"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.