Friday, August 08, 2008

August 6, August 9, 1945

Today is August 8th already in Japan. The Olympics are starting, the schools are on summer vacation and the children play in the forest or are bicycling to the supermarket for candy. Everyone goes about their days complaining of the heat and humidity.

August 6th is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. August 9th will be the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Japan doesn't forget these 4 days and the months and years of suffering that have continued on to today.

I have an interesting position in the relationships between Japanese and Americans, both during WWII and now. No. I was not around 63 years ago but over the years I have picked up some of the stories from my mother. It is interesting to me though, that my mother and other second generation Japanese like her tend to only remember the good and they do not wish to talk of injustices and hardships. The people that helped them, the kind words spoken. Granted, the immigrants and second generation Japanese living during the war years in the States did not experience the horror of living amongst the dead and dying and suffering and maybe that is why it is easier to forget or to push history into the back of their minds.

Every year during this week in August, Japan unites to remind themselves and those in the world who will listen, about the terrible, terrible destruction to lives and the consequences a flash in the sky has brought about for all of these 63 years. The newspapers run editorials, the schools take classes on trips to the bombing centers, the worship services at church ask older members to give testimonials about their war experiences, the TV runs special documentary films about people still suffering from the effects of radiation.

Last night and the night before, Tetsu and I watched a documentary about the atrocities committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not pleasant for me (or anyone) to watch, but to run away from it and change channel to a comedy or sports program seems insensitive. It is part of the ritual of summer to relive what is so deeply ingrained in Japanese history. The only "joy" last night was to recognize some American missionary friends being interviewed on the program. Rev. and Mrs. Lammers were Tetsu and my go-betweens and mentors when we married and after they retired to Tennessee nearly 20 years ago, we haven't seen them again. How wonderful to see them on the Japanese produced documentary albeit relating about their experiences in Japan soon after the war ended.

In my small American mind I think, "Let's not dwell on the past. Let's work towards a better future." but in Japan the two seem to go together. The past should not be forgotten. It should be passed along to the next generation and the next generation and Japan is "proud" of their unique position of being the only nation in the world to have had an atomic bomb dropped on them. They feel that it is their duty to tell the world of how they have suffered and they take a very vocal stand on the banning of nuclear weapons. I have blogged before about the paper cranes that have become the Japanese' silent plea for peace in the world.

With all this pain and despair you would think that it would be very difficult to live in Japan and yet be a citizen of the country that dropped those bombs, but that isn't so at all. The people around me seem to be able to relate the devastation of the war while never throwing guilt or anger at me. Probably any American would tell you the same thing.

I find the forgiveness amazing.

This poster was taped to the counter in the city hall last week when I went in.


Elaine Adair said...

Dear Tanya - I FORCED myself to read your post, knowing it would be difficult to read, yet well-written. How guilty I always feel for what has happened - similar to other terrible things done in the name of ??? whatever the excuse.

Thank you for being brave and writing it so well.

Katie said...

Hum.... Do they also teach the children in Japan why the Americans dropped the bomb on them? How much longer would we have fought the war and killed people that way if we had not used the bomb? I'm sure they did not know about the long term effects of the radiation on all the people who survived. War is terrible for everyone and decisions like this must have been very hard to make. I know you were speaking to the terrible effect of the atom bomb and hoping they are never used again. I also hope there is never another war that would provoke this action.

Ursula said...

I can see you do not know to much of history. Why Japan can be so:
"I find the forgiveness amazing."
Because they know, or at least the old people know how they where in the war. The horror stories that they inflicted to others. The Philippines remember...(I lived in the Philippines in the '70 the people there were still talking about the japanese.. Don't you know that Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor??
War is ugly. We should learn from history. There are always more then one side.

The Calico Cat said...

but in Japan the two seem to go together. The past should not be forgotten. It should be passed along to the next generation and the next generation and Japan is "proud" of their unique position of being the only nation in the world to have had an atomic bomb dropped on them

I have to take the Japanese side on this equation... You can't forget. Even today the president of Iran (& fringe groups) is trying to say that the Holocaust did not happen... In not to many years the first person survivors will not be along to refute that stance... We also need to remember because right now as wel type, there is a genocide happening in Darfur. WE HAVE NOT LEARNED FROM THE PAST... (I could go on...)

Katie said...

I've been thinking so much about this. Well, I'm going to jump in again. First I really am concerned about the risk of nuclear bombs today and I know that was your point but there was more in your post. Now your mother and American relatives living here in America after Pearl Harbor have every right to be angry with us for how we treated them here in America. It was terrible that we didn't take in the Jews trying to escape Europe before we got into the war there. It is important that we remember how wrong we were so we never repeat these wrongs. It is amazing that Americans with Japanese heritage are able to forgive us for how we treated them here in America. It is hard for me understand how the people of Japan need to "forgive" us for dropping the bomb and ending the war they started. Forgiving is accepting an apology even though we continue to kown the action was wrong. An example of this is being abused by a parent or spouse. Keeping anger only hurts that person. A date I have always remembered is December 7 - Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. This was the beginning of our war with Japan. Now appologies have been made by Japan, accepted and our countries are now good friends. This is so different from us bombing Japan to end the war. I also remember the terrible effects on European counties especially Poland and Germany by the bombs we dropped there. Yes, I know they were not A Bombs but the death and devastation was huge. As an American, I am proud that we did what had to be done. And I am just as proud of how we helped these countries rebuild. I guess I was surprised with the idea that the Japanese people forgave us for dropping the A Bomb. Yes, we are sorry so many people had to suffer so much then and now from dropping those bombs but I don't think we are sorry we ended that terrible war by doing so. Hey, Tonya, thanks for being the good blogger friend that I feel comfortable sharing with. We need much more of this type dialogue throughout the world. Lov, Katie

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

Thank you, Tanya, for a thought provoking post. It is all about forgiveness.

Christine Thresh said...

Have you ever read The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture by Ruth Benedict? It was written in 1944.
It was a book that taught me that people in different countries do not think alike. Before I read the book I thought everyone saw things just the way I did.

Margaret said...

I began to leave a comment , but thought "leave it " I was a member of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps Citizen Military Forces . Our Matron and Major of 7th Company was Sister Vivian Bullwinkle only survivor of the massacre at Bangka Island after the sinking of the Vyner Brooke.

White Coolies by Betty Jefferies another great nurse.

Shelina said...

Wow your post stirred up a lot of reactions! I agree with everything you said - you do need to remember history to be sure you don't repeat it, and forgiveness is a very important part of moving on. Holding on to the anger is destructive. Reading these comments, of course there are two sides to every story, but surely the fact that the atomic bomb caused great devastation isn't refutable. We too have remembrances on 9/11 and other historic dates.

meggie said...

I liked your thoughtful, respectful post. It is difficult to discuss any type of war, or war action, without feeling incensed on so many levels.For ALL the terrible things, on ALL sides. For ALL wars.

My lone little voice here now, is to beg Japan not to kill the Whales, in the name of 'science'.

mamaspark said...

I agree with what Katie had to say. I have some very dear Japanese friends and talking about the war with them is difficult. People do see things through different eyes depending on where they grew up or their culture. I appreciate you posting about this topic!