I have dreamed of participating in Sadako Peace Day ever since I learned that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation commemorates August 6th every year. The reason why I have not been able to attend this ceremony is that I have always been in Hiroshima on the same day. After my first meeting with an atomic bomb survivor of Hiroshima, Miyoko Matsubara, I organized a college student volunteer group and visited Hiroshima for three days including on August 6th to study peace. This encounter with one Hibakusha, or an A-bomb survivor, changed my life dramatically. I would like to share with you a brief history of my peace activities with a Hibakusha and Japanese students, my fellow peace companions.
It was the winter of 1996 that Miyoko came to my university, Soka University in Tokyo, Japan, to share her life story. I was a senior at that time. Even though I had learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki in school, I had little knowledge about the issue; I knew that thousands of innocent people were killed instantly and that still many survivors suffer from radiation exposure. But I didn’t know why it really happed and how survivors have struggled to live. So, it was the first time for me to hear a first hand experience from a Hibakusha. I was so furious about the brutality of nuclear weapons and felt the urgent need to do something so that the same mistake will not be repeated. Then, I decided to take action by supporting her peace activities. I decided to go to Hiroshima, believing that I should visit the very place where the atomic bomb was dropped to know what really happened.
The next year, in spring of 1997, 9 students, including myself, and one American professor went to Hiroshima. We called this trip “Peace Trip to Hiroshima.” We visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Peace Memorial Park and Okuno Island, where the Japanese army developed poison gas during World War II. We thought that visiting Okuno Island was important in order to know that Japan was an aggressor, not only a victim in terms of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We also met several Hibakushas and heard their testimonies. Through this trip, we deepened our conviction that nuclear weapons are totally against humanity, and we have to abolish them before all living beings will be exterminated.
Soon after coming back from Hiroshima, I graduated from university and remained in contact with Miyoko to help her peace activities, including translating Miyoko’s letters both into English and Japanese, helping write drafts of Miyoko’s letters and speeches, traveling overseas with her as an assistant/ translator several times, and so forth. What has amazed me most is Miyoko’s power of spirit. Physically, she is very sick; she had breast cancer caused by radiation. Now there are two polyps in her stomach that might turn into another cancer someday. So, she has “bombs” inside her body. However, since she has a strong sense of mission that telling her experience will help abolish nuclear weapons, she continuously talks to people both in Japanese and English, and in Japan and overseas.
In fall of 1997, the same year that I went to Hiroshima for the first time, Miyoko offered me a chance to travel to the US with her. One of the destinations of our trip was the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Greatly impressed by Dr. David Krieger, president of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s personality, his passion for peace, and the Foundation’s dedication for peace activities, I decided to establish a student peace advocate group, which would support the Foundation’s activities, at Soka University from which I graduated. Then, in the following year, in 1998, I established the Friends of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation with students. Since the establishment, as an advisor, I have coordinated several activities with students: conducting “Peace Trip to Hiroshima” in every August, translating the Foundation’s information into Japanese and putting it on our web site, and holding study groups. One of the biggest accomplishments was when our student government passed “The Abolition 2000 Soka University Campus Resolution” last year. This is our pledge that we oppose nuclear weapons, the evil weapons of mass destruction. In order to pass the resolution, we organized several seminars, aiming for students’ conscious rising, invited Miyoko to share her experience, and collected signatures to support passing the resolution.
Through these activities, I have learned that students possess a profound potential to become a strong source for social change. My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of Soka University and the recipient of the World Citizenship Award in 1999 by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says that “[Mahatma] Gandhi proclaimed that the ‘power of the spirit’ is stronger than any atomic bomb. To transform this century of war into a century of peace, we must cultivate the limitless inherent power of human life. This is the ‘human revolution’.” I found that this “human revolution”, namely the inner transformation or strengthening life condition, which never succumbs to injustice, in the level of each individual is the assured way that will lead to create a world without nuclear weapons. In order to cultivate our strong self, we need to carry on hope, a hope that we can change the world. This is what Sadako had done until the very moment of her death. With hope that folding 1000 cranes would bring her longer life, Sadako continued folding cranes on her sickbed. Even though she died young, her hope and her “power of spirit” have been passed on from generation to generation.
Finally, I would like to end my speech with one of my favorite poems written by Dr. Krieger. This is a poem dedicated to young people worldwide.
You are a miracle, entirely unique. There has never been another With your combination of talents, dreams, and hopes. You can create. You are capable of love and compassion. You are a miracle. You are a gift of creation to itself. You are here for a purpose which you must find. Your presence here is sacred-and you will Change the world.
Thank you very much!