Note: Please look at the post two days below for Hiroshima pictures. I added captions.
It seems to fall on me to describe the remarkable work Pauline and Nick have done during these powerful days in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today marks the culmination of five grueling days of commemoration and declaration, discussion and debate, protest and promise, and long days with very little sleep. Beginning with the first drop off at the Hiroshima Peace Museum, Nick and Pauline joined a familiar group of Tokyo student activists whom they already knew from St. Luke's and the earlier workshop. These students were staying at the youth hostel, lodging that left much to be desired in terms of comfort and privacy, but which created a sense of group solidarity. By August 7, when we departed for Nagasaki, Nick and Pauline had begun to convince their peers to start thinking about specific treaties and targeted actions rather than the "no nukes" protesting that seems to characterized the anti-nuclear movement here. All three of us are frustrated by the lack of specificity in the discussion, the "pie in the sky" dreaming about non-proliferation, when we want to talk about how to get a nuclear state -- like ours, and like Russia, to start reducing weapons now. After days and days of practice, Pauline and Nick got bolder and bolder, challenging the adults as well as the students to think strategically. I don't know if the press corps will print what they said, but they said it.
When Nick walked into the first speech venue on August 4, I think he was rather surprised at the size -- I think Speech #1 was to a crowd of over a thousand students. They had been joined on stage by the Tokyo students, as well as the Hewitts, who also stayed at the youth hostel with them, along with Akira, Kyoko Toyama's son, and another friend of theirs. So we had a contingent of Americans represented. The next day, August 5, the kids argued/discussed/debated/listened/talked at conferences and various student-run activities the whole day in Hiroshima (and Pauline and Nick made Speeches #2 and #3), while I was pulled away for two long workshops. The first auditorium was so large that I took one look and almost ran out of there in fear; we ended up with 300 participants for a three- hour workshop during which I asked the Japanese audience to trust me and talk about their opinions and feelings. After the first segment of Mr. Arihara's movie, I actually walked around the auditorium and paired together old Japanese men and asked them to work together in partners. They looked at me in blinking wonderment, but they did it. Interspersed was my presentation about critical thinking, activism in the classroom, truth telling, and so on. In the afternoon, Workshop #2 was my "dream workshop": 120 teachers of the national union, representatives from all over Japan. I felt as if I was in a room full of my best friends. This was one of the most important two hours of the trip to Japan --- especially the 30 minutes when we had food and beer and did "kampai" ("bottoms up") repeatedly -- something you can do with a fellow teacher when you can't find the right vocabulary but you want to show you like each other. In the evening, in of all places, two Nagasaki survivors, Mr. Kido and Mr. Tanaka, met the adults in the group at an Irish pub and drank like Irishmen. Surreal.
The next morning, August 6, was the anniversary. In front of the preserved dome, we were interviewed by the television section of the Associated Press. The reporters turned to me after interviewing Nick (there were six kids altogether) and said, "What do you think, Mother?" However, they seemed more intrigued to find out that I was the teacher. We were able to witness the first speech ever by a Secretary General of the United Nations at this ceremony. Doves were released. There was a moment of silence. Later, we gathered at the "Green Arena" for the World Congress for final speeches on nuclear non-proliferation (outside, Nick and Pauline made another speech...by this time, we stopped counting when we realized that Japanese people ask you to make speeches all the time).
Let me just add that after Hiroshima, the pressure began to fall exclusively on Pauline and Nick for speeches and press coverage....
I also had wonderful discussions with young college students about world politics, and after the congress, petitions were gathered en masse by all of the American students. Pauline even got a signature from Sadako's nephew (see photo). I think this petitioning was meaningful. After an exquisite excursion to the island of Miyajima, at the end of the day, we witnessed the beautiful and healing floating lamps in the river, called the toryu nagashi. I lit one for my grandmothers, sharing it with Taka-san, our fellow blogger, whose grandmother died in Hiroshima.
What can we learn from Hiroshima, and from Nagasaki, about which I'll write again later? We have been besieged by questions and can feel pressured by history. Guilt is not the way to go. I have to think about this because I have been overburdened these days, and so have Nick and Pauline. But it is good to be here, and I am glad I have come.