NHK radio journal’s “シリーズ戦争を考える”: War orphan ~ 小倉勇さん

This week, the NHK radio journal has started a series to commemorate the end of the war. I listened to the first episode and, as usual, was totally unable to follow what was being said. I understood enough to know that a man in his 80’s (whose name is M. Ogura) was talking about his experience of American air raids.

As I really wanted to hear his story, I listened to the episode several times and was finally able to understand enough to follow the narrative. When the NHK announcer speaks, I can follow, but sadly, I can’t understand well what M. Ogura says.

But, as I really would like to be able to comprehend everything, I feel motivated to keep studying.

This episode is called 終戦が地獄の始まりだった~戦争孤児・小倉勇さん and was launched for the commemoration of the end World War II in Asia, on August 15th.

This episode is about 小倉勇さん(おぐら・いさむ)who is now 85 years-old, and is telling for the first time his experience of the war. Even if I listened to the interview/reportage several times, I still could not understand everything and I may be mistaken in the notes I made…

To listen to the episode, go to the NHK Journal homepage, choose 最近放送したコーナー to access the streaming page and select the date 8月15日, the program’s complete title is “シリーズ戦争を考える(1)終戦が地獄の始まりだった~戦争孤児・小倉勇さん”

Listening to the episode

The first expression to know is 戦争孤児・せんそうこじ which means “war orphan”. M. Ogura will talk 語る・かたる about his own experience 体験・たいけん for the first time.

As a child, M. Ogura lived with his mother 母親・ははおや who worked in a local 地元・じもと factory 工場・こうじょう. The speaker says that the time M. Ogura could spend with his mother was limited (because she had to work):


The speaker then talks about the last time M. Ogura was praised 褒められる・ほめられる by his mother, an episode that occurred in the 15th year of Showa 昭和15年・しょうわ15ねん (=1940), before the begin of 泰平戦争・たいへいせんそう the Pacific War.

The speaker then uses the expression “一変させます・いっぺんさせます” to say that the beginning of the war completely changed M. Ogura’s life. The ravages of war 戦禍・せんか came to M. Ogura’s city: we are in 昭和20年7月12日 (July 12th of 1945), the American air-raid 空襲・くうしゅう strikes the little city of Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture.

At this time, M. Ogura’s mother was working at the factory, and M. Ogura was staying at relative’s home 親戚・しんせき.


While wondering how his mother was doing, but without having much time to think at all, M. Ogura ran with the others. The following day 翌日・よくじつ M. Ogura, who was only 13, was confronted with his mother’s corpse 遺体・いたい.

The young M. Ogura had then to live with relatives 親戚・しんせき but, from what I understand, things didn’t go well, the relatives in question wouldn’t feed M. Ogura correctly, and he eventually flew out the house 飛び出す・とびだす. He then tried to survive, sleeping in the station like many other orphans 孤児・こじ, some of whom he saw starving to death 餓死・がし.

What encourages M. Ogura during the three years he spent at the station, was this phrase:


Three years later, in 昭和23年・しょうわ23ねん (1948), M. Ogura, who was then 16, was taking shelter from rain 雨宿り・あまやどり in Kyoto station. There, he was found by the personnel 職員・しょくいん of what seems to be an association for war orphans? (I can’t understand this part well…, it may be something like “孤児の一時保護”, temporary protection for orphans?).

M. Ogura was taken under protection 保護されました・ほごされました and was able to take his first bath for 3 years and wash his body from tick だに, flea のみ and lice しらみ.

When asked what he desired 求める・もとめる the most during these years, M. Ogura answers something that I am not sure to understand… 😫

M. Ogura made the promise to become someone useful for the century 世紀に役立つ人間? (I am not sure if I understand correctly). He studied hard and was later able to administrate 経営する・けいえいする a massage place.


M. Ogura’s story stroke me by its resemblance with the film Grave of the Fireflies by Isao Takahata. Many children who lost their parents during the air-raids must have had the same story. I am glad that I could understand a little of this moving testimony and I hope I will be able to understand it all one day.

I am glad that I could understand a little of this moving testimony and I hope I will be able to understand it all one day.

As for language learning, today’s post confirms that it is much easier and interesting to study Japanese to be able to understand a radio program that interests us, than listening to a radio program to learn Japanese. Of course, I do listen, read, or watch many things that I don’t really care about just to improve my Japanese. But I never study as well as when I am striving to understand something that I really care about.

I am certain that one source of demotivation when learning a language is that we often consider the language to be the goal and all contents in this language to be tools to reach our goal. In fact, it should be the other way around. Contents in the target language should be our goal and the language, the tool to reach our goal.

I’m learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese to read detective novels in these languages. I post about my reading progress and language study here. Best way to get in touch is on Mastodon 🙂

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