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Monday, September 06, 2010

Hiroshima Nagasaki Study Tour - Canadian Student Sydney Archer's Report 広島長崎に行ったカナダ人学生のレポート

Here is a report by Sydney Archer, one of the two Canadian students who participated in the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Study Tour. It a joint program of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto and American University in Washington, D.C. - click HERE for more information about the program. (Photos by Satoko Norimatsu, inserted by her)

Sept 3rd, 2010

Hiroshima Nagasaki Study Tour 2010 Report

My name is Sydney Archer and I am currently a second year student at the University of British Columbia. This year I had the honor of joining some students from American University, Ritsumeikan University and Asia Pacific University on a ten day trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the time of the 65th year memorial ceremonies. Throughout the trip, the group of around forty students got to hear from professors, hibakusha, researchers, politicians, and other speakers as well as experience the tragedy of the bombings by participating in the ceremonies and visiting museums. It was an incredibly unique experience where students from such varied backgrounds could come together and learn about the history that has shaped the countries where they live in.

One-legged Torii Gate near the hypocentre of Nagasaki. The rest of the gate was shattered by the bombing.

I was one of the two Canadian students that got to participate on this tour, and so it was a bit interesting finding out for myself where I fit in the mix of other students! Being half Japanese with Canadian citizenship, I didn’t really feel the same as the Japanese students or American students -- it was interesting how I was learning about what it meant to be Canadian ironically outside of Canada! During the trip, we were put into “peace families”, mixed groups of students where the locals served as guides to the foreigners around Japan. My peace family had an amazing combination of experiences and history: an American soldier who fought in Iraq, a Hiroshima local whose grandfather and great grandfather were in Hiroshima 65 years ago, a Ritsumeikan Student who was born in America, an Asia Pacific University student who went to school in China, and a peace advocate who walked across America in a nine month peace march. Despite the scope of our backgrounds, we shared an incredible desire to learn about the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how they have shaped history. It was quickly apparent that the ways in we had each individually learned about WWII left holes in a bigger picture that came together as we visited museums, attended lectures, and shared experiences with each other.

Statue of the unknown child victim of Shiroyama Elementary School in Nagasaki, which lost over 1,400 students and teachers in the bombing.

Being a physics minor student, one aspect of this trip that to me was quite interesting was the opportunity we had to hear lectures where we heard from speakers regarding the effects of the bombs on the people. In Hiroshima, we went on a trip to the RERF (Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which used to be the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) an organization that conducts research on the hibakusha to discover the long-term effects of the radiation. We heard Dr. Neriishi, who works at the RERF and talked with us about how the radiation affected the people who lived in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We learned about how the bombs had an initial wave of neutrons, and other radiation that accompanied the blast and this being the cause of the future problems with the hibakusha. Later in the trip, we heard from Dr. Sawada, who in addition to being a hibakusha himself, researches the effects of the atomic bombs on other survivors like him. He talked about how the RERF doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the residual radiation and the effect this has on the underestimation of the adverse effects of nuclear victims both in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where bomb victims are only recognized within a certain range (and others don’t receive the same health benefits). Because the RERF conducts research which is used in making decisions regarding nuclear weapon use elsewhere in the world, this also means that people living near nuclear test sites are experiencing long term effects of the residual radiation (such as the abnormal birthrates increasing among Marshal Island inhabitants as distance decreases to Bikini Atoll). The residual radiation made sense to me after visiting the Nagasaki museum which explained it quite well and upon hearing this, I understood why the mayor of Hiroshima had urged the Japanese government to legally recognize the expanded “black rain areas” in his peace declaration that I had heard earlier in the week.

Group photo in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, with the A-bomb Dome in the background.

In addition to learning all of these things on a mental level, I felt as though I was experiencing it on an emotional level. Though I still can’t imagine what it must have been like for the hibakusha after the bomb was dropped, travelling for the ten days with Koko (a hibakusha) and experiencing the lantern ceremony as well as many other annual events gave me a taste of the tragedy associated with the bombings. As our study tour connected the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings with issues of today like the American bases in Japan, nuclear nonproliferation, and peace between countries I realized how these two events fit into the picture of history that is being defined today.

Sydney Archer, asking questions about the radiation effects of different types of nuclear weapons, at Dr. Shoji Sawada's lecture.

Participating in this trip was truly a great opportunity to build relationships with students from across the world and learn while visiting the places that these events took place. Going back to the University of British Columbia again this year, I feel as though I take the experience of this trip back with me. Living this year less than a block away from the Ritsumeikan residence on UBC campus, hopefully I will be able to share my experience not only with local students, but Ritsumeikan students studying here! I would like to thank Professor Atsushi Fujioka of Ritsumeikan University, Professor Peter Kuznick of American University, and all of the organizers who made this trip possible as well as the other students who welcomed Tomoe and I on this year’s tour.

Sydney Archer


  1. Shoko7:11 am

    Hi Sydney and Satoko-san

    I am so glad to read this report and know that you had such significant experience though the peace trip. I loved the story about your peace family!:)

    I haven't seen you, Sydney, but I joined the trip last summer as a Japanese student from Canada, born in Hiroshima city. I was in the third year at SFU as an international student at that time, and I remember that even though I was originally from HIroshima, there were lots to learn and experience -academically and emotionally-during the trip. We are so lucky to have been able to join the trip!

    Thank you for your report and thank you Satoko-san for putting this on our blog. New semester is starting very soon, isn't it? Good luck on your study, and please keep sharing your stories with your friends and family:)

  2. Thank you so much Shoko for your comment. I appreciate it a lot, and I am sure Sydney will.