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ANT-Hiroshima’s Hibakusha Study Course

One of ANT-Hiroshima’s newest projects is the Hibakusha Study Course, a 12-session class that took place from April 2017 to March 2018. Former Hiroshima Hibakusha Relief Foundation Director and Hiroshima University Professor Emeritus Dr. Nanao Kamada, a specialist in the biological effects of radiation, collaborated with ANT-Hiroshima to teach the course.

The Hibakusha Study Course aims to give its participants extensive knowledge of the effects of radiation on people, with a focus on hibakusha experiences both in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and globally. The second half of the course also delved into local and global disarmament activities. The ability to draw upon such knowledge — to combine facts with personal stories — can be relevant to anyone, but it is particularly essential for those working for nuclear abolition. The course connects scientific and historical facts with the ongoing dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, bridging past and present. Much of its content is the result of years of research by dedicated individuals in ongoing cooperation with hibakusha.

A participant shares her thoughts.

The Hibakusha Study Course is the first project of its kind for ANT-Hiroshima. Staff, volunteers, and partners keenly felt the urgency of the aging hibakusha community and decided to make concrete preparations for the day when Hiroshima’s and Nagasaki’s hibakusha are no longer with us. To course participants and organizers, gaining a detailed factual understanding of nuclear issues is one way to make the realities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki their own story.

Three of the participants work or are currently being trained as official memory keepers of Hiroshima’s experience; they’re taking part in ANT-Hiroshima’s course in addition to the three years of training they receive from Hiroshima City. Other participants include a Buddhist priest, a teacher, a nurse, a university student, and others who have been involved in ANT-Hiroshima’s activities. ANT-Hiroshima capped eligible participants’ age at 60, as the course is aimed at people without firsthand experience of its subject matter.

Dr. Kamada explains genetic damage.

The group became fast friends who learned from each other over the year-long course. Along with a lecture from Dr. Kamada, each session included time for participants to ask questions, reflect on previous sessions, and share their opinions; members’ diverse backgrounds and experiences contributed to lively discussions with a range of viewpoints. And in their own ways, everyone put what they learned into action outside the course.

The first two sessions focused on the effects of radiation on people. Dr. Kamada introduced major research in the field, then guided participants through an activity in which they cut out 46 paper chromosomes and arranged them by size. Chromosomes’ abnormality can be examined to estimate the amount of radiation they have been exposed to, although in reality one needs to examine about 100 chromosomes before abnormality becomes apparent. The group also got hands-on experience using a scintillation detector, borrowed from the Hiroshima International Council for Health Care of the Radiation-exposed (HICARE). Particpants discussed differences between victims of atomic bombings and victims of radiation exposure through other means, such as nuclear accidents or nuclear testing.

The third and fourth sessions covered data collection methods and differences between visible effects of the atomic bombings and the initially invisible effects of exposure to radiation, respectively. During the latter session, discussion delved into how government policies toward visible and invisible effects vary.

Two participants use the scintillation detector.

The course’s fifth session, held in late August, included an extra assignment for participants to write a reflection about their thoughts on the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that year. Along with sharing their reflections, participants analyzed the messages from representatives of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during that year’s memorial ceremonies.

The seventh session focused on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and 2017’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Participants studied the historical steps that led up to the creation of both treaties and Japan’s position therein, including its refusal to participate in talks for or sign the latter. In a similar vein, the eighth session focused on two organizations that won Nobel Peace Prizes for their work advocating for nuclear disarmament:  International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Following sessions focused on nuclear power and nuclear accidents, as well as the psychological effects of experiencing an atomic bombing or being exposed to radiation. The second to last session covered how Japan is currently reprocessing its nuclear waste. Discussion focused on not only the feasibility of the government’s current plan (or perhaps lack thereof), but also how average citizens can make their voices heard on these issues.

The year-long course came to an end with a final session spent reflecting on how participants’ opinions and attitudes have been changed by what they learned.

Dr. Kamada lectures during the 28 October session.

ANT-Hiroshima is grateful to Dr. Kamada for offering his time and expertise throughout the course. He unfailingly read all of the participants’ written work and would follow up in subsequent sessions if he realized there were points the class hadn’t completely understood.

After reflecting on the 2017-18 course with Dr. Kamada, ANT-Hiroshima staff decided to hold a second cycle for 2018-19. This year’s course will streamline its contents to cover roughly the same amount of material in six sessions instead of 12. Applicants can request specific topics on the course application form. The participant age limit is now capped at 50, and ANT-Hiroshima is specifically hoping that young people, teachers, and individuals working in media apply.

The application deadline for the 2018-19 course is May 12 — so please contact ANT-Hiroshima if you are interested!

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Build up Nepal: Progress Report from Jyamrung Village

Build up Nepal completed construction of a health post in Jyamrung Villag in December last year. The NGO’s other project in the village, a school, is currently built up to roof level and projected to open in May. Together with local partners, construction has begun on another three schools in the area.

Andreas Kölling, Build up Nepal’s social business developer and sales manager, shared a video of the completed health post and progress on the school.

ANT-Hiroshima contributed funds to the Jyamrung projects and has been receiving progress reports since then; Tomoko-san also visited the site during her trip to Nepal last year. Click here to read our previous post about the project.

Exterior of the completed health post

Consulting a doctor in the new health post

Progress continues on the school building.

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ANT-Hiroshima Offers Interactive Lesson on Hibakujumoku

For many years, ANT-Hiroshima’s activities have included introducing hibakujumoku (A-bomb survivor trees) to both visitors and locals. In addition to tours of varying size and formality, often led by Arborist Chikara Horiguchi, ANT staff also give lectures and kamishibai (a form of picture-based storytelling) performances about hibakujumoku. Additionally, a certain ANT intern recently tested a new, interactive lesson for students.

The objective of the interactive lesson, as opposed to a normal tour, was to foster a feeling of ownership in the students: ownership of both their own learning process and of the hibakujumoku’s stories. Through first examining the trees by themselves — albeit with help from ANT staff, their teachers, and a packet of hints — the students formed their own conclusions as to what each tree was telling them about the atomic bombing.

Lecture, which miraculously ended on time, by ANT

The lesson, guinea pigged by a group of energetic students from the traveling high school Think Global School (TGS), took the following form:

  1. Introductory lecture by ANT-Hiroshima
  2. Independent investigation of hibakujumoku by students
  3. Presentation of hibakujumoku to the class

The introductory lecture had two goals: to share what hibakujumoku mean to Hiroshima citizens and survivors of the atomic bombing, and to familiarize students with what characteristics they might be looking for when they examine the trees themselves. The group was also told to come having watched a video testimony of hibakusha Suzuko Numata, whose story is deeply connected with the hibakujumoku Chinese parasol trees living in Peace Memorial Park.

One group of students examines a willow.

The class then left for Hiroshima Castle, where students split into four groups, each with their own hibakujumoku to get to know. A packet of hints was distributed to each group; the packet included a map, photos of the trees or area before or after the bombing (when available), and other relevant information tailored to each tree. Students had 40 minutes to examine their tree and plan a presentation introducing the tree to their classmates. Presentation guidelines included stating the direction of the hypocenter, positing which qualities of the tree they thought were an effect of the atomic bomb, and connecting their tree to something else they’d learned while in Hiroshima.

The whole group reassembled at one of the hibakujumoku and presentations began. After each group finished sharing, an ANT representative added to their findings or pointed out something they had missed. The students never failed to ask questions of their classmates or postulate their own theories as to why the hibakujumoku looked the way they did.

Students hotly debate the cause of the holly’s scars and wrinkles.

Although a few students had to leave immediately after the presentations, other stayed for a question and answer session with Arborist Chikara Horiguchi. Through the students’ questions, even ANT staff learned new facts and theories about the hibakujumoku at Hiroshima Castle. (Why had we never asked why that holly has roots on only one side?)

With this type of lesson, there was a chance that students would make mistaken assumptions about the trees that, unfortunately, could go uncorrected as the lively conversation raced ahead. However, their enthusiastic participation and the learning process ANT staff, teachers, and students all experienced during the lesson made the gamble worthwhile, and hopefully the students will continue inquisitively thinking about hibakujumoku.

If any readers are interested in participating in this kind of lesson, please feel free to contact ANT-Hiroshima. The first run with Think Global School gave us tips for how to keep improving, and we welcome new participants!

Literal tree-hugging unplanned but welcome.

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“One Day in Hiroshima” Book Available Online

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) recently made the book “One Day in Hiroshima: An Oral History” available online as a  free PDF. (The French version can be found here.) The book, written by former Hiroshima University Professor Nanao Kamada, M.D., M.Sc., and originally published in 2007, offers both a scientific and social introduction to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the foreword, Professor Kamada wrote, “I hope this book helps you to understand the actual situation of the survivors.”

“One Day in Hiroshima” is organized as a series of questions to an unnamed, elderly hibakusha living in a nursing home specifically for survivors. One side of each page contains her response to a question, while the other side includes more in-depth information, including charts, statistics, and photos, about the subject.

Along with explaining the permanent physical and psychological effects of the atomic bombings — especially radiation — on people, “One Day in Hiroshima” also describes measures by national and local government to give medical support to hibakusha, including those living abroad. Finally, the book touches on how Hiroshima memorialized the bombing through the Peace Park and Museum, various monuments, and peace education.

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Roundup: ICAN Receives the Nobel Peace Prize

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo at the Award Ceremony on 10 December. ANT-Hiroshima, a longtime supporter of ICAN, organized or participated in a number of activities over the weekend to celebrate ICAN being awarded the Prize. But more than a celebration, the events were a chance to reflect on the decades of work by hibakusha and others — work that, in partnership with ICAN’s campaign, culminated in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons — and to reaffirm our commitment to continuing to work for nuclear abolition.

Messages of support at the Hiroshima Joint Action event (photo by Takao Nakaoku)

The following are resources for those looking to learn more about ICAN and its campaign, as well as a short introduction to the activities of Hiroshima citizens held in conjunction with the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.

About ICAN, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize

  • ICAN recently released this document, which outlines the history of the organization and the steps leading up to the creation of the Treaty.
  • ICAN’s page on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons outlines the Treaty’s content and provides links to its full text and signatories.
  • Watch ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn’s and anti-nuclear activist and hibakusha Setsuko Thurlow’s speeches at the ceremony.

In Hiroshima

Emiko Okada speaks at the Hibakusha Voices event. (photo by Takeo Nakaoku)

Hibakusha Voices: On 9 December, Hibakusha Voices, an event organized by ANT-Hiroshima and held at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, gave Hiroshima citizens, and youth in particular, an opportunity to hear six hibakusha voice their thoughts on ICAN being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The speakers shared some of their experiences as hibakusha, as well as called on younger generations to take on their stories and continue working for a nuclear-free world. Although they were pleased with ICAN’s Peace Prize and the creation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the majority of the speakers emphasized that the prize and the treaty represent the rebirth of their cause, not its ending.

Candle message to ICAN (photo by Takeo Nakaoku)

Candle Message: People of all ages from various organizations joined forces to send a candle message of support to ICAN. The event organizers, young people of Hiroshima (with financial support from ANT), intended the message of “ICAN with you” to convey both partnership with hibakusha and a call for everyone to join the international anti-nuclear movement. Participants and speakers from the Hibakusha Voices event also took part in the candle message group photo. Photos were shared on social media with the hashtag #YesICAN, and the event was also given both local and national media coverage. NHK World broadcast and posted online a news story about the event.

Hiroshima Joint Action: Representatives from a number of civil society organizations gathered in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome on 10 December to congratulate ICAN on its Peace Prize and affirm their continued support. The group took photos with three banners, which read “United with global people, let’s achieve a nuke-free world with nuclear ban treaty!” “Setsuko Thurlow, many thanks and cheers!” and “Congrats, ICAN, for nuclear ban treaty & receiving Nobel Peace Prize!” Speakers included students and members of civil society organizations.

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Green Legacy Hiroshima