It is amazing that I only have 8 days left here. It feels like it flew by. As I am getting ready to leave, I have been thinking about what I have learned and what I can do with the information that I have collected over these 6 weeks.
So many people come to Hiroshima and have been coming since the atomic bomb was dropped. A woman in our English class today wants to give tour guides in the Peace Park in English. As we are talking with her about it, she puts this question to us: “Why do so many foreigners come to Hiroshima?” Why do people come? Reading the logs of Michiko-San who is the chairperson of the World Friendship Center, I have read about many visitors to Hiroshima. Cleaning up the library, I have run into hundreds of books about the event. Some are written by foreigners and some are written by Japanese authors. What is it that draws people here? The history of the dropping of the atomic bomb. People want to see for themselves the place they have only read about in text books. I think they want to get the side of the story of the people here. Another reason is centered around peace. Everyone acknowledges that this place is a place of peace. Thousands of people if not more have come to the realization that we must learn from this event somehow. As strife wrecks the world from the Middle East to Asia people understand the importance of creating a model for peace. Researchers and scholars have scoured Hiroshima for some answer..some new insight.
I have pondered what new insight can I provide…what new questions can I ask? I am often amazed by the fact that somehow the same research is not done repeatedly and people are constantly asking new questions. One thing that has stuck out to me in my studies on campus and even here in Hiroshima is the question what about culture? I have not found a lot of research done on the impact that has on a country’s ability to achieve peace. Understanding another’s culture is recognized as important in the pursuit of peace, as violence often stems from this fear of the “other” or this tension between different ethnic groups within one area. However, how can a person’s culture limit peace? Are certain cultures more conducive to peace? Is it worth it to ask? Or are there simply other factors such as history or geography that also must be considered.
As we are creating a database for the library here at the World Friendship Center, I have looked for literature on the culture of Japan or for anyone asking similar questions. Monday, we went to the 70th anniversary celebration of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. I was personally invited by Jeffrey Hart, a man I met when the Australian screenwriters interviewed him at the RERF. He is not a scientist, but rather works in the Public Relations and Publications Office of the RERF. It was very kind of him to invite us because you had to receive a personal invitation to be able to attend this event, which consisted of a ceremony and a few lectures. I was able to get information for my research during this event. One of the lectures was actually titled: “The Gift of Knowledge: Contribution of A-Bomb survivors to the daily life of people in the world.” As I am looking at the culture of Japan and how cultural attitudes could have assisted reconstruction, I wanted to know if the Japanese were so willing to be a part of these studies because of this cultural attitude of the Japanese of placing importance on one’s place in society and of working for the good of society. I am trying to start tying what I am learning about the culture of Japan to reconstruction and this talk helped start that process. The event had some truly amazing people attend. Not only did the Mayor and Governor of Hiroshima attend, but also top researchers in the field of radiation and energy, as well as government officials from the United States from the Department of Energy, members of organizations for the Hibakusha, and members of peace organizations.
Recently, we have also been checking slides from a presentation that a man has been putting together using Hibakusha drawings and English captions. We went through two sets of slides for him. He came by the World Friendship Center three Tuesdays ago asking for some help with checking his English. It has only taken us about a half hour to go through them and I feel it has been a very rewarding experience. I have been able to see how the Hibakusha have represented their emotions in drawings and how they have chosen to describe what happened that day. The man will come by next Tuesday to give us a copy of the slides that we have checked so that we can take them to the United States to share with people there. We will be able to become a part of the discussion in a very real way, as we have helped choose the English words and this presentation is therefore in a way a collaboration with the Hibakusha, the man who is trying to translate it, and us.
Everything I have done through this internship…the English classes…creating the library database…meeting guests here at the center and being able to go to interviews with them…meeting and conversing over email with a member of the RERF which then led to being able to go to the anniversary event…and meeting the Hibakusha has led to some new piece of information for my research. I feel truly grateful to be a part of this peace organization here in Hiroshima…for having had all of these experiences…and for having met all of these amazing people.