From my previous blog posts, it may seem as if my internship, volunteerism, and traveling leaves little
time for the true purpose of my visit to Hiroshima: research. ‘Tis not so! Over the past six weeks I have collected oodles of intriguing information to bring back to Boston College. I like to organize my research using three categories: interviews, symposia, and NGO-sponsored events.
Recognizing my language limitations, I didn’t originally plan on conducting too many interviews here. However, after enlisting the help of two wonderful translators, I have gone interview-crazy. To date I have conducted 21 and there are more to come. My interviewees come from different backgrounds—NGO/NPO representatives, peace activists, professors/researchers, religious, students, Fukushima evacuees, hibakusha, scientists, reporters, etc.—and hold diverse opinions about Hiroshima’s peace culture.
As my interviews progress, my questions become more and more numerous. I usually begin by asking about the interviewee’s role in Hiroshima’s peace culture. We talk of post-Fukushima Hiroshima’s stance on nuclear energy, of the city as an international model for peace, of the connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, and of the next generation of young peace activists. Topics of frequent discussion include the attitude of Abe, major power companies, and the Hiroshima local government towards nuclear energy, the history of the promotion of nuclear energy as “clean and peaceful,” and the effects of nuclear waste, uranium mining, and radiation.
Now thoroughly connected within Hiroshima’s peace network, I gained enough notoriety to warrant my own newspaper article. A woman from the Chugoku Shimbun (a local newspaper) interviewed me and took pictures at one of my interviews. The English version is now available. Hooray!
The second aspect of my research is attending symposia and lectures. Early on, I attended the Hiroshima Symposium on Nuclear Safety and Security. I later listened to a fascinating lecture by Peter Watts, an Australian aborigine, about the uranium mining industry in Australia, it’s affect on the aboriginal people, and it’s role internationally, especially in fueling the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Most recently was the International Symposium for World Peace, which featured a keynote lecture by Dr. Patricia Lewis, research director at the UK Royal Institute of International Affairs, who spoke about the process of de-legitimizing nuclear weapons. There was also a panel discussion on the transmission of hibakushatestimonies to the next generation. All very interesting.
With the week of August 6th fast approaching, these symposia will soon absorb most of my time. Within the next week, I plan to attend the World Business Conference for World Peace, the Mayors for Peace Conference, and the World Conference Against A & H Bombs.
I’ve coined my last category NGO-sponsored events, through which I am privileged to actively participate in Hiroshima’s work for peace. One of my favorite examples is joining a rally in front of the Chugoku Electric Company to protest plans to build a nuclear reactor in Kaminoseki, 80 km from Hiroshima. With 15 cohorts from the Hiroshima Citizens Group Against Nuclear Power Plants, I waved signs in the faces of flustered salarymen, smiled at passers by, and handed out fliers to people stuck at traffic lights. It was actually quite fun. As I was the only protestor under the age of 60, I hope this group and other peace NGOs in Hiroshima can attract the membership of more young people.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed a staff member from the Hiroshima University of Economics, who
encouraged me to get involved with the Paper Crane Project. The project is run by Japanese university students, who plan events to teach the art and meaning of paper crane making. By distributing paper crane leis and bracelets, the students hope to spread the peaceful message of Hiroshima. I’ve attended two events sponsored by the Paper Crane Project, one with Japanese and Korean students, the other with Japanese and American students. Accompanying paper crane making are small group discussions about war, peace, and nuclear issues. As I rarely spend time with people my own age here in Hiroshima, this Project has been a breath of fresh air. A few of the members have even taken me karaoke-ing!
Once again, the NGO-sponsored events will really pick up this week. Peace concerts. Peace plays. Peace rallies. There’s a whole lot of peace floating around. I am thrilled at the opportunity to participate.
Right now I am going to visit an art museum, for which I happen to have a free ticket. Later it’s off to the YMCA for another prep meeting. Thanks for tuning in!