Age knows no bounds when it comes to the pursuit of knowledge, and that can definitely be said for this outstanding member of society in particular.
Despite being 98 years old, Mr. Murakawa is currently studying at Momoyama Gakuin University in Osaka. His road to scholarship began five years ago when he decided to enroll in a course in the History of International Politics; one of many courses also aimed at adults or those who have already established themselves in society. Presently, Mr. Murakawa is also enrolled in a course in International Law.
Unfazed by the distance from his home, twice a week he rides a train and a bus for what is a two-hour commute to the university.
After escaping the perils of The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 and the Pacific War, Murakawa began working in a factory. Recalling how he didn’t have the opportunity to study during his youthful days, he is determined to turn it all around now that he has the chance, saying: “Being given this opportunity, I want to give it my all and learn as much as possible.”
Inside the lecture hall, this man of stamina sits bolt upright, and exudes an air of zealousness that leaves the younger students in his class a little overwhelmed as he listens diligently to the class lecture.
Picture the scenario: it’s the afternoon on 24 January, the lecture taking place is History of International Politics. Murakawa is sitting directly opposite the University professor with his notepad open and his Japanese-style floor cushion placed firmly on his seat. When it comes to listing for the 90 minutes of the lecture, while many students are gradually starting to fidget or struggling to stay focused, Murakawa has his gaze completely fixed on the lecturer. It is on this day that the discussion enters international affairs relating to the Korean Peninsula.
Originally from Asakusa in Tokyo, in his youth Murakawa was caught up in the Great Earthquake of 1923 which resulted in his house being burnt to the ground by raging flames. His household was by no means one of fortune, and considering a path of higher education just wasn’t a valid option at the time. During the war, he soon found himself taking on the role of a combat medic at the front line in former Burma, where he lost many of his comrades during heavy shelling.
After the war had ended, he put his efforts into building up and running a sewing factory in Osaka that specialised in menswear, where he worked until a staggering 85 years. With his wife having passed away, he now lives on his own.
Although he admits to finding great accomplishment in his job before retiring, looking back at his war experiences Mr. Murakawa can’t but wonder, “just what was the meaning behind this war?” He adds, ”Now, after all this time, I want to explore this idea further through education.”
It seems that this man’s admirable attitude towards study is creating quite a following at his university, where he is known as the guy who mixes in with the young and participates in the lessons earnestly.
Having lived through the Japanese Taisho (1912-1926), Showa (1926 – 1989), Heisei (1989–present) periods, he is a firsthand witness to many historical events that younger generations today can only read about in textbooks. Here, it is not unusual for Murakawa to stand up in lecture hall in front of everyone and tell of his war-time experiences. One particularly striking comment he made was,
“When I spoke to an English prisoner of war, I realized that under the surface was just a human being with feelings like you and me. I was taught that the Americans and English were some sort of brutal beasts, but this was completely different to my findings. What’s truly frightening is what results from the lack of knowledge or education.” This is something he all admits with an air of sincerity.
Sitting through the lectures, Murakawa feels he has grown to understand the situation behind each country’s interests and motivations, and of the old Japanese army’s recklessness. “Whatever the reason, going to war just isn’t justifiable. The importance of finding time to discuss a problem rationally and setting one’s focus on an amicable method of resolution cannot be underestimated,” admits the veteran.
Most recently, he’s even been trying his hand at learning English and comments:
“I saw an advert written in English a while ago. At first I didn’t have clue what it meant but after doing a bit of study, it made a lot more sense to me.”
However, something else which particularly concerns Murakawa is the attitude of the youth of today; sitting at their desk, all reserved, not taking the initiative to ask any questions:
“After graduation, however much you may dislike it, you have to work to survive. Being given the opportunity to learn is truly a blessing. It’s best to make the most of it while one can. My field of vision is still narrow in many respects, but through education I hope to broaden my outlook on everything a little more. I want to continue learning at university until I die.”