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Friday, December 26, 2008

Hiroshima/Nagasaki Program Feedback from Participants

In September 13, Peace Philosophy Centre hosted a sharing event of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Exchange Tour 2008. For the description of the program please see here. For this event we conducted a survey among the U.S. participants of the 2008 tour.

The questions were:
1) What did you personally find was the highlight of this program and why?
2) How did you find the program changed your views on the issue?
3) How do you see what you`ve learnt through this program affecting your participation in nuclear non-proliferation and the Peace movement in the future?
4) Any other general comments about the program...

Some of the respondents agreed publish their views on this website.

Emily K.
1) The highlight of this program was getting to hear and speak with several hibakusha. I believe that speaking with the survivors brought an emotional response to the seminar that wouldn't have otherwise existed. It sone thing to read about an event, but it is a whole other experience entirely to talk to those who were physical and emotional impacted. If I had never heard their stories, I don't think I would have ever comprehended the destruction brought by the nuclear bombs.

2) My perspective has changed after attending the program. I had alwaysopposed the use of bombs because I'm a pacifist and hate any aspect of war, but I didn't understand the emotional aspect of the weapons until visiting Japan. After learning about the situations in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I now firmly protest nuclear weapons and have a firmer reason for opposing them than merely being a pacifist.

3) This program definitely helped her become aware of nuclear abolition. I had not thought much about the subject before traveling to Japan and did not view it as a realistic goal. Now, after hearing the stories of the hibakusha and learning about Mayors for Peace, I am committed to helping achieve nuclear abolition in any way I can.

4) This was an amazing experience and I came home understanding so much more about the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear weapons play such a huge role in foreign policy and international relations, and it was very beneficial to me as an international studies major to understand the perspectives and history behind this issue.

1) For me, the highlight of the trip was hearing the testimonies of the hibakusha. The seminars, museums, and monuments were all enlightening, but nothing did more to convey the pure tragedy and devastation of the bombings more than the hibakusha testimonies. Hearing their stories, seeing their scars (both physical and emotional), and feeling their presence really did a lot to communicate how much of a terrible tragedy the atomic bombings were. It gave me a sense of how much the bombings affected people not just on August 6 and 9, 1945, but for years afterward and still today.

2) The program helped me to gain an understanding of just how long lasting the effects of the atomic bombings were. In America, we tend to overlook the fact that these cities were in shambles for so long, and people are still dying from the radiation effects today. And not only were the physical effects horrible, the psychological effects were probably even worse. I had no idea that hibakusha were treated as virtually second-class citizens sometimes. I didn't comprehend before the trip the fact that people had to deal with the death of family members from the bomb's radiation for years and years after the actual bombings.
Now that I understand more about how truly devastating atomic and nuclear weapons are, I find myself adamantly against not only their use, but their very presence.

3) What I have learned through this program has definitely motivated me to get involved in the anti-nuclear movement. When I returned to the U.S., one of the first things that I did was to email Professor Kuznick and ask him how I should go about getting involved. That we should not have nuclear weapons upon this earth, is something that I'm deeply convinced of now, and I want to do my part to teach others this.

4)We also had a blast!! It was great meeting everyone from Japan and Vancouver, and because we spent so much time together, we really all got to know each other very well in a relatively short period.
Singing Karaoke with everyone was probably only barely behind the testimony from hibakusha in the running for highlight of the trip!

Bethany Power
1) For me the highlight of the program was getting to learn the information,see the sites, and ask questions with the Japanese and Canadian Students. There was definatley some cultural exchanging going on between the "histories" we had all grown up with in our countries.

2) On August 8th we went to Oka Masaharu Nagasaki Peace Museum. The focus of the museum was on the Japanese atrocities in Asia during the war period. The museum was so graphic and emotional, even though it was very small and not as funded as the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb museum. The museum told the story of the Japanese occupation of Asian countries like Korea, China, the Philippines,Vietnam, etc. There were pictures of starved prisoners, starved civilians, and dead children. There was a large section devoted to the comfort women of the war period. There was a large section devoted to the Rape of Nanking. What struck me the most was the section on textbooks. The exhibited how the Japanese textbooks had become more censored over the years. They displayed certain sayings form the textbooks in 1997 and then from 2002 to show how the history was changing and certain parts of history, such as the validity of the story of the comfort women, were changing. I thought this was an important message. The story of the Japanese atrocities during the war couldn't get lost behind the atrocity of the nuclear bomb because then students get an imbalanced perspective and the future could be dangerous. It is important to let students know the whole story so they can make their own decisions about how they want to proceed in the future. Before the trip I had never really connected the atroicities the Japanese were inflicting and the A-Bomb.
Also, I had never thought about victims of the A-bomb that were not Japanese, such as the large amount of Koreans in Japan at the time. I was really interested in exploring more about this topic.

3) The ball started rolling in my head as I listened to Steve Leeper. As a future high school teacher my goal is not only to teach students the value and importance of history, but also to create a community that is helpful and concerned with the world around them. The Mayors for Peace organization would work well as an organization like "Teachers for Peace" or "Classrooms for peace" where we start a national, or international organization, which promotes peace studies to ensure that students understand the choices governments can take other than war.

I was also surprised by the amount of cover-up the government was doing before, during and after the war to preserve the stability. For example, at the Tokyo air raid museum I learned that the Japanese government downplayed the bombings of Tokyo because if the people were aware of the level of destruction and devastation almost 6 months before the atomic bombs were dropped they would ask, "Why didn't the government stop the war after theTokyo air raids?" She said there would be more resentment toward the government and more anger for the destruction. The truth of what happened inTokyo makes the government look bad in the eyes of the people.

4) Any other general comments about the program...During the program I met good friends, learned a lot about Japan and learned lessons about Nuclear warfare that I would never get out of a textbook. I feared that the program would be very one-sided, takng a very"villian" approach to the US dropping of the bomb. Instead I felt like there was more of a focus on the future.

S. Matthews
1) The tour and program helped me to personally experience another historical perspective from inside another countries point of view. I hope to share with students and others the lessons I learned, things I saw, and people's stories I heard. Perhaps one of the most stimulating things for me, as a teacher, was the consideration of student text books in different musuems showing their development, censorship, and curriculum changes. I was also struck by the relatively open manner the musuems discussed Japanese atrocities, rather than silence them from the historical record. I really enjoyed visiting an ailing Hibakusha with Satoko and sharing our differentideas and stories. I am currently learning how to conduct, interview and use oral history in historical research. I really hope to apply these skills perhaps to the people I met on the tour sometime in the future.

2) I had never understood, read or learned from a human centered historical point of view. I would never dismiss anouther mode of remembering or learning but was unsure how a human-victim centered focus would blend with my prior knowledge. Using multiple perpsectives helps put global issues in a correct perspective. Perhaps trans-national points of view cloud a single story line but becuase of the trip, I feel more prepared to answer students questions and write intellegently and hopefully persuasively on nuclear topics.

3) I am not quite sure what level of involment I may pursue. Yet now I readthe news differently, subscribe to mayors for peace, and will attend demonstrations when possible.

4) I really encourage everyone who9 is able, unwilling or perhaps reticent about dealing with war issues, atomic history to attend as well as people who already believe in nuclear abolition. Especially teachers who can then share and bring their experiences into their classrooms.

Wilmer Gutierrez
1) Meeting new people: American, Canadian and Japanese students. Also, hearing from the Hibakusha personally, the karaoke nights

2) I didn't have a lot of opinions over the nuclear issue. It as it was impose to me that nuclear weapons were necessary to defend ourselves. I didn't really question that before until this trip. It completely change my opinion/made me have an opinion that nuclear weapons are not really necessary, but they endangered our lives and endangered the future as a civilization. Also, I was thought in high school that the US warned Japan of a powerful new weapon before dropping the two atomic bombs. Because they didn't surrender, the US HAD to drop the weapon in to make them to surrender. By attending this trip and from the evidence, I know this is not true at all. So, this program completely change my attitude, opinion, and taught me something completely different from the "view" that I was taught in high school in America.

3) I definitely think that I will join the non-proliferation and peace movement somehow. At this point I don't know how, but some ideas that have run through my head is pushing my college, Goucher College, to start a project similar to Rits University: building a Peace Museum. That is in the long run, but I'd like to start now by putting the idea on the table. Also, I would like to encourage other Goucher students to attend this program, especially Political Science students.

4) Great program! If I can, I want to do it again !!

Jenn Englekirk
1) The highlight of the trip was meeting and spending time with Koko. I also enjoyed getting to know people and spending time with people that I normally would not even meet on campus.

2) When I departed from Washington D.C. on July 30th, I viewed the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan as justified and brilliant. I read Hershey's book Hiroshima during the first 3 hours of the flight and was a little upset by his point of view. I even approached Professor Kuznick, during that flight, and grilled him on a couple of issues. In particular, I grilled him in the area of the responsibility of the government to protect it's own citizens and soldiers first, when it comes to war. He patiently answered some questions and then told me to wait for his lecture in a couple of days.
When he gave his lecture, 3 days later, I was given information I had never heard before. I am not one who will automatically believe everything I am told, especially from a liberal professor. So, following his lecture, I launched into my own research and low and behold, I discovered that Kuznick was not lying; the facts Kuznick gave us were correct. This began to change my view.
By the time we took off from Tokyo on August 11th, my views on Atomic warfare had changed 180 degrees. Truman and his advisors should have been charged with war crimes for what took place on August 6 and August 9, 1945. In addition, they should be charged with war crimes for the Tokyo bombings as well. There is no way to excuse what occurred on those dates. Winners or not, the United States should be held accountable for their role in the attacks.

3) My life has been changed due to this trip. My senior thesis topic went from something about the rules and traditions of baseball to the affects of atomic testing on United States civilians (still trying to narrow down that topic). Before this class, I was not sure whether I wanted to get a masters in education or history or even what I wanted to concentrate on or do with my life. Because of Japan, I have found my calling. I know now that I want to earn my Ph.D. in history with a concentration in nuclear studies. I hope to one day become a professor and be able to show my own students the horrible affects of an ill decision and how that decision affect our lives, even 60 years after the affects.

4) I strongly believe that trips like these should be required for every college professor to take (in any department) and strongly recommended for any college student, especially those who wish to become history majors. You can read about these things in books and you can watch it on film but nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace the experience of being there, seeing and hearing first hand from the Hibakusha, what they went through.


Comments are welcome.

Happy Holidays!


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