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Monday, October 05, 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,

Satoko

9 comments:

Eiichiro Ochiai said...

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

Peace Philosopher said...

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.

Satoko

K.M. said...

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
 答えを見つけていけられる様な環境を提供していきたいと誓う子供達からの疑問でした。

Y.T. said...

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
involved.

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.

Grace Thomson said...

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
properly.'

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

Peace Philosopher said...

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
disarmament.

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
Salon.

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.

Arc Z. Han said...

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.

Peace Philosopher said...

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.

Satoko

Satoshi Watanabe said...

セミナーの話があったからかもしれないですけど、原爆の話や被爆者の話をバンクーバーで聞けたことがすごくうれしかったです。僕も聡子さんみたいに、ナショナリズムとか全然気にしないのですけどね。どうしてなのか不思議です。

日本の抱えている課題を知ってもらえたこともすごくうれしかったです。聴きに来てくれた人の中に一人くらいは、日本ではなくバンクーバーで始めてこういう事実を知った日本人もいるのかなって、皮肉を考えていました。
どんなことでもそうですけど、現実を、事実を知ることが第一歩ですからね。
これが、率直な感想です。

今回のイベントのタイムテーブル見ていて、教科書的な話で終わるのではなくて、もう一段階落としたところ(説明が難しいのですが、本に書いてある表面的な出来事ではなくて、その奥にある何かもう少し深いところで)まで突っ込めているのに感心しました。このセミナー自体が、被爆者の話を聞くことが一つのテーマなので、それに即してしまえばいいだけのことですが、今日でもなお抱える問題や資料館の話など実際に現地で見て、聞いた話を拝聴してくれた人たちにも伝わったと思います。

その一方で、
Davidさんからお借りしたパネルが飾ってあるだけで終わってしまった感があったので、もう少し上手くアナウンスできたらなと思います。
あと、僕がスクリーンを目一杯に使おうと思いながらできなかったので、机の配置とかレイアウトをどうにか考えられたらなと個人的に反省中です。
タイムテーブルに各スピーカーが、何分話す予定なのか書いてあるだけでも、聞く側にとっては目安になっていいと思いました。