I imagine my mother turning over in her grave at the thought of me socializing with Hibakushas, atomic bomb survivors, while living in Japan. They were after all, the mortal enemy in her mind, they killed my Dutch grandfather and imprisoned my father during World War II. It was right for the United States to drop the bomb, she insisted from the kitchen of my Boulder, Colorado childhood home.
“They were killing themselves!” my mother screamed about the kamikazes to me as a child. “We saved them from themselves! They thought their emperor was GOD!”
My mother always said I would’ve never been born if the atomic bomb hadn’t been dropped, as my father would’ve died in the Japanese concentration camp on Java had World War II not ended.
That was the story I was taught growing up. And maybe it is true. I cannot change history, but I can read it! I can check it out for myself! And to see through the eyes of the other tells so much. Plus, I grew up Christian. Isn’t it the basic Christian teaching to Love thy enemy?
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44.) And so I do!
I was on a mission of love, peace and healing, and also to piece together the story of my grandfather – knowing nothing about him except a photo above my father’s bed his whole life. And to learn about the mystery of my father’s ancestors, the truth about war and history and the past. This kind of storytelling is so profoundly healing. It’s like the unfolding of a long lost box of stories that’s actually a box of chocolate, to reach into my delicious DNA and pull out images and facts and snippets of reality and just compare the stories I heard.
It never even dawned on me to understand the aftermath of World War II around the world and colonialism until now, three years into living in Japan. Even to understand the Vietnam war! And it’s become the focus of my writing now that I am back in Orlando. To understand that during the war my aunt likely lived with the fear of becoming a comfort woman while she was imprisoned on Java. To understand the horror and trauma that family separation causes, and to be a voice and do something about it now in the Trump era.
I was barely taught anything about Asian history in school. When I mentioned my father was a child survivor of Japanese concentration camps my middle-school social studies teacher looked as me puzzled and asked, “Was he Jewish? Was he Japanese?” thinking he was one of the Japanese-American internees imprisoned in Colorado during the war.
My education in Colorado consisted of learning to glorify the cowboy, Colonel Custer and the romance of the West, take the side of the conquest of Native Americans and nature, celebrate the slaughter of the buffalo. Simply dreadful! Only when I came to Japan did I learn the meaning of kamikaze, 神風, divine wind. And I learned that every culture gets caught up in the frenzy of war under a deluded leader. The USA its latest example!
No doubt a big reason why they don’t teach history in U.S. schools (or about the pioneer women who committed suicide because of the incessant Kansas wind.) We’d find out how the west has been imposing its will around the world, as I study history about General MacArthur and Patton and Eisenhower. How we just destroy nature and culture and commit plenty or war crimes in the name of “freedom.” And so I go and meet the people we dropped the atomic bomb on in person.
In September I made my third trip to Hiroshima to meet with Mr. Koshi Kobayashi, a member of the POW Research Network Japan who invited me to see with him the newly renovated Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. After a lot of peace activity in Tokyo this past year, my friends at the network put me in touch with him, and they were going to arrange a meeting for me with the last surviving Japanese soldier who invaded Java, the flag carrier. But he wasn’t feeling well, they said, so that didn’t happen. I went to Hiroshima again instead, but first to Nagasaki when he connected me with 88-year-old Hibakusha Mr. Inousuke Hayasaki.
He gave us a tour of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb museum, and I thought of my father. How they are similar. How to ever get such a horrific experience out of your mind and body? To relive the blast over and over and over again. It’s how my father was, reliving the war as a child over and over and over again. It affected us children too. Why I am compelled to seek answers and find the rest of the story! For there is always more to the story!
Mr. Hayasaki was 14 years old when the atomic bomb went off, killing all 30 people around him, including his boss. He definitely would be considered “the enemy target” as he was working at the Mitzubishi Arms Factory in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing. Collateral damage, however I find him still a human being, as a child and another victim of war, a victim by his own country.
We moved to the Peace Cafe after touring the museum. Listening to Hayasaki’s story of radiation sickness for a year, losing his hair (he pantomimed and I could understand despite not understanding his Japanese.) “No more war!” is his message. I felt terribly sorry for him, his suffering. Great compassion for him, as well as my own family who suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese. He was apologetic, as all Japanese have been. I apologized too and asked forgiveness for the horror of the bomb.
Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37
Considering my father died the day I moved to Japan, I felt that he was there with me in peace. And so was my mother. That we all were there to speak for peace now. It’s out only option! Because war is really hellish!
And making peace begins with forgiveness. May we all find a way to forgive those who have hurt us, as they forgive us. We can’t change history, but we can work to make sure there is peace in the world. Peace, for the children!
Mr. Kobayashi and I are good friends now. Committed to spreading peace! I traveled to Fukuyama in Hiroshima Prefecture in October to visit him again. He took me to the Mukaishima memorial site in Onomichi city, where American and British POWS were held during World War II. He and other locals erected a memorial for those who died. I will write about that next!
We all work for peace! We understand the past, make amends on both sides, and we are all united in peace in this new era! Peace, for the children!
Mr. Kobayashi had frozen shoulder pain for several months, and no therapy in Fukuyama he had could help him, he said. So I connected him with my chiropractor and expert in Chinese Medicine Yoshiyasu Ueda of Reflex in Osaka and he said he felt so much better! Ueda-san really is a remarkable chiropractor/acupuncturist versed in Chinese Medicine and more.
Be sure to visit Ueda-san in Shinmachi for what ails you! I was just there after all the heat and travel and not feeling well. After my session I felt so much better!!!! Arigato Ueda-san!!!!
So now we must all seek out the peacemakers! Who is an example of peace we can turn to in this era? Jimmy Carter is an amazing human and was a great U.S. President! We need caring presidents like him! He’s asking us all to urgently work for peace and be a decent human being!