The short film Imphal 1944 by Japanese actor and filmmaker Junichi Kajioka will be premiered on June 28 at the closing ceremony of the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Imphal (WWII). The film is based on World War II
The Battle of Imphal and Kohima (between March 8, 1944 – July 3, 1944) was among Britain’s greatest battles in the Second World War.
The story carries the message of friendship between old enemies, said Kajioka. Later, the film, about Manipur and its people who helped the soldiers thus helping many of them survive the battle, will be shown at other film festivals around the globe, informed actor-director Kajioka in an email interaction.
The film, inspired by the life of Japanese war veteran Masao Hirakubo, OBE (Order of the British Empire), who fought in the battle of Imphal, is dedicated to the people who lost their lives there, said the first time director.
Hirakubo, who joined the Japanese Army in 1942, fought the one of fiercest struggles in World War II – the Burma Campaign – before retiring as a lieutenant.
Kajioka, who researched and wrote the story, was touched by Hirakubo’s words: “We are made alive by the wishes of the war dead. It doesn’t matter whether they are British or Japanese, those who survived are members of the same group. Survivors from both sides can share the same grief for their fallen comrades.”
In an interview to BBC in London, Hirakubo in 2004, probably his last interview, recalled the epitaph on the memorial in Kohima in the neighbouring state of Nagaland – “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today.” – that summed up his sentiments on martyrs.
The battles of Kohima and Imphal battles, which marked the highpoint of the Japanese forces advance into India, claimed the lives of 30,000 Japanese, left 23,000 and 600 were captured. Among the 50,000 support troops, there were 15,000 casualties.
On the other hand, the Allies suffered 17,500 casualties.
When he returned home to Yokohama in 1946 after the war ended, Hirakubo found his family home destroyed by Allied bombing. He then went to London and rebuilt his life.
But the war veteran did not just retire from life, he revisited Burma and northeast region in India several times, not for war but for peace, re-building lives and carrying out re-conciliation works. This led to the conferring of the Beritish award to him.
The founder of Burma Campaign Society (BCS) tirelessly devoted his later life to reconciliation between Britain and Japan. He died in 2008 at the age of 88.
Kajioka says Imphal 1944 aims to be a symbol of peace between Britain, Japan and Manipur.
The actor-director feels the 150-year-anniversary celebrations of Japan-Britain diplomatic relations is a statement of peace and friendship.
“The desire for peace is universal,” he said.
The battle of Imphal brought to Kajioka’s attention many untold stories of the battle between the Japanese and Allied forces and now he is bringing lesser known battles of the World War II to a wider audience.
Kajioka feels that there is a growing international interest in good cinema, whether it is a story of the periphery or mainstream. “A good film can capture some of the unique essence of a culture and a place and tell very powerful stories,” he said, stressing war films are not only about killings, but also about powerful messages of peace and reconciliation.
Kajioka acted in films such as 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves and The Flowers of War starring Christian Bale. He will also be the leading actor in My Japanese Niece, a film by Manipuri filmmaker Mohen Naorem, currently in pre-production stage.