Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rest in Peace Taniguchi-san

On August 30, 2017, Sumiteru Taniguchi passed away from cancer. He was 88 years old. As a living hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor), Taniguchi-san had first hand knowledge of how devastating a nuclear weapon can be and he used his voice to speak out against nuclear weapons.

I first met Taniguchi-san in 2009 at the World Conference Against A- and H-Bombs (WCAAHB) in Nagasaki, Japan. The annual conference meets in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and brings together peace advocates from around the world. Taniguchi-san came to the closing reception to meet with us and encourage us to continue our pursuits for a world free of nuclear weapons.

I have to admit, when I first met him, I really didn’t know who he was or anything about his experience. I only knew that he was a famous hibakusha from Nagasaki. Later in the evening, Taniguchi-san was talking to a couple of us when someone asked him if he could show us his scars. He slowly unbuttoned shirt and lifted it over his shoulder and my eyes grew wide and I’m sure by jaw was touching the floor. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing.

His back was completely covered in scars and looked like peanut butter slathered on a piece of bread. The skin on his left side was fused around his ribs leaving gaping holes in between. You could almost grab his ribs and pull them out.

On August 9, 1945, Taniguchi-san was riding his bike, delivering mail when a plutonium bomb was detonated over Nagasaki. He was a little over a mile away from the hypocenter when he was knocked to the ground by the heat blast. His back and left side were completely burned. His skin was hanging from his hand and arm. His back, raw and exposed.

The blast was so strong that he said he had to cling to the ground to stay where he was, but he remembers seeing a child literally get blown away. His bike was twisted and useless. Mail was scattered all around, but he mustered up enough strength to gather it all and place it back in the bag next to his bike. He could hear people calling out for help but he couldn’t even help himself.

A stranger carried him up to a hillside where other survivors were gathered. At night, he said there were so many fires scattered around the city that it almost looked like it was day time.

The next morning, everyone around him was dead. Rescue crews came by, but he was too weak to call out to them. They thought he was dead too. It would be another two days, before he was finally rescued.

He spent the next three years and nine months in various hospitals recovering from the burns to his body. One year and nine months of that time was spent lying on his stomach. Initially, he said, he felt no pain because his nerves were dead. But as his body slowly healed, the pain became excruciating. A year later, the maggots came.

After his discharge from the hospital, Taniguchi-san became an outspoken advocate for the abolishment of all nuclear weapons. He was active in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council since it’s inception in 1956 and served as the chairman since 2006. He was appointed co-chair of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organization in 2010 and since 2008, he also served on the committee to draft the Peace Declaration read by the Mayor of Nagasaki at the annual ceremony. He traveled throughout Japan and the world to talk about his experience, to show people his scars and to urge people and world leaders to abolish nuclear weapons.

At one point, he contemplated suicide, but as he stood on the top of a hill overlooking the sea, he thought that it was better for him to speak out on behalf of all the people who were killed by the atomic bombs. It was better to live for those who died.

I was lucky enough to interview and photograph Taniguchi-san for the Hibakushas’ Legacy: Hope for Peace project, which is preserving the hibakushas’ stories. We are in the process of interviewing over 100 hibakusha from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Brazil and the United States, so that future generations can hear Taniguchi-san’s story and other hibakushas’ stories first hand and learn what happened to the people who survived the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

[you can support this project on indeiegogo ]

I am sad that we have lost one of our champions for world peace. The last time I saw him was again at the WCAAHB in Nagasaki in 2015. I could see that he was slowing down and his speech had become slurred. But his passion and spirit were as strong as ever. He managed to stand in front of over 2,000 fellow peace advocates to encourage us to continue to fight for a world free of nuclear weapons.

His courage and strength to publicly speak about his experience, at a time when most survivors kept quiet due to the stigma attached to being a hibakusha, as well as speaking out against nuclear weapons, in a culture that is raised to be silent, is truly admirable.

His hope, as is the hope of every hibakusha I have ever spoken with, was to live in a world free of nuclear weapons. I told him that I would do what I can to tell his story and to help make his dream come true. Unfortunately, this did not happen during his lifetime, but I am grateful that he lived long enough to see the progress that had been made due to his and other peace advocates’ hard work.

On July 7th of this year, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which basically states that any nation that signs the treaty agrees never to develop, test, produce or stockpile nuclear weapons, nor transfer or receive such weapons, never to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons and to assist anyone affected by a nuclear weapon.

This treaty is now open for signatures at the UN General Assembly meeting being held in New York City. As of the date of this writing, 53 nations have signed it and at least 122 out of 190 nations are expected to do so. The United States is not expected to be one of them.

Regarding the treaty, the Mainichi Daily reported that Taniguchi-san said in a video message, "I'm very glad. I'd like (the countries concerned) to make efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms as early as possible."

Rest in peace Taniguchi-san. Because of you, and all of the hibakusha who have gone before you, we will continue to campaign for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Peace Begins With US

Peace Begins With US

Darrell Miho and the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-bomb Survivors [ASA] have started a campaign to send 1,000 Hiroshima postcards to President Barack Obama, to encourage him to visit Hiroshima.

After US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima in April, there is renewed hope that President Obama will follow suit and visit Hiroshima during his visit to Japan for the G7 Summit, May 26 & 27.

So we started the Peace Begins With US postcard campaign to encourage President Obama to visit Hiroshima. Darrell was in Japan and went to Hiroshima April 18 and bought over 1,000 Hiroshima postcards and we are asking people from around the world to help us send these postcards to President Obama and invite him to visit Hiroshima later this month.

Japanese legend says that if you fold 1,000 cranes, the Gods will grant you a wish. Many people send senzaburu (a thousand origami cranes strung together) to Hiroshima as a symbol of peace. This is largely attributed to Sadako Sasaki, who was 2 years old when the bomb detonated over her hometown of Hiroshima. She was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 12 and started folding cranes in the hospital. Her wish was to be cured of her illness. She folded over 1,000 cranes, but unfortunately, she died later that year. You can read more about Sadako's story here.

So we added a little twist. Instead of 1,000 cranes, we are sending over 1,000 postcards, in honor of Sadako. Our wish is for President Obama to visit Hiroshima.

If you and some of your friends can send a postcard, please send us an email and we will send you 5? 10? or however many postcards you and your friends can send. the postcards and postage are all paid for (if sent from the US or Japan). All you and your friends have to do is write a message and send them.

You can also visit our Facebook page to keep up to date with issues related to the hibakusha and world peace.

Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!!! Thank you!!!

Peace begins with US!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hibakushas' Legacy Video 1

I edited some of the hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) interviews from Japan to create this 8:18 video that describes what they remembered from the day the bomb was dropped on their city. It was originally shown at the mini-exhibit last year in September.

The hibakusha in the video are Ernest Arai (Hiroshima), Isao Aratani (Hiroshima), Keiko Ogura (Hiroshima) and Sumiteru Taniguchi (Nagasaki).

I wish to thank all of the survivors who have taken the time to openly talk about their personal stories with me, as well as all of the volunteers who have helped me along the way and all the donors who have made this project possible.

Friday, September 13, 2013

International Peace Day mini-exhibit

[click on image to enlarge]

Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace has officially been changed to Hibakushas’ Legacy : Hope for Peace to better reflect the purpose of the project, which is to continue to share the hibakushas’ (atomic bomb survivors) experiences with the world and to carry on their hope for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons.

With that said, on September 21st, 2013, in honor of International Peace Day, we will begin to share the hibakushas’ stories at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) in Little Tokyo. For nine days only, a mini-exhibit will be on display in the Doizaki Gallery to give the public it’s first peek into the ongoing photo and video project documenting the real life experiences of hibakusha. Visitors will get a glimpse into what happened on those fateful days in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the people who survived the bombings.

At 2:00pm, an open forum will be held and a few hibakusha will be on hand to talk about their experiences. Audience members will be encouraged to ask questions so that they can learn more about what life was like for the hibakusha and their families.

The forum will be followed by an artist’s reception and short program. Darrell Miho, the photographer, will be on hand to discuss the project and the importance of preserving the hibakushas' stories. We must never forget the suffering that the hibakushas have endured for the past 68 years nor the tragedies that befell so many innocent lives.

It is now our responsibility to share their stories. We need to educate the world on how nuclear weapons affect people’s lives to ensure that no one else suffers the heartaches and loss that the hibakusha have. And most importantly, to carry on their hope for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. 

Hibakushas’ Legacy : Hope for Peace
September 21 (International Peace Day) - September 29, 2013
Japanese American Cultural and Community Center
244 South San Pedro Street Los Angeles, CA 90012
(map and directions)
Admission is FREE!

Saturday, September 21 : 11:00am - 6:30pm
     2:00pm - Open forum : hibakusha will share their personal
     5:00pm - Reception and short program

 Everyday, September 22 - 29 : 11:00am - 4:00pm

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Journey Has Begun...

This is a much delayed posting that was written back in May of 2011. I was a little sidetracked as my friend Ken and I have been busy doing relief work in the Tohoku area documenting survivor stories and providing direct aid to the people who were seriously affected by the triple disaster. You can see what we have been doing on our website at Ai Love Japan or on our Facebook page

But back to Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace…

May 31, 2011

The Journey has begun. On Tuesday, May 2nd, Matsui-san and I headed to Japan on what is to be the first of many trips to document the hibakusha’s stories. With four carry-on and four overweight checked bags, we flew out of Los Angeles (LAX) to Haneda (HND) and eventually landed in Hiroshima (HIJ) the next day.

The first couple of days were spent running errands, picking up a few things that we needed and spending time with our families. Both of us have relatives in Hiroshima. My grandparent’s on my father’s side are from Hiroshima and Matsui-san’s parents are from Hiroshima.

On Saturday, we interviewed five hibakusha at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, four in english and one in nihongo. Since my nihongo is not very good, two of my cousin’s joined us and helped me with the translation and interviews.

On Sunday, we went on location with two hibakusha, Arai-san and Kaneko-san, who took us to where they were on August 6, 1945. This added another dimension to their stories as they described to us in detail about their experience.
With its high-rise office buildings and apartment complexes, the city of Hiroshima is so well developed now that it is hard to imagine the devastation. After the bombing, people thought that nothing could live there for at least 75 years, but 66 years later, the city is alive and thriving with over 1.1 million people.

After two days of shooting in Hiroshima, we headed to Nagasaki where we were greeted with wind, rain and humidity. Over the next three days, we interviewed five more hibakusha, all in nihongo. My friend Oshima-san (and Jeff-san) joined us in Nagasaki to help with translation.

We thought that after conducting five interviews in one day in Hiroshima, Nagasaki would be a breeze with five interviews spread out over three days. Well, this was not quite the case. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, we had to change our interview room every day. This was no easy task considering the set-up we had. But we managed to do it. And each time, we got better and faster, so it was good practice, even if it was a little chaotic at times.

Overall, we interviewed 11 hibakusha – six in Hiroshima and five in Nagasaki – but there are many more stories to be documented. I have over 100 hibakusha who have all agreed to be interviewed for in places as far away as Seoul, South Korea and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

So the journey has begun. The journey of a lifetime.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

65th Commemorative Service of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Victims

On August 1, 2010, I was the guest speaker at the 65th Commemorative Service of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Victims at the Los Angeles Koyasan Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo. The event was hosted by the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors (ASA) and even though public speaking isn’t one of my favorite things to do, I was honored that they asked me to speak at their service.

The following is a transcript of my speech.

August 01, 2010

Hello everyone and thank you for coming today to remember those who lost their lives to the atomic bombings.

I’d like to thank Mrs. Suyeishi and the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors for inviting me here to speak to all of you. I also want to thank Asahi Sensei and the Koyasan Buddhist Temple for hosting this annual memorial service. It is an honor for me to be here and share with you my experience with the hibakusha and my own thoughts about peace and what we can do to make this world a better place.

About three years ago, I was at a crossroads in life. As a photographer and writer, I was grateful for the opportunities that I had been blessed with. Traveling the world, meeting people and telling stories. As a humanitarian, I volunteered my time to support charitable organizations because I believed in their missions, but I felt like there was more that I could do. I needed a new challenge.
So I started searching for a personal project that would combine my two passions in life – being creative and helping others. It took over a year for me to finally figure out my purpose in life, but it finally became clear that I needed to document the stories of atomic bomb survivors.

It is the perfect project for me. As a third generation Japanese American, I feel it is my duty to document the hibakusha’s stories. As an American citizen, my country is responsible for the bombing and since my grandfather emigrated from Hiroshima, my ancestors in Japan were directly affected. I know at least seven were killed. One died just this past year.

So 22 months ago, I started on this journey – a journey that had no clear destination, nor signs to show me which way to go. Each person that I meet holds a key that opens the gate to a new horizon. I now know that this journey has no end. For me, it is a journey of a lifetime that I hope others will continue on once my road has come to an end. We can not forget what happened 65 years ago.

On August 6 and August 9, 1945, the United States awakened the world with nuclear weapons that proved capable of unimaginable destruction on a massive scale. With just two atomic bombs, they annihilated two entire cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is estimated that 100,000 people were killed instantly and 250,000 by year’s end. Countless more lives were devastated. Men. Women. Children. Innocent lives who were only guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Today, we honor those who died and offer our support to those who survived. For those who have passed, there is solace in knowing that they are at peace. For the hibakusha who are still with us, we offer our support for they have suffered far too much.

We can not possibly imagine the ugliness they have seen, the pain they have felt nor the suffering they have endured.

Can you imagine reaching out to help someone and grabbing their hand, only to have it slip away leaving their liquefied skin in your hand?

Can you imagine being 18 years old and responsible for stacking wood and burning dead bodies because all the crematoriums had been destroyed?

Can you imagine seeing a river full of dead bodies floating by? For many survivors, this was their reality. This was their living hell.

For Mikiso Iwasa, who was 16 years old and 1.2 kilometers from the hypocenter, his story was very personal. In his own words, he wrote, “I found my mother trapped under the collapsed house and I tried to pull her out from there, but it was impossible for a young boy [that] I was. So I fled the fire, turning my back to my mother who was saying prayers sensing that she was going to die. Yes, I let her die. She was burnt alive, caught in the fire.”

“A couple of days later, I dug out what looked like my mother’s body from the burnt ruins of our house. It was an object greasy with fat, like a mannequin painted with tar and burned. I could not believe that was my mother’s body. She was killed mercilessly, like an object, not like a human being. The deaths of A-bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki could not possibly be considered as ‘human deaths’”

Despite many experiences like Mr. Iwasa’s, the hibakusha do not carry any hatred or anger. Instead, they carry sadness and guilt for the loved ones they have lost. But more importantly they carry with them hope – a hope for peace. A hope that someday there will be no more nuclear weapons. A hope that their living hell is never repeated.

Right now, I’d like to take a moment to applaud them for their bravery and their courage. For their gambatte spirit to endure so much yet never complain.

Unfortunately, the hibakusha will not be with us forever to tell their stories, so today, I hope to encourage the next generation of socially responsible citizens who seek peace for the world we live in. People who will carry on the hibakusha’s hope for peace.

We must relieve them of this heavy burden that they have carried for far too many years. We can not forget the pain and suffering they have endured. We can not forget the devastation nuclear weapons have had on their lives. We can not fail the hibakusha.

It has been 65 years since the US dropped the atomic bombs and still, to this day, a US president has never attended the Peace Ceremony in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. I personally find that unacceptable.

While the world is hopeful for what President Obama can accomplish, we can not wait for our government to take responsibility. We must carry on the hibakusha’s message. We must inherit their gambatte spirit and never give up. We must be like bamboo, strong yet flexible. Bending, but never breaking.

We, the United States of America, brought the world in to the age of nuclear warfare and it is our responsibility to lead the way out. We can not expect others to disarm their nuclear weapons if we do not disarm our own. We must lead by example, not by rhetoric.

And while a world without nuclear weapons would be a great accomplishment, we can not stop there. Peace will not prevail when there are no more wars. Peace will not prevail when there are no more nuclear weapons.

Peace will only prevail once we learn to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs. Peace will only prevail when we embrace each other’s differences. Peace is something we must find within ourselves before we ask it of others. Peace begins with us.

We possess the ability to bring about change and we must work together individually and collectively to make this world a better place.

So my challenge to you is this, what can you do? What can you do to make this world a better place?

It doesn’t have to be about peace. It can be world hunger or global warming or my little sister wants to go to camp. It doesn’t matter what you do, big or small, just find something you are passionate about and do something.

Don’t underestimate the power of people. Friends, family, even strangers. If they see that you are passionate about something and share your beliefs, they will support you.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from them and move forward. You don’t fail because you make mistakes. You only fail because you quit.

And most importantly, don’t underestimate your own ability to bring about change. You have your own unique set of gifts. Discover them. Use them. If I can do it, so can you.

Find your passion. Find your gifts. And let’s make this world a better place.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Back to Japan...

It’s been awhile since my last post. I took a few months off in order to deal with the loss of my mother and take care of family matters. Life is different now, but I am still committed to documenting the stories of the hibakusha.

In order to get refocused, I traveled to Japan and South Korea to meet with more hibakusha and do more research. Did you know there are 2,696 hibakusha living in South Korea? Now you do. And soon, you will hear some of their remarkable stories.

Most everything is in place now. I just have to do some final tests and I will begin documenting the hibakusha’s stories next month.

Meanwhile…The United Nations Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is currently under way in New York City.
ニューヨークでは核不拡散条約(NPT)再検討会議が行われています。 (英語)

As stated on the UN’s website, “The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.”

Every five years, representatives from nations around the globe come to the conference to discuss current nuclear issues and review the treaty to make it stronger and better in an effort to make this world a better and safer place to live. The conference runs through May 28.

A number of my colleagues attended the first week of the conference and I hope to have more information and links to their experience. One of the speakers was Sumiteru Taniguchi, who I met with while I was in Nagasaki last April. He was 16 years old when the US dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. He talked about his experience as a survivor. (english)
私の同僚の多くが会議の1週目に参加しましたし、彼らからの情報もここで紹介していきたいと思っています。私が去年4月に長崎でお会いした谷口稜曄さんもヒバクシャを代表して会議で証言をされました。彼は原爆が投下されたとき16歳でした。 (日本語)

I probably should have been in New York City as well, however, I was in Hawai’i to speak about “Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace” on the radio show “Talking Out Loud” with University of Hawai’i Professor Christine Yano. You can listen to the show online here. (english)
私も是非ニューヨークに行きたかったのですが、ちょうどハワイで「プロジェクト・ヒバクシャ:平和への願い」について広報活動をしていました。ハワイ大学のクリスティーン・ヤノ教授と一緒に“Talking Out Loud”というラジオ番組に出演した様子をこちらでお聞きください。 (英語)

I promise not to wait another four months to update this blog. You can also ‘subscribe’ or become a ‘follower’ of this blog by clicking on the links to the right. You’ll be notified by email every time I update it. Thank you for your support!
次回の更新は4ヶ月もかからないことをお約束します。また右の‘subscribe’や‘become a follower’リンクをクリックするとブログの購読をすることができますし、フォロワーになることもでき、ブログが更新されるたびにメールが送信されます。皆様、応援していただきありがとうございます!