The feeling of peace that Nagaoka City has to offer: Interview with a female student who visited Honolulu
On Dec. 26-28, 2016, Mr. Shinzo Abe visited Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, with Obama president. The visit by incumbent prime Minister to memorial for the victims of the Pearl Harbor attack by the former Japan army was a mega news.
While we are trying to achieve a state-level peace exchange in the historic place of Pearl Harbor, it is worth taking note that two cities that have suffered significantly from the war were Nagaoka City and Honolulu City.
On December 7, 1941 (Japan hours, December 8), the attack on Pearl Harbor in the Japan army led to the war in the Pacific and in 2300 deaths reported in Honolulu . While Nagaoka ,the birthplace of Kujiro Yamamoto Commander-in-Chief of the Pearl Harbor attack , reported 1400 or more deaths by U.S. military air raids on August 1, 1945. In the past nine years, efforts have been made to heal the past and improve the relationships.
The opportunity came when that the mayor of Nagaoka participated in the Japan-US Mayors Exchange meeting held in Honolulu in 2007.
The exchange of between the cities began in March 2012 here. The Sister Cities Memorandum was signed, and in 2015. A milestone was created 70 years after the war with the launching of Nagaoka Fireworks on August 15 and 16. August 15 was the day when the war ended in Japan . Prayers were conducted in Pearl Harbor Memorial. In December 2016 , Mayor Isoda made an official visit to Pearl Harbor to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack.
12 high school students who were born in Nagaoka went to Honolulu as “peace ambassadors”. Along with students from Honolulu , the students from Japan participated in a memorial ceremony and the “Youth Peace Symposium” held at the Pacific Aviation Museum in Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. The Mayor delivered a speech on the theme of “Peace, Friendship, Reconciliation,” and made a joint declaration on peace.
I interviewed two students who attended the ceremony . Chihiro Ozeki, born in Nagaoka City, studying at a university in South Dakota, USA (third grade) and Yuka Chino a high school student from the city. I asked what they have witnessed in Honolulu and how they felt at the time of the ceremony . They were interviewed after they returned to their homes.
A decision to face about the history of war
――First of all, what made you two want to go to Honolulu as a “messenger of Peace” ?
Chino: “Peace Learning” has been conducted in elementary and junior high school. But when I heard from my teacher and read a book, I felt that the things that were taught were ‘flimsy’. When I became a high school student, I wanted to learn more about war and peace with my own eyes and have a better impression. Incidentally , I came across the application of this program.”
Ozeki: “There were a lot of reasons for the application, but… actually, my birthday is on August 6, the date Hiroshima was bombed . I also received ‘ peace education ‘ from the time of elementary school, and I have been listening to the story of the air raid and the person who had the war experience of the vicinity. But some children I knew were insensitive and they teased me because I was born on August 6. They said things like, <Reincarnation of the people who died in the atomic bomb.> Soon I become sensitive about the subject of war. I avoided the topic of war by choosing geography from history.”
“While studying at a university in the United States , I got to know from a school counselor that many American war veterans have suffered PTSD for decades . I realized that war is not a bad thing either. Also, when I talked about the Takeshima issue with the students from Korea, I was very aware that I was not at ease to talk about the issue unless I have in-depth knowledge , and I decided to learn more the war and history. ”
Study at the War Museum in Nagaoka and Isoroku Memorial Hall
――You learned about the history of the war in Nagaoka and the Pacific War before you went to Honolulu. What did you feel when you visited the Isoroku Memorial Hall and saw the exhibition in the War Museum?
Chino “Before we study about Isoroku Yamamoto properly, I had a wrong perception of pioneer of the war of Japan. After seeing the clothes when Isoroku Yamamoto was shot , picture of him with a finger dismembered , the portrait of a dignified figure , and hearing the story of him spending his life as an ordinary man when he came back to Nagaoka after all his medals and badges were removed , I thought that I had a misperceived image of him.”
Ozeki “There is a photograph of the person who died in the air raid on the third floor of the War Memorial Museum, but the moment I entered the room, I felt the atmosphere was different. When you look at the photos of people who actually died, you can see that many civilian lives were sacrificed during the war.”
“When I looked a damaged aircraft with only one wing intact being displayed at the Isoroku Memorial Hall, I reflected on how Isoroku must have felt when he decided to fly the aircraft without changing course even though the enemy had prior knowledge of the route he would take before he took off.”
A mental conflict by the Pearl Harbor Memorial ceremony in Honolulu
――What was your impression of the Pearl Harbor Memorial ceremony in Honolulu?
Ozeki “I was allowed to participate in the Memorial Festival of [the charred water bottle]（※）the day before, in a very solemn ceremony, because I had read the book’ Charred water bottle ‘ in advance. I have deep impression of the book and the contents.
Ozeki “The word ‘uncomfortable’ could be ascribed to the next day’s Pearl Harbor Memorial Ceremony. I felt even more uncomfortable, when a speech was delivered . Should I behave as a representative of Nagaoka or should I behave as a messenger of peace , and should I behave as one individual. There was a sense of conflict when the people gave a standing ovation.”
Chino ” If you do not applaud here, you are rude to the venue, if you applaud you are rude to Nagaoka. I had such a feeling. What should I do ? ”
Ozeki “Even though I was influenced by the speech, I could clap and stand up and become a part of the place. On the other hand, as a representative of Nagaoka, I couldn’t help but think of the faces of the people shown in photos exhibited in the War Memorial Museum . At that moment I could not feel like I could praise the United States. When I saw the child and the grandchild who stood up with the photograph of father/ grandfather who died in Pearl Harbor printed on their clothes with the words “Hero” , I felt a sense of conflict. ”
Be asked about “What is peaceful learning?”
――How did you interact with the students at Kamehameha High School in Honolulu that participated in the Youth Peace Symposium?
Chino “The conversation with the local students left an impression on me . I did not feel that lesson I got while studying in Nagaoka the place where I was born was special. What is peace learning? I was surprised that I know the significance and impact of the word ‘war’ in Honolulu, but there are a lot of high school students and university students who did not know what happened. When I was learning history in the elementary school I felt displaced and experienced a tinge of pain . That’s why I want people of my age to know more about history. ”
Activity for the future
――At the end of the joint Declaration, the students in Honolulu and you made a pledge.
“ I pledge that I will continue to work to achieve a lasting peace by taking advantage of what I am good at and what I like.”
What kind of activities do you two want to do in the future?
Chino “I like sports and I am a 21-year-old and a social person. In 2020 at the Tokyo Olympics a lot of foreigners will come to Japan . I want to share with guests that about history of sports in Japan but also history of the war that Japan was involved in . And that Japan now is focusing on peace activities now. ”
Ozeki ” You (Ms.Chino) has changed before and after going to Honolulu. The dream of the future was decided on the way back.”
“ I am studying tourism and hospitality management at an American university.
The historical sites of the war were originally not a tourist destination, and there was a time when the entry of the outside persons was prohibited. But on the other hand, I want to suggest we should allow people to see the historical sites . It will be good if we could educate the people who visit these sites to respect the place as well as respect the people who sacrificed their lives on this historical occasion rather than be immersed in taking photos .”
“ On this note, I want to register as a tourist volunteer guide and a tourist interpreter volunteer at the Tourism Convention Association of Nagaoka City. I can tell people in Japan and abroad what I felt about Pearl Harbor and that Nagaoka Fireworks is not just a festive event but is also a memorial fireworks. I want to be a person who can help to create positive vibes for Nagaoka city in the future. ”
The thing that is important to push forward
“a reconciliation “
Ms. Chino and Ms. Ozeki, together with the other ten companions, read the book of ‘ Charred Water bottle ‘, and put together an essay on the theme of “Peace, friendship, reconciliation.” This is written in a sentence on the theme of reconciliation.
It is important to proceed carefully not to compel one to ‘ reconciliation ‘ because there is a possibility that It is not always the same interpretation of ‘reconciliation’.
Students are aware of what is important in modern society, where the sense of speed is demanded, they could hastily and easily jump to conclusions. “It made me think whether reconciliation is only between countries , isn’t it between the people of both the countries” Ms. Ozeki said.
Reconciliation between Japan and the United States is a big step, but it is necessary to continue to learn about history, to do international peace activity , and to rely on the younger generation to continue the efforts of the reconciliation.
Message of peace
What is the desire for peace in Nagaoka City
At the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, every year, at 10:30 p.m. on August 1, the fireworks will be launched at the time of the air raids, “Shiragiku.( The white chrysanthemum )- Mr. Kase Seiji the fireworks master of Nagaoka created the large white flower firework to symbolize the laying flower ( wreath) for the dead
Click here to see “the Kase Seiji of the legendary fireworks festival in Nagaoka”
Nagaoka Fireworks” was launched on August 15 and 16, 2015, celebrating 70 years after the end of the war, praying for the war victims of the two countries in Pearl Harbor and the world’s permanent peace. The fireworks at this time featured the “Shiragiku(The white chrysanthemum )”. Shiragiku (The white chrysanthemum ) usually used for the dead, the funeral, praying for peace and now promises to decorate the sky in Honolulu.
Take a look at the project movie, which was named “Message of peace” and is dedicated to the peace of Nagaoka and Honolulu.
Wishing for peace, I want to launch the fireworks augurs well for the future in the world
This is the desire for peace in Nagaoka City
Activities that promote peace in the two sisters cities will continue in the future.
Text & Photos : Chiharu Kawauchi / Translated by 8TRIPS