In late 2006 and 2007, I was living in the semi-rural town of Inuyama in Aichi, Japan. Occasionally, I would head down to a local traditional Japanese restaurant that served good, hearty, cheap meals without all the fancy stuff. Outside the restaurant, I was approached by an elderly Japanese man who stood only about 5’2”. He was wearing a typical Japanese blue-collared workman’s uniform with a white hardhat that he wore as a motorbike helmet, and if I remember correctly he had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He came across as an interesting character who had seen a lot in his lifetime, and who might have something wise or interesting to say. I had previously seen him running around town on a small strange-looking motorbike with a funny-looking contraption hanging from the back off a spring so that it always stayed level when the bike was at a angle. I later found out this held hot meals that he delivered to the elderly. It turned out that he was the owner of the restaurant, but now in his late eighties he appeared to be retired, or semi-retired, with the kitchen and restaurant duties left to his family while he had a chat to the regulars then took off to deliver a meal or two. Personally, I take my hat off to any bloke in his eighties who still rides a motorbike.
He was always cheerful, but he became much more serious when he told his story. When he first came up to me, he asked where I was from and after hearing that I was Australian he began to tell me the following story with great energy and emotion. I had several other opportunities to sit down with this man and try to get the full meaning of what he was trying to say. I hope I’ve kept the song as close to the truth as possible, as if he was the one singing it.
Fighting in the jungles of Borneo in the later part of World War II, they were starving and sick from a serious lack of supplies and were forced to scrounge for anything they could find to eat – including berries, leaves and rodents. Many of the Japanese did not have enough medicine for diseases such as malaria, which was a major problem. Captured by the Australians, they were fed, given proper medication and treated with kindness. He said that
“our officers would never have allowed such kindness, and I always wanted to write to say thank you. I cannot read and write or speak English, never got any names or address of those Australian soldiers who showed us that kindness, that possibly saved our lives and I can still remember some their smiles. I have always wanted to say thank you to them as that was the most difficult, dark and horrible time of my life. We all lost a lot of friends, school friends and family during the war and there is not one good thing about war. It is a very sad thing and wish there was peace in the world today. It all revolves around oil, money and power…why haven’t we learnt from our mistakes from the past?”
I felt it would be a good idea to include this message in explaining how this song came about. Its underlying meaning of ‘thanks’ and ‘appreciation’ to those men who gave of themselves, and above all ‘peace’, has been included with the lyrics so that the song’s real meaning is not misunderstood or misinterpreted.