Peace Seeds: Teens in Hiroshima Sow Seeds of Peace (Part 50)

Sending out messages of peace through art

There are various ways to convey the wish for nuclear abolition and art is one method for spreading this message. On October 29, 15 junior writers from the Chugoku Shimbun took part in the “Hiroshima Nagasaki ZERO Project” to communicate messages of peace from the A-bombed cities through art. Our wish was expressed through photography, music, video, T-shirts, poetry, and painting.

The Hiroshima Nagasaki ZERO Project was organized by “1Future,” a non-profit organization in the United States, with support from the Hiroshima International Cultural Foundation. Cannon Hersey, 40, the head of the organization, is the grandson of John Hersey, the first journalist to report to the world on the real damage done to human beings as a result of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The art we created, together with a number of artists and citizens, was made mainly at Myoukeiin Temple in Naka Ward, Hiroshima.

By trying to express our own minds to others through these forms of art, we had a chance to probe our inner selves. We think communicating through art can be a good opportunity for us all to overcome language barriers and understand other people in the world.

Photography group takes photos in Peace Memorial Park

Under an autumn sky, we visited the Peace Memorial Park and took photos of things with a connection to peace. We each went around the park as we liked, for about an hour and a half, taking in such sites as the Peace Memorial Museum, the Children’s Peace Monument, and the A-bomb Dome. When we saw something that inspired us, we took a photo with the camera on our smart phone.

With some guidance on photography from Toshiaki Takata, 55, a photographer based in Hiroshima, we pointed our lens at subjects like flowers in bloom, the blue sky and its floating clouds, and the pavement of white stone, as well as one of our members taking a photo. We then posted our photos on Instagram, a photo-sharing service, under a common hashtag. The photos that were uploaded were also printed out with a printer at Myoukeiin Temple. We each attached our top five favorite photos to a panel and presented them to the other members of the group.

The photos that were chosen included one that showed some paper cranes that had been offered to the Children’s Peace Monument. Each one of these cranes was folded by people, both in and out of Hiroshima Prefecture, with their wishes for peace. This photo of many paper cranes gathered together made us think how our wishes for peace are linked to one another.

Music group creates fresh harmony with found objects

We first looked around us for things that could make sounds. We found that unexpected items, like paper cups, rocks, branches, and acorns that we picked up from Peace Memorial Boulevard near the temple, could be used as musical instruments. Once we had these things, we each created some improvised rhythms and explored the types of sounds that could be made by shaking or striking the objects. Finally, we came together in a circle and made our sounds together, producing a piece of music.

We named our group the “Hiroshima Tribal Music Band.” Guided by Hiroki Okano, 53, a musician from Osaka and our group’s instructor, our sounds came together to create lively and vibrant music. Mr. Okano said, “The original state of music involves enjoying the sounds that are created through motions like striking things together. If all of us would open our ears and together listen to the sounds around us, this would help make a more peaceful world.”

This was a fresh experience for us, one that produced smiles on our faces as the session concluded. We cannot forget those smiles. We felt that a peaceful world could be achieved by sharing happiness with others.

Video group produces projection mapping with handwritten messages

Guided by Peter Bill, 47, a professor at Olympic College in the U.S. state of Washington, we created a projection mapping video. Messages of peace that we wrote were added to pre-captured images like an A-bombed tree, the A-bomb Dome, and the streets of Hiroshima.

After we shot video of our hands writing these messages with a calligraphy pen, the video was combined with the other images by using an image editing program. The final images showed places such as the Peace Memorial Park with the message of “PEACE,” written in English, in the background, as well as other images with the word “peace” written in kanji characters or additions like a smiley face.

The completed video was projected at the Motoyasu River Shinsui Terrace, where the live concert for the project took place. Our video was short, but it took about half a day to produce only the part in which we were involved. For that reason, we were able to spend ample time pondering the importance of peace.

T-shirt, poetry, and painting groups

The members of our group each produced a T-shirt by choosing our favorite pattern from among 20 different designs, such as an A-bombed tree, and printing this onto a T-shirt. According to Cannon Hersey, an American artist, originality was expressed even when the printing itself was misaligned.

Also, we had a chance to create a T-shirt with the original design of a “train ticket to peace.” This was a good opportunity to consider how we could express the idea of peace in our own way.

Motoharu Sano, 61, a Japanese musician, was the instructor for the poetry group. Under the specified themes of “A better tomorrow,” “You, my dearest,” “Unheard voices,” and “Pain and anger,” the members of the group each wrote a poem individually, then read out these poems and shared impressions. Mr. Sano stressed that we should make poems that could stir the reader’s sympathy. Through this activity, we were able to carefully consider the meaning and power of each word we chose.

At the painting group, Seitaro Kuroda, 78, a well-known illustrator, told us to make use of our imagination and think about what we could do to help create a more peaceful world. At Fukuromachi Elementary School, located in Naka Ward, we made pictures together. Moving our colored pencils across the paper, we sought to depict the revival of the city after the atomic bombing and the peaceful earth held in a flask, which represented the A-bomb mushroom cloud upside down.

Dialogue sessions produce lively discussions

Session on human beings
About the abolition of nuclear weapons, William Perry, 90, who took part in the session from the United States via a video link, said that learning about this issue was the first key step. This is because the number of people who are informed about nuclear weapons will grow if each of us learns more about such things as what nuclear weapons actually are and why some nations still possess them, then shares that knowledge with the people around us.

Teens must make appeals for nuclear abolition and continue shining a light on this issue so that the elimination of these weapons can be realized. Mr. Perry said that we must pursue a future world where nuclear weapons will no longer exist.

Session on the environment
We talked about the A-bombed trees. Today, there are 160 trees, of 31 species, still alive in Hiroshima, having endured the atomic bombing. Among these trees, those that have remained standing in the same place since that time, without being transplanted, are now leaning toward the hypocenter. Tomoko Watanabe, the executive director of ANT-Hiroshima, a non-profit organization in Naka Ward, compared this to the voice of the trees. One participant commented by saying, “I had thought the trees would grow in the opposite direction, to get away from the hypocenter. The vitality of these trees is amazing. We want to follow their example.”

Cannon Hersey, who visited Hiroshima for the first time in 2015, mentioned three things that we should do: first, learn more about these issues; second, communicate what we learn to others; and third, think about what we can do so we don’t forget what we came away with from the project. We will keep these three points firmly in mind.

Session on “associates”
We discussed what an “associate” is: someone who we can support when that person is in trouble or a person we can make some effort to help. Some participants in this session said that animals or trees could be considered “associates” as well. In addition, we talked about how to respond in times of conflict with an “associate.” Because there was a range of ages and nationalities taking part, we were able to hear many different views. We felt this sort of interaction could be the basis for creating a more peaceful world.

Session on community
In a circle around Kyosuke Inoue, who has produced TV programs for NHK, including “Satoyama Capitalism” and “Satoumi Capital,” we engaged in a lively exchange of views. Mr. Inoue stressed that human beings should not prioritize economic needs, but rather, create a society where economic activities are pursued while maintaining our respect for nature. During the session, one idea was to make use of empty homes to shrink the distance between residential areas and nature because Japan has a long history of co-existing with nature. It was also suggested that Instagram be used to get young people learning more about nature.

Feature article by junior writers marks Part 50

by Miyuu Okada, 16, a junior writer who has worked on Peace Seeds since Part 1

Peace Seeds, the regular feature article produced by the junior writers of the Chugoku Shimbun, was revived in January 2015 and this article is Part 50 in the more recent series. From the viewpoint of teens in Hiroshima, we have been working to identify and report on issues related to peace.

To produce Peace Seeds, the junior writers continue to determine themes, gather information, and write articles. As someone who has been involved in this work since the Part 1 article, I believe the most important step is the first one, where we choose the topic for our article.

With our focus on peace issues, we brainstorm to come up with possible topics. We not only cover issues directly related to the atomic bombing and the war, but also approach the subject of peace from different perspectives, such as looking at paper cranes, songs, or flowers. The largest challenge we’ve faced so far involved Part 33, which took up manga as the theme. This topic is a familiar one to the people of our generation, but because there are so many manga comic books out there, we had to discuss the focus of the article again and again. Finally, we decided to gather information on how manga artists who have no personal experience of the war are able to depict the atomic bombing in their manga works.

As I talk with people who we wouldn’t usually interact with, or with other junior high and high school students who have different perspectives from me, I can encounter new views and deepen my way of thinking. I would like to produce articles that can help teens feel more familiar with peace issues and think more about them.

Key topics covered by the junior writers to date

- Hiroshima in 2045, 100 years after the atomic bombing
- Study tour of the Holocaust
- Junior writers cover the NPT review conference: A future free of nuclear weapons is not a dream
- Songs for peace to promote harmony in the world
- Godzilla, nuclear weapons, and changing humanity’s future
- School newspapers at three high schools in Fukushima prefecture
- A-bomb manga of the 21st century engages readers with familiar aspects of life
- Japanese war-displaced orphans left in China forge new lives in Japan
- Fair trade has a positive impact on the world
- Air raids that took place in the city of Kure
- Understand and take action for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Information for this article was gathered by Miyuu Okada, 16, Aoi Nakagawa, 16, Terumi Okada, 16, Kana Okino, 17, Naruho Matsuzaki, 17, Takahiro Imaru, 17, Yoshiko Hirata, 16, Tokitsuna Kawagishi, 16, Felix Walsh, 15, Kotoori Kawagishi, 15, Ryoma Iwata 14, Aya Tadokoro, 13, Honoka Hiramatsu 13, Ayu Hayashida 13, and Hitoha Katsura, 13.

Junior writers’ impressions

It was the first time I went around the Peace Memorial Park to take photos. I was able to notice that not only the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims and the Peace Memorial Museum, but also other things there like the flowers, trees, and stone pavement give us a chance to think more about peace in the world. It was very interesting to see how all the members of our group took photos in their own way, from different points of view. (Miyuu Okada)

I felt something fresh that I hadn’t experienced before in my activities with the junior writers. I was able to engage in discussion and share my thoughts with people from a wide range of ages and nationalities. If activities like this project could increase and enable us to share our thoughts and feelings more actively with others in the world, I think the goal of a peaceful world wouldn’t be merely a dream. (Tokitsuna Kawagishi)

This was the first time for me to take part in something as a junior writer. So I felt nervous even before I arrived at the venue. But when I was able to meet many people and find out about their different views, I could relax and enjoy myself. Also, it was a valuable experience for me because I had the opportunity to spend time pondering on a peaceful world, which I don’t usually have the chance to think about much. (Takahiro Imaru)

I came away with two things after taking part in the ZERO project. The first thing is that I realized how war can spread just like the sound of an echo. Music will keep going after the first sound is played, just like a minor incident can bring on the outbreak of war. The other thing is that I think the music we usually listen to could be the first step toward making our world a more peaceful place. Both a peaceful world and music can be created by listening and talking to one another. I felt that we can all take on our own way to convey the preciousness of peace to others and maintain this passion inside ourselves. (Kotoori Kagwagishi)

I took part in the session about the A-bombed trees. I was originally interested in this topic because I had written an article previously on a book about the A-bombed trees. It was a really good opportunity to learn more about them because I heard many things that I didn’t already know. I learned that all of the A-bombed trees are leaning toward the hypocenter and they struck me as very strong. I now feel that I need to properly take in what those trees are telling us and then convey this to others. (Ayu Hayashida)

I made a painting and interacted with a lot of people. I learned that I could communicate what I think to others through my painting, even if our languages are different. The first step for creating a peaceful world is to engage in exchanges with a variety of people. I want to talk about peace with more people, not only from Japan but from many different countries. (Hitoha Katsura)

I’m not so good at art. So, honestly speaking, I was worried about participating in this project. But before the workshop began, Cannon Hersey told us that there aren’t any mistakes in art and his words helped me to relax and take part. In the end, I understood that it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re “good” at making art. Though I felt a lot of frustrations during the work, I was able to overcome them and the experience was really fun. (Honoka Hiramatsu)

In the painting session at Fukuromachi Elementary School, I worked freely to make an image inside the pre-drawn picture of the flask which depicted the A-bomb mushroom cloud upside down. I was surprised to see that each person created their own unique painting in a short period of time. During a dialogue session at Myoukeiin Temple, I joined the discussion under the theme of “Associate.” Listening to others’ opinions gave me the chance to reflect on my relationships with my friends. I realized that I could start with something easy and familiar to me to appeal for a peaceful world. (Ryoma Iwata)

I joined the poetry workshop where Motoharu Sano was our instructor. Because I haven’t written so many poems, I felt really anxious about this before taking part in the activity. We presented the poems we wrote on four themes, and I was very surprised that our poems were so different even though the themes were the same. I was able to appreciate the power of poetry. (Aoi Nakagawa)

We talked freely about what we could do to help create a more peaceful world. This discussion gave me the chance to think more deeply about subjects like what freedom is, what in our minds prevents us from realizing nuclear abolition, and how to achieve peace in the world. Also, because I was part of a group of people interested in building peace, I gained more determination to help make the world a better place. (Felix Walsh)

What is Peace Seeds?
Peace Seeds are the seeds of smiles which can be spread around the world by thinking about peace and the preciousness of life from various viewpoints. To fill this world with flowering smiles, 25 junior writers from the junior high school to the senior high school, choose themes, gather information, and write articles.

(Originally published on November 16, 2017)