Peace Scholars Welcomed in Hiroshima
Our 2023 Hiroshima Peace Scholars, Yuuka Brown of Kalani High School and Reina Gammarino of Punahou School traveled to Hiroshima from July 30 to August 9 to learn about the history of World War II, learn from hibakusha atomic bomb survivors, and discuss current events and peacebuilding activities with their peers in Japan. The group was chaperoned by JASH program specialist Christianne Ono. Since this is the first year JASH has sent students to Hiroshima for this program, President Reyna Kaneko also joined the group.
The scholars and their families met at the JASH Office for their final preparatory workshop on July 15. They put the finishing touches on their many presentations and projects for the trip, including their 1,000 cranes for the Children’s Peace Monument. To wrap up the workshop, they had a Zoom meeting to chat with their host families for the first time!
The group’s first full day in Hiroshima kept them busy as they started their morning joining a group of students from Bowling Green State University at Hiroshima Jogakuin University for a talk by hibakusha Mrs. Keiko Ogura. Prior to the trip, Yuuka and Reina watched some of Mrs. Ogura’s recorded testimonies, and they truly appreciated the opportunity to meet and hear from her firsthand.
Reina and Yuuka give their thanks to Mrs. Ogura
Then, the group started on a long field trip to trace the memory of Sadako Sasaki, a victim of the atomic bombing and symbol of world peace. After a quick break at Shukkeien Garden, the group walked to Sadako’s school Noboricho Elementary School, where they met Mr. Okabe, a volunteer who manages their peace reference room. They were very impressed by all of the stories and information Mr. Okabe had collected over the years that outlined the experiences of many families throughout that neighborhood. Next, the group visited Mrs. Tomiko Kawano, who was one of Sadako’s best friends. Yuuka and Reina were honored to meet with someone who was personally friends with Sadako. To end their first day, they visited the Red Cross Hospital where Sadako was hospitalized. They toured the sample room, which displays organs and bones donated by hibakusha for the purpose of medical advancement.
Mr. Okabe shares the history of the neighborhood
Learning more about Sadako from Mrs. Kawano
Over the next couple of days, the scholars met with their peers from Hiroshima Nagisa Junior High School and High School who gave them a tour of the Peace Memorial Park; the museum; the A-bomb Dome; the cenotaph; and the Children’s Peace Monument, where Yuuka and Reina delivered their senbazuru 1,000 cranes. The group also visited Nagisa’s campus, where they met with members of their International Club and Chorus Club.
Bringing their 1,000 cranes to the Children’s Peace Monument
The itinerary also included time to volunteer at a non-profit welfare organization called Hagukumi-no-Sato, which provides support and job skills training for people with disabilities. As part of their activities, they sort and recycle cranes dedicated to the Children’s Peace Monument and turn them into new origami paper. The group worked with everyone at Hagukumi-no-Sato to unfold and sort cranes, and also helped pack some of their completed origami paper. This visit was one of the highlights for the trip for everyone. They truly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to work with the Hiroshima community.
Sorting cranes at Hagukumi-no-Sato
The day before the memorial ceremony, Yuuka and Reina met with twenty Japanese high school students for a Peace Forum. During this forum, Yuuka and Reina shared about daily life in Hawaii and compared their schools to those in Japan. They also presented their research project, where they interviewed family or close family friends who have experienced the impacts of war. Reina interviewed her grandparents on her American and on her Japanese sides of her family to compare and contrast their family’s experiences during and following World War II. Despite their differences, all of her grandparents reached a similar conclusion: that as humans, we all need to respect and understand others to achieve world peace. Yuuka interviewed close family friend and community leader, Reverend Irene Enshin Matsumoto. Through Rev. Matsumoto’s story, Yuuka shared the history of World War II through the perspective of Hawaii’s Japanese American community. Many of the anecdotes shared were new to the Japanese students, and they were curious to learn more about the nikkei experience. To wrap up the Peace Forum, Yuuka and Reina asked everyone to write down what peace means to them on paper flowers to make a beautiful “peace lei.”
At the Peace Forum
The morning of August 6, the group gathered at the Hiroshima Memorial Park to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony. In their reflections of this day, Yuuka and Reina expressed how powerful it was to be gathered with everyone at the exact timing of the atomic bomb. They were especially touched by the speech given by two local elementary school children. After the ceremony, our scholars met with elementary and junior high school students who were visiting Hiroshima as part of the Chigasaki Peace Train. They shared their reflections on what they had learned in Hiroshima, and compared and contrasted the way American and Japanese schools teach about the war.
Meeting the delegation from the Chigasaki Peace Train
To end the trip, the group learned about Hiroshima after the war, the history of nuclear policy, and impacts on global hibakusha. They met with Matthew Bateman of the World Friendship Center to learn how American activists supported Hiroshima. They also heard a lecture from Dr. Robert Jacobs of Hiroshima City University’s Hiroshima Peace Institute, who taught the scholars about the history of nuclear policy and its effects on communities around the world. These meetings gave the group much to think about as they reflected on the current state of nuclear policy, world peace, and what actions they could take in their daily lives to make an impact.
JASH extends a big THANK YOU to everyone who supported this year’s program. Special thanks to the scholarship’s Japanese counterpart, the Hawaii Heiwa Scholarship and its organizing committee: Nao Fukuoka; Momoka Narasaki; Mirei Tashiro; Masumi Takabayashi; Hisae Hiraki; Shinichiro Kurose; Akiko Furutani; and Katsukuni Tanaka.
The Hiroshima Peace Scholarship (HPS) (est. 2009) and the Hawaii Heiwa Scholarship (HHS) (est. 2020) were founded by Hiromi Peterson and Naomi Hirano-Omizo, retired Japanese language faculty of Punahou School, to encourage young peacebuilders and strengthen relationships between Hawaii and Hiroshima. The program is supported by the proceeds from their textbook series, Adventures in Japanese. JASH began managing HPS in 2021 but was unable to send scholars to Hiroshima until summer 2023. JASH is excited to receive the inaugural HHS scholars in late March 2024. To learn more about the Hiroshima Peace Scholarship, visit jashawaii.org/hps.