Corina, Welcome to Naoetsu


Written by Rieko Odake
Translated into English by Miyoko Uchiyama

One day in January, I got a letter from Gail, who is the daughter of an ex-P.O.W Mr. Boss Barber. I have been a good friend of Gail since I met her at the opening ceremony of the Peace Memorial Statues in 1995. She said in the letter that her niece Corina would come to visit her friend in Japan and that she wanted to visit Naoetsu, where her grandfather stayed. I thought it was good news and wanted to help her as much as possible.

As a matter of fact, as I had many schedules, I was hoping that Corina's visit would not be on the same day. They were like this: in February the Australian ambassador, Mr. McCathyfs visit to Naoetsu, two groups of foreign people coming to stay at my house.

When I came back home on the night of February 10th, I got a message on my answering machine from a woman I didn't know. Later I realized it was Corina. She said she would come to Naoetsu on 13th. Right after I heard her message, I called her back. Then I knew it was her first call to me on arriving in Japan. Thirteenth was the day after the next. The first thing I did was to let Mr. and Mrs. Ishizuka know about her visit and e-mailed our members on the mailing list. I was wondering how we would welcome her.

The day came. She was supposed to arrive at Naoetsu Station by way of Nagano at around noon. Ms. Uchiyama, Ms. Kasahara, and I welcomed her at Naoetsu Station. I had already told her that we would be at the station with an Australian national flag. Corina is a young lady, 22 years old, so we soon could find her.

We had lunch at Tahichi Restaurant across from the station. The lunch menu was Tuna-domburi, a bowl of rice with some slices of raw tuna on top. Corina was brave enough to try many traditional Japanese foods which must be strange for her. She only left the ground yam.

At two o'clock, Mr. and Mrs. Ishizuka and a reporter of the the Joetsu Times were waiting for us in the Peace Memorial Park. It had been fine until early afternoon, but later a strong wind began to blow. Disturbed by this strong wind, she offered flowers to the spirits of the deceased Australian P.O.Ws., and then did the same for eight Japanese guards. She easily accepted our request about offering to the spirits to eight Japanese guards.

After that, we got into the Peace Memorial Museum and watched the video which was recently produced by Rachel, Mr. Yagi, and Mr. Tsushima. Corina was moved and cried whilst watching it. Then we stepped up to the second floor and there she found pictures of her grandfather who was so skinny and so different from his present figure. She said she almost couldn't find him without his name.

Although many ex-P.O.W.s don't want to talk much about the cruel and miserable lives in the concentration camp, Mr. Barbar seemed to have talked much about them to the family members because they are the family of educators. She was told the story as follows. They had quite a lot of snow in winter as much as they could walk on the hedge of the fence around the camp; or as there was no anesthesia drug, when the doctor took the broken piece of the metal from the solder's arm, Mr. Barbar hold his arm tight.

As the cold wind from the sea blew harder and harder, it made Corina say that it was just the season she had to visit because she could experience a part of her granpa's hard life here in winter.

at Tomizushi Restaurant
At Tomizushi Restaurant
Rear from left to right: Kondo, Yagi, Uchiyama, and Ohdake
Front: Ishizuka, Corina, and Yamaga

After the Peace Memorial Park, Ms. Uchiyama and I guided her to Takada Park. Unfortunately the three-storied turret was closed, and the House of Kobayashi Kokei was about to close. Thanks to Ms. Uchiyama's asking a favor, however, the receptionist prolonged the time for our foreign guest. So we could enter the house and take a look at it.

Then we went to Ms. Uchiyama's house and had hot green tea and Sakuramochi. After that, we had a small welcome party for her together with Ms. Yoko Ishizuka, Mr. Yamaga, Mr. Yagi, Mr. Kondo, Ms. Uchiyama and me at Tomizushi Restaurant. Just like Gale told me, Corina is quite a talkative person, so it was an adequate choice to let Ms. Uchiyama involve us. As she was going to stay in Japan for three weeks, we would like her to stay overnight in Takada. But because she had a tight schedule, she was not able to. Then she went to Nagano at that night.

It was the second time for an ex-P.O.W's grandchild to visit Naoetsu since Mr. Robertson's grandchildren came two years ago. We are so glad that our Peace Memorial Park centered activities continue from generation to generation.