A Sad Tale of Elephants in Ueno Zoo: a tragedy in World War 2

This post is about a sad story of the elephants in Ueno Zoo during World War 2. Today’s elephants are happy, but a tragedy happened around 70 years ago.

Elephants in Ueno Zoo Today

Everything was for the war. Everyone had to live and die for the nation and those who were against the war (or just suspected to be against the war) were punished cruelly. That’s Pre-War Japan. It was horrible times.

“I endure until we win” was one of the slogans, but there couldn’t be enough food nor anything for life during the war.

People became poor and poor. Starvation gradually spread.

Elephants have big bodies. They eat much. The zookeepers loved them so much, but the Mayer of Tokyo ordered to kill them. They begged to save them, in vain. First, they gave foods with poisons, but the elephants were sensitive enough to detect it, so they did not eat them.

Eventually, the innocent elephants in Ueno Zoo were killed by starvation. It was, “for the nation.”

The other animals, such as bears, lions and tigers, were also killed because the “beasts” were considered to be  dangerous if they had escaped from the cages during bombing.

After the war, a picture book painter/writer made a picture book titled “Poor Elephants” translated into English. (Known as “Faithful Elephants” for its English edition.)

Fujiko F Fujio (a manga-ka 1933-1996) was so impressed to read it that he wrote/drew a manga chapter based on it in his “Doraemon”. Nobita and Doraemon learn a mysterious episode (it is fictional based on the true story) from his uncle and go time-travelling to rescue the elephant. At last they succeed in sending the elephant to India, his hometown, and the zookeeper was moved to tears that he thought a miracle happened and that he was safe and secure.

10th of March is the day of Bombing of Tokyo.

Northern Tokyo, including Asakusa and Ueno, was bombed out and 100,000 people were killed in fire, destroyed houses and boiled rivers. No one in the world has any appropriate word to express a misery like this, but the survivors say it was a genuine hell in this world.

That’s why I’m writing this. Too many lives all over the world were killed by humans in World War 2.

Ueno Zoo built a monument to pray for killed animals. A zoo is a fun place generally, but it was a sad tale today.


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