An Australian woman, who found paintings by a Japanese soldier held as a prisoner of war in World War II, wishes to return the art she found to its rightful owner. Sydney resident Pat Tatham discovered 4 paintings in her house, featuring two still-lifes of fruits and other objects, and a painting of a girl and movie poster.
A Japanese soldier working as a medical orderly at the Cowra POW Camp gave the paintings to her uncle, John Tyres, who he then gave them to his sister, Tatham’s mother. Tatham kept the artwork at her home after the death of her mother, and they were found by her husband when he was cleaning their house. The couple decided afterwards to return the paintings. “My husband, whom I agree with, decided that it would be a great idea if we could return them to the family,” said Tatham. She recalled how her uncle described the paintings to her mother when she was younger, saying that during the time the paintings were made, “they weren’t given anything to draw or paint with. But he used blue and red ink, and crushed up malaria tablets to make the yellow for his drawings.”
Tatham, who tried to find the owner of the paintings based on the signature written “M. Yamamoto,” said that it was dated either June 8, 1943 or June 10, 1943. However, finding the real man behind the paintings is not an easy feat for Tatham, as Japanese POW were known to give false names because of the shame they feel for being caught. Upon checking with the National Archives of Australia, the name Masatoshi Yamamoto was found in an old WWII military document. It details the date of his birth as May 1, 1916, a local from Wada, Tsukamoto-cho, Hata county in the Prefecture of Kochi and is a believer of Buddha. The document also noted that Yamamoto is part of The Imperial Japanese Army’s 144th infantry regiment. Enemies caught him in New Guinea on January 22, 1943 before moving him to Cowra, and eventually he went back to Japan on March 7, 1946. Tatham acknowledges the challenge in locating Yamamoto’s family. “It was such a long time ago, but it would be nice if we could find the family and return them,” she said.
[via Asahi Shimbun]