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.