Hiroshima Memo: Hiroshima high school students active as ambassadors for peace

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

"I truly think that the voices of the high school generation will be able to carry the message of the hibakusha."

I received this message from Diana Roose, a former journalist, after three high school students, who had just completed a tour to appeal for peace in and around Washington, D.C., returned to Hiroshima.

Ms. Roose joined the students in Washington, D.C. and traveled with them to their various events. She herself has been making active efforts to convey the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and appeal for nuclear abolition through such activities as publishing a collection of the accounts of A-bomb survivors. The three high school students -- Yuji Kanemori, 17, Tomoko Takemoto, 17, and Yuki Okada, 16 -- apparently struck Ms. Roose as effective partners in this quest.

"Their thoughts were so fresh and honest and direct that they moved many of the students and adults alike," she said. "They were wonderful ambassadors for peace."

To what extent can high school students convey the experience of Hiroshima? Those who sent the students to the United States, as well as those who received them there, felt some apprehension in this regard. However, this concern proved unfounded. The three students had already studied and discussed "Hiroshima" on their own initiative, and then deepened their understanding through the activities of the No Nuke Network: Students of Hiroshima Against Nuclear Weapons, a group they have been involved with since its founding in May 2009.

How can we clearly convey the devastating power of the atomic bomb and the aftereffects of radiation? How should we take responsibility for instigating the war and the suffering that the war caused? What can be done to realize the abolition of nuclear weapons and peace? Those born and raised in Hiroshima, including such high school students, share the sentiment that "human beings and nuclear weapons cannot coexist." This was the lesson learned through the horrific A-bomb experiences of the survivors, who have sought to rise above their bitterness in a spirit of "reconciliation."

"We hope to create peace, not through weapons and military force, but through dialogue and trust. We want to overcome religious, racial and language barriers to join hands with people around the world and take action. Please think about what you can do now to help bring about peace in the world." This is an excerpt from the Peace Declaration that the members of the No Nuke Network and high school students in Nagasaki, who are pursuing a campaign to collect signatures in support of nuclear abolition, issued to the world last November.

Distrust and fear, as symbolized by "nuclear deterrence," grips the world. This is our reality. And yet the pure appeal for peace made by high school students from Hiroshima, who called for a change to transform this reality, won the hearts and minds of today's American youth.

The three high school students had another purpose for their visit to the United States: meeting President Barack Obama at the White House and delivering to him a letter which calls on him to visit Hiroshima as well as 1,000 paper cranes folded by Hiroshima citizens. This chance did not materialize, but Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic congressman who met with the students and received the letter and the cranes from the students, promised to hand them to Mr. Obama.

In addition to the members of the "No Nuke Network: Students of Hiroshima Against Nuclear Weapons," other high school students have been making notable efforts for peace.

At the 2010 APEC Junior Conference held in Hiroshima in February, four representatives from Japan were joined by a number of local students to appeal for nuclear abolition and convey Hiroshima's wish for peace to the participants from overseas.

During their spring break, students from Hiroshima Funairi High School visited high schools in France and made a presentation on the true extent of the A-bomb damage. Meanwhile, students from Hiroshima Jogakuin High School visited a university in the United States for a study tour and appealed for peace.

While conveying their messages of peace, these Hiroshima high school students are involved in a learning process, too. Such experiences will serve as the basis for their next steps in the world. The proactive efforts for peace being made by such students, rising stars of the next generation, give hope to all, including the A-bomb survivors.

(Originally published on April 5, 2010)

Related articles
Hiroshima high school students visit U.S., share wish for nuclear abolition (April 11, 2010)