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Poetry-loving officer possessed true grit in postwar Japan

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Historian Kojiro Naoki, who died on Feb. 2 at the age of 100, served in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.

His former navy colleague recalled the day he met Naoki for the first time: “He looked every inch a bookish wimp, and I felt relieved to have someone like him among us.”

Slight in stature, fair-skinned and with fearful eyes, the young Naoki joined the navy carrying a copy of “Manyoshu” (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry.

He was totally in love with this anthology of no-frills verse that gave expression to genuine human feelings. But something like literature was of no importance in wartime Japan, and no one dared to express their feelings even about their own families at the time.


© The Asahi Shimbun