Sunday, August 03, 2008

Nighttime peace gathering at Hiroshima

Small crowd at unofficial nighttime commemoration, 6 Aug 2007

Here I am back in Hiroshima, year 2008. It is hard to believe that three years has passed since I last started this blog. Time does go by when one is busy. I stopped writing this blog because of work and personal commitments. Occasionally, I would receive an email from a stranger asking about when this blog would start again, or else I received some positive feedback from students, and this made me wonder if I should start blogging again.

So, yes, I will blog again and reactivate this after a long hiatus. I don`t think I will blog on a regular basis, as it is just too time consuming to write. I will, however, blog on an rare occasion. This is one of them, in order to fulfil a promise I made.

Me somewhere in Shanghai, 2006. I am aggressively pushing a Chinese tourist away from me to keep him from jumping into my picture. Happened to me a lot until I learned to assert myself.

You see, in 2006, I was just back from a trip to China. I was tired, and recuperating in Hiroshima. It is amazing how after the culture shock of China, being unable to speak in Chinese (although I did meet a lot of cool people, both Chinese and my fellow American travelers), Japan seemed safe and comfy. I was tired saying for the 100th time in Chinese that I did not speak Chinese or understand Chinese (wo bu dong hanyuu) until I realized that by saying this in Chinese I was contradicting myself and sending mixed messages to the Chinese people. Before I say anything else, I want to state for the record that the Chinese were gracious hosts, and I was impressed by their kindness and hospitality. China`s long term strength is its people and their energy and ambition, not just their sheer numbers.

Crowd at the Memorial for A-bomb victims laying wreaths at night (Aug 6, 2007)

Anyway, I so tired from my China trip that I missed the a-bomb commemoration on Aug 6. I also was too slow in getting up for the floating lantern festival, and so when I arrived at Peace park at 9:45 pm, the crowd had dissipated, and the lantern floating stopped.

Now I had heard rumors over the expat grapevine, that there was an unofficial “underground” gathering behind the baseball stadium across the A-bomb dome. Music would be played, and although some older Japanese felt this was inappropriate, this type of gathering spoke to the younger crowd and was a more meaningful memorial commemoration. Skeptical, I decided to walk on by on the way home. As I walked into the park behind the baseball stadium, I thought I heard some music playing.

“No. It can`t be true” I thought to myself. Intrigued, I kept walking into the darkness.
Yes, the rumors are true. There is a nighttime unofficial peace celebration on the night of Aug 6

And there it was – a small gathering of about 30 Japanese youth dancing in front of a DJ`s turntable. A few non-Japanese were in the mix and they were partying together. This was an enjoyable meeting: I met so many people, and we stayed up and chatted. I met Naoki, the head of “Sleepyeye” (3pi), a DJ group. To most Japanese, these would be disrespectful punks, having a party on a somber day like this. But to my American eyes, they were anything but disrespectful. Naoki was very friendly and courteous.

Naoki (L) of Sleepyeye ( 3pi). Very outgoing fellow who spoke fluent English!

Fashionable attendee who was very friendly and showed me her necklace

Another stylish attendee. I was amazed - no fights, and they were very friendly to a foreigner like me!

The other Japanese in attendance were equally courteous. Here are observations I had from talking to them:

1) The official memorial event does not resonate with the younger generation. I have been to many Hiroshima memorials and it is all the same – walk to the main ceremony, stand in the heat, and listen to official pronouncements. Then the tolling of bells, and then the doves are released, the child representatives of the city give a peace speech, and then the official peace song. Then people walk around the park. While there is nothing wrong with such activities, and somberness may even be necessary to show the gravity of the atomic bomb, how are you going to attract youth to future meetings? Why would one want to go to future A-bomb memorials if they are so kurai (dark, gloomy)?

Lots of dancing at this event. And no fights or illegal drugs!

2) Despite the underground nature of the event, there were a fair amount of non-Japanese attendees. Also, drinking in public is not a crime in Japan, so there was a lot of beer flowing around. But I did not see any fights or bad attitudes. They were just people dancing and chilling out and having a good time. This event is a good example of how Japanese youth, despite being criticized by their elders for being lazy or disrespectful, are very polite and mellow by American standards.

3) The police came and were not happy about the event, but I was amazed by their professionalism and knowledge of human nature. The police in the U.S. would have broken up the party and called in backup to do so. The Japanese police realize the need to persuade people and give them a face saving way out. They came to warn the group, and then when they came back again, they spoke firmly, but non-threateningly, then left. Give people a face-saving way out, and they will obey. Or will this only work in Japan.

4) The organizers took pains to make sure they left no trash behind. Yes, after the police came in to shut things down at around 1:00 pm or so, the attendees started picking up trash and making sure that the park was in better condition than before the event. Just amazing to my jaded eyes.

I was so impressed that I promised I`d put these pics on the web. And then I lost all my pictures! Yes, the pics are gone along with almost 1,000 other pictures I took in China. It must have happened during a botched data transfer drive I did visit again in the summer of 2007 and took more pics and promised I would put them up. And my work responsibilities took over (committees, grading, planning for the Japan field trip, etc), and putting up this blog post and pics was relegated to the “must do in the future” pile on my desk.

So no more procrastinating. Here are some of the pics. If you happen to be in the Hiroshima area on Aug 6, why not come to their “Summer of Love” behind the baseball stadium at night. Come well behaved, and socialize with Japanese. I think this is one of the ways to build world peace – for people of different backgrounds to socialize with each other. at night over a cold beer and good music. Why must peace activities be so somber? For an American, this may be very “sobering,” – to realize that young people just like the ones you are talking to at the party are among those who suffer and die whenever there is unnecessary war and conflict.

Hiroshima city, are you listening? There are other ways to reach out to Japan`s young people to help spread the message of peace.


Merge said...

Wow. This had to be a great experience for you. I will have to return to Japan to experience this. This seems like something I would really enjoy. What I enjoyed most about our trips were when we socialized with the locals (i.e. the banquets)

Anonymous said...

That first picture's from Yu Gardens/ Yu Yuan/ 豫园. Hope you enjoyed it, there's some awesome stuff off on the side-streets away from all the guys selling counterfeit watches and purses.

Anonymous said...

...Okay, so it was the second picture. Sorry ^-^

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Anonymous said...

thank for share, it is very important . ̄︿ ̄

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