Japanese and U.S. war veterans to play final friendship softball game in Hiroshima

by Jumpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

On April 6, a group of Japanese and U.S. veterans will play the Japan-U.S. Veterans Friendship Softball Game at Honkawa Elementary School in downtown Hiroshima. The ties of friendship between the two sides were formed in 2007. However, due to their advancing age, this will be the last softball game. The group will not disband, but will instead evolve into an organization seeking to advance the abolition of nuclear weapons. Their new efforts will be pursued in their own countries.

On April 4, prior to the game, about 30 people, including veterans and their families, met and talked in Tokyo. Kazo Watanabe, 88, the chair of the executive committee of the softball game and a former Lower House member of the Democratic Party, now residing in the city of Gifu, proposed that they should take their friendship one step further and fight for a world without nuclear arms. Though the U.S. side posed the question of how this cause should be pursued, they all agreed on the need for action that will involve younger generations.

The current emphasis of the group, on “creating an earth without atomic bombs,” will be changed to “abolishing nuclear weapons and creating a peaceful world.” As the average age of the members is approaching 90, their exchange will not include making mutual visits to each other’s nation. But they agreed to convey the misery of war, among other things, in their own countries and widen the circle of support for nuclear abolition through personal connections in order to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

The first friendship softball game was held in 2007, in response to a call by U.S. veterans. That game was played near Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where the former Imperial Japanese Navy made a surprise attack. In 2009, they held a friendship softball game in the A-bombed city of Hiroshima and strengthened their ties.

That same year, the members donated about three million yen and, at Honkawa Elementary School, the venue for the softball game, erected a bench-shaped monument which pledges that no more war will be waged between Japan and the United States.

(Originally published on April 5, 2014)