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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Introductory Speech of Hiroshima/Nagasaki Event

October 3, 2009

Satoko Norimatsu

Director, Peace Philosophy Centre

My name is Satoko Norimatsu, and I’m the Director of Peace Philosophy Centre. Peace Philosophy Centre was established at the beginning of 2007, to promote community-based education for peace and sustainability, and the end of this year will mark the Centre’s third anniversary. One of the annual projects of Peace Philosophy Centre is to bring Canadian students to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two cities in Japan where atomic bombs were dropped in August 1945. This is a joint academic program run by Professor Peter Kuznick of the American University in Washington, D.C., and Professor Atsushi Fujioka of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, and includes Chinese and Korean students from their Ritsumeikan’s Asia-Pacific University. The tour runs from July 31st to August 10th every year. We start the program with three days in Kyoto, at Ritsumeikan’s World Peace Museum, then spend three days in Hiroshima and three days in Nagasaki, including attendance at the memorial ceremonies on August 6th and August 9th in the respective cities. This program was born amid the controversy over the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum’s planned exhibit of Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the Hiroshima bomb. The exhibit was going to include documentation of the human effects of atomic bombing, including the ongoing suffering of hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors) for decades after the war. The exhibit was cancelled due to heavy opposition from the American Air Force Association and war veterans’ associations, but was later hosted by the American University under Peter Kuznick’s leadership.

This program has been running since 1995, and the tour had its 15th anniversary this past summer. Canadian participation in this program is relatively new. I started working with the program as an interpreter and a guest instructor back in 2006, and in 2008, Ritsumeikan University kindly offered three guest spaces for students from UBC, as Ritsumeikan and UBC have had a special relationship for more than 15 years, with about 100 Ritsumeikan students studying at UBC each year. This year, Ritsumeikan offered partial scholarships to four Canadian students, this time open to applications from any post-secondary institution in Canada. The four students selected were Julie Nolin and Uli Ng, both Master’s students from Royal Roads University, Meg Serizawa from Simon Fraser University, and Arc Han from the University of British Columbia. We have two other presenters today: Shoko Hata, an SFU student who signed up through American University, and Rowan Arundel, who was one of the three Canadian students selected from UBC in 2008. These students will be speaking to you today about their experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We also have here today Harry Teng, another 2008 participant from Royal Roads University, and Satoshi Watanabe, who is a Ritsumeikan University student who has participated in and worked as a staff member of this program for the past four years.

The educational purposes of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Study Tour are: 1) to gain first-hand knowledge of the human impact of atomic bombing, 2) to learn about the history of atomic bombing and its significance in the broad context of the World War II and post-war periods, 3) to learn about the past and current international movements to eliminate nuclear weapons, and 4) to help build friendships between students from the US, Canada, Japan, China, Korea and beyond in order that they may begin to work together for a peaceful future. For many students, this tour is a life-changing event. For example, for Jenn Englekirk, a participant from the US, whose grandfather fought against Japan and never forgave Japan, atomic bombing was the right thing to do. Like many Americans, she believed that atomic bombing ended the war early and saved lives. However, her view completely changed during the trip, especially through meeting survivors, and she came to hold the view that a-bombing was a war crime. Another example is the change in many Japanese students’ perspectives. In this program, in addition to the atomic bomb museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we bring students to another museum in Nagasaki, the Oka Masaharu Memorial Peace Museum. This is a museum that specializes in exhibiting Japan’s atrocities committed against fellow Asians during the war. The exhibits tell the stories of forced labour from Korea and China; Korean atomic bomb victims; the colonization and occupation of Korea, China, Philippines and many other Southeast Asian countries; and Japan’s war atrocities including the Nanjing Massacre, Military Sex Slavery, Unit 731, and so on. Most Japanese, American, and Canadian students have not learned about these historical facts. Although we emphasize the point that these brutal behaviours by the Japanese Army are not presented in order to offset or justify the atomic bombing of Japan, learning about this chapter of history in the program helps students to gain a broader perspective of World War II and to learn about the horrors of war that should never be repeated, whether in the form of nuclear weapons or any other means.

On August 6th 1945, a uranium-type atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, killing thousands instantly, approximately 140,000 people by the end of 1945. Three days later, on August 9th, a plutonium-type atomic bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man,” was dropped on the Urakami District of Nagasaki City, and approximately 70,000 people were killed by the end of 1945. On top of the burns and injuries from the heat ray and blast, the effects of the radiation from those bombs continued to cause diseases and deaths for decades after the initial exposure, up to today, including leukemia, various types of cancers, cataracts, and so on. This summer, during the August 6th ceremony in Hiroshima, a total of 260,394 deaths was recorded, and on August 9th in Nagasaki, a total of 149,266 deaths was recorded. Two bombs have killed over 400,000 people so far, and will continue to kill. And these atomic bombs are like toys compared to the nuclear arsenals that the world possesses now. By 1985, at the height of the Cold War, the destructive power of the world’s nuclear arsenals had reached the equivalent of 1.47 million Hiroshima bombs. Daniel Ellsberg writes in his memoir dedicated to Hiroshima Day this year: “Every one of our many thousands of H-bombs, the thermonuclear fusion bombs that arm our strategic forces, requires a Nagasaki-type A-bomb as its detonator.” According to the Nuclear Stockpile Report released on September 10, 2009, there are more than 23,300 nuclear warheads in the world now, of which 55% belong to Russia, 40% to the United States, and the rest to the remaining Nuclear Weapon States, including France, China, UK, Israel, Pakistan, and India. And of those, more than 8,000 are considered operational, of which 2,200 US and Russian warheads are on high alert, ready for use on short notice. With the existing threat and the new threat of proliferation created by nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, the world is at a crossroads for survival or extinction.

There have been, however, hopeful and positive developments around the world for nuclear disarmament and abolition, with rapidly-growing awareness in the leadership of Nuclear Weapon States, such as: President Obama’s initiative for “a nuclear-free world”; strong initiatives by non-nuclear states like Japan and Australia; and continued efforts by the global civil society and the dedication of atomic bomb survivors to educate the world public about the horrors of nuclear weapons. Our event today takes place in a very timely manner, ten days after the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1887, which calls for international unified efforts for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and seven months before the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to take place in May 2010.

We started this sharing event last year, hoping that the precious learning experience from our program would not just stay with the specific students who had the privilege to go to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but could also be shared by the wider community. This year is the first time we have held a large-scale, public event like this. Each student had decided to focus on a specific theme before the trip, and today they will share with you what they experienced and learned.

Our event today is supported by Vancouver Save Article 9, an organization working for the preservation, realization and promotion of the war-renunciation clause of the Japanese Constitution.

I would like to give thanks to David Laskey, husband of the late Hiroshima survivor Kinuko Lasky, for his cooperation with the display of A-bomb panels.

We also welcome donations to help with the expenses of this event. We will give you a peace button, designed by Kinuko Laskey, to express our appreciation to those whose generous donations help us to sponsor events of this type.
(An introductory speech by Satoko Norimatsu at the event held 5:00 - 7:30 PM on October 3, 2009, at Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, Canada)

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