【Interview】Takaaki Ota : The Chairman of Social Welfare Corporation Fukudenkai

Takaaki Ōta

Born in Yamanashi Prefecture in 1948. 
After retiring from the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau, established Ota Tax Accounting Office(current OAG Tax Accountant Corporation).
Since September 2009, he has been the Chairman of Social Welfare Corporation Fukudenkai.
In 2018, he was invited to the “Symposium on the Siberian Children” organized by the Poland – Japan Parliamentary Friendship Association.
Since 2017, he has been the representative of OAG (Ota Accounting Group).

ー Thank you very much for your time today.
Please let me start the interview. Currently, Fukudenkai is working on passing down the history of the Siberian Children to future generations, but when you became the chairman of Fukudenkai, you didn't know the fact that Fukudenkai had accepted the Siberian Children. How did you learn the story?

  About 10 years ago, Ms. Jadwiga Maria Rodowicz-Czechowska, the Polish Ambassador to Japan at the time, found Fukudenkai by chance while jogging. She visited us and asked “Is this THAT Fukudenkai?” Without her visit, we might not have known that the Siberian Children were staying here.

ー It was a coincidence that this history was excavated. What did you feel, honestly, when you learned about the history of accepting the Siberian Children?

  I was shocked. In 100 years, we had completely forgotten the history, which Japan should be proud of. Now, we are thinking about what we need to do to make sure we never forget it ever again.

ー What did you do to not forget the history?

  We made a ceramic plate relief of a group photo of the Siberian Children taken at Fukudenkai. This work uses the same technique as the porcelain panel paintings at the Otsuka Museum of Art in Tokushima Prefecture, and is said that the relief maintains its beauty even after 1000 years. 

Miniature version of the relief was donated to the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Museum, and the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow, Poland. In 2021, we are planning to install a 3m x 5m relief in Fukudenkai. By making a relief, I think the history of the Siberian Children will always be remembered.

Miniture version of the relied and mayor of Tsuruga

ー As of December 2020, I have heard that Fukudenkai has made various efforts in relation to Poland. What impressed you the most?

  Since Ms. Jadwiga Maria Rodowicz-Czechowska’s visit to Fukudenkai, we have had various exchanges with Poland. In 2018, I was invited to a symposium on the Siberian Children. On that day, I had the opportunity to speak on stage and explained the facilities where the children actually lived. 

In addition, children from Fukudenkai participate in the annual “Soccer World Cup for children in orphanages” held in Poland. 
In the spring of 2020, we supported 19 Poles in Japan who could not return to Poland or lost their jobs due to the COVID-19. I am very happy to be able to do such an activity in the anniversary year. 

ー What kind of comments do you hear from people when you work on the Siberian Children? Do you get a lot of support from them?

  The comment I hear most often is “I didn’t know this history”. The history is not well known among Japanese people. In August 2020, a TV program called “The Japanese 100 Years Ago: Rescue Mission of the Polish Orphans in Siberia” was broadcast nationwide. We have received a lot of feedback, and I heard that some of them watched it with tears.

ー From 2020 to 2022, it is the centennial anniversary of the arrival of the Siberian Children in Japan. What kind of events are you planning to hold during this period?

  In September 2021, a ceremony to commemorate the centenary of the arrival of the Siberian Children in Japan will be held in Warsaw, inviting the descendants of the Siberian Children and people related to the history. In November, we will hold the unveiling ceremony of the ceramic plate relief at Fukudenkai. 

In 2019, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Poland, memorial stamps and postcards were issued in Poland. We are currently preparing to hold the exhibition of them in Poland and all over Japan.

The exhibition of post stamps

ー So many events will be held in 2021. What effects do you expect from holding the commemorative ceremony?

  I think the most important meaning of holding the ceremony is “to look back on the past”.
The memories and the stories of the Siberian Children have been passed down in both countries. By holding the big ceremony, we will be able to gather these memories and stories so as not to fade away, and create a community that will create the next 100 years together.

Japansese children who joined the World cup for children

ー It is very difficult to pass down history. How do you intend to pass down this story for the next 100 years?

  Among the places related to the Siberian Children, I think very few places still exist. We should accept the fact and work on a project to preserve this memory for future generations in both countries.

It is also important to continue our relationship with Poland in order to maintain the bonds we have built. In addition to continuing to participate in the aforementioned Soccer World Cup, we will continue to take on new challenges that will help the next generation inherit this memory.

ー What role do you think Fukudenkai plays in passing down the history of the Siberian Children to future generations?

  I think Fukudenkai played the role of “actor” in movies. In the history of the Siberian Children, Japan (the Japanese government), which decided to help them, is the “producer” and the Japanese Red Cross Society, which actually did the work, is the “Supervision”. In that case, Fukudenkai, which provided housing for the children, might be the “actor”. If actors perform as directed, they could be most memorable to the audience. As an “actor”, Fukudenkai must play a role in passing down the history to the next generation by preserving the memorable things of those days. 

ー As the chairman of Fukudenkai, are there any messages you would like to tell the descendants of the Siberian Children?

  I am not directly involved in the relief work, but as a person currently working at Fukudenkai, I would like to tell them how proud we are of the fact that the descendants of the Siberian Children are alive.

Thank you very much for your time today.