As a Bosnian-Canadian, a human of this Earth, I felt called to pay respects to the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is sorrow and a sense of collective responsibility that drove me to understand what happened and why.
During the ICU Rotary Peace Seminar in April, we heard directly from Hibakusha, Ms. Keiko Ogura and Prof. Robert Jacobs of the Hiroshima Peace Institute, and learned that current nuclear weapons are exponentially more powerful than the ones that destroyed the two cities. We were reminded of the impact of nuclear waste on present and future generations. Given current global tensions and the normalization of nuclear weapons, spaces to consider the human and more-than-human consequences of nuclear stockpiles in the world are vital.
Bearing witness to the past and present of both cities became an imperative, but time was constrained. The four of us in Class XIX were scheduled to graduate in late June and my return flight was booked for early July. I arrived in Tokyo in April following a year of online studies and dove into the thesis process with breaks exploring life in and around the Nogawa river. Regardless of the time, leaving without understanding a formative aspect of Japan’s modern history was unthinkable.
One of the many reasons I had chosen the ICU Rotary Peace Center was the opportunity to be immersed in the history and culture of Japan. A drive to acquire a holistic understanding of peace guided me to know this half of Earth. And so, I arrived with more questions than answers. What happened here during the warring period of the early 19th century? What parallels if any could I draw to the experiences of my own ancestors in the Balkans? What can be learned?
Weighing the trade-offs and advice given, I ultimately booked a train ride straight to Nagasaki. Few make the long trip to the island of Kyushu to visit the city of hidden Christians nestled among the hills. Some might not even know that this was the place where the second atomic bomb was dropped on a civilian population. Along the way I notice cranes, working alongside the farmers, they flank the side of tractors. Terraced rice fields and lush forests. Japan is greener than I imagined.
My Airbnb host is kind, a second-generation hibakusha who serves delicious breakfasts with peppers and persimmons from his garden. The city is now bustling, children head to school, and life is cradled beautifully by the valley. Nagasaki’s history and future extend beyond the dropping of a uranium-enriched atomic bomb on August 9th. The harbour greeted Portuguese ships in the 16th century and led to the arrival of St. Francis Xavier, Christians worshipped in secret for centuries, and the world recognized Nagasaki University School of Medicine leads cancer research and produces humanitarians. I learn of the generous heart of Dr. Takashi Nagai.
Being present in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki a thought arises, “what does the world remember and what has the world forgotten?”Continue reading “In Search of the Whole Picture: Being with Nagasaki and Hiroshima- Natalija Vojno, Class XIX”