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.


“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 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.


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.


Asian Health Institute Trainees Visit Hiroshima

For the past eight years, ANT-Hiroshima has marked the beginning of autumn with the Asian Health Institute‘s three-day workshop in Hiroshima. This year, 12 trainees from 10 Asian countries participated in the 28-30 October workshop, which is part of a six-week “International Course on Leadership for Community Health and Development” that took place at AHI’s training facility in Aichi Prefecture. The trainees, mainly representing NGOs that work for public health, come together in Japan to share expertise with each other in order to improve their capacity as community leaders and increase local participation in public health initiates across multiple sectors.

The portion of the training coordinated by ANT-Hiroshima began by teaching participants about Hiroshima’s history and then introduced them to a number of social welfare or peace-related initiatives in the city, which function as case studies for the trainees.

The AHI trainees offered 1,000 paper cranes at the Peace Park.

On the first day, ANT-Hiroshima Executive Director Tomoko Watanabe shared with participants how the experiences of Hiroshima inspire her work. After lunch, participants visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park to deepen their knowledge of the city’s history. Finally, Tomoko-san’s mother, Teruko Ueno, shared her experience of the atomic bombing with the group. A thorough knowledge of the past is a necessary foundation for understanding how and why many organizations in Hiroshima work, and perhaps trainees reflected on the relationship between their own organizations and the history of their communities.

The next day, the group visited Motomachi Elementary school, then split into two groups to see either the welfare corporation Hagukumi no Sato or Tabete Karō Kai and retired social worker Chikako Nakamoto. Please read last year’s blog post about that portion of the training for more details.

The third day began with a guest lecture from Masae Yuasa, a professor in the Hiroshima City University Faculty of International Studies. Professor Yuasa presented trainees with a critical view of peace and anti-nuclear activism in Hiroshima and included some of her own experiences of intellectually grappling with mass human tragedy.

The group then had lunch at the recently opened Social Book Cafe Hachidori-sha and listened to a talk by owner Erika Abiko. Abiko-san explained that her motivation for opening the cafe was to create a space where people felt comfortable having open, productive discussions about peace and other social issues. She also detailed the practical side of how she gathered funds and volunteers to help build Hachidori-sha.

AHI trainees and staff with Abiko-san at Hachidori-sha

For the final sessions of the workshop, the group adjourned to the ANT-Hiroshima office, where trainees discussed ANT’s work through a question and answer session with ANT staff and three participants in ANT’s Hibaku Taiken Keishō Juku, a class aimed to give participants a thorough knowledge of the atomic bombing and raise their capacity as memory keepers of Hiroshima’s experience. The three Juku participants are also trained by Hiroshima City to work as official memory keepers. The group was particularly interested in the memory keepers’ work, as well as their three-year training process.


The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget

This August marked the third year ANT-Hiroshima has helped organize free performances of the recitation play The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget (Natsu no Kumo wa Wasurenai). This year, members of Natsu no Kai, the group of actresses who have been performing the play across Japan since 2008, gave three performances for students from Hiroshima’s public junior high schools. Around 2,300 students saw the play.

ANT-Hiroshima first became involved with The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget after staff and volunteers were moved by a performance of the play. They had been searching for effective ways to convey and hand over the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to younger generations through art and thought The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget was an excellent way to do so. ANT-Hiroshima coordinates with Natsu no Kai, local educators, and venues to hold the free performances. More and more schools and students have participated since ANT-Hiroshima began the project three years ago; in past years elementary school students have also attended.

Morii-san and Takemura-san visiting a junior high school (2016)

Takako Morii and Ikuko Takemura, both hibakusha, spearheaded the project in order to give a greater number local students the opportunity to learn about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Morii-san and Takemura-san lead fundraisers to support the project, and the money goes directly toward implementing performances. Many donors are hibakusha themselves. Along with fundraising, Morii-san and Takemura-san visit audience members’ schools to further deepen the play’s impact as peace education. They discuss the events described in the script and provide more context through sharing their own experiences.

The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget‘s script comprises of testimonies and poems written by hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as American photographer Joe O’Donnell. Perhaps the most well-known work included in the script is Sadako Kurihara’s poem “Let us be Midwives!” Along with testimonies written from an adult’s perspective, there are also shorter ones from children, which are read by five or six local junior high school students who join the production. The play ends with “Words of Farewell”: The performers trade off saying victims’ last words, which are as simple and poignant as a call for mother or asking a soldier “Why has this happened?”

A performance at Gion Higashi Junior High School

Although one might expect a recitation play to feel less polished than a memorized performance, the staging of The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget was impressive and professional. Six chairs were the only setting, and the actresses deftly moved them between scenes to change the atmosphere. The lighting was dynamic, using changing color or a shifting spotlight to convey more movement than the actresses themselves, who were always still while speaking. At the beginning of each scene, the title and author of each testimony or poem was projected on a screen at the rear of the stage.

The six actresses, all of a venerable age and with storied careers, gave subtle and contentious performances. During a question and answer session between the actresses and around 15 students following one of the performances, a student asked how the actresses put their own emotion into their recitation. One actress replied, “We do not try to express our own emotions. Rather, we imagine the feelings of the writer and try to convey their voice. That’s why we don’t raise our faces when we read from the script.” The recitation play’s medium is an integral part of its message.

Although they prioritize the voices in the script and are not themselves from Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the actresses said they all have experienced war. Their approach to performing does not emphasize their own emotion, but their motivation for performing is grounded in personal experience.

A flyer for The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget

The question and answer session began with all the students sharing a short reflection about the play. Many students’ comments included a confirmed belief that war is wrong, that they could better imagine what the atomic bombings were like, and that they also wanted to do something to tell this story. The actresses said this last comment is what they are happiest to hear from people who watch The Clouds in Summer Won’t Forget. 

In his reflection, one of the students connected the play with his worry about North Korea, which had launched a missile over Hokkaido only the day before. An actress responded that Japan was once a military nation not so different from today’s North Korea. From comments and experiences like this, hopefully the students can gain a nuanced historical perspective, improve their critical thinking, and develop a similarly nuanced and open-minded view of the present. An actress said, “From now on, you have to decide for yourself what’s true.”


Green Legacy Hiroshima