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.

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