（Contributed by Takashi）
For the past two weeks, we picked up the topic of working holiday for our Daily Conversation Lessons. During my lessons for this topic I made a point of asking to students which of the thirteen countries with which Japan has a working holiday visa agreement they would like to visit. It turned out that they most frequently cited Australia as their preferred working holiday destination.
Who would have doubted such popularity of Australia? After all, Australia has been very successful to project itself as this sunshine country populated by easy-going, healthy friendly people. I have never been to Australia myself but the Australians I have met so far did not belie that optimistic national image.
So, it was an interesting timing that also last week I listened on the radio to an interview of an Australian author, Richard Flanagan, who talked about his award winning book, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.” It is apparently a novel that uses as its background the infamous Thailand-Burma-Thailand railway, for which tens of thousands of POWs captured by the Japanese Imperial Army were forced to work and more than ten thousand of them died. Flanagan’s father was one of the enslaved PWOs that survived the labor camp.
The interview’s main focus was not the experiences of the POWs (that were mainly consisted of British, Australians, Dutch, and Americans. Although not POWs, a large number of local people were also enslaved for the railroad construction) but there were some narratives on the brutal conditions to which those captive laborers were exposed. Thus, what Flanagan had to say in the show, told with a distinct Australian accent, was diametrically opposite to the happy Australian images that we tend to have about them.
The fact that Japan waged the act of war against Australians during World War II was not news to me. When I was in England in the late 1980s, I shared a flat with a guy from New Zealand. One day he revealed to me that his father fought against the Japanese army during the war. That was a shock to me. Both that New Zealand was involved in World War II and that Japan fought against her were totally new knowledge to me. In fact, I should have known better because I had a similar learning experience not too earlier than this event.