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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Hiroshima Nagasaki Event was a Great Success!

"Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Beyond" event yesterday was a great success with a turnout of about 70 people from all generations and all walks of life. I commend the students for their dedication and passion of the event. Their presentation topics were atomic-bomb decisions (including debunking myths that the bombs ended the war early and saved lives), past and current movements for nuclear disarmament, both by Arc Han (UBC), hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors) experience by Meg Serizawa (SFU), peace museums and non-Japanese a-bomb victims by Shoko Hata (SFU), the difference in historical perspectives between Japanese and American students by Uli Ng(Royal Roads Univ.), and the overview of the program and what changes the trip brought to the students by Julie Nolin(Royal Roads Univ.) The MC of the event was Rowan Arundel (graduate of UBC), who participated in the tour last year.

It was enlightening for me to know what impact the trip had on each student presenter, in the way that I would not have known if we did not have such an event. The learning model this year worked well with the Canadian participants. Each student had decided on the topic of their interest prior to their trip, so they had a clear focus and what to look for and report throughout the trip. The event helped the students to reflect on the trip, to describe and summarize what they learnt and experienced, and to share with and "teach" it to the general public. They also had to think hard how to communicate to the audience something that they thought one could only know by experiencing oneself.

We were fortunate to have with us Sachi Rummel, who was in Hiroshima when she was eight years old and was 3.5 km from the Hypocentre. We also had A-bomb panels brought by David Laskey, husband of late Hiroshima hibakusha Kinuko Laskey. Those panels were donated by Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum for the 2006 World Peace Forum in Vancouver.

Here are some of the participants' comments:

  • I am impressed by young people trying to learn the war & peace so eagerly.
  • I am very pleased with that there is a group trying to spread commendably fair views on such a difficult issue.
  • Excellent presentations on a variety of subjects.
  • Overall, I thought the whole presentation was well-balanced.
  • More photos and personal opinions would have been appreciated.
  • As a Japanese, it was useful for me to learn non-Japanese perspectives to the A-bomb history.

We had a lively discussion after the presentations. Some thought that the measures should be taken so that the U.S. would be held accountable for the atomic-bombing. We explained that there have been a International People's Tribunal held in 2006, which was lectured during the trip by Hiroshima Peace Institute's professor Yuki Tanaka who initiated the court, but some thought that was not enough and there should be a legally-binding court to be held. We explained that there have been various legal and technical barriers around this issue and also there is general tendency within the hibakusha community to avoid holding U.S. directly accountable. Some were interested in knowing the results of the series of lawsuits by hibakusha against the Japanese Government, and we explained that hibakusha and the Government reached a historic resolution this past August 6 after six years of collective lawsuits, in nineteen of which the Government lost. I commented that the atomic-bomb victims and the victims of Japanese atrocities in Asia could learn from and help each other. Another participant in the audience thought that it was more urgent and important to abolish the nuclear weapons than to hold the perpetrator accountable. This view is shared by many hibakusha in Japan, that the only way that the U.S. Government and the Japanese Government could compensate for their suffering would be by eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of this Earth.

We also discussed peace museums in Japan, four of which we visited during the trip and Shoko explained during her talk - A-bomb museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kyoto Museum for World Peace, and Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum. I told the audience that this program is positively biased in the sense that we visit two of the museums in Japan, the latter two of the four, which place a special emphasis on Japanese atrocities committed against fellow Asian countries during the 15-year war of 1931 - 1945. This is our approach to help students gain a broader context around the history of atomic-bombing, especially to Japanese students who typically do not get a lot of instruction at school on Japan's wrongdoings during the war.

I will share more later. It was the Moon Festival night yesterday, and I hope everyone enjoyed the view of the bright full moon as they headed back home. Thank you for the special evening. It was one of the most meaningful and memorable events for me.

In gratitude,



  1. Eiichiro Ochiai3:14 pm

    I wanted to say that it is a time now
    that we, Japanese, to let people of the world know of the horror of A-
    bomb/nuclear weapon, because the Japanese happen to be the only people
    who had experienced the horror of A-bomb. Whether the Japanese
    deserved it or not is not the issue right now. Unfortunately, some
    people would argue that unless we talk about the atrocities the
    Japanese army inflicted on the people in the neighboring countries
    simultaneously, people would not listen to our plea. I don't think
    so, or I would like to think otherwise. We are talking about the
    horror of A-bomb, not asking the sympathy for the Japanese people's
    unfortunate experience, but sincerely we would like people of the
    world to know the horror of A-bomb and hence the necessity to abolish
    all the nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons are absolute evil.
    Whether the Japanese deserved it or not and whether the US should not
    or did not have to use it are political issues and cannot be settled
    adequately and to everybody's satisfaction, though we need to learn as
    much as possible. And of course, we would need to expand our movement
    to lead to the eventual disarmament (not only of nuclear weapons) of
    the whole world. I believe that young citizens of the world be made
    aware of the horror and meaninglessness of wars, any war. And your
    effort in this regard is highly appreciated.

    Eiichiro Ochiai

  2. Thank you for your insightful comments.

    I agree the nuclear horrors should be communicated in the context that
    transcends national borders and differences in historical consciousness.

    For that very reason, I am always concerned about some voices from Japan saying "as the only country that suffered nuclear weapons, we have a
    responsibility to call for a nuclear-free world..."

    The perspective to see the country "Japan" as a victim of nuclear
    weapons might reinforce the perspective that the bombing was the
    consequence of the country Japan's invasion of fellow Asian countries.

    If we want to stress the importance of the issue in a humanitarian way
    that transcends national borders, we need to describe those two bombing
    incidents as horrific violence against people, largely civilians, who
    were in those two places, whether they were Japnaese, Korean, Chinese,
    or Allies' POWs.

    The Japanese people who were not in Hiroshima or Nagasaki at that time
    were NOT victims of atomic bombs. So it is an overstatement to say that
    "Japan" or "Japanese people" were the victims of atomic bombs, let alone
    saying that "Japan" and "Japanese people" were "only" victims. The latter is simply wrong.

    I look forward to further dialogue.


  3. Meg Serizawaさんのスピーチは 言葉のわからない私を含め 子供達の心を打ち 日本の若い人も
     平和について考えるべきだと 声をそろえて言っていました。
     実は 昨年の8月15日 新宿で帰宅時のOLにインタビューをしているニュースで 「戦争は 過去のこと 私たちには関 
     係のないことです。終戦も もう関係がない」と言い切った映像が流れたのを見て 衝撃を受けた経験があるので
     日本以外に住む若い人たちが こんなに涙を流して平和を訴える姿に胸を打たれました。

     Shouko Hataさんの 南京大虐殺 韓国での虐殺についての話も 子供達にはとても良い影響を与え 被害者で
     あることばかりを訴え 自分たちが犯したことについて考える機会が少ないことに疑問を感じているようでした。
     私が答えを与えるのではなく これから成長していく中で 各自が平和について 公平な立場で多くのことを考え

  4. I think the presentation was well prepared and organized, so I was able to
    follow and catch the themes for each topic that was presented by different
    presenters. Personally, I liked Arc's presentation because he chose such a
    hot issue and he provided some basic arguments that can possibly reverse the
    idea of justifying the use of atomic bombs in 1945. Also I had an
    imporession that he was thinking the issue very critically thus unbiased,
    and such presentation gave audience a moment to think critically as well.

    Overall, I thought the whole presentation was well-balanced. Arc was giving
    more like an International reletions perspective, Meg and Shoko emphasized
    more on smaller, local perspectives thus more emotions and passions were

    I understand that the presentation was carried out to share with us about
    what they learned and what they saw during that tour, however, i was hoping
    to hear more about thier personal opinions about the issues, since they are
    all universtity students who are specialized in particular knowledge. So I
    thought it was a great opportunity for them to share thier opinions based on
    thier knowledge from universtity-level studies. For such presentations, I
    would love to listen even longer.

  5. Grace Thomson8:38 am

    but the question
    that came to my mind was, what the mission of this program is. Was this
    indicated, and I missed it? Was this meant to be for the benefit (or
    education) of the students only? I heard each student say this was an
    enlightenment, something that changed them, but I wondered if the program
    had only to do with them. What else was suppose to happen? The hibakusha
    were of course pleased and happy to see them. What is being achieved for
    the hibakusha, as a result of these visits. And what is expected of the
    students, after the visit, where do they go from here?

    Undoubtedly the question raised as to whether the students met with Japanese
    students during this tour is an interesting one, as one of the things I seem
    to hear about Japan is that it is not educating their own young people about
    their wartime history. I do believe that while the United States military
    should be accountable for this war crime, that it is impossible for the
    Japanese themselves to speak of this when the Govt. has done little or
    nothing officially toward rectifying their own past. Is that why the focus
    is on peace, allowable in Japan? I had, as president of NAJC, had a lot of
    problems around explaining JC position to the Japanese Govt. (i.e.,
    Embassy). I was invited to a dinner in Calgary, with an Embassy official
    present, sitting across from me asking about NAJC position that they were
    not happy about as I had supported Bill 291 in support of the so-called
    `comfort women.' In fact, I did tell him that the JCs should be the first
    to do so, considering their own history of injustice perpetrated upon them
    by their Govt. But the Canadian Govt. finally resolved this appropriately,
    which Japan has not done. I have pointed this out to the Embassy and
    Vancouver Consulate Generals many times over the past several years with
    each new official, and through carefully and respectfully written letters.
    The CGs told me the Japanese Govt. had apologized many times, and I raised
    the question to them of `why many times, once would be enough if done

    Thank you very much for such great programs, and I look forward to the next

  6. During my introductory speech, I described the learning objectives of
    this program
    > 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 WWII 3) to lean about the past and current international movements to eliminate nuclear weapons, and 4) to build friendship among students from US, Canada, Japan, China, Korea and beyond to work together for a peaceful future.

    This program is originally a joint academic program by Ritsumeikan and
    American University, so it is basically for the benefit of the students,
    but the program is intended to encourage the students to get actively
    involved with anti-nuclear movements as well. We Canadians are doing this not for credit, so we can basically do
    anything with it, and for me this event is an attempt to use the
    students' learning and experience to raise awareness within and motivate
    the public in Vancouver and beyond for movements towards nuclear

    I probably did not make this clear, but the American and Canadian
    students do travel with Japanese students from Ritsumeikan University.
    How we can address the lack of history education and lack of Japanese
    government's compensation for war victims will go way beyond the scope
    of one message and I would love to meet with you and discuss with you when
    we can. This is one issue I will be dealing with in my Peace Philosophy

    Just as Akira Kimura argued that Japanese and U.S. governments were
    equally responsible for the atomic-bombing, I believe the two
    governments are almost equally responsible for Japan's deprived
    opportunities to properly address Japan's war responsibility issues.
    One, US allowed the Emperor to survive. Two, US protected Japan from
    having to pay hefty compensation money to victimized countries so that
    Japan would become a strong economical base soon to provide good market
    for their own economy, or so that Japan would not be such a burden to
    support for them. Many victimized countries were excluded from the San
    Francisco Peace Treaty, and countries like Philippines was convinced by
    the United States to allow Japan to pay their compensation by in the
    form of technology and labour instead of money. This part of the
    history is relatively unknown. Then the US was always controlled the
    Japanese government through supporting LDP, this conservative,
    militaristic, and history-denying party. I am not suggesting that the
    US is solely responsible for the lack of Japan's atonement for the war,
    but I am saying that the US's roles have been underestimated.

  7. Thank you for your comments. Here are some points I want to clarify:
    First, it happens that I’m the one argues Japan should pay attention to the pain of other Asian people thus in return Japan will receive more supports in their peace activities. One thing I want to clarify is that when I think about this, I’m not thinking about anything political. I don’t think this is a political issue. All I think is that if you show your generosity to other people, then you will receive generosity in return. I think it is very human and apolitical thing.
    Second, I disagree with the statement that Japanese are the only victims of nuclear weapons. Genn, one of our participants, is one of the so-called down-winders of American. They suffered from the radioactive dusts produced by American nuclear tests in Nevada. What I want to argue here is that to tell people the horror of NW is not just a Japanese thing. People in other countries clearly understand it and are working on it. This statement could be considered as discouraging to these non-Japanese who are working on this.
    Third, in order to achieve the mutual goal of nuclear disarmament, we need unite all people (again, not only Japanese but people from all the world) and maximize our persuasion power to the government. Therefore, to win support from other Asian countries becomes important. Steve Leeper, the chairman of Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, told our group when I asked him “what shall we, youth from China, do to achieve the goal of nuclear disarmament” that: “to persuade your government to give pressure to the US. China and Japan put together holds 60% percent of American foreign debt, why don’t you use this as a leverage to American?” I don’t think this will happen in near future, but I think it indicate the road that we should unite together for the goal.
    Therefore, it is important that Japanese could show their generosity to other Asians and by doing so we can maximize our power. I think this is also my answer to Grace’s question: Being a non-Japanese participant of this program, and by attending this program, I collected many first- hand information about the evil of NW, about there are many Japanese are aware of the pain of other Asians, and I’m willing to spread this information among my own ethnic group, and to persuade them to join our goal of nuclear disarmament. This is what this program means to me.
    One more point: It is reasonable that Asian people should unconditionally support, due to the horror of NW, Japanese efforts of nuclear disarmament. But this is also very emotional issue to many Asian people. Emotional issues cannot be solved just by reasoning. We need to pay attention to their emotion and use generosity to change their negative emotion.

  8. Arc, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.

    Thekla Lit said to me, that people in the countries that were victimized by Japan during the war tend to automatically shut their ears when they hear about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I know that rationally they know that civilians (Japanese, Koreans, and beyond) were unfairly and cruelly targeted in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but as you said, emotionally it is very hard for them to listen to and be sympathetic to the suffering of hibakusha from those two bombing incidents, because of the scale of violence that the Japanese Army committed throughout those countries. We must try to understand those feelings first and foremost.

    I know that the victims of Tokyo Bombings and those of Chongqing Bombings are working together and helping each other in their lawsuits against the Japanese Governements. I think this is an example of transnational collaboration to fight against violence against civilians in wars. In the same regards, victims of forced labour by Japan and victims of North Korea's abduction should work together, regardless of which nation they happen to have their passports associated with. Transcending nationalism should be at the centre of peace education and peace activism, as it is really nationalism that causes and triggers war, and we cannot afford to be nationalistic in our efforts to bring peace and reconciliation.


  9. Satoshi Watanabe8:49 pm