Crossing this bridge would take me into Chinese territory.
On March 9 and 10, 1945 when I was six years old, I survived the Great Tokyo Air Raid, which killed more than 100,000 people and destroyed my school and countless other buildings in downtown Tokyo. From there I moved to Osaka, western Japan, and entered an elementary school a year later. My class consisted of some 50 kids who shared only two color textbooks between them and otherwise used mimeographed materials.
Given my experiences, I wanted to provide children all over the world with opportunities for education. In Myanmar, The Nippon Foundation has built 460 elementary and junior high schools mostly in conflict-affected areas. I am resolved to deliver on the promise we made last December to supply teaching materials and other humanitarian assistance to displaced children in Kachin.
With the presence of land mines and training camps of other rebel groups in the area, it was necessary for me to cross back over the truce line before sunset and thus I rushed back to Myitkyina. But I became the first foreigner in 74 years to visit Laiza with official permission. I sincerely hope that my visit, though a small step, will eventually help pave the way for a national reconciliation in Myanmar.
During World War II, Kachin was the midpoint of the vital route used by Britain and the United States to supply the Nationalist Chinese under Chiang Kai-shek in Chongqing. The Kachin people are mostly Christian in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.
In November 2018, after directly consulting with Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, I called for the military to declare a unilateral Christmas ceasefire with EAOs that have not inked the NCA. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing then announced after careful consideration to halt, from December 21, 2018 to April 30, 2019, all of its military activities against the EAOs in Northeast Myanmar. It was a rare unilateral truce by the military for Christmas, which was later extended and in effect for a total of nine months. But it was really regrettable that he was forced to terminate the ceasefire as other EAOs in Northeast Myanmar launched shelling on the military’s school for training senior officers. The senior general did not blame me for this incident because it was his long-cherished wish to achieve reconciliation with the EAO in Kachin.
Days later, I learned that some groups had been chasing our vehicle in an attempt to abduct and hold in custody my colleagues−but not me−but gave up doing so as we had already crossed back over the truce line. I let it be known that next time we visit, they should only seize me, but never my colleagues.
Japan has been at peace since the end of World War II, but it has never played a leading role in resolving a conflict in a third country since the Meiji era (1868-1912). Given the unique relations between the two countries since the end of the war, I believe that it is a major responsibility of Japan to end the 74 years of armed conflict in this pro-Japanese country. No matter how long it might take, I am determined to step up my efforts to achieve this goal.
One of the IDP camps we visited near Laiza. The mountains in the background are in China.
In front of temporary housing in the IDP camp, where people live in close proximity. A fire broke out here in the past.