On December 17, 2016, the Japan International Cooperation Agency held an exhibition and workshop on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Amman, Jordan. The event, target at Jordanian Japanese learners, had many enthusiastic participants and aimed to give attendees a chance to think together about the meaning of peace and war, as well as impart a deeper knowledge of the atomic bombings and the two cities’ subsequent recovery. JICA hopes that participants will continue to deeper their interest in these two cities of peace and come visit them in the future.
The workshop first used a sightseeing video and a quiz to introduce participants to Hiroshima and Nagasaki before delving more deeply into topics such as hibakusha, the present-day Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the peace memorial ceremony. Participants then read the Arabic translation of ANT-Hiroshima’s “Paper Crane Journey,” explored the significance of paper cranes, and folded their own. To close, the group reflected on what peace means to each person individually.
In a post-event survey, many participants wrote that they came to the exhibit to learn more about Japanese culture, along with specific details about the bombings. Some responses to the exhibition focused on how the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered, while others were most struck by the hope for recovery — either way, the event brought the stories of the bombings into sharper relief for the participants and helped them reflect on their own experiences in relation to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hiroshima’s Senda Elementary School created a CD last December of the school’s Panflute and Chorus Club playing three songs on panflutes made from a kaizuka-ibuki hibakujomoku that had grown on the school’s grounds. The recordings are from a moving performance students gave when Tomoko-san visited the school. The songs are “Amazing Grace,” “Aogiri no Uta 2016,” and “Sore Ike Carp!” Both the Carp, Hiroshima’s baseball team, and the hibakujumoku are seen as symbols of Hiroshima’s recovery, so it’s only natural to put them together in song. Please listen to the pieces embedded below.
The instruments were crafted by a professional panflute maker after the school’s kaizuka-ibuki tree died. The tree’s branches were carved to the appropriate sizes and hollowed, then tied together to complete the flutes.
According to its website, Senda Elementary School was mostly destroyed during the atomic bombing, but now the school houses 18 hibakujumoku, some of which have been moved from other locations. Aside from the late kaizuka-ibuki tree, the grounds hold camphor, wisteria, juniper, pine, and maidenhair hibakujumoku, among others.
The Hiroshima and Nagasaki hibakusha community is gathering signatures for a petition to the United Nations asking for the banning and elimination of nuclear weapons. According the the petition’s page on change.org, “The hibakusha plan to continue to collect signatures until 2020 or until a nuclear ban treaty is concluded.”
The chair of the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee on disarmament received 564,240 signatures, collected in August and September 2016, on October 6, 2016. The organizers of the petition plan to submit new signatures every year.
On October 27, 2016, the U.N. adopted a resolution to begin negotiations in 2017 on a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.
Please add your signature to the petition.
On November 4, Tokyo University of Agriculture Professor Yoichi Kunii, Kuniko Watanabe, and myself traversed the streets, gardens, hills, shrines, and temples of Hiroshima to gather data on hibakujumoku (atomic-bombed trees).
Professor Kunii plans to use his findings to visually represent the trees using 3D computer modeling. His models, in connection with University of Tsukuba Professor Masakazu Suzuki’s articles on hibakujumoku, will allow readers and students to quickly visualize Professor Suzuki’s findings. Creating 3D models of the hibakujumoku that still stand in their original location can clearly show the direction the tree is leaning, the direction of its branches and roots, and any other characteristics that may be a result of exposure to the atomic bomb. Professor Kunii hopes also to bring his students to collect data on the trees. Not only will it be a great learning opportunity for his students, but locals (for example, children at Myojyo-in Nursery, in whose schoolyard stand two hibakujumoku) will learn about the trees through interacting with the researchers.
Click “Continue reading” below for photos and introductions to the hibakujumoku we visited.
Director Steven Okazaki, a longtime friend and partner of ANT-Hiroshima, has recently released a new documentary on the life and work of iconic actor Toshiro Mifune, titled Mifune: The Last Samurai. The film introduces viewers to prewar samurai cinema before delving into how Mifune, often in collaboration with filmmaking giant Akira Kurosawa, revised and modernized the genre in the postwar decades.
In an interview with indiewire.com, Okazaki said of Mifune’s achievements and unique screen presence, “He was shy and brash, funny and cool, silly and deadly serious. That’s what made him so dynamic. But it’s his integrity as an artist and a person that made people love and respect him.”
Mifune is distributed by Strand Releasing and will have staggered releases in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Berkeley, Honolulu, and San Francisco over the next month, with more U.S. city releases to be announced in 2017.
Watch the trailer for Mifune below:
ANT-Hiroshima’s previous collaboration with Okazaki include his films The Mushroom Club (2005) and White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2007). ANT-Hiroshima, under Executive Director Tomoko Watanabe, helped Okazaki coordinate interviews with hibakusha for his documentaries and now holds a screening of White Light/Black Rain in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome every year on August 6. Tomoko-san was a producer for The Mushroom Club and a consulting producer for White Light/Black Rain.