The first World Kamishibai Day is December 7, 2018. Yes, December 7 is also Pearl Harbor Day, the day the Japanese attacked the United States Navy in Honolulu in 1942 and brought Americans into World War II.
It is precisely why the International Kamishibai Association of Japan chose that day, because the Japanese people wish for peace.
And because Japan is on the other side of the world, the war actually started on December 8, 1942 for them. The day before marks a day for peace. The Japanese people’s wish for peace.
All over the world on December 7, people will be using Kamishibai, literally meaning paper theatre, telling stories with pictures to children and adults on that day in an effort for peace. Download a PDF and poster here.
I went to Tokyo with my husband Nov. 18-19 for my second Peace through Kamishibai Seminar. I had been doing Kamishibai for years, even publishing my own Storytime Yoga Kamishibai work, never dreaming when I made them that I’d come and live in Japan!
Kamishibai is unique art form and method of educating via pictures and words that originated in Japan around 1930. Images on cards are used, and there is still the immediacy of the storyteller connecting to the listener.
Kyokan, or emotional connection and sharing life together, happens between teller and listener. Strong messages of peace, happiness and joy are conveyed in the Japanese-style kamishibai. Of course, historically, this was not always true.
This year, Eiko Matsui, the daughter of the late IKAJA founder Noriko Matsui, and who has authored numerous kamishibai, presented within a workshop the dark side of Japan’s history with Kamishibai. How it was used as propaganda during World War II to manipulate and persuade millions to support the war against the United States. She told the WWII propaganda kamishibai story of, “Mother of a War Hero,” that manipulated mothers into thinking it was an honor to send their sons to military school and have them die in war for Japan.
She then presented the positive side of Kamishibai, her kamishibai, Never Again, about the U.S. atomic bombing of the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended WWII.
In the kamishibai, she says Japan started the war, yet also examines the intense suffering of people the atomic bombing brought, as well as everyone’s wish for peace.
“No more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki!” Her emotional words cried. Our collective voices wishing for peace are needed.
As it was last year, this year was intense, considering my family’s history with Japan and WWII. My father, a child survivor of Japanese concentration camps on Java in the Dutch East Indies, endured much suffering, including being separated from his mother and sisters when he was 10 years old and surviving alone in Camp Ambarawa 7 for two years with other boys and old men.
My grandfather also died a Prisoner of War at Shinagawa Hospital outside Tokyo of beri-beri and intestinal cancer. Last year after my first peace through kamishibai seminar, I also met with the POW Research Network Japan who took me on a tour of the sites where my grandfather was forced to labor as a POW and died.
Naturally, all of these experiences, as amazing and wonderful as they were, were also very intense and traumatic. Especially the childhood trauma I endured watching my father with post traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Trauma can make it difficult to express things. And this was my experience these past two kamishibai seminars and visits to Tokyo in connection with war.
However, storytelling and grief and reconciliation make healing and peace possible. I am so grateful to my new Japanese “sisters,” who make this all possible.
Eiko-san and her sister, Asako-san apologized for what happened to my father and grandfather during the war. It was deeply touching. Their grandfather, an economist and professor, was imprisoned during the war, having been arrested for speaking out against it. He died eight years later from his hardship in prison.
We all connected on the loss of our grandfathers. How war scarred her mother as a child, as it did my father as a child. That war scars children and we all can agree – Japanese people, American people, all the world’s people can agree – that war destroys children and society. It must be stopped. Our voices for peace must be raised and heard.
I said, now I know why my father survived the concentration camps – for peace and the horrors of war on children to be known.
Mariko Iino, Producer in the International Affairs Programs Division News Department of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) filmed much of the kamishibai seminar and Eiko-san and Asako-san’s meeting with me, Iino is making a documentary about Kamishibai and how Kamishibai was used during the war. Reporter Miki Myochin of the Japanese newspaper The Mainichi was also there for our meeting.
I have also connected everybody with the POW Research Network Japan, and in the near future, we will be touring the war camp sites together, at Eiko-san’s behest. For there is no marker at the Shinagawa POW Hospital site where so much suffering happened. Only commerce and condominiums.
There is a marker at Camp Omori when the POW Network took me to that forced labor camp my grandfather was assigned. There a marker memorializes the war and the Americans who were forced to labor there. It was made into a film Unbroken.
Writing is difficult for me these days for many reasons I can’t explain here. I did do a English as a Second Language Storytime Yoga class last January in Osaka, as well as a short clip about the Kamishibai stage.
But little by little I am able to tell my stories again. To finally put everything together, including understanding the reality of my colonial Dutch ancestors and that whole economic system that enslaved so many people and started the seeds of war.
To understand the reality of the terrible intentional targeting of civilians incendiary bombings we in the U.S. are not taught about.
It also put the ghosts of the past to rest. But they will not rest until there is peace in the world, peace for the children, and their stories of the hell of war are heard. I cannot change the past, but I can do something about the future.
Because we live in dangerous times, be it President Trump’s crimes repeating tearing immigrant children from their families and putting them in for-profit concentration camps, or Prime Minister Abe wishing to repeal Article 9, the pacifist clause of Japan’s Constitution that gives people the right to peace.
I gifted a 21-year-old Kyoto University student I befriended who lives in my apartment building some kamishibai I got at the seminar in Tokyo. She is grateful to learn about kamishibai, what an important tool for peace it is, and will be telling to school children December 7.
I hope you will want to participate in the First World Peace International Kamishibai Day on December 7.