Citizens' strength on show as Oda finally rests
Makoto Oda, who died Monday at the age of 75, was a writer with a strong presence. Known as a man of action, he co-founded Beheiren (citizens' league for peace in Vietnam) and actively led the antiwar movement during the 1960s. His death must have caused many people to feel that it was the passing of an era.
Philosopher and Beheiren co-founder Shunsuke Tsurumi invited Oda to take part in the movement without knowing him very well. "Like Aladdin's lamp, smoke rose from a bottle that I happened to pick up and a giant emerged," Tsurumi said, recalling his encounter with Oda. With a remarkable ability to get things done, Oda was responsible for the movement's growing influence.
What drove him was his experience of the firebombing of Osaka during World War II. He ran for his life amid falling bombs. He recalled feeling very shaken when he emerged from an air-raid shelter to remove the charred remains of victims.
He understood what agony was playing out under the smoke when he saw a photograph of U.S. forces bombing North Vietnam. In other words, he saw things from the perspective of the victims.
As a young man, he traveled around the world and wrote about his experiences in the 1961 best-selling book "Nandemo Miteyaro" (I'll go and see everything). There is an interesting episode in the book. The draft system became a topic of conversation at a youth hostel. When Oda said "Japan had thrown off such a barbaric system a long time ago," young people from around the world appeared enthralled. Such an experience led him to develop deep emotional attachment to Article 9 of the Constitution.
Although he was confined to bed with terminal cancer, Oda deplored Japan's current state of affairs saying the atmosphere is like that of prewar Japan. According to his family, it had become increasingly hard for him to speak in the last month. Still, he repeatedly said, "When politics is really bad, citizens take action."
As a citizen activist, Oda devoted his life to trusting "citizens." Coincidentally, he died the night citizens made a harsh judgment against the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 31(IHT/Asahi: August 1,2007)
東京大文学部卒業後の５８年、フルブライト留学生として米国ハーバード大学へ。このときの体験とそれに続く欧州・アジア巡りをつづった１日１ドルの貧乏 旅行記「何でも見てやろう」（我將目睹這一切 1961年）がベストセラーに。飾り気のない文体と世界の人々と同じ高さの目線で向き合う姿勢が共感を呼んだ。
Oda, writer and peace activist, dies at 75
Makoto Oda, an award-winning writer whose disgust with war led to the formation of Beheiren (citizens' league for peace in Vietnam), died of stomach cancer Monday at a Tokyo hospital, his family said.
He was 75.
Oda was diagnosed with terminal cancer in spring this year. He died at 2:05 a.m.
Born in Osaka in 1932, Oda survived the great Osaka air raid on Aug. 14, 1945, a day before Japan's surrender.
Oda's anger at what he called "meaningless deaths" is believed to have been his source of energy to continue his writing and anti-war activities.
After graduating from the University of Tokyo's Faculty of Letters, Oda studied at Harvard University on a Fulbright scholarship in 1958.
He later traveled through Europe and Asia, restricting himself to spend only 1 dollar a day.
Oda wrote about his experiences in the 1961 best-seller "Nandemo Miteyaro" (I'll go and see everything).
In 1965, Oda established Beheiren jointly with other anti-war activists, including philosopher and critic Shunsuke Tsurumi and writer Takeshi Kaiko, to protest the Vietnam War.
While continuing to write after Beheiren was disbanded, Oda spoke up on political issues from the standpoint of a citizen.
In 1976, he visited North Korea to meet with then leader Kim Il Sung.
The former Japan Socialist Party in 1987 asked Oda to run in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, but he declined.
Oda was living in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, when the Great Hanshin Earthquake devastated the Kobe area on Jan. 17, 1995, killing more than 6,000 people.
Having seen firsthand the slow government response in a time of disaster, Oda pressed for the passage of the disaster-relief law intended to help victims rebuild their lives.
Oda was also an inaugural member of the Article 9 Association, a group set up in June 2004 to protect war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's Constitution. Other members include Nobel Prize laureate Kenzaburo Oe and critic Shuichi Kato.
In 1988, Oda won the Lotus Prize of the Afro-Asian Writers' Association, a literary award hailed as the best prize for writers in Asia and Africa, for his book "Hiroshima."(IHT/Asahi: July 30,2007)