Eighth-grade students from Chicago’s Polaris Charter Academy, led by teacher Carrie Moy, recently exhibited their atomic bomb themed artwork at 345 Art Gallery. Ms. Moy’s class spends the entire year studying the atomic bomb, and the class collaborated with the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago to express through art what they learned.
The art exhibit came about after the class visited the Center’s “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Exhibition,” which was held in October 2016 and used materials on loan from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. After a discussion with Japanese Culture Center Director Saira Chambers about Hiroshima-Nagasaki, the class decided to put on their own exhibition. Ms. Chambers visited their classroom and helped the students work through and express their ideas.
Gallery 345 is run by a Chicago police officer, who donated the space to the community to hold events. According to its website, the gallery is meant to be “a space to showcase art as a form of social engagement.”
The students received copies of “Paper Crane Journey” from ANT-Hiroshima during the gallery event. Ms. Chambers said the students were grateful for the books and happy to “know there were people listening to them far away.”
The Japanese Culture Center plans to collaborate with the class again for August 6 commemoration events, as well as continue working with Ms. Moy’s classes in future years.
DePaul University Professor Yuki Miyamoto also attended the exhibition. Professor Miyamoto teaches classes on the atomic bomb and takes a group of students on a study trip to Hiroshima and Nagasaki every other year. The humble writer of this blog met her when she brought her students to the UNITAR Hiroshima Office last December.
Ms. Chambers is passionate about sharing what she’s learned about Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the atomic bomb. She said, “Chicago also has a deep history with the atomic bomb, and there is a community of dedicated advocates for knowledge and understanding of the topic here.” As the Center’s director, she supports “anyone who wishes to learn about this part of our collective past and how to make this a positive lesson for the future.”
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.
Tomoko-san and Keiko Ogura-san, a hibakusha and the official atomic-bomb storyteller for the city of Hiroshima, visited Pomona College, Claremont, U.S.A., from October 12 to 14 to give lectures on Hiroshima’s history and deliver atomic-bombed tree saplings, a Fuji wisteria and a ginkgo biloba, on behalf of Green Legacy Hiroshima. Pomona College Assistant Professor of Politics Tom Le was the main organizer for the series of events, although other professors and community members were also involved and without whose help the scope and success of the series would not have been possible.
Pomona College put on a number of events leading up to Tomoko-san and Keiko-san’s visit, including poster exhibitions on “Sadako and the Paper Cranes” and “Hiroshima Nagasaki Atomic Bombings,” a lecture on Japanese peace culture by Professor Le, and screenings of the short films The Mushroom Club and On a Paper Crane.
The sapling planting ceremony took place on October 14 at the Sontag Greek Theatre on Pomona’s campus. There were many attendees, and the saplings were planted using a shovel that President Roosevelt himself had used. Tomoko-san felt the college and its gardeners had taken great care of the saplings and that the trees were planted in an excellent location.
“I’m glad my speech appeared to touch the hearts of everyone participating in the planting ceremony,” she said.”I’m sure many people will watch over and help raise the saplings, and I have great hope that this planting is the start of many more chances to reflect on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and peace.”
Judy Chu, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, also participated in the planting ceremony. She awarded Tomoko-san and Keiko-san Certificates of Congressional Recognition on behalf of her office. The City of Claremont also awarded the two women Certificates of Recognition for their invaluable contribution these events.
A masterclass, titled “Peace Culture and Identity: From Theory to Practice” and co-led by Tomoko-san and Professor Le, focused on peace culture, what Hiroshima represents, and ANT and Green Legacy Hiroshima’s activities. Professor Le began the class by questioning basic assumptions about international relations — for example, that relations are anarchic and driven by conflict — and asserting that international relations are often a cooperative endeavor, with morals regulating state behavior as much as national interest. He also spoke briefly about how Japan created its post-war pacifist identity.
Professor Le then gave the floor to Tomoko-san, who introduced listeners to the story of the bombing of Hiroshima and the lasting effects it had on Hiroshima’s citizens, as well as explained the global importance of peace culture. She continued by explaining Hiroshima’s recovery, which, along with physically reconstructing the city, involved restoring human dignity through meeting basic needs and rebuilding hope. She finished by introducing Green Legacy and ANT Hiroshima’s activities and explaining how the two NGOs work for peace and reconstruction around the world.
The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session. Topics included the importance of using art to convey the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the strength of young people’s commitment to promoting peace, and the importance of specifically women’s efforts. Many students also commented after the masterclass that they had been inspired by Tomoko-san and Professor Le’s lecture. Tomoko-san is glad the masterclass was well-attended by both students and professors and that everyone benefited from the event.
Keiko-san led two events: “Hibakusha: A-Bomb Survivors in Japanese Society” and “Keiko Ogura: An A-Bomb Survivor’s Testimony.” Her talks focused on efforts to fight the discrimination and stigma hibakusha face; she also spoke about the anti-nuclear peace movement.
In addition to the official events, Tomoko-san and Keiko-san had many opportunities to talk more casually with students, professors, and the residents of Claremont. Following Keiko-san’s testimony and Tomoko-san’s talks, many members of the community commented that they hadn’t known anything about what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that they wanted to do something to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Others commented that people must learn humility from history.
Tomoko-san said, “I was very impressed, and I could feel the U.S. changing when I was at Pomona and in the city of Claremont. I want to work together with Americans like these people, and I feel there are more and more people in the U.S., aside from hibakusha living there, who are dedicated to working for peace and changing people’s mindsets and awareness.”
“I hope this visit leads to more study of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at Pomona College and that there are opportunities for periodic exchanges between students at Hiroshima City University and Pomona,” she continued. “Keiko-san and I are thankful that we were able to complete a trip on this scale, and we will make the best use of our experiences at Pomona in our work from now on. We are thankful for the invitation to come to Pomona College and are happy to have made several good friends there.”
A few days ago, we received a message from filmmaker Steven Okazaki (Survivors, The Mushroom Club, White Light/Black Rain), to mark the 25th anniversary of ANT-Hiroshima.
Steven Okazaki recalls how his interest in finding out more about the stories and experiences of the survivors of the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought him into contact with three people who made a big impact upon his life…
One of those people was Tomoko Watanabe of ANT-Hiroshima… 🙂
In 1980, I was a young filmmaker. I don’t know what I was thinking or why I thought I could tell the story of one of the most important events in history, but I decided to make a film about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I had seen a dozen films and television programs about the building of the atomic bomb, the decision to drop the bombs, and the physical devastation, but none of them told the story of the hibakusha, what they experienced before, during and after the bombings. That’s what interested me.
My life changed as soon as I publicly expressed that interest. Immediately, I met three people who, like characters in a novel, each playing a pivotal role, encouraging and guiding me through the phases of my growth as a filmmaker and a person, until, many years later, I was finally able to make the film I wanted to make, White Light/Black Rain.
The first person was Kanji Kuramoto, a Kibei Nisei living in Alameda, California, who introduced me to hundreds of hibakusha living in the United States. Mr. Kuramoto was gruff and demanding, but also funny and full of life. He was a great mentor to me.
The second person was Kenzaburo Oe. I was a great admirer of his writing and I was shocked that he treated me like a colleague and a friend. Oe’s kindness, integrity, and his book Hiroshima Notes, lit a path for me to follow, to do work that was both demanding and meaningful.
The third person is Tomoko Watanabe. For more than thirty years, she has been “my friend in Hiroshima.” I met her when she was a housewife and mother, before she became a powerhouse of activism. She is the most formidable and committed person I know. If it can be done, Tomoko will do it. If it can’t, she will still try.
Many times, I asked for her help and every time she said, “Yes, of course, let’s do something!” It’s not a favor. It’s not I do this and you do that. It’s being part of something together. And when the project is over, she says, “What shall we do next?” I love that about her. She doesn’t want to sit back, she wants to keep going.
When she started ANT-Hiroshima with the support of her husband, Kuniaki Watanabe, I knew that it would last because Tomoko doesn’t give up, she keeps going.
Thank you, Tomoko and all the people who have volunteered and contributed to ANT. You inspire me. Because of you, I’ll keep coming to Hiroshima.
Women’s rights advocate Beate Sirota Gordon was born into a Jewish family in Vienna in 1923. In 1929 her father was invited to take up a post as a professor at the Imperial Academy of Music in Tokyo and Beate Sirota Gordon spent the next ten years in Japan and became fluent in Japanese.
In 1939 she moved to the USA to study languages at Mills College, California, and graduated in 1943. She naturalized as a US citizen in 1945 and at the end of the war she returned to Japan to search for her parents and worked as a translator for the occupation forces.
In 1946 she was called upon to contribute to the writing of the new Japanese constitution and was responsible for writing Articles 14 and 24 on Equal Rights and Women’s Civil Rights.
Here is a part of Article 14 about equal rights:
“All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.”
Article 24 defines the status of women in marriage:
Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual co-operation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.
Beate Sirota Gordon also worked for the Japan Society and helped to improve relations between the two countries in the Post War era by arranging for Japanese artists and performers to visit America.
She also travelled throughout Asia on behalf of the Asia Society to seek out traditional indigenous folk music and performing arts and introduced many of them to American and Canadian audiences.
Beate Sirota Gordon passed away at her home in New York City on 30th December 2012 at the age of 89.
The Many Legacies of Beate Sirota Gordon
In her later life, Beate became a good friend of Nassrine Asami, Senior Advisor to the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and Nassrine has written an interesting “opionion piece” as a tribute to Beate Sirota Gordon for Hiroshima Peace Media Center.