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People of ANT-Hiroshima – Liam Walsh, intern

An Australian 23-year-old from Adelaide who lives in Okayama speaks fluent Japanese – in Hiroshima-ben (the dialect of Hiroshima). This is ANT intern, Liam Walsh, a fourth-year student majoring in International Security and Japanese at Australian National University.

After spending two months every day commuting by bullet train from Okayama, Liam finished up the internship at ANT-Hiroshima two weeks ago and said goodbye to colleagues at his farewell dinner, “it has been a great experience. It has been too fast.”

Liam left his legacy of the two-month internship on ANT-Hiroshima’s English blog site – a  four-part English translation of Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors)’s personal story, Ms. Emiko Okada after spending hours and hours with Ms. Okada, who experienced the Atomic bomb at the age of eight and lost her elder sister on the day of the bombing.

On the first day at ANT, he didn’t really know what he could or wanted to do; however, “the second day at ANT, Tomoko-san gave me the Japanese version of Okada-san’s story. After hearing her story in person at lunch, I was just wondering how such a tragic thing can happen to such a lovely person. I became really interested in translating her story and decided to do it then.”

Earlier this year with still about two months left on his student visa Japan after completing a one-year exchange program at Kyushu University, Liam thought why not use this time to do something related to his interests in nuclear policy and peace. Nothing came up with google search of  “Japan peace activities”. Then, he switched “Japan” with “Hiroshima” and ANT was the first thing popped up. After meeting with ANT Director, Tomoko-san, in January over Okonomiyaki for lunch, Liam made up his mind to intern with ANT.

Aspiring to a diplomatic career, Liam is paving his road little by little to be able to influence Australia’s nuclear policy in the future. “Nuclear weapons, I don’t think that should exist in the world. But just saying that doesn’t give me any power to change it. So I came to Hiroshima to hear people’s stories and see the effects nuclear weapons actually had, then gaining the knowledge that I can actually use to convince people that nuclear weapons should not be a thing in the world.”

Australia, as the largest known Uranium source in the world, is the third-ranking producer of the nuclear energy source, following Kazakhstan and Canada.1 Uranium mined in Australia is said to be sold only for electrical power generation or nuclear research under strict International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Regardless of whether uranium mined in Australia is possibly used for nuclear weapons production, there are many opposing voices in the country that the federal government’s intention to expand uranium mining industry is hurting the environment and health of the citizens.

Uranium Mines Distribution in Australia

Uranium Mines Distribution in Australia1

“I have always thought about nuclear policy in Australia. Even when I was little, they were all talking [on media] about peace, peace, peace… or nuclear weapons should not be a thing. But at the same time, many of the world’s nuclear weapons were built from Australian uranium, and we export to countries which are not signatories to the NPT. I always found that contradictory,” said Liam.

It was also the incongruity of Australia’s actions on nuclear matters that sparked Liam’s interests in national security at a young age. “In my primary school in Victoria, there was a class called ‘logic’. We were given newspapers from three different companies written by different people but about the same issue. We had to go into the articles, see where they were different and where their biases were and try to find where the truth is. One day, we were given articles on nuclear policy. Everything was contradictory.”

Liam started his journey with the Japanese language after visiting Japan for the first time in 2012 and came back for a one-year exchange program in Soja, a small city in Okayama Prefecture. Mastering a language is a commitment and Liam has overcome many obstacles living in Japan. “Coming to Japan, of course, I was interested in going overseas, interacting with people from different cultures. I wanted to become a diplomat, have Australia known overseas and build relationships. Australia and many Asian countries are more like trading partners rather than friends. Then, I prefer going down the road more of friendship rather than the one simply about money.”

“The cross-cultural communication skills.” Liam spilled an answer right away when asked about his biggest gain from ANT for his future career as a diplomat, “actually being able to work in an office setting in Japan, meeting with people all around the world.”

Later this month, Liam will return to Australia and start an internship working in foreign affairs in Canberra. He expressed anxiousness about heading back to Australia but stated that he was keen to make sure the lessons of Hiroshima were heard far and wide.

  1. http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/australia.aspx
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ICAN’s Tim Wright Speaks with Young People in Hiroshima

ICAN Treaty Coordinator Tim Wright visited Hiroshima 20-23 July 2018 at the invitation of the Chugoku Shimbun newspaper, Hiroshima City University, and Nagasaki University’s RECNA as the keynote speaker at their symposium “Opening the Door to Peace: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Beyond.” In addition to the symposium, Tim spoke at an event organized by HANWA and ANT-Hiroshima for members of the Hiroshima NGO community, as well as at a casual event for youths titled “What’s ICAN?” And there was another, completely unpublicized event during which Tim gave a handful of Hiroshima’s young people an inside look at ICAN’s campaign. With a focus on the latter, I’d like to expand on some of the lessons Tim shared.

Tim offered no less than 15 examples of actions and campaign methods that ICAN and its partners have implemented over the years. Actions included educating the public on the streets about nuclear weapons, making fun videos, civil disobedience, musical performances, branding, generating one’s own media, and positive messaging through demonstrations thanking supportive governments. In addition to actions that build public attention and support, campaigners employ a number of methods for lobbying politicians, including briefings, asking them to sign ICAN’s Parliamentarian Pledge, meeting with diplomats, and always making sure to speak with people from multiple political parties.

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Book Reviews: Rhodes and Dower

Nonfiction isn’t always gripping — but it can be. Seven months ago, I decided to learn more about nuclear weapons in general, rather than simply focus on a single instance of their use. Your average Google searches led me to the following books; all three are worth a read.

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Interview with Anti-Nuclear Activist Mitsuhiro Hayashida

Back in February, members of ANT-Hiroshima participated in a workshop about the current global anti-nuclear movement and Japan’s role therein. The workshop was led by Mitsuhiro Hayashida, activist and campaign leader of the Hibakusha Appeal. I later had the chance to interview Hayashida-san about his activities and some of his thoughts on the anti-nuclear movement. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Hayashida-san!

Hayashida-san speaks at an event for Hibakusha Appeal.

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Please introduce yourself.

In Nagasaki, I served on the 10,000 High School Students Signature Campaign executive committee from my third year of middle school until graduating high school. In 2009, I went to the European UN Headquarters in Geneva as a High School Student Peace Ambassador with the same organization, and I also participated in the 2010 NPT Review Conference as a member of [the Nagasaki-based NGO] Global Citizens for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. After entering university, I was interested in learning more about nuclear power and the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets and other security-related laws; at that time some friends and I founded the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), Students Against Secret Protection Law (SASPL), and Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). In 2015, I participated in the NPT Review Conference for a second time as the NPO Peace Depo’s youth representative. I’m currently working with hibakusha to demand a nuclear ban treaty.

Please introduce the activities you’re currently involved in. Why were you interested in them, and how did you start participating?

I’m currently serving as campaign leader of the Hibakusha Appeal, which uses a signature campaign to spread the call for a nuclear ban treaty. To that end, I’m in contact with many partner organizations throughout the country to report on our activities in a bulletin magazine, I put on workshops about nuclear weapons to raise awareness about this issue, and I also make posters and graphics. Since I’m the contact point for individuals and organizations, I do phone, email, and in-person meetings, so I’m in communication with many people every day. It can feel like I’m shouldering all of the public relations for the Appeal.

About how I got started: First of all, my background as a third-generation hibakusha from Nagasaki is definitely part of my identity. But I only started to properly face my identity as such when I moved to Tokyo for university. Until then, I was surrounded by so many first, second, and third generation hibakusha that it didn’t seem like a special characteristic. I started to participate in social activism in my third year of middle school thanks to an invitation from a former elementary school teacher. I enjoyed speaking to people I wouldn’t normally be able to in school and became completely absorbed in those activities.

Have your opinions or feelings changed since the time you began participating in peace activism? Did any particular experiences make a strong impression?

When I was a high school student, I had many chances to meet with students coming to Nagasaki on school trips — that left an impression. Through our exchanges, I realized I had grown up in a unique environment, having connections to hibakusha in my daily life and learning about the atomic bombing every summer. At the time, the problem of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal was often raised, and it was frustrating that I didn’t have a good answer when people would say to me, “Japan needs to have nuclear weapons in order to protect itself from North Korea!” That when I started studying nuclear disarmament.

What do you think about the global nuclear ban movement? Within that movement, what is the role of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

It’s been about 10 years since I became involved in these activities, and back then I wouldn’t have thought that in 2017 UN negotiations would be taking place regarding a nuclear ban treaty. We’ve still got a long way to go down this road, but I feel that just being able to see a path is a big development in itself.

One of the main reasons the UN is holding nuclear ban treaty talks is that since 2010 “the inhumanity of nuclear weapons” was the focal idea of anti-nuclear activism. We gained concrete victories using the “inhumanity” argument, and it was important for hibakusha to share their experiences of the bombings with the world in order for our arguments to be based in reality. In particular, I feel it’s necessary to convey how hibakusha had to live in the postwar period, with regard to the long-term social, mental, and physical damage that comes with experiencing an atomic bomb.

Activism related to peace and a nuclear ban is difficult, and there are no easy solutions to the problems of war and nuclear weapons. Against this background, how do you keep up your motivation and a positive attitude toward your work?

Hayashida-san eating chirashi sushi made by a hibakusha … It’s clearly delicious.

The anti-nuclear movement has been one of the largest social movements in Japan since 1955. For this reason, we have associates and friends all over Japan, as well as through many generations of people. The U.S. and Europe-centered anti-nuclear movement that began after the Cold War also exists throughout the world. Allies of this movement throughout Japan and the rest of the world give me great encouragement.

What’s the role of young people in peace activism?

No matter where they come from, young people inherit history and shoulder the burden of the future. Because we young people are the ones who will create society going forward, I think we need to have a vision of what kind of society we want to live in. I think the same principle applies to a world without nuclear weapons. If we can’t envision a world without nuclear weapons, we won’t be able to realize it.

Global problems are of course not limited to nuclear weapons. We could make an endless list of problems like disparity, poverty, religious intolerance, etc. But I wonder if these various problems all have the same root.

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