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Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Farewell to 2006 with a Poem for Teachers

Back in June 2003, I wrote a poem for Ms. Palamarek, teacher of my then five-year old son, as suggested by a class parent for sharing at the year-end party for parents and teachers.

This poem just came up in my mind in ten minutes or so, and I wasn'tsure about sharing it. I emailed it to Helen Lim, my best friend who was a lawyer in China. Helen was my roommate in the high school dormitory who had great talents in all sorts of arts - music, literature,and poetry. She checked my English and suggested some improvements, just as she used to do twenty years before, and assured me that this poem was worth sharing with others.

As I read the poem at the party, I saw tears not only in the eyes of Ms.Palamarek but also in those of other parents'. It was the first time in my life that I saw my words move people in the way it did that evening. Although I was somewhat embarrassed, I was happy that I took courage to read the poem.

Since then I have shared this poem with a couple of friends (who were teachers) that were special to me. Tonight, on the last day of the year in which Japan said a farewell to the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education which upheld education free from state control and freedom of individual minds, I would like to dedicate this poem to all teachers of Japan, and all teachers of the world.



I thought hard for words
To express my appreciation to a teacher
Then I thought about the word 'word' itself
And what it carries and means in my mother tongue

Kotoba means “word” in Japanese
Koto is 'to say' and ba is 'leaves'
I wondered why and how 'leaves' are part of this magical word
The word that means 'word'

This is what I thought:
Words of a teacher are like leaves
Leaves nurture the tree while on the tree
And even after they fall off
Leaves nourish the soil so that the tree will grow taller and stronger
The power of the leaves stay within the tree,
Sprouting in endless cycle
Forever and ever

Words of a teacher are like leaves
Words of a teacher nurture children when they are under her care
And even after the children leave her classroom
Her words nourish the souls of these children
So that their souls grow richer, and stay within
Budding into new talents and actions
Forever and ever

So this is my kotoba to you
Thank you for your nourishing kotoba to my child
Kotoba of encouragement
Kotoba of knowledge
Kotoba of discipline
Kotoba of love
And other kotoba which fall from your lips into the spirit of my child

Your kotoba will stay within the soul of my child

In endless cycle
Forever and ever


Nothing can come between the honest and sincere exchange of kotoba between teachers and children, and nothing can hinder the nourishment of free souls by genuine and loving guidance of teachers. When teachers are free, children are free. When children are free, the world is free.

With love and hope for the year that will start tomorrow,


Thursday, December 28, 2006

World Peace Forum Revisited (3) The Article 9 Conference, Peace Boat, and Closing

On June 26th afternoon, the workshop 'Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution: Common Treasure of the Humankind for Peace' was held at UBC or the University of British Columbia (photo by Peace Boat), sponsored by Peace Boat, Hague Appeal for Peace, VSA9, Gensuikyo , Gensuikin and Hidankyo. I shared the panel with the 6 other speakers who gave different perspectives on how the Peace Clause of the Japanese Constitution should be upheld and utilized throughout the world for the survival of the human kind and this earth. There were more than 200 people in the audience, and I was honoured to present VSA9, its people and activities at such a significant international conference. The detailed report of the event by the moderator Akira Kawasaki of Peace Boat can be found on the website of the Global Article 9 Campaign.

On June 27th evening, VSA9 hosted a party with World Peace Forum delegates from Japan at Floata Seafood Restaurant in the Chinatown in Vancouver Downtown. Our reserved space was packed with 180+ people including guests from the local peace communities and other international delegates of the Forum. One of the highlights of this event was the presentation of Kinuko Laskey's bust by Keith Shields (photo by JALISA) to the Japanese delegates, with the prospect that Kinuko's bust will find a permanent home in Hiroshima. Kinuko was a Hiroshima A-Bomb survivor who married Canadian David Laskey, and dedicated the last 20+ years of her life educating people throughout North America about the horrors of nuclear bombs. She passed away in 2004, and David Laskey (far right in the photo), who always supported Kinuko's peace activities, has succeeded her cause.

On the last day of the Peace Forum, Peace Boat came to Vancouver with its one thousand passengers and hosted a series of events for the Forum. I participated in the noontime program 'Travelling the World, Changing the World - People to People Diplomacy onboard Peace Boat' with speakers including Peace Boat's founder Tatsuya Yoshioka and Hague Appeal for Peace's Cora Weiss. What stood out for me in those speeches were Yoshioka's comment about ships as effective vehicle for connecting people and Weiss's stress on education and the role of women for creating world peace.

The World Peace Forum concluded with Vancouver Appeal for Peace, which included a recommendation for constitutional renunciation of war with Japan's Article 9 as an example. In the photo is the performance by the young passengers of Peace Boat at the Forum's Closing Ceremony in front of Vancouver Art Gallery, which was followed by an evening peace walk from the Gallery to Canada Place where the very last event of the Forum was held - 'Bon Voyage' to Peace Boat.

Here is a picture from the VSA9 picnic that celebrated the World Peace Forum success, at the Spanish Banks Beach in Vancouver. This is a perfect picture of peace - people of all ages being safe and happy, smiling, enjoying food and beautiful environment.

We must create a world where this is a reality for all people.

My heartfelt thanks to all that shared the incredible experiences of the Peace Forum.

With lots of love and the best wishes for the new year,


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

World Peace Forum Revisited (2) The Face of Jizo Reading

On Sunday June 25th evening, VSA9 produced a public reading of The Face of Jizo, or Chichi to Kuraseba, written by Hisashi Inoue and translated by Roger Pulvers. The event was sponsored by World Peace Forum, Komatsu-za (Inoue's theatre group), and Hidankyo or Japan Confederation of A- and H- Bomb Sufferers Organizations. The performance was presented as part of the World Peace Forum Arts and Culture Programs at Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown, Vancouver.

The play is about a young woman who is overwhelmed by her guilt of having survived the Hiroshima A-Bomb in 1945, and her dead father who appears in front of her three years later to be a supporter of her new romance. Tama Copithorne, one of the founding members of VSA9 brought the script to me earlier this year and I decided to produce a reading in Vancouver as part of the World Peace Forum. I was fortunate to have Manami Hara and Hiro Kanagawa (see photo above by Makoto Nishimura), Vancouver's own actors read the daughter's and the father's parts, respectively. Toyoshi Yoshihara, a play-script translator who has made great contributions to the theatrical exchange between Canada and Japan, and also one of the founding members of VSA9, was an advisor for this reading.

Four delegates from Hidankyo, the organization of hibakusha, or A-bomb survivors, brought 40 panels of The A-Bomb and Humanity donated by Ishikawa Co-op, and VSA9 volunteers displayed the panels outside of the Roundhouse Theatre for the visitors to see before and after the play reading (see the picture above taken by JALISA, or Japanese Lawyers International Solidarity Association, whose delegates were at the event.) These panels were created to tell the world about the the horrors of nuclear weapons and the reality of the people's long suffering after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bombs.

At the end of the reading, Mr. Nobuo Miyake, one of the four hibakusha (A-bomb sufferer) delegates from Hidankyo, told the audience of over one hundred people about his experience of Hiroshima A-Bomb (photo by Makoto Nishimura). His testimony and the presence of the three other hibakusha delegates (Mr. Mikiso Iwasa, Ms. Reiko Ono, and Mr. Shigeru Terasawa) in the audience gave a special meaning and depth to the event. Although I had visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki before, I had never met hibakusha people before the Peace Forum, so it was a real honour for me to be able to meet them and hear their experience firsthand.

Mitsue, the daughter in the Face of Jizo, could not rescue Takezo, her father who was trapped in the debris of their collapsed house and had to run from the fire, leaving Takezo behind. The next day she came back to the burnt site to pick up her father's bones. Thousands of people had that very experience at Hiroshima and Nagasaki 61 years ago, including one of the hibakusha delegates, Mr. Iwasa who had to leave his mother.

I could not even start to imagine what it would be like if I were in that situation. I become totally speechless just by thinking about it. At one point during the preparation of this event, I was overwhelmed and wondered if I should be doing this at all. One night I was meditating and felt like I was touched by the souls of those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the next morning I had no more fear. I could accept that I knew nothing but I could still tell people about Hiroshima/Nagasaki in my best capacity. I felt as if all the spirits of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were there with us at the reading.

Here are some of the comments from the audience -
  • 'Excellent reading, informative and heart-warming. The message of her guilt was clear and understandable. I learned a lot about the events and effects of such a horrible act.'
  • 'It's been a very educational play and I think it helps a lot to create awareness on the subject.'
  • 'I was deeply moved that an event like this took place so far away from Japan.'
    'Well done. Very emotional and provocative.'
With deep appreciation for all who have taught and helped me through this project,


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

World Peace Forum Revisited (1) Peace Walk, VSA9, and Asia Conference

The World Peace Forum held here in Vancouver from June 23 to 28 thisyear (2006) a place for learningand sharing for those 8,000 participants from Vancouver and around theworld who are determined to help this world become a more peace andsustainable place. The first photo (right) is the Opening Ceremony at the Orpheum Theatre on June 23rd. I had the privilege of organizing and participating in many events of the Forum as a member of VSA9, or Vancouver Save Article 9, an organization that started in May 2005 for preserving and promoting the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which renounces war and prohibits maintenance of armed forces.

The big Peace Walk was held on the following day, Saturday June 24th with more than 10,000 people in Downtown Vancouver. The March started at Waterfront and Seaforth Peace Park at the south end of Burrard Bridge where I joined the crowd, and gathered at Sunset Beach at the end. The whole Forum period was blessed with sunny weather (it does not happen so frequently in Vancouver) and the day of the Walk was at its peak, with 30+ C degrees with no crowds. VSA9 set up a table to collect signatures for the petition campaign to ask the Japanese government to keep the Article 9 whose mission for the survival of this world is gaining more and more international recognition.

The Asia Regional Conference was held at UBC or University of British Columbia on Sunday June 25th. I attended one of the workshops 'Reconciliation in Northeast Asia' facilitated by three scholars, Akifumi Fujita, Katsuhiko Nakano and Kyoko Okuno from Transcend Japan, the Japanese chapter of Transcend, 'a peace and development network for conflict transformation by peaceful means,' founded by Johan Galtung. A Galtung's scenario called 'Ho'oponopono - Pax Pacifica' was presented by the facilitators, with participation by volunteers from the audience. This workshop turned out to be particularly meaningful to me in two ways. One was that this was where the new project BAYT or Bringing Asian Youth Together was born, and the other was that this was the first time I came across the notion of Ho'oponopono, a traditional Hawaiian approach of problem solving, which really interested me and led me to attend a workshop in Maui (though in the end the workshop was different from the traditional Ho'oponopono approach.)

To be continued to the next posting...


Saturday, December 16, 2006

(Japanese) Some Thoughts on the new Fundamental Law of Education

These are my thoughts on the new Fundamental Law of Education of Japan.












7)現行法第五条(男女共学)が削除され、男女平等については新法第二条第三項で触れられています。この男女平等の規定に続く「公共の精神に基づき、主体的に社会の形成に参画し」という表現は、社会は男女半々で形成されているという事実に基づき、社会のすべての場面において男女が人口比率を反映する形で参画するための教育を目指すのだということを言っていると理解します。 また、このことは教育の目標のひとつとして将来の改正で明記されることを期待します。






Thursday, December 14, 2006

(English) My Letter to Citizen's Representatives Regarding the Fundamental Law of Education

(This is the translation of the letter that I sent to many of the memebers of the Special Committee on the Fundamenal Law of Education in the House of Councillors.)

Dear Councillor,

I am a Japanese citizen living in Vancouver, Canada. I work in the field of adult education and I am a mother of two children who have adual citizenship of Canadian and Japanese.

First of all I would like to express my appreciation for the work that you are doing for the citizens of Japan.

I believe the bill for the new Fundamental Law of Education has many positive aspects such as the inclusion and stress on the life-long education, home-based education, and early childhood education. I would like to pay my sincere respect with the belief that this bill was developed with earnest consideration of the future of the Japanese education.

I have two requests of you as a voter for the Japanese government, as amother of children who have been educated in the international society,and as an educator working in a multicultural community.

My first request is about the procedure. I would like all the Membersof Parliaments to take more time in discussing such an important issueso that the final decision would truly represents people's opinions. The discussion should be done for the welfare of children, not for thepurpose of passing the new law within the current Diet session. Please reflect on the experience of the 'Town Meetings' that did not function well, and take alternative measures to elicit people's opinions in ways that can restore people's trust in the government. Alternatively, please have all the voters make a decision through the upcoming election forthe House of Councillors next year.

My second request is about the content of the proposed new law. I would like the new law to pay more attention to diversity. It is not only those who have Japanese citizenship that receive education in Japan. Even those with Japanese citizenship have diverse cultural backgrounds and value systems. If we go back to Japan my children will receive education in Japan, as students who have Japanese as parents and Canadaas their native land. I would like to see all children in Japan given equal opportunities for education regardless of their nationality or cultural background. I would like you to add 'nationality' and'cultural background' to the grounds that cannot be used for discriminationin the Article 4 (Equal Opportunities of Education) of the proposed new law.

The proposed new law also have many notions that individuals can interpret differently, such as 'tradition(dento),' 'culture(bunka),''my-country (waga-kuni),' 'native land(kyodo),' 'love(ai),' 'moral mind(dotoku-shin),' and 'general education (kyoyo) related to religions.' I believe these are all important aspects of education, but these notions must be combined with the guarantee of respect for diversity. All cultures need to be respected - traditions of Niigata Prefecture, culture of Naha City, cultures of big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, cultures of cities like Moscow and Vancouver, and original cultures andtraditions of those who were born outside of Japan. One person can have multiple 'my-countries' and 'native lands.' One can love and respect not just one's country but also one's city or town, a bigger region likeAsia, the earth, and the world. Only when a specific statement is made in the Preamble and the Article 2 (Purpose of Education) to guarantee such diversity of values, I will be able to support the new FundamentalLaw of Education.

I am sure that people have diverse opinions of what education should beitself, and it must be an extremely challenging task to agree on an educational philosophy of a nation. I would like to thank you and all the Members of Parliament again for working hard for us citizens.

December 5, 2006

Satoko Norimatsu

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Visit to Yasukuni Shrine and the Film 'Annoyng Sayonara'

Now it is the holiday time and things are quieter, I would like to look back on some of my activities this year that I have not had a chance to write about yet.

One was my visit to Yasukuni Shrine on August 15th, on the morning when then Prime Minister Koizumi paid a visit to the controversial shrine on the 61st anniversary of Japan's defeat in the WWII. Mr. Koizumi had pledged to visit the shrine on August 15th and finally went ahead with the plan at the end of his 5-year service as Prime Minister. I took this first picture in the huge crowd of people who gathered to witness Mr. Koizumi's visit. Unlike myself who was not necessarily there to support the visit, most of the people around me were cheering and applauding when Mr. Koizumi appeared in front of the main shrine. The people who gathered there seemed to be mostly men in their 20s to 50s. There were very few women. I was then naively expecting that there would be some protesting there, but I saw or heard none. The scene was all one of approval and praise.

The purpose of my visit that morning was not as much to see Mr. Koizumi at the shrine as to feel the whole atmosphere and witness what would actually be going on on the shrine premises at the time of the visit. There were security helicopters, hundreds of police officers and riot police members, media trucks and journalists. Those were all expected, but what I found shocking was the presence of so many right-winger trucks and people who were waving banners with ultranationalistic and hate-filled propaganda, like the one that called the 'comfort women' issue as fabricated. The banner on the picture on the right says 'Japanese, gather under the hinomaru (the Japanese national flag) for solidarity in the name of the Emperor!'

What I also noticed were the signs put up by the shrine at several locations throughout the premises. According to this sign, the shrine bans the distribution of flyers, demonstrative and organizational activities with flags and banners. There were clearly double standards - only the political activities and banners that were acceptable to the Shrine were allowed. I later learnt that Yasukuni would not allow any protestor activities on or outside the shrine, and they would use force to drive them out if any approached. During Mr. Koizumi's visit, the protestors were all elsewhere, in places like Ginza, demonstrating against the Prime Minister's visit to the shrine that was harshly criticized by China and Korea as the shrine glorified the war of invasion by Japan and regarded the war-dead, including war criminals, as eirei, or heroic souls.

The day before this visit, I went to see the film 'Annyong Sayonara,' co-directed by young Korean and Japanese filmmakers Kim Tae-iI and Kumiko Kato. Yasukuni Shrine was the central issue of the film, and there was a scene where a female protestor was hit by a man who seemed to be a security guard at the shrine. It was the first time in a long time that I actually saw a man hitting a woman even on a screen, so I was quite scared. This is why for my own safety, I remained silent and observant the whole time I was at the shrine the next morning.

The film Annyong Sayonara taught me many aspects of the Yasukuni issue that I didn't know before, and also gave me hope that young generations of Koreans and Japanese citizens are working together to learn from the past and co-create the future with open and honest mind. Annyong (hello) to the bright future, and Sayonara (goodbye) to the tragic past - this is the message of the film. Kumiko Kato, the Japanese director of the film who gave a talk at the Tama screening said that the biggest challenge in the production was intercultural communication between her and Kim Tae-il, the Korean director. I appreciated her candor that there were many obstables to overcome in the joint project, and I am just so proud of the cross-cultural team effort that resulted in such a thought-provoking and inspiring film. I am going to bring this film to Vancouver early next year for public screening. For your information, the link to the film website is:

With love and wishes for your holidays,

Satoko Norimatsu

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

(Japanese) My Letter to Citizen's Representatives Regarding the Fundamental Law of Education

(現在審議中の教育基本法案について、参議院教育基本法特別委員会の議員の方たちにファクス・メールで送っている手紙です。) This is a letter that I have sent to the House of Councillors' Special Committee on the Foudamental Law of Education.










Experience of Maui

I was in Maui from November 16 to 20th, 2006 to attend a workshop called 'Self-Identity Ho'oponopono,' founded by MORRNAH NĀLAMAKŪ SIMEONA (1913 - 1992) and taught by Dr. IHALEAKALĀ HEW LEN. I wanted to find some answers for my quest for peace within myself, my family and the world.

No words can adequately express what I have experienced and learnt there, so I just give the link to the website and let these photos speak for the beauty of Maui - the Arts and Culture Center where the workshop was held, the beautiful flowers of Maui that comforted me during the three-hour drive on the narrow and winding road to Hana.

I was guided by Divinity to visit the little pristine town on the less visited side of Maui on the last
and the only day off that I had at the end of my trip. Right after I passed Hana, I stopped by at a breathtakingly beautiful yet solemn beach with my son's name - Koki Beach. Naturally I was Mother, and this beach was Child. I sat there, read, meditated, and slept. It was one of the most relaxing and spiritual times of my life.

'The most important job of Mother is to let go.'