live so far away. I think it
better to leave it with you. I presume the
picture, though painted unskillfully and
unfinished, makes a very suitable present
to you. I hope your children and grandchildren
will learn from this picture a lesson in
the importance of peace.
Inomata's association with Cook developed
when 22 members of the Japan-Australia Society
of Joetsu went on a goodwill tour of Australia
in October 1996. Inomata sketched Mr. and
Mrs. Cook while they were on a Sydney Bay
cruise. Their son John acted as a guide for
the painter, taking him around the city so
he could draw the old buildings in town.
When the ex-POW said goodbye to the visitors
from Naoetsu at the airport, he promised
the artist that he would try to write a report
on his bitter experiences during the war.
Five years after saying goodbye, in the month
of Jauary 2002, Cook's experiences as a prisoner
of war arrived. That started their correspondence.
In the process, Inomata promised to present
one of his paintings to his friend in Sydney.
Before he could decide which picture to present,
he sent a photo of his oil painting titled
Merry Christmas and a picture booklet including
his pastel The Prison Camp. (Both pictures
are exhibited at the Peace Park Museum.)
In return, Cook sent an art book for Inomata
Then Inomata thought of sending the unfinished
picture that he painted 58 years ago. After
exhibiting it at a gallery in town, he presented
it to his Australian friend.
His letter from above ends with the following
Since I exhibited this picture at the
Society Exhibition that was held in
of July and took photos of it, I do
attached to it any more. It is regrettable,
however, that both you and I are too
to meet with each other.
Your Japanese friend,
Cook's letter of thanks begins as follows:
I received that wonderful painting
I am amazed that you could part with
an article that must always be so close
your heart. Your picture,The Scene
Mouth of the Ara-kawa River, is now
in our lounge room. Also your letter
by for my family and visitors to read.
have never seen a paining framed like
It has everyone thinking about it and
all want to know how I came to know
a talented artist. . . . .
A picture that Inomata painted 58 years ago
has connected Naoetsu with Sydney beyond
space and time.