I started the day bleary-eyed, dressed in Business Formal, and a raisin bun in both hands. At 8:00, morning announcements were read, and we filed out of the Bunka Koryu Kaikan, each pulling out our fans in an effort to offset the Hiroshima heat. I have since been informed that I have not yet experienced real Japanese heat because Kyoto is next on our itinerary.
After a brief stint on the train, all 71 delegates of JASC were soon gathered outside of the Wendy Hito Machi Plaza. The day’s programming started with scheduled RT time. My fellow GEARS (Global Eco-hazard and Resource Sustainability) delegates were soon discussing our plans for promoting a more sustainable lifestyle in Tokyo. We focused on the wasteful abundance of vending machines, which adds to the consumption of plastic, and negates all efforts to use reusable water bottles. Next, we brainstormed ideas on how to slowly phase out the use of plastic bags in stores throughout Japan.
Lunch was served quickly, but personally, I was too excited for the Hiroshima Forum to eat. The first guest speaker was Mr. Sadao Yamamoto, a hibakusha (survivor of an A-bomb attack) who recounted his story for us. On August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m, 3 B-29 bombers flew overhead as he worked in the field picking sweet potatoes. “We didn’t believe they would drop the bomb,” he told us, “We thought they were only reconnaissance planes.” Within seconds, the bomb exploded in a blast of heat and fire. The huge fireball burned at the temperature of almost 4,000º Farenheit. Although his face was badly burned, there was no medicine on hand to treat his injuries. Like many victims, tempura oil was applied instead. In addition, they were denied water due to the belief that burn victims should not drink water, as it dilutes the body’s natural water storage and prevents quick recovery. Mr. Yamamoto’s family was fortunate enough to survive, but he explained how his uncle—although seemingly in perfect physical condition after the attack, died a few days later due to the residual radiation. After his presentation, Mr. Yamamoto said a few short words which really struck a chord with me. “I have no grudge against the Americans,” he said, “Let’s work together to create a nuclear free world. Let’s join hands to prevent another Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” I believe that it takes a person of incredible strength to see past the hardships of one’s own life and look to the betterment of all human kind. His message of peace and the need for strong action towards the cause of nonproliferation is one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
The second part of the Forum was an active discussion between Mr. Kazumi Mizumoto (the Vice-President of Hiroshima Peace Institute) and Mrs. Mihoko Kumamoto (the President of UNITAR, Hiroshima Office). Among the topics discussed was Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Development. As an Environmental Studies major at Franklin & Marshall University, I found both topics within my area of study and learned much from the two experts. It was very enlightening to hear their opinions and thoughts on issues I am very interested in, such as the roles of economic development and social aspects on the sustainable development of nations.
Lastly, the third part of the forum focused on Group Discussions. In Room C, we talked about the contentious issue of U.S forces being stationed in Japan. Although Okinawa accounts for less that 1% of landmass in Japan, it houses more than half of the U.S forces in Japan. U.S forces place an incredible burden on the people of Okinawa, and some hope to see the U.S forces move elsewhere.
Our last stop was at Hotel Sunroute, where we were greeted by many JASC supporters and alumni. I had the pleasure of talking to a prominent hibakusha who told us all about her travels. I was impressed that out of 20,000 applicants, she was selected as one of three women in a group of 35 Fullbright scholars. Many of us struck up conversations around the room, even coming away with a few business cards. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the lives of JASC alumni.
There are times when JASC can be overwhelming. Some days you can’t wait to change out of your business formal clothes, rub your tired feet, and lay in your bed for years! But then, there are days like this, when you realize how lucky you are to be a part of JASC. Every day, I learn so much about Japanese culture, American culture, and myself. I get to meet prominent members of Japanese society, visit historical sites, and explore all Japan has to offer. Today was an experience I will never forget. I am sure that the lessons I have learned from the city of Hiroshima and its inhabitants, will stay with me forever.