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.