Photo/Illutration Adrian Francis, the director of the documentary film "Paper City," in Tokyo on Jan. 30 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A white-haired man stares at the photograph of a young boy sitting in a daze, covered with darkened blood and gray ash.

The man mumbles: “I was like him. The coat I was wearing was in tatters from the fire.”

The above is a scene from “Paper City,” a documentary film showing in theaters in Japan with the Japanese secondary title of “Tokyo Dai-kushu no Kioku” (Memories of the Tokyo firebombing).

On March 10, 1945, a U.S. air attack on Tokyo incinerated about a quarter of the city and killed an estimated 100,000 people overnight. The film features testimonies of survivors whose words are quiet but filled with gravity.

Adrian Francis, a 48-year-old Australian, directed the film.

World War II was called a “good war” in Australia, the United States and other Allied nations. Francis did not believe it to be so simple, however.

He said wanted to hear what people who were in Tokyo at the time had to say.

The survivors expressed their anger at the U.S. military, but also bitterly complained about being “abandoned” by their own country.

The Japanese government paid reparations to soldiers but did not even bother to ascertain the names and the number of civilian victims, nor has it ever erected a monument at which to mourn the dead.

Francis noted that it was as if both Japan and the United States wanted the problem to be quickly forgotten, and quoted Milan Kundera, a Czech writer who went into exile in France in 1975: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

The white-haired man mentioned above was Hiroshi Hoshino, who died shortly after being interviewed. He was 87. The boy in the picture was a Syrian who was injured in an air attack during the country's civil war.

The absurdity of war does not stop. It only moves from one place to another. I remind myself anew of that reality.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 28

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.