Hitoshi Katsurai

When I wrote a letter to Keiko Holmes in 1992, never did I dream that I would be hearing from anyone except, perhaps, Keiko herself. But a lovely surprise was in store for me. I learned later that Keiko had made copies of my letter to her and sent them to POWs, wishing to share my thoughts with them. "Typical of Keiko" Jesse Adams wrote. I received letters from Jesse, and Jack and Iris Oliver, which started correspondence between us, that has continued ever since.

I first came to know of Keiko and the Iruka Boys from the moving article written by Keiko for the Japanese daily, the Nihon Keizai, in 1992. Since then I have come to meet Keiko and several Iruka Boys (and girls) and other former Far East POWs, as well as some of their grandchildren. As is well-known now, Keiko is devoting herself to trying to ease the wounds of war and bitterness towards Japan by meeting as many FEPOWs as possible.

At the same time, she is helping us in Japan to lift to some degree the feeling of guilt and remorse that burdens us as we remember the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese army during the war. It is heartening that as a result of her efforts. Iruka Boys and other FEPOWs are coming to the country they had once so hated and extending their hands in friendship to all they meet, bringing peace in their midst.

We are delighted that the younger generation, particularly grandchildren of former prisoners-of-war, are taking part in the pilgrimages. Future peace in the world lies in their hands. I have come to realise that behind Keiko's 'typical' desire to share lies her deep concern for the happiness of others and her love for fellow men and women. I am reminded of the words of a poem learnt as a song many years ago: "O Brother Man, fold to thy heart thy brother; where pity dwells the peace of God is there".
My husband and I were privileged to be given the opportunity of welcoming groups of Iruka Boys and others on three occasions, November 1994, November 1995 and October 1996. At one of the gatherings our house was filled with so many English people, it was as if half of England had come and I was overwhelmed. This must have shown because Jimmy Walker's first words to me were, "relax, Hitoshi, relax," and Gavin (or was it Tony?) offered me one of his sandwiches.

I realised later that I had forgotten my age and undertaken something a trifle big for it, but I enjoyed every moment and would do it all over again. I was welcoming friends from the country I loved. Thank you all for coming. Please come again.