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Friday, December 26, 2008

Hiroshima/Nagasaki Program Feedback from Participants

In September 13, Peace Philosophy Centre hosted a sharing event of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Exchange Tour 2008. For the description of the program please see here. For this event we conducted a survey among the U.S. participants of the 2008 tour.

The questions were:
1) What did you personally find was the highlight of this program and why?
2) How did you find the program changed your views on the issue?
3) How do you see what you`ve learnt through this program affecting your participation in nuclear non-proliferation and the Peace movement in the future?
4) Any other general comments about the program...

Some of the respondents agreed publish their views on this website.

Emily K.
1) The highlight of this program was getting to hear and speak with several hibakusha. I believe that speaking with the survivors brought an emotional response to the seminar that wouldn't have otherwise existed. It sone thing to read about an event, but it is a whole other experience entirely to talk to those who were physical and emotional impacted. If I had never heard their stories, I don't think I would have ever comprehended the destruction brought by the nuclear bombs.

2) My perspective has changed after attending the program. I had alwaysopposed the use of bombs because I'm a pacifist and hate any aspect of war, but I didn't understand the emotional aspect of the weapons until visiting Japan. After learning about the situations in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I now firmly protest nuclear weapons and have a firmer reason for opposing them than merely being a pacifist.

3) This program definitely helped her become aware of nuclear abolition. I had not thought much about the subject before traveling to Japan and did not view it as a realistic goal. Now, after hearing the stories of the hibakusha and learning about Mayors for Peace, I am committed to helping achieve nuclear abolition in any way I can.

4) This was an amazing experience and I came home understanding so much more about the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear weapons play such a huge role in foreign policy and international relations, and it was very beneficial to me as an international studies major to understand the perspectives and history behind this issue.

1) For me, the highlight of the trip was hearing the testimonies of the hibakusha. The seminars, museums, and monuments were all enlightening, but nothing did more to convey the pure tragedy and devastation of the bombings more than the hibakusha testimonies. Hearing their stories, seeing their scars (both physical and emotional), and feeling their presence really did a lot to communicate how much of a terrible tragedy the atomic bombings were. It gave me a sense of how much the bombings affected people not just on August 6 and 9, 1945, but for years afterward and still today.

2) The program helped me to gain an understanding of just how long lasting the effects of the atomic bombings were. In America, we tend to overlook the fact that these cities were in shambles for so long, and people are still dying from the radiation effects today. And not only were the physical effects horrible, the psychological effects were probably even worse. I had no idea that hibakusha were treated as virtually second-class citizens sometimes. I didn't comprehend before the trip the fact that people had to deal with the death of family members from the bomb's radiation for years and years after the actual bombings.
Now that I understand more about how truly devastating atomic and nuclear weapons are, I find myself adamantly against not only their use, but their very presence.

3) What I have learned through this program has definitely motivated me to get involved in the anti-nuclear movement. When I returned to the U.S., one of the first things that I did was to email Professor Kuznick and ask him how I should go about getting involved. That we should not have nuclear weapons upon this earth, is something that I'm deeply convinced of now, and I want to do my part to teach others this.

4)We also had a blast!! It was great meeting everyone from Japan and Vancouver, and because we spent so much time together, we really all got to know each other very well in a relatively short period.
Singing Karaoke with everyone was probably only barely behind the testimony from hibakusha in the running for highlight of the trip!

Bethany Power
1) For me the highlight of the program was getting to learn the information,see the sites, and ask questions with the Japanese and Canadian Students. There was definatley some cultural exchanging going on between the "histories" we had all grown up with in our countries.

2) On August 8th we went to Oka Masaharu Nagasaki Peace Museum. The focus of the museum was on the Japanese atrocities in Asia during the war period. The museum was so graphic and emotional, even though it was very small and not as funded as the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb museum. The museum told the story of the Japanese occupation of Asian countries like Korea, China, the Philippines,Vietnam, etc. There were pictures of starved prisoners, starved civilians, and dead children. There was a large section devoted to the comfort women of the war period. There was a large section devoted to the Rape of Nanking. What struck me the most was the section on textbooks. The exhibited how the Japanese textbooks had become more censored over the years. They displayed certain sayings form the textbooks in 1997 and then from 2002 to show how the history was changing and certain parts of history, such as the validity of the story of the comfort women, were changing. I thought this was an important message. The story of the Japanese atrocities during the war couldn't get lost behind the atrocity of the nuclear bomb because then students get an imbalanced perspective and the future could be dangerous. It is important to let students know the whole story so they can make their own decisions about how they want to proceed in the future. Before the trip I had never really connected the atroicities the Japanese were inflicting and the A-Bomb.
Also, I had never thought about victims of the A-bomb that were not Japanese, such as the large amount of Koreans in Japan at the time. I was really interested in exploring more about this topic.

3) The ball started rolling in my head as I listened to Steve Leeper. As a future high school teacher my goal is not only to teach students the value and importance of history, but also to create a community that is helpful and concerned with the world around them. The Mayors for Peace organization would work well as an organization like "Teachers for Peace" or "Classrooms for peace" where we start a national, or international organization, which promotes peace studies to ensure that students understand the choices governments can take other than war.

I was also surprised by the amount of cover-up the government was doing before, during and after the war to preserve the stability. For example, at the Tokyo air raid museum I learned that the Japanese government downplayed the bombings of Tokyo because if the people were aware of the level of destruction and devastation almost 6 months before the atomic bombs were dropped they would ask, "Why didn't the government stop the war after theTokyo air raids?" She said there would be more resentment toward the government and more anger for the destruction. The truth of what happened inTokyo makes the government look bad in the eyes of the people.

4) Any other general comments about the program...During the program I met good friends, learned a lot about Japan and learned lessons about Nuclear warfare that I would never get out of a textbook. I feared that the program would be very one-sided, takng a very"villian" approach to the US dropping of the bomb. Instead I felt like there was more of a focus on the future.

S. Matthews
1) The tour and program helped me to personally experience another historical perspective from inside another countries point of view. I hope to share with students and others the lessons I learned, things I saw, and people's stories I heard. Perhaps one of the most stimulating things for me, as a teacher, was the consideration of student text books in different musuems showing their development, censorship, and curriculum changes. I was also struck by the relatively open manner the musuems discussed Japanese atrocities, rather than silence them from the historical record. I really enjoyed visiting an ailing Hibakusha with Satoko and sharing our differentideas and stories. I am currently learning how to conduct, interview and use oral history in historical research. I really hope to apply these skills perhaps to the people I met on the tour sometime in the future.

2) I had never understood, read or learned from a human centered historical point of view. I would never dismiss anouther mode of remembering or learning but was unsure how a human-victim centered focus would blend with my prior knowledge. Using multiple perpsectives helps put global issues in a correct perspective. Perhaps trans-national points of view cloud a single story line but becuase of the trip, I feel more prepared to answer students questions and write intellegently and hopefully persuasively on nuclear topics.

3) I am not quite sure what level of involment I may pursue. Yet now I readthe news differently, subscribe to mayors for peace, and will attend demonstrations when possible.

4) I really encourage everyone who9 is able, unwilling or perhaps reticent about dealing with war issues, atomic history to attend as well as people who already believe in nuclear abolition. Especially teachers who can then share and bring their experiences into their classrooms.

Wilmer Gutierrez
1) Meeting new people: American, Canadian and Japanese students. Also, hearing from the Hibakusha personally, the karaoke nights

2) I didn't have a lot of opinions over the nuclear issue. It as it was impose to me that nuclear weapons were necessary to defend ourselves. I didn't really question that before until this trip. It completely change my opinion/made me have an opinion that nuclear weapons are not really necessary, but they endangered our lives and endangered the future as a civilization. Also, I was thought in high school that the US warned Japan of a powerful new weapon before dropping the two atomic bombs. Because they didn't surrender, the US HAD to drop the weapon in to make them to surrender. By attending this trip and from the evidence, I know this is not true at all. So, this program completely change my attitude, opinion, and taught me something completely different from the "view" that I was taught in high school in America.

3) I definitely think that I will join the non-proliferation and peace movement somehow. At this point I don't know how, but some ideas that have run through my head is pushing my college, Goucher College, to start a project similar to Rits University: building a Peace Museum. That is in the long run, but I'd like to start now by putting the idea on the table. Also, I would like to encourage other Goucher students to attend this program, especially Political Science students.

4) Great program! If I can, I want to do it again !!

Jenn Englekirk
1) The highlight of the trip was meeting and spending time with Koko. I also enjoyed getting to know people and spending time with people that I normally would not even meet on campus.

2) When I departed from Washington D.C. on July 30th, I viewed the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan as justified and brilliant. I read Hershey's book Hiroshima during the first 3 hours of the flight and was a little upset by his point of view. I even approached Professor Kuznick, during that flight, and grilled him on a couple of issues. In particular, I grilled him in the area of the responsibility of the government to protect it's own citizens and soldiers first, when it comes to war. He patiently answered some questions and then told me to wait for his lecture in a couple of days.
When he gave his lecture, 3 days later, I was given information I had never heard before. I am not one who will automatically believe everything I am told, especially from a liberal professor. So, following his lecture, I launched into my own research and low and behold, I discovered that Kuznick was not lying; the facts Kuznick gave us were correct. This began to change my view.
By the time we took off from Tokyo on August 11th, my views on Atomic warfare had changed 180 degrees. Truman and his advisors should have been charged with war crimes for what took place on August 6 and August 9, 1945. In addition, they should be charged with war crimes for the Tokyo bombings as well. There is no way to excuse what occurred on those dates. Winners or not, the United States should be held accountable for their role in the attacks.

3) My life has been changed due to this trip. My senior thesis topic went from something about the rules and traditions of baseball to the affects of atomic testing on United States civilians (still trying to narrow down that topic). Before this class, I was not sure whether I wanted to get a masters in education or history or even what I wanted to concentrate on or do with my life. Because of Japan, I have found my calling. I know now that I want to earn my Ph.D. in history with a concentration in nuclear studies. I hope to one day become a professor and be able to show my own students the horrible affects of an ill decision and how that decision affect our lives, even 60 years after the affects.

4) I strongly believe that trips like these should be required for every college professor to take (in any department) and strongly recommended for any college student, especially those who wish to become history majors. You can read about these things in books and you can watch it on film but nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace the experience of being there, seeing and hearing first hand from the Hibakusha, what they went through.


Comments are welcome.

Happy Holidays!


Review of Play "NABI/Comfort Women" (by Chungmi Kim)

From despair to hope: “NABI/Comfort Women”(written by Chungmi Kim) and making an emotional connection with the victims

Satoko Norimatsu
Peace Philosophy Centre

How do you go on living, when you have experienced suffering and humiliation beyond description? Should you abandon your past and live in the present? Or perhaps cut yourself off from the present and live in the past? Or confront the past in the present and live from moment to moment? Most women who were made sex slaves of the old Imperial Japanese army chose a way to go on living, and have embarked on new journeys.

On November 21, 2008, I went to see the Korean production of NABI/Comfort Women (originally COMFORT WOMEN written in English) by Chungmi Kim, which was directed by Eunmi Bang and performed by the members of her Nabi Theatre Company from Seoul, Korea. It was presented at Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver on Canada's West Coast. I attended the opening performance. The 260-seat theatre was full. The Korean title of the play was "Nabi," which means “butterfly” in Korean. The butterfly has symbolic meaning in the play. The way butterflies take flight is a metaphor for the way victimized women regain dignity and freedom by talking about their experiences.

The story takes place in 1994 in New York City. Yuni Kim lives a quiet life with her daughter and her daughter’s family. One day, Yuni's granddaughter Jina, a student at New York University, returns home in high spirits. Jina explains that two victims of the Japanese Army's sex slavery during WWII are in New York to provide testimony at the United Nations. Yuni tells Jina to avoid contact with these women, but Jina replies, "Actually, I brought these halmonis home with me.” The two halmonis (“halmoni” means “grandmother” in Korean) enter and approach an agitated Yuni. These two tough women are able to tell of their painful past and still sing and laugh out loud. They find Yuni’s cold and unsympathetic manner annoying.

Yet the two halmonis sense something odd about Yuni's reactions. They notice scars on Yuni's fingertips, and what look like tattoo marks on her back. Bokhi, one of the halmonis, taking a long look at Yuni, suspects she has seen her before. Bokhi asks Yuni whether she was "Hanako," the “comfort woman” kept by a Japanese Army officer for his exclusive use. Yuni denies this fiercely. All she can hear in her heart is her late mother's voice telling her, "That was a nightmare, no more than a nightmare. Just forget about it!" And then all the formidable memories of old are brought back to her. Yuni cannot bear to confront the past she once buried away, and attempts to take her own life. Jina rushes to grandmother’s side, embraces her, and tells her how much she loves her. When Yuni later revives, she asks Jina to open the window. Sunlight and a breeze from outside fill the room.

During the last scene, the entire audience was in tears - even those like my Peace Center colleague from China and myself who were well informed about the "comfort women" issue. In July 2007, I travelled to Seoul to attend a demonstration in front of the Japanese Embassy. (This protest has been held by former victims of sex slavery and their supporters every Wednesday for the last 17 years.) I also visited the “Sharing House," where (at that time) nine former victims lived together. I have also been a member of Women's Active Museum (WAM) in Tokyo, which specializes in addressing wartime violence against women, particularly the sex slavery perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army. I realized I could never truly understand the anguish and suffering of these women, but I believed I understood this to a certain extent. Seeing this play, however, made me realize that my understanding had remained at an intellectual level.

In this play, we learn that Yuni was given the Japanese name "Hanako," when she was taken away at the age of 15 and made into a sex slave for the exclusive use of a single officer because of her beauty. Some envied her, saying, "At least you only have one officer to deal with, so you won't have to suffer from syphilis." At the end, however, Yuni was treated violently by this officer and transferred to another "comfort station," where she was raped by many soldiers. Following the war, Yuni's mother told her to treat the experience as a nightmare and forget about it. Yuni eventually married, but after having a baby her husband beat her when he learned that Yuni had been a sex slave.

Many scenes in this play made vivid the stories of these victims of sex slavery that I had read in books and heard in their testimonials, speaking directly to the hearts of the audience. Thekla Lit, President of BC ALPHA, a sponsor of this production, often speaks of the importance of our making emotional connections with the victims of war. This play certainly served that purpose for me, enabling me to nurture empathy with these women on a deeper level, as I believe the play did for many other members of the audience.

I was also moved by the way Yuni's despair was transformed into hope. Yuni had been married and was leading a seemingly happy life with her daughter and family until she was forced to confront a past that she had hidden away for over 50 years. Now she was left to face all the unbearable emotions of the past ? her childhood trauma, as a young and innocent girl who had been deeply wounded and never healed, her guilt over receiving ”better” treatment by the lone officer, her remorse over the fact that she had to abandon a friend with whom she had initially planned to make an escape, and her inner turmoil over believing she could never tell her family the truth even though she knew she bore no responsibility for her suffering.

I could relate to the anguish that led Yuni to choose her own death, though there was absolutely no need for her to die. As I was watching the scene, I found myself mentally screaming out and begging Yuni not to die. In this play, Jina and the young Yuni were played by the same actress. When Yuni came to, after her life had been hanging in the balance, she found Jina holding her. At that moment, Yuni must have seen her young and innocent self in Jina, and must have found hope for the future in her granddaughter. Jina's love and her words that she was proud of Yuni provided Yuni with the courage to live on.

Yuni's situation reminded me of Sakue Shimohira, a survivor of the Nagasaki atomic-bombing who was only 10-years old when she and her little sister became orphans. Amidst deteriorating health, poverty and despair, she had to "choose between the courage to die and the courage to live." She chose the courage to live. Even though these two women confronted different circumstances, the love they and all survivors received from family, friends and supporters plays a crucial role when they pass through the tunnel of pain and despair to find courage and hope. Yuni had her granddaughter Jina, but many victims of sex slavery don't have any surviving family members, as was the case for the two halmonis in this play. Who can love these halmonis, as Jina loves Yuni? The answer is each of us -- each of us who has seen the play, and each of us who chooses to face the issue of military sex slavery. Yuni decided to live on by a single thread of trust in humanity. Responsibility lies in each of us human beings to respond to Yuni's trust, irrespective of our nationality, gender or point of view.

According to the playwright Chungmi Kim, "Comfort Women" was first staged at an Off-Broadway theatre in New York in the fall of 2004. The play was included in the book "New Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2005" by Smith and Kraus. In May 2005, a Korean version of the play, titled "NABI," was presented at the Seoul Theatre Festival. Director Eunmi Bang established her own Nabi Theatre Company in the fall of 2005. The company has since performed the play about 200 times in Korea before being invited to perform it in Toronto and Vancouver this past fall. Hanuree Drama Club, a Greater Vancouver local theatre group, produced the performances in Coquitlam. According to Marketing Director Kevin Sung, the Club has 19 years of history and its members are primarily Korean Canadians. For this production, over 20 members of Hanuree Drama Club worked with 7 cast and 4 staff members of the Nabi Theatre Company. In the audience were not only Korean Canadians but also Canadians of European, Chinese, Japanese and other descent. It was significant that multicultural Vancouver hosted this production, which will raise awareness about the unresolved issue of the military sex slavery throughout the world. I would like to see more performances held outside of Korea, especially in Japan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Peace Quilting, and a Poem on Happiness

Kyoko Hara attended Bonekai last week and kindly presented her Peace Quilting project. Kyoko Hara is one of the members of White Rock Group, a friend organization of Peace Philosophy Centre.

Scroll down to under Kyoko's Japanese message. It is a poem by John Trudell shared by Mariko Kage at Bonenkai party last week.

クリスマスも近づき、皆さんお忙しく過ごされていることと思います。 12月6日(土)に、ピースフィロソフィー・センターの乗松聡子さん宅で忘年会があり、ホワイトロックの会代表(?)で、参加してきました。 それぞれの活動報告あり、歌あり、楽器演奏あり、ポエムあり、ダンスあり、、、、のとても楽しく元気の出る集いでした。 ホワイトロックの会からは、現在進行中の「平和をつなぐキルト」の企画の途中経過報告とパッチワーク募集の宣伝をさせていただきました。 励ましをいただくと共に、この場に作られたパッチワークを持ってきてくださった方々もおられました。 感謝します。 参加者の一人、鹿毛真理子さんが朗読してくださった詩が、とてもすてきなものだったので、クリスマスプレゼントとして皆さんにも是非ご紹介させていただきたいと思います。

"One of the colors"

Happiness is how we feel about ourselves
the good we think
the good we feel
the good we do
we are part of the dreamtime
happiness is one of the colors
there are shadow casters who trick us about happiness
we are taught to wish for things to make us happy
we are not taught to dream for happiness itself
we can't buy happiness
we can't sell it
we can't steal it
we can't borrow it
and we can't capture it

but we can create it
love can't bring us happiness
but happiness can bring us to love
power can't bring us happiness
but happiness can show us power
on the line of what is real and what really isn't
dream for happiness
somewhere between heart and mind
the spirit of life can be seen
happiness comes and awaits dream

John Trudell, poet

「平和をつなぐキルト」に、どうぞご協力をお願いいたします。 日本の日高桂子さん(キルトで九条を作る会)のグループからも、協力の申し出をしていただきました。 布を切って、直線縫いをするだけの簡単な作業です。 わからない方は、出張・ご指導いたしますので、どうぞご連絡ください。( 私たちにできる、小さな平和のためのアピールをしていきましょう。 それでは、皆さん素敵なクリスマスをお過ごしください。 原 京子

If you are interested in participating Kyoko's Peace Quilting project, contact

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bonenkai was a huge success!

Dear friends and colleagues,

It was a magical evening. Thank you so much for coming. For those who couldn't make it, we still felt your presence.

I just mentally counted and figured we actually had 60 people! We had downsized but somehow everyone looked comfortable and the house didn't look small at all. Thanks for the great food and drinks! Somebody left a ceramic plate with brown rings on it. Let me know if it's yours.

The 'peace sharing' time was so inspiring and fun. Thanks for all your contributions of music, stories and presentations - Mike, Minoru,Lorraine, Mihoko, Susan, Clover group, Kyoko and White Rock group,Chihiro and Kay, Sayuri and Dunc, Norman, Mariko and her amazing kids,Tomo, Katsuko and Eiichiro Ochiai, Thekla, Kozue, Arc, and all the other informal sharing and mingling throughout the evening, which empowered and filled each of our heart with love and renewed determination for our work for peace.

The day before our event Dr. Shuichi Kato, who was among the nine intellectuals and authors who started the Article 9 Association in 2004,died at age 89. Kato spoke at Vancouver Save Article 9's launching event in May 2005. Kato's group successfully networked more than 7,000citizens' organizations working for preserving the peace constitution. Japan gained the constitution which included Article 9, the war-renouncing clause after the wars of Asia-Pacific in which Japan caused deaths and suffering to millions of people in Asia and beyond. It was very special to be able to give tribute to Kato during our event. Thank you Mihoko for sharing your memory of him.

I look forward to your comments and feedback (English or Japanese please) on last night and above all I wish you a restful and loving holiday time to you all. I look forward to more sharing in the new year.

Lots of love,