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Saturday, October 31, 2009

“Film Festival Month” wraps up in Tokyo: Spotlight on Festival Cinema Brasil 2009 -- Director Edison Mineki Discusses History of Film in Brazil


The delights of October in Tokyo, along with things like persimmons and crisp autumn weather, definitely include the lineup of intriguing film festivals. In addition to high-profile offerings such as the UNHCR Refugee Film Festival, the Tokyo International Film Festival and the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival , other regionally-themed cinematic events on offer throughout the month included the Festival de Cine Cubano, the Festival of German Films in Tokyo, and the Festival Cinema Brasil 2009.

The latter festival played for its fifth year in Tokyo from October 3-9 before moving on to Osaka for its debut run. The official event website explains the ethos of the festival:

Following last year’s celebration of a century of Japanese Immigration to Brazil, this year we will celebrate 80 years of Japanese immigration to the Amazon state. For this occasion the festival will be showcasing films featuring Amazonas and related themes from Japanese directors.

The aim of Festival Cinema Brasil is to create an air of free cultural exchange and to reach audiences all over Japan, introducing them to the rich culture and history of Brazil and its people. In the hope of strengthening Brazil’s image abroad, the festival will showcase works from Brazilian filmmakers encouraging people in Japan to learn more about Brazil. This would lead to more opportunities for the Brazilian film industry, giving them the chance to break into the commercial Japanese DVD and film market.


Indeed, the Festival Cinema Brasil's trilingual website itself serves as an excellent guide to various aspects of Brazilian culture, offering resources such as a basic Portuguese language guide, map of Brazilian shops in Tokyo and Osaka, introduction to Brazilian music, and more here.

Films screened at the festival from Japanese directors included Eu Sou Feliz (I Am Happy) from Soraya Umewaka, and Pertificando from Akiko Nagura. Umewaka’s documentary portrayed the lives of people in a favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro, seeking to illustrate how they perceived the concept of happiness. The daughter of a Lebanese mother and a Japanese father from a family of Noh theater performers, Umewaka (also a Noh artist herself) has traveled the world documenting the lives of street children in order to open viewers’ eyes to social inequalities. The Japan Times has an excellent piece focusing on her work here.

Nagura’s Pertificando featured collaborations between Japanese and Brazilian musicians who expressed their views on various social issues—such as rising unemployment amongst Braziians in Japan—through the voice of music. The director made an appearance at the festival to give a short introduction to her film, which was then followed by a mini live concert held at the Tokyo venue of the Tsutaya Theater in Shibuya featuring performer Koji Abe (a seven-string guitarist) who appeared in the documentary.

The festival lineup also included O Signo da Cidade (The Sign of the City), a film set against the backdrop of Brazil’s largest metropolis of Sao Paulo while featuring gorgeous music and cinematography. Screenwriter Bruna Lombardi, who also appears as the film's lead actress, has crafted a story of various characters' intertwining destinies that is both heartwarming and deeply spiritual. The film’s website includes interviews with Lombardi and her husband, the film’s director Carlos Alberto Riccelli, as well as music from the soundtrack. Also featured at the festival was O Misterio do Samba (The Mystery of Samba), where famous Brazilian singer Marisa Monte conducted research into samba’s history. Special talk sessions were also held with several samba experts in conjunction with the festival, giving additional insight into the legendary musical genre.

  Festival Cinema Brasil Director Edison Mineki (left) and Assistant Director Momoko Watanabe

One of the festival’s more politically-oriented works was Zuzu Angel, a true story portraying the life of the Brazilian fashion designer of the same name, who dedicated her life to seeking justice for the arrest and murder of her son Stuart during the 1970’s by the Brazilian military dictatorship. Following the screening, I chatted with festival director Edison Mineki about cultural expression in Brazil in the context of the country’s turbulent political history.

Kimberly Hughes
: What a powerful film. Of course, it was quite disturbing to see graphic scenes of the torture used against activists during this time period. But it’s also important to know that this history existed.

Edison Mineki: Exactly. This was a very difficult time in our country’s history. I was a youngster still living in Brazil then, and the repression was everywhere. We were actually more afraid of police than we were of common street criminals, and any criticism of the dictatorship had to be made indirectly. Artists found a way to protest, however, through means such as the satirical political journal O Pasquim.

Gradually, workers, intellectuals and artists began coming together more openly to demand change, at times fronted by famous performers such as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. In 1983 and 1984, the movement known as Diretas Ja! (Rights Already!) emerged in demand for free presidential elections. I attended one of these gatherings, held at a bridge in Sao Paulo, where around two million people joined together to call for change. It was absolutely exhilarating to be a part of this history.

KH: And there was an impact on film during this period as well, I assume?

EM: Yes. Film censorship was heavy during the military dictatorship, and even after its collapse in the mid-1980’s, people were often still afraid to speak out. This was compounded by the economic collapse that occurred after the election of President Collor in the late 1980’s, when film production basically stopped. Finally, with President Franco in office in the mid 1990’s, people began feeling safe to speak their minds, and films made a comeback. It was a cinema renaissance, of sorts.

KH: Could you explain a bit about the history of the Festival Cinema Brasil in Japan?

EM: I’ve always loved watching movies, ever since I was a kid. After I came to Japan in the mid-1990’s, around the time when the film industry in Brazil was rebuilding itself, I started thinking about ways to bring them to Japan. A big inspiration for this was watching the film O Quatrilho, a story about the lives of some Italian immigrants in Brazil. I tossed the idea around of starting a Brazilian film festival here with some friends in the media industry, and in 2004 the Brastel Telecom company agreed to become a sponsor. The festival started running officially in 2005, and has been growing ever since.

Edison Mineki is also the Executive Producer of Tupiniqum Entertainment Co., Ltd., described on the film festival website as an "event production company-aiming to promote cultural exchange between Brazil and Japan" and "introducing Brazilian culture through music and cinema to the Japanese community."

-- Kimberly Hughes

Friday, October 30, 2009

International Peace Constitutions Conference for Nuclear & Foreign Military Base Abolition @ Montecristi, Ecuador, Nov. 5-6, 2009


From the Peace Boat and the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War:
On November 5-6, Peace Boat and the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War is jointly organizing the International Peace Constitutions Conference for Nuclear and Foreign Military Base Abolition. It will take place in the city of Montecristi, the emblematic place where Ecuador adopted a new peace constitution in 2008, and in Manta, site of a US military base that is currently being dismantled and removed under the the new constitution's prohibition of foreign military bases and installations on its territory.

The conference coincides with Peace Boat's visit to Ecuador as part of its 67th Global Voyage for Peace. The conference is supported by the Eloy Alfaro Ciudad Civic Center of Manabi, the Eloy Alfaro Lay University of Manabi, the Tohalli Movement, and co-organized by Peace Boat and the No Base Coalition

The conference will focus on the concrete functions and outcomes of peace constitutions, especially in the areas of nuclear abolition and foreign military base abolition. In particular, Article 9 of Japan's Constitution and Article 416 of Ecuador's Constitution will be analyzed and discussed. Just as Japan's Article 9 renounces war as a method of settling international conflicts and the maintenance of armed forces, Ecuador's Article 416 also promotes the peaceful solution of conflicts and rejects the use or threat of use of force. In addition, it promotes universal disarmament, and condemns the use of weapons of massive destruction, as well as the imposition of foreign military bases.

The conference will also include sessions on peace constitutions, the abolition of nuclear and foreign military bases, and testimonies from ten Hibakusha (survivors of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are participating in Peace Boat's 67th Global Voyage Hibakusha Project). There will be exhibitions, cultural events, and a peace festival held, too. The conference is open to the public and is expected to draw hundreds of local citizens, activists, and officials!

To read more about the conference visit Peace Boat's website here.

To request more information about the conference, please write to: barcodelapaz.ecuador@gmail.com.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama visit to Hiroshima would support dialogue & reconciliation between Japan & Asia-Pacific - 60+years overdue

What would be the significance of a visit to Hiroshima by the president of the nation that dropped atomic bombs on Japan and the world's largest nuclear power?

The Chugoku Shimbun asked Fumio Matsuo, former head of the Washington bureau of Kyodo News and Emiko Okada, 72, an atomic bomb survivor from Hiroshima, to share their thoughts on this issue:
For Hiroshima, which has continued to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons, a visit by U.S. President Obama would certainly be highly significant. But a visit by the president must be looked at from a broader perspective. It should be an opportunity for Japan to achieve a historic reconciliation with the U.S. as well as the countries of Asia.
........................................................................................................
I work as a volunteer at the Peace Memorial Museum. When I guide foreigners on tours of the museum and tell them about my experiences, I always begin by talking about Japan's past mistakes because I have learned from many visitors from Asia of the terrible things Japan did in the region.

Among the young Chinese and Korean visitors to the museum, there have been some whose grandfathers were killed by the Japanese Imperial Army or were forced to use Japanese names and speak Japanese. Even if two countries have resolved the historical issues between them in a political and a financial sense, those involved continue to feel that the issues will never be resolved. When I learned that, I realized that it was not enough to just talk about the damages suffered in Japan...

The relationships of trust that we build between people form the basis of relationships between countries. I would like the young people who will lead the next generation to make a particular effort to learn about Asia's past and create opportunities to have dialogues among themselves.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Peace Not War Japan Presents: "Kunitachi Peace Film and Live Music Festival" in Tokyo, November 1-3, 2009



Peace Not War Japan, a grassroots collective that has been organizing live music, dance and other cultural events since 2006 to raise awareness and funds for citizen-level peace groups, is pleased to announce its latest event to be held this weekend, November 1st-3rd, in the western Tokyo town of Kunitachi.

Kunitachi--known for its progressive social activism and a lively arts scene--will also be holding the "Kunitachi Tenkaichi festival" on the same three days. The town's main street of "Daigakudori" will be transformed into full festival mode, with food stalls and local merchants showcasing their wares.

On each of the three nights, the Chikyuya bar and cafe--a cozy space whose name loosely translates as "Earth House"--will host a lineup of fantastic live bands representing a variety of musical genres, as well as a thought-provoking, peace-themed documentary film to be followed by a talk session. A portion of each night's proceeds will then be donated to a grassroots peace group working in conjunction with the issue being spotlighted.

We believe that peace starts in each of our own individual hearts, and this event will be held in the spirit of inspiring peaceful energies amongst everyone present. So come out to Kunitachi to get some fresh perspectives on important issues that you're not likely to find elsewhere... all while supporting a great cause, *and* enjoying some fabulous entertainment!



Venue: Chikyuya Live House, Kunitachi, Tokyo
Phone: 0425-725-851
Website here (map in Japanese only).
Entry: 1500 yen per night (includes peace group donation)
Time: Doors open at 7:30 PM nightly; shows will run from 8PM
until around 11PM

Sunday, November 1st
Peace issue: Stop construction on Mt. Takao!
Documentary film: "Takao san: 24 years of memories" (Japanese only)
Director: Sisido Daisuke
Peace talk: Sakata Masako from the Kenji no kai (eco-action
group working to save Mt. Takao from slated construction)
Donations: Kenji no kai
Website: http://homepage2.nifty.com/kenju/ (Japanese only)

Live performers:
* LEYONA
* Ailie
* Numazawa Takashi (DUB AINU BAND/blues.the-butcher-590213/ill)
* Tengokudan

Monday, November 2nd
Peace issue: War in Iraq and Afghanistan
Documentary film: "Fuyu no heishi" (Winter Soldier)
(English with Japanese subtitles)
Director: Tabo Junichi
A peace talk will be held with the director following the film,
which recounts the Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier testimonies of U.S. soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and are now committed to revealing the truth regarding the miseries of war and militarism.

Donations: Collateral Repair Project (grassroots coalition of U.S. and Iraqi citizens working to provide support to Iraqi refugees )

Live performers:
* Nigayomogi
* 東京月桃三味線
* Takeru

Tuesday, November 3rd
Peace issue: No Helipads in Takae!
Documentary film: "Kukuru" (Japanese only)
Director: Kim Sunyon
Peace Talk: Kondo Ichiro and Murakami Yoko, from Yuntaku Takae

Donations: Yanbaru Takae--Association to Protect the Broccoli Forest (Local movement to stop U.S. military construction in Okinawa's Yanbaru region)

Live performers:
* Kudo "Big H" Haruyasu and Friends
* poodles
* Love Station

Additional Info:
* We ask that you please refrain from smoking in the venue.
* All artists are performing on a volunteer basis. Once the venue rental fee and other expenses have been paid, all proceeds will be donated to the peace groups specified above.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

German "Mayors for Peace" (of the Hiroshima-based NGO) behind recent move to remove US nuclear missiles from Germany

Ramesh Jaura of Indepth News reports that German "Mayors for Peace" (of the Hiroshima-based NGO), in collaboration with other German peace NGOs, were behind the recent move to remove US nuclear missiles from their country:
The new conservative-liberal coalition government wants the United States to withdraw all nuclear weapons still deployed in Germany despite the fall of the Berlin Wall, end of the cold war and re-unification twenty years ago.

Confirming the goal, Chancellor Angela Merkel and designated Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced Oct 25 and the previous day that they would take up the issue with the U.S. administration. Observers said this might happen when Merkel travels to Washington to address the U.S. Congress on November 3. After Konrad Adenauer who spoke to both houses in May 1957, she will be the second German chancellor to do so...

Foreign Minister Westerwelle left no doubt about his resolve to have nukes out of Germany when he addressed his party rally here Oct. 25. He said the new German government would support the vision of U.S. President Barack Obama for a world free of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, he added: "We will take President Obama at his word and enter talks with our allies so that the last of the nuclear weapons still stationed in Germany, relics of the Cold War, can finally be removed. Germany must be free of nuclear weapons."
The US maintains around 20 nuclear missiles in Germany.

Around fifty peace groups comprise the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

IPPNW campaigners have been pressuring parliamentarians since 2007 on the issue of disarmament. The liberal FDP, Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen (the Green Party) and Die Linke (the Left Party) have taken strong positions on the withdrawal of the nuclear weapons, repeatedly tabling motions in the Parliament.

However, the outgoing Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria/Social Democratic Party grand coalition voted to maintain nuclear weapons. Even though the SPD had pledged to work for withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Germany in its policy programme, it could not vote in favour because of the coalition agreement with the conservative CDU-CSU.

After the election of a new political coalition in September, German peace activists jumped on their opportunity:
...the IPPNW campaign council sent letters to all the negotiators. Ten Conservative 'Mayors for Peace' wrote to Chancellor Merkel and asked her to make the issue of disarmament 'Chefsache' (top priority) and end nuclear sharing. The German affiliate of Mayors for Peace supports the campaign "our future – nuclear weapon-free".

The Mayors for Peace NGO is composed of cities around the world that have formally expressed support for the programme announced by Takeshi Araki, the Mayor of Hiroshima, in 1982. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were assaulted by U.S. atomic bombs in August 1945, reducing the two cities within minutes to rubble and killing hundreds of thousands.

Araki proposed on June 24, 1982 at the 2nd UN Special Session on Disarmament a ‘Programme to Promote the Solidarity of Cities toward the Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons’. This proposal offered cities a way to transcend national borders and work together to press for the abolition of all nuclear weapons.

Subsequently, the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki called on mayors around the world to support this programme. The organisation is now supported by 554 cities in 107 countries and regions. Mayors for Peace is recognised by the UN as an official NGO.

Mayors for Peace aims to build solidarity and facilitate coordination among cities around the world. Its primary goal is to raise awareness regarding nuclear weapons abolition. It is also formally committed to pursuing lasting world peace by addressing starvation, poverty, refugee welfare, human rights abuses and environmental destruction.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

350.org: We must halt use of Coal, Gas, & Oil • David Suzuki: Forests count in climate change

Today people around the world gathered in thousands of rallies organized by 350.org. to address global warming.

Enviromentalist Bill McKibben, 350.org's founder said, "We had no idea we would get the overwhelming support, enthusiasm and engagement from all over the world that we're seeing. It shows just how scared of global warming much of the planet really is, and how fed up at the inaction of our leaders."
The number of 350 ppm originally came from a NASA research team headed by American climate scientist James Hansen, which surveyed both real-time climate observations and emerging paleo-climatic data in January 2008, according to 350.org.

"It's a very tough number," McKibben said. "We're already well past it -- the atmosphere holds 390 ppm today, which is why the Arctic is melting and the ocean steadily acidifying. To get back to the safe level we need a very rapid halt to the use of coal, gas and oil so that forests and oceans can absorb some of that carbon."
David Suzuki (a supporter of 350.org) described the problem with deforestation in "Forests Count in Climate Change" (written with Faisal Moola):
While much of the debate and action has focused on curbing emissions from burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, the destruction of our forests, wetlands, grasslands and peatlands is responsible for about one quarter of all other emissions into the atmosphere. That's higher than emissions from cars, trucks, boats and planes together.

In Canada and throughout the world, forests are being rapidly cleared for agriculture and oil and gas development and are being destructively mined and logged.

When forest soils are disturbed and trees are burned or cut down for wood and paper products, much of the carbon stored in their biomass is released back into the atmosphere as heat-trapping carbon dioxide, although some carbon can remain stored in longer-lived forest products, like wood used to make furniture or homes.

Creative Solutions (including emigration) from Bangladesh: "Ground Zero for Climate Change"

Bangladesh has been dubbed the "ground zero of climate change"--home to the world's first climate change refugees. Worst hit is Bhola, a coastal island.

The Pulitzer Center is posting reporter Glenn Baker's ongoing coverage:
Bhola, a large coastal island that has reportedly lost half its land mass over the past decade, to report on the "children of climate change" whose families are battling to stay there. We have just secured an interview with Dr. Atiq Rahman, one of the world's leading climatologists, who in the past has accused the West of "climatic genocide" for its carbon emissions that are widely understood to be the leading cause of global warming.
Nicholas Haque's reports (including video) at Al Jazeera cover the plight of the 800,000 Bedeys, the River Gypsies,"a unique group of people who spend the majority of each year navigating houseboats on the country's 700 rivers, estuaries and canals."

An in-depth video report by American public television correspondent Maria Hinojosa is online at NOW:
Imagine you lived in a world of water. Your home is two-feet under. You wade through it, cook on it, and sleep above it. This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, coastal populations on the front lines of climate change.

Only weeks before world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss climate change, NOW senior correspondent Maria Hinojosa travels to Bangladesh to examine some innovative solutions—from floating schools to rice that can "hold its breath" underwater—being implemented in a country where entire communities are inundated by water, battered by cyclones, and flooded from their homes.

The Denmark conference can't come soon enough. Scientists' project global seas will flood 20 percent of Bangladesh by 2030, stranding some 35 million climate refugees. Some are proposing that industrial nations who contribute to global warming should open their doors to displaced Bangladeshis.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Save Life Society: Okinawan Elders Speak Out about Henoko


When the Okinawa War was ended in 1945,
mountains as well as villages were burned
and pigs, cows and horses were burned.
Everything on the land
was completely burned out.
Anything which we could eat was
a blessed gift from the sea.
Repay Mother Nature for her favor.
Do not to destroy the sea.

By Uminchu (Fisherman in Okinawa) Yoshikatsu Yamashiro



We hope all elders of the Save Life Society––for protection of all lives and livelihoods, Henoko, Okinawa, Japan are genki. Here's part of the message they voiced when Japan and the US started the Henoko military base project:
"Save Life Society"was formed by the elders mostly in their 80's and 90's to prevent construction of the monstrous air base, which will be offered to the U.S. Marine Corps based on Japan U.S. Peace Treaty, in the coral reef of Henoko, Nago, Okinawa, Japan. The air base has allegedly been planned by the Japanese and US governments. We, therefore, set up a sit-in camp in front of the fishing port of Henoko in 1996 in order to be prepared for any future development of the controversial project.

On April 19, 2004, Naha Defense Facilities Administration Bureau tried to start a drilling survey of the construction site prior to the environmental assessment as required by the Japanese law. Nevertheless, 52.85% of the citizens of Nago said "no" to the plan in the referendum conducted in Dec. 1997. The survey itself is said to possibly threaten the lives of the endangered spices, particularly, Dugong as the intended construction site is the largest sea-grass bed in Okinawa where Dugong find sea grasses that they feed on.

At this present moment, Henoko is very alert as the government agency is looking for any chance to build or place platforms to start drilling as they have been prevented to proceed with the work since September 9th last year. Every day, we feel tomorrow would be a crucial moment. Thanks to Ojih and Obah (honorary terms for elders in Okinawa) who struggled for years, during which 6 elders passed away without seeing result of their resistance, from the prejudiced selection of the site for the air base, the activities to stop the construction of air base still continues involving far greater number of people who love peace and nature from all over Japan and many of them are even from abroad. In that effort, we have not allowed the government agency to drive even a single pile into the bottom of the sea at all. But the officers still say they would proceed with the plan unless the government decides otherwise...

Since we have started sit-in, 6 members passed away without seeing result of the resistance. For those who left their hopes behind, I am ready to die to stop the construction," says Kinjyo Yuji (deceased in 2007), the representative. "I have been living with this sea for over 90 years. When the War (the battle of Okinawa) was over, there was nothing left to eat except the gifts of this sea. Thanks to this rich sea, I could feed and take care of my children. If you insist on building the base, kill me before you do so," says Shimabukuro Yoshi 92, the oldest member of the group.

We cannot live with a military base. Although we feel pains in our backs or legs, we will keep fighting for the future when we don't see any bases or any other causes of wars. We would like to restore peace as that is our concrete objective and determination. Whatever the difficulty is to occur, we would stop the construction of the base through our definite policy of non-violent and disobedience resistance. Thus please help us and gather your voice to the US government and the Congress to stop the construction of the base in Japan...
For more background: The Asia Pacific Journal's 2006 excerpt "US Dream Come True? The New Henoko Sea Base and Okinawan Resistance," from Okinawan architect Makishi Yoshikazu's book, Okinawa wa Kichi o Kyozetsu Suru (Okinawa Refuses Bases).

Eric Johnston: "HOT BUTTON HENOKO - Clock ticking on base, its delicate environment"

Eric Johnston's analysis of issues stalling the construction of a US military base in the pristine coral reef at Henoko––home to the endangered dugong––points to unresolved environmental and noise pollution issues.

Environmentalists in Japan and the US have brought a slate of lawsuits challenging the US military base construction since 2003 on behalf of protection of the endangered dugong. In 2008, a US federal judge ruled against the U.S. Department of Defense, requiring it to consider impacts of a new airbase on the dugong in order to avoid or mitigate any harm

Last August, Okinawans brought the first lawsuit against the Japanese government––also on environmental legal grounds.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peace lovers and musicians stir up good vibes during World March Tokyo event

Peace activist Yamada Sei, musician Harada Shinji, and eight World March for Peace and Nonviolence marchers from Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand led a jam session for a new global vision of peace Monday evening at the Yoyogi Hachiman Community Center in Tokyo.

Artists transformed the stage with dreamcatchers (wooden hoops decorated with natural objects) woven through several enormous pieces of driftwood. The dreamcatchers, first created by Native Americans as a shamanistic creation to help manifest dreams, surrounded the evening’s key speaker Yamada Sei. Now 71, the peace and environmental activist recounted her forty-some years of organizing.

Her work started along the seacoast of Okinawa’s Ishigaki island, when villagers began a struggle against plans to build an airport along a fragile coral reef.

“These were people whose life rhythms were firmly rooted together with the ocean, and in the cycles of nature—tending to their fields by day, and enjoying their food and drink at night. They were furious at the thought of airplanes roaring overhead and destroying their tranquility. At one point, they even protested by dancing in front of the local police office!” Yamada recounted, explaining that their struggle was more cultural than rooted in any sort of ideology.

Yamada, whose life work springs from the intersection of peace and environmental issues, also made clear her concern about nuclear power in Japan.

"The truth is that nuclear power was first produced for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons—the same ones that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and there is nothing to say that nuclear power plants in Japan won’t be utilized for this purpose in the future,” she said. “We must also understand the incredible danger posed by the high levels of radiation that these plants spew out on a continual basis, due in part to which we are practically swimming in a sea of chemicals.”

Yamada, interviewed by peace activist Hoshikawa Mari, with peace cranes placed onstage by a World Marcher participant during the talk session

Yamada also voiced a concern about the trustworthiness of corporate media.

“I don’t read the newspapers or watch television, but I trust my knowledge of events more than people who rely on such sources, simply because I make it a point to go out and see for myself what is happening,” the activist emphasized.

 She has traveled extensively within Japan, where she worked with people, including the victims of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and the homeless. Her international activism includes work with Iraqis in Jordan; Palestinians in Gaza; North Koreans fleeing repression and starvation over the border into China; and—perhaps her most dedicated project—working for social justice in the Philippines.

“I offer you my deepest thanks for coming here to Japan to be with us,” she said, addressing the assembled World Marchers. “It’s going to be everyone here tonight––including the young people of Japan––who create a more positive future.”

World Marcher Isabelle Alexandrine Bourgeois echoed Yamada's view on the mainstream media. The Swiss journalist said her frustratration with the mass media focus on depressing events motivated her to start her own news source, the French language website Planet Positive. This website spotlights inspirational news from around the globe.

“I believe that when left to its natural state, the relationship between human beings is one of love and understanding, and not the negativity and fear that are perpetuated by media and governments.", Bourgeois explained. “Indeed, while maintaining this resource, I have continued to discover nothing but beauty and positivity.”

Featured performer Shinji Harada shared an equally uplifting message. The rocker just returned from New York City, where he performed for Universal Peace Day and a September 11th floating lantern ceremony organized by the New York Buddhist Church. 
Born in Hiroshima, Harada gained musical fame while a still teenager. Only seconds after taking the stage, his infectious positive vibe pulled audience members halfway out of their seats to dance, clap and groove .


His urgent message between songs: “Given the state of the world today, it is extremely important that we take action--and that we do it now, since even five years from now it may be too late. Even so, what we have going for us is that our humanity is shared...and everyone single one of us has an important role to play.”

Harada shares of his thoughts on peace at his website's English page here, as well as at the site of his NPO Chinju-no-Mori ("Gentle Earth"), which organizes concerts at forested shrines to raise awareness of environmental and peace issues.

Many of the 50-some people who attended also browsed through photojournalist Hirokawa Ryuichi's exhibition and other peace booths.

This was a decent turnout considering that the event competed with a “Naked Loft” café (event and music space in Tokyo’s neighborhood of Shinjuku) featuring Yumi Kikuchi. The well-known activist held a talk and live performance session with Himalayan-born performer Bobin and author, musician, and eco-spiritual activist Alicia Bay Laurel. Laurel, who has longstanding connections with Japan, is here on tour--look out for more on her work!

World marcher participant from New Zealand, together with Japanese university students in attendance at the event

--Kimberly Hughes

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Greenpeace launches Legal Appeal for Sato Junichi & Suzuki Toru--the "Tokyo Two" Anti-Whaling Activists

Joining people around the world wishing success for the Greenpeace legal appeal filed on Oct. 5 on behalf of Greenpeace Japan activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki:
Greenpeace is taking whaling all the way to Japan's Supreme Court today, following a decision by the Sendai High Court to reject an appeal for the disclosure of key evidence in the trial of activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki:

The first appeal was rejected on the 28th of September, prompting the new special appeal to the Supreme Court. This appeal asserts that if the prosecutor does not disclose this evidence it is in violation of Article 37(2) of the Japanese Constitution, as well as Article 14(3)(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the right to a fair trial.

Sato and Suzuki, known as the Tokyo Two, are on trial for intercepting a box of whale meat as part of an investigation into an embezzlement ring within Japan's so-called "research" whaling programme. However, what should have been a fair trial is being frustrated at every stage by the withholding of f evidence that could further prove the embezzlement and by extension Sato and Suzuki's innocence.

"The Democratic Party of Japan's landslide election shows that people have had enough of rampant bureaucracy and the corruption it is infamous for," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. "The DPJ has promised to eliminate corruption and the waste of taxpayer money, increase government transparency and adhere to international human rights standards.

"By focusing its efforts on the whaling industry and ensuring the Tokyo Two receive a fair trial, the new government can demonstrate to the Japanese public and the international community that it is committed to its election promises..."

Friday, October 16, 2009

"We Can't Go Like This: Japan and the World" featuring Okinawan Peace Activist Chibana Shouichi & World March for Peace - Sunday, Oct. 18th @ Kyoto

Join the Kyoto Anti-war Movement in their appeal for an end to all wars on Sunday, October 18th, 2009 at Maruyama Park (円山公園) in Kyoto, starting at 13:30.



The event will feature live performances • a speech by Kyoto University's Oka Mari on the current sitation in Palestine • a speech about the alliance between the Japan and the U.S. presented by Kouketsu Atsushi from Yamaguchi University • and a special appeal to remove the military bases in Okinawa––led by Chibana Shouichi, a small supermarket owner from Okinawa who was taken to court by the Japanese government for buring the national flag in protest against U.S. military bases.



Arriving from Hiroshima
, the World March for Peace and Nonviolence will make their appeal for peace at the event at 16:00. They will march on to Tokyo on the 19th.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World March for Peace with Musician Harada Shinji • Okinawan Peace Activists • Hirokawa Ryuichi Photography Exhibition @ Tokyo, Oct. 19

World March in Tokyo:
Creating a Positive Future…Together.

Date: Monday, October 19th
Time: 6:30-9PM
Venue: Yoyogi Hachiman Kumin-Kaikan (near Yoyogi Hachiman station)
Address: Yoyogi 5-1-15, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3466-3239
A map (Japanese) may be found here.
Admission: Free
Event Support: Peace Not War Japan

Teams of marchers are making their way across the globe as part of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence, which kicked off October 2nd (Gandhi’s birthday), holding events to encourage a “new, non-violent global consciousness.”

A team of marchers (11 members of varying ages and nationalities), will be in Tokyo early next week to share stories of peace actions from their home countries and in the places they have visited during the march, including Hiroshima and Kyoto. They will pay a courtesy vist to Disarmament Division in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the afternoon.

The Tokyo event will also feature musical performances by singer/peace activist Harada Shinji and the “World March Support Band," and some of the marchers themselves. In addition, peace activists Yamada Sei (Aman no kai) and Hoshikawa Mari (“Be-In” peace events), will share advice and ideas on how we can take actions in our daily lives to help create a more peaceful world.

Information booths will feature various peace groups including the Yanbaru Takae Association to Protect the Broccoli Forest (a local movement in Okinawa's Yanbaru region to stop U.S. military construction), and a photo exhibition from Hirokawa Ryuichi, chief editor of the award-winning Days Japan photojournalism magazine, showing his work from Chernobyl, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The event will be held in Japanese, Spanish and English. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet and interact with people who are involved in creative peace work all around the world, while also enjoying some fabulous music and other peace-related inspiration!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Towards a World Without Nuclear Weapons" -- Now is the Time to Act! Oct 17 & 18 @ Hiroshima City

ICNND Japan NGO Network, the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation and the City of Hiroshima are co-presenting a 2-day event to support the ICNND meeting in Hiroshima––"Towards a World Without Nuclear Weapons:"
From Oct. 17-20, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) will meet in Hiroshima. Let's use the occasion to send a powerful message and build momentum towards the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2010.

The nuclear abolition movement is at a defining moment. For all its limitations, President Obama’s Prague speech has given us a historic opportunity. Hibakusha wept when President Obama said,“the United States has a moral responsibility to act.”But while the world prepared to embark on a journey towards a "world without nuclear weapons", the former Japanese government remained fixated on nuclear deterrence. Now that a new government has come to power in Tokyo, we have a unique opportunity to change this.
Oct. 17 (Saturday) "2020 No Nukes" (people with paper cranes form the words: "2020 No Nukes") 15-16:30 @ Hiroshima Old Municipal Baseball Stadium

Oct. 17 (Saturday) Candle Message "Nuclear Free Now" - 17:30 @ the A-Bomb Dome Plaza

Oct. 18 (Sunday) Symposium Panel Discussion (Rebecca Johnson, Tilman Ruff, Terumi Tanaka, Akira Kawasaki, Haruko Moritaki) 14:00 (open at 13:45) -17:00 p.m. @ Hiroshima Memorial Cathedral for World Peace (Fee: ¥1,000; students ¥800)

Organized by: Int. Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) Japan NGO Network + Hiroshima Coordinating Committee
Co-organized by:  Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation
Supported by: The City of Hiroshima

Symposium Panelists:
Haruko Moritaki

Haruko is Co-Director of Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear WeaponsAbolition (HANWA). She is Executive Director of NO DU Hiroshima Project and a Steering Committee member of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). She is a long-time activist in the Hiroshima movement for nuclear abolition and peace. In 2003 she went with a study team from Hiroshima to Baghdad, Basra and other places throughout Iraq to study the devastation caused by war and the
radiological contamination from depleted uranium weapons.

Akira Kawasaki

Akira is an Executive Committee Member of Peace Boat and a member of the Abolition 2000 Coordinating Committee. He is also Coordinator of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) North- East Asia Regional Secretariat. Since 2005 he has coordinated the disarmament section of the Public Forum on UN Reform, co-sponsored by NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Along with Tilman Ruff, he is one of two NGO advisors to ICNND Co-Chairs Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi.

Terumi Tanaka

Exposed to the atomic bomb in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, in an instant Terumi lost five members of his family. He was a researcher and teacher in the engineering department of Tohoku University from 1960 to 1996 and became involved in the hibakusha movement in 1974. He has been Secretary General of Nihon Hidankyo since 2000. Since giving testimony at the UN First Special Session on Disarmament in 1978, he has witnessed to the horror of nuclear weapons all over the world. Hidankyo hosted the atomic bomb exhibition at the UN headquarters in New York

Tilman Ruff

Tilman Ruff is the immediate past president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia), member of the Board of Directors of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and Australian Management Committee chair, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). He served on the official Australian delegation to the NPT PrepCom in New York in May this year. Along with Akira Kawasaki, he is one of two NGO advisors to ICNND Co-Chairs Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi.

Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca Johnson is the founding Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy. She is a former Vice Chair of the Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and from 2004 to 2006 was senior advisor to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission chaired by Hans Blix. Dr Johnson co-founded the Aldermaston Women’s Camp(aign) in 1985, extending the resistance to US and Soviet nuclear weapons to the UK nuclear programme and Trident. She is a member of Women in Black, the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Faslane 365 Steering Group. Dr Johnson has edited Disarmament Diplomacy since 2004.

About ICNND

The International Commission on Nuclear Non- proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) was launched as a Japan-Australia jointly-led initiative on proposal by the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008. The Commission is jointly chaired by Gareth Evans (former Australian Foreign Minister) and Kawaguchi Yoriko (former Japanese Foreign Minister), and including them has 15 Commissioners appointed from 15 nations,and 27 Advisors. Looking towards the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2010, the Commission held its first meeting in Sydney in October 2008, its second in Washington D.C. in February and its third in Moscow in June this year. Its fourth meeting will be held in Hiroshima from October 17-20. The Commission plans to present its report in January 2010.

About ICNND Japan NGO Network

The International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) Japan NGO Network was launched in Tokyo on January 25,2009, with the goals of making recommendationsto the ICNND and expanding the participation of civil society.
(Many thanks to Sam Dreskin in Kyoto for creating the Japanese/English flyer!!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NO Nukes 2020! World March for Peace Japan: Hiroshima (10/17) • Kyoto (10/18) • Tokyo (10/19)

The World Peace March for Peace and Nonviolence will make its way through Japan from the 17th to 19th of October--"for the end of wars, the dismantling of nuclear weapons and for an end to all forms of violence (physical, economic, racial, religious, cultural, sexual and psychological)."


Hiroshima (10/17) The march will join the "Nuclear-free world" event (organized by ICNND Japan NGO Network & the Hiroshima Peace Foundation) at the Hiroshima Baseball Stadium on Saturday, October 17th. Participants will create a human "2020" sign––an appeal to world leaders to eradicate nuclear weapons by that year.

The tentative schedule:

14:00 Meet at the baseball grounds. You can enter at left field.
15:00-15:30 Performance by I PRAY

Elementary school students will peform an original play centered on Hiroshima, the city that experienced the dropping of the atomic bomb, showing their their wishes for a peaceful future without war.

15:30-16:00 Prepare to form a human "2020"

16:05-16:30 Appeal to International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation & Disarmament

With the aim of aboloshing nuclear weapons by 2020, we will organize ourselvees and paper cranes in the shape of "2020" as an appeal to the ICNND Committee.


For more information contact: 市民局平和推進課 (Shiminkyoku Heiwa Suishinka): ℡(082)242-7831

Kyoto (10/18) - The March will travel through Maruyama Park slightly after 15:00. Appeal for peace and nonviolence will be delivered around 16:00.

Tokyo (10/19) - Meet at 18:30 at the Assembly room in Yoyogi-Hachiman Kumin Kaikan

Shinji Harada will give a free musical performance. The popular musician says his dream is to "create a world of kindness."

For information in Japanese, click here

Monday, October 12, 2009

No Nukes Festa 2009 Brings Citizen Concerns to Light


The “No Nukes Festa 2009”, an event featuring live musical performances, speakers, workshops, photo exhibitions, a demonstration/parade and more, drew around 7000 people to Tokyo last Saturday, October 4th from across the country—as well as some traveling from overseas—to unite around the cause of a cleaner, safer world. Subtitled “In support of radiation-free energy," the festival was organized by a coalition of numerous citizens groups who share concerns regarding the implications of nuclear power in such areas as health, the environment, food security, and beyond.

Central to the ethos of the event was the fact that nuclear power, while often portrayed in the media as innocuous, actually emits continuous levels of radiation that pose grave threats to health and safety. Dozens of groups were on hand with literature regarding these concerns, and educational breakout sessions led by panels of on-the-ground activists were held on such topics as understanding the nuclear fuel cycle, hearing from the leaders of movements opposing nuclear power plants in their local regions, and putting together a concrete plan of action.

Several other events were also held alongside the main one over the same weekend, including a photo exhibit put on by the Chernobyl Children’s Fund, a discussion (also including international participants from Korea) regarding the proposed nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho-mura; meetings regarding local movements against nuclear power in Shimonoseki and Iwate; a session to discuss nuclear power in the context of global warming; and a comprehensive gathering to discuss the possibilities for creating a new energy policy that does not rely on nuclear power, nuclear fuel reprocessing, or a pluthermal program (the latter of which is explained comprehensively by Green Action here).

In addition to the serious meetings, the events also included strong elements of artistic entertainment and just pure fun. In between the scheduled speakers on the main stage, a series of musical acts performed including Zainichi (Korean-Japanese) singer Lee Jeongmi, and acoustic duos Kotobuki and Half Moon. The parade itself—which made its way from the festival site at Meiji Koen (Meiji Park) to circle around the busy districts of Harajuku and Shibuya—was also fronted by an enthusiastic samba unit that included dancing and drumming.

Also held in conjunction with the festival was the “Bee’s Café”, an affair encouraging participants to mingle with one another over coffee or tea and sweets while discussing ideas and action plans to counter the Rokkasho-mura nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and related issues (try to picture humming bees buzzing around one another, busy with important work). Describing itself as a new sort of activist concept based upon a “world café style”, the discussion at each table was facilitated by a leader in the anti-nuclear movement, and each table was then asked to report back to the rest of the group.

The café event was sponsored by the “No Nukes More Hearts” project, which grew out of an anti-nuclear parade and gathering held at Tokyo’s Hibiya park in 2007. The project website (Japanese only) explains that “anti-nuclearism is the ultimate form of ‘eco’” (with ‘eco’ being the catchword in Japan for all things related to the environment or sustainable living), and alleges that “when business and the media talk endlessly about ‘eco’ and the environment without ever mentioning the problem of radiation emissions, this is clearly not ‘eco’ at all.” Mincing no words, the site’s mission statement then goes on to say that it opposes “all forms of nuclearism—including nuclear weapons such as depleted uranium and atomic bombs,” and that it seeks to “erase the double standard around nuclearism” by “creating a new, integrated understanding of the term ‘anti-nuclearism’ which acknowledges that the ‘nuclearism’ of nuclear power and nuclear weapons are in fact one and the same.”

Look out for more from No Nukes More Hearts and the Bee’s Café, as well as from anti-nuclear activist and filmmaker Kamanaka Hitomi, whose latest film in the works “The Hum of the Honey Bee and the Rotation of the Earth,” scheduled for release in spring 2010, inspired the name of the café. The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center profiles Kamanaka’s inspiring body of work, which includes the much acclaimed Rokkasho-mura Rhapsody, here.

The website of the Stop Rokkasho Project, a citizen movement spearheaded by musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, also gives an excellent tutorial on the dangers of the nuclear fuel cycle, as well as information on safer and cleaner alternatives.

Participant carrying poster titled "Stop the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant...For the Future of the Children."

--Kimberly Hughes

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Revisiting the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Nomination of Yoshioka Tatsuya & the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War

Early this year, a past Nobel Peace laureate nominated Yoshioka Tatsuya and the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War--a global movement composed of dozens of Japanese organizations and hundreds of other organizations worldwide--for the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in raising the profile of legal mechanisms for disarmament and non-violence at a national and international level and promoting active and creative debate and momentum for disarmament and the abolition of war:
Yoshioka Tatsuya, co-founder and director of the Japan-based international organization Peace Boat, initiated the Campaign, and is one of its three co-chairs.

Born in l960 in Osaka, Japan, Yoshioka has maintained a life-long commitment to nonviolence and the peace movement. While a student at Tokyo’s Waseda University, where he specialized in Asian Studies, he become involved as a full-time volunteer in the solidarity movement for South Korean democratization, and campaigned against the death penalty for Kim Dae Jung.

Through Peace Boat, he has continued to lead peace activities and peace education, including contributing to civil society networking through conducting over 40 global peace voyages. Yoshioka was also the Northeast Asia regional initiator for the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), and is a leader of the GPPAC network, especially in Northeast Asia. Yoshioka and the Global Article 9 Campaign continue to strive to create a non-military legal framework for peace and disarmament.

The Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War was founded in Tokyo in 2005, by the Japan-based international NGO, Peace Boat, and the Japan Lawyers’ International Solidarity Association. (JALISA).

Article 9 of Japan’s constitution renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential. The campaign – formed in response to recent remilitarists' calls for to abolish the peace clause – strives to protect Article 9 locally and to build an international movement supporting Article 9 as the shared property of the world. The campaign calls for a global peace that does not rely on force, and works to shift the world from military reliance to a peaceful and sustainable global society.

With the fundamental belief that Article 9 has – despite failings in its implementation – been a successful mechanism for conflict prevention in East Asia and therefore can provide a working model to the world for state-level nonviolence and disarmament, the campaign has generated widespread awareness and debate about nonviolence in Japan and beyond. Its message significant in East Asia that remains divided along Cold War lines and in other parts of the world where there is extreme tension between nations.

Article 9 is extremely important in its very existence, given that it signals a grassroots recognition of the importance of a non-militarized Japan and a desire for people-to-people healing of the traumatic wounds of the Second World War, contributing to authentic and meaningful reconciliation in East Asia.

Nominees not chosen for the 2009 Peace Prize: Dr. Simar Samar • Hu Jia • Wei Jingsheng • Tatsuya Yoshioka & The Global Article 9 Campaign

The most interesting stories about the Nobel Peace Prize announcement may be about the dedicated peace activists who were not chosen for the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

At True/Slant, Afghan writer P.J. Tobia wrote that the biggest story about the prize announcement in Afghanistan is not about the winner, Barack Obama--but instead about nominee Dr. Simar Samar, "an Afghan woman who has risked her life for much of the past decade, treating women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Syndicated media reports speculated that a Chinese dissident would be chosen this year--mentioning Hu Jia, a human rights activist and an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, sentenced last year to a three-and-a-half-year prison term for "inciting subversion of state power;" and current US resident Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for urging reforms in China.

Others thought that Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Độ, the patriarch of the currently banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and a long-term critic of the authoritarian Vietnamese government, might win.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to find much news about the nominees, who--for some reason--remain shrouded by the Nobel organization for decades. And the Japanese media did not extensively cover the nomination of Yoshioka Tatsuya and the Global Article 9 Campaign to Abolish War--in contrast to the Afghan celebration of Dr. Samar's nomination.

The Nobel website does have a database on nominees from 1901 to 1956.

The list includes the late Presbyterian minister Kagawa Toyohiko, a labor, peace and environmentalist activist, and founder of the Japanese Consumers Cooperative Union. His writings and talks describing power struggles between liberals and authoritarians during the pre-war period in Japan are chilling. In 1937, he wrote:
The movement for peace was ridiculed and all utterances against the actions or pronouncements of the military were prohibited by law. To even mention the word "peace" is not now permitted in newspapers or magazines. Many organs of nationalism...are busily engaged in trying to crush out the intelligentsia who advocate peace movements.
In 1940, he was arrested and jailed (along with many other Japanese dissenters) and the New York Times pronounced him "Japan's Gandhi." Although he was released, the military police watched him and censored his communications until the end of the war. Afterwards, Kagawa championed the Peace Constitution. In a 1947 article for The Christian Century, "We have abandoned war," he expressed hopes that would soon be depressed by the Korean War and the Cold War:
A typical modern state, encumbered with its heavy armament but well-nigh bereft of other value, reminds one of nothing so much as a savage, lugging around his jevelin and poisoned arrows. States today seem nearer to the stage of barbarism than do many individuals.

By the abandonment of war, we in Japan have emerged from the era of barbarism...Our new constitution will become a milestone in the realization of world peace.
Throughout the postwar period, Kagawa defended Article 9 against revisionists who argued that Japan must re-arm to stave off "communist aggression." He countered that the best defense against such perceived or actual aggression lay in nations relying on nonviolent conflict resolution conducted by the United Nations.

Kagawa was nominated in 1954 by American Emily Balch (the 1946 Nobel Peace laureate). In 1955, he received two nominations--by a Japanese MP and by five members of the Norwegian Parliament. And in 1956, he was nominated by seven members of the Norwegian Parliament.

(The Nobel website also features an interactive survey--asking respondents whether they know or don't know about President Obama's efforts on behalf of a nuclear-free world; out of 23,201 answers--46% said "yes," and 54% said "no.") It's baffling how anyone could have missed the widespread media reports and analyses about Obama's speech in Prague this past spring which energized many nuclear abolition activists.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bless the Beasts & Children: World March in Malaysia Spotlights Women, Children, & Animals

Women's, Children's and Animal Welfare NGOs celebrated the Malaysian leg of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence today--raising awareness about peace and violence issues affecting women, children, and animals.

The groups included Women's Aid Organization of Malaysia (WAO), the SPCA Selangor, Rumah Nur Salaam (a 24-hour "safehouse" for at risk children and teens), and World Without Wars.

This year the WAO came to the support of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno--a 32-year-old mother and part-time model--fined and whipped six times for drinking beer in a hotel in Cherating, Pahang. (The Malaysian government also enforces religious edicts forbidding yoga and being a "tom-boy").

As well as challenging state violence against women, the WAO advocates against domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment; and on behalf of the Convention for the Elimination for all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and migrant domestic workers.

Greenpeace launches Supreme Court Appeal for Sato Junichi & Suzuki Toru, the "Tokyo Two" Whaling Abolition Activists

Hopes for a sucessful outcome for Greenpeace Oct. 5 high court legal appeal on behalf of Greenpeace Japan activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki:
Greenpeace is taking whaling all the way to Japan's Supreme Court today, following a decision by the Sendai High Court to reject an appeal for the disclosure of key evidence in the trial of activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki.

The first appeal was rejected on the 28th of September, prompting the new special appeal to the Supreme Court. This appeal asserts that if the prosecutor does not disclose this evidence it is in violation of Article 37(2) of the Japanese Constitution, as well as Article 14(3)(b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee the right to a fair trial.

Sato and Suzuki, known as the Tokyo Two, are on trial for intercepting a box of whale meat as part of an investigation into an embezzlement ring within Japan's so-called "research" whaling programme. However, what should have been a fair trial is being frustrated at every stage by the withholding of f evidence that could further prove the embezzlement and by extension Sato and Suzuki's innocence.

"The Democratic Party of Japan's landslide election shows that people have had enough of rampant bureaucracy and the corruption it is infamous for," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. "The DPJ has promised to eliminate corruption and the waste of taxpayer money, increase government transparency and adhere to international human rights standards.

"By focusing its efforts on the whaling industry and ensuring the Tokyo Two receive a fair trial, the new government can demonstrate to the Japanese public and the international community that it is committed to its election promises..."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival opens today

As Typhoon Melor leaves Japan, the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival opens today in capital city of Yamagata prefecture in the Tohoku region in northern Honshu--with a brilliant line-up of films. A few highlights:

The "Special Invitation" films include Memories of Agano by Sato Makoto; Spring: the Story of Hsu Chin-Yu, depicting the life of a woman who survived the White Terror in Taiwan • Japan-based, Chinese director Ling Yi's 2007 YASUKUNI (released in Japan in 2008 to the predictable outcry by Japan's noisy ultra-right and positive responses from the general Japanese audience) • Agrarian Utopia by director Uruphong Raksasad, about a small farming family in northern Thailand • Kotsunagi, Iriai, Commons, a long-term project by late Kikuchi Shu that followed a court battle over access rights to a mountain in a poor village in Tohoku • Tsuchimoto Noriaki’s Minamata Diary.

From "New Asian Currents," a program that seeks to support new Asian filmmakers who bring varied and intimate windows on Asia:
American Alley (Korea, 2008; Director: Kim Dong-ryung: Around 40% of the area of Dongduechon City is taken up by U.S. military bases. We learn the history of K, a Korean woman who has worked on “American Alley” for over 40 years, as well as the present situation for the increasing numbers of Russians and Filipinas who have started working here in recent years. The film examines these women’s relations with young American soldiers, and their feelings for their home.

Doctor Ma’s Country Clinic (China, 2008; Director: Cong Feng): In the waiting room of an eastern medicine clinic run by Dr. Ma in the mountains of Huangyangchuan in China’s Gansu Province, the patients never stop talking. Young migrant workers, miners, and women who dream of city life: their voices fill our ears, evoking the realities of life in a rural village.

Green Rocking Chair (Philippines, 2008; Director: Roxlee): Throughout the islands of the Philippines, Baybayin is alive! This road movie follows the director’s physically demanding and playful journey in search of Baybayin, a writing system used in the Philippines before it became a Spanish colony. The latest work from Roxlee, a familiar face at the festival who has made festival introfilms and designed T-shirts since his Harajuku screened at YIDFF ’93.

This is Lebanon (Lebanon, 2008; Director: Eliane Raheb): In Lebanon wracked by relentless civil war, the standoff between religious (political) factions has grown in intensity, fostering hatred between individuals. With no end in sight, the director, a member of the Christian minority Maronite family, involves her entire family in the production of her film and searches for solutions on a genuinely personal level.

Ximaojia Universe (China, 2009; Director: Mao Chenyu): The Ximao clan have lived for generations in Yueyang in Hunan Province, the director’s hometown. What remains in the village, and what kind of worldview does their myths and poems pass on? An experimental, ethnographic documentary that attempts new interpretations while carrying out personal ‘archaeological’ exploration and intervention.

Weabak: Stayed Out All Night (Korea, 2009; Director: Kim Mi-re) The documentary of energetic women who occupy a major supermarket to protest the mass lay off of part-time workers brings to light the distortions of a male-centered society. A latest work by Kim Mi-re who has been making documentaries on labor issues.
From the "International Competition" films:

Encirclement—Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy (Canada, 2008, Director: Richard Brouillette): An interview documentary that critically reconstructs neoliberal ideology, the origins and current state of the elitism and imperialism that form its basis, and the media systems that support it. (The film features Noam Chomsky and Susan George; the photo in the poster is of the IMF Board; great clips at the film's site).

Auto*Mate (Czechoslovakia, 2009; Director: Martin Mareček): A playful, up-tempo essay film that documents six years of the cultural and social movement “AUTO*MATE” calling for restrictions on motor vehicles.

Japan: A Story of Love and Hate (UK, Japan, 2008; Director: Sean Mcallister): An international co-production depicting the woes and aspirations of Japan’s working poor, set in Yamagata and directed by an Englishman. Through revelations about his own life, he asks simple questions about Japan’s dark realities as an industrial power as he builds friendships and changes relationships.

Paying a well-deserved tribute to the late Korean-American writer and filmmaker Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, who emigrated to the United States as child with her family to escape the Korean War, the festival is showing her short films.

The festival's website is a wonderful resource on contemporary international film--with links to festivals around the world (including "The Seoul International Labor Film and Video Festival" and the "Kathmandu International Mountain Festival") and an online catalog of new Japanese documentaries available with English subtitles.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Keiko Miyamori's Tsunagu Series Connects People and Nature throughout the World • Collaborators Welcome!


Japanese-born, Philly-based Keiko Miyamori seeks to facilitate and represent connections between people and the natural world via the exchange of tiny objects that make up her "Tsunagu Wall" (Wall of Connection; つなぐ壁). The sculpture is part of her "Tsunagu Series" showing in the Fleischer Wind Challenge Exhibition at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia through Nov. 14.

While walking down a street several years ago, the visual artist was drawn to the massive, exposed roots of an oak tree overturned to make way for a new building. Feeling an affinity to all trees (she perceives them as sources of natural and psychic energy)--Miyamori was magnetized by the cast-aside tree that had provided oxygen and shade to countless people over decades. Her connection with the tree deepened as a close-up inspection of the roots revealed how they had absorbed Philadelphia's history over time: little bits of concrete and brick had become a part of the tree itself. Intent on preserving and memorializing what was left of the tree, Miyamori salvaged the root and transformed it into a work of art: "City Root."

This fascination with the tree root morphed into the Tsunagu Wall. In exchange for a small object, participants receive a piece of brick or glass she "harvested" from the tree root--in a tiny, signed case. Miyamori created the "wall"--from small items given to her from all over the globe--to invert the notion that walls only divide. Her "wall" brings people worldwide together. via the wall which now contains over 4,000 items (city debris found on the street, a token from home, a shell from the beach, or just lint from a coat pocket). Miyamori considers them her collaborators ( from Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, and the Middle East) in the work: "Each object's beauty comes from the way it forms a connection with the other objects and people who sent them."

The objects themselves are not the focal point. Instead, the creation of a visible web of connections that represents the infinite connections between people and nature across the planet is the primary purpose: "The Tsunagu-Wall is more than a physical wall that can be viewed in an exhibition space, rather, it occupies the entire space through which her collaborators are connected by the exchange of small objects and found debris."

The second part of her series,“Tsunagu-Books”(つなぐ本) mirrors the concept of “Tsunagu-Wall." The artist covered 600 books (spanning generations, nationalities and borders) with the cover made from a rubbing of the bark of one of 600 trees. The books represents meetings between different languages, beliefs, thoughts and feelings. After the exhibition is over, the books will be returned to their owners, with Keiko’s bark-rubbing cover.

In symbology, the tree denotes the whole of manifestation: the synthesis of heaven, earth, and water--joining the three worlds and making communication between them possible. Likewise, for Miyamori, her beloved Philadelphia oak tree root represents the connecting forces of the universe. So the symbolic center of her series is the “Tsunagu-Root” (つなぐ根), a multi-media sculpture created from washi collage with various tree rubbing that connects with a small root in a square sculpture. It tells the story of the tree root the artist could not forget: "The content of "Tsunagu-Root" comes from inside the root and connects the root, the neighborhood, and everywhere else."

Talking with Miyamori about her life, one can see the sources of her preoccupation with heightening awareness about our interconnections with each other. Without this awareness and the empathy that inevitably follows it, people can be indifferent to nature and other people. The artist's own responsiveness was awakened in an unlikely and powerful series of transformative events. As a college student, she was a veterinarian major who traveled to Africa where she caught malaria, a disease resulting in a return to Japan and a prolonged hospital stay. While in hospital, Miyamori began painting "pleasant" subjects: flowers, animals, forests; and switched her university major to art. While on a Waseda graduate school program, she visited Ping-fang, China.

There, she visited the warehouse by Unit 731, wartime Japan's human experimentation program. "Because this was absent from Japan's education program, I had never been taught about this part of Japanese history, and I had to think deeply about the dark side of human nature. I met a Chinese man at the warehouse who asked me if either my grandfather or father was in Unit 731. And after three days of being alone in the warehouse, the man showed up again and carved the word "Pong-you" onto the wall, and I cried. The word means 'friend,' and I felt the word carved into my being. After returning from China, I couldn't paint 'beautiful' paintings anymore--and I started thinking about how I could make art for beautiful social change. I am hoping to create an experience, a sense of magic and connection, similar to the effect the Chinese man had on me, within both the process and the finished product of my art."

Last year Miyamori traveled to Iraq: "If we connect, we are less likely to have war. It's really nonsense to have a war. I can't change [the political situation], but maybe I can facilitate people developing and sharing a connection."

To reach people who may not visit galleries and museums, the artist exhibits in non-traditional venues--including hospitals, a kindergarten, a demolished forest, and a nature park. The latter venues also reflect a desire to also facilitate connections between people and nature: "I am interested in creating an imaginary space where unity between nature and humanity can exist. I communicate this idea through drawing, painting, installation, using Japanese washi paper as the main or a major component of the project. From my background of learning traditional Japanese painting, practicing the martial art of Kendo, and delving into Asian history, my current work is a combination of these influences distilled through the concept of interconnectedness and I seek to reproduce those moments of true connection between human beings that create a peaceful sense of unity."

In traditional cultures, all arts were communal–– heightening connections between individuals with the familial, social, historical, and ecological fabric of their lives. All people participated in the arts and the co-creation of their societies--blessing the past and generating hopes for the future. With the advent of the division of labor in industrial societies, The concept that people and nature are simply commodities in a machine-like economic system supplanted the ancient view that each person and every thing is a microcosm in the mysterious, interconnected, natural macrocosm. The related notion that only an few people have the ability to be creative gave rise to the melodramatic myth of the "alienated artist" in European, North American and Japanese societies. Tragically, for over a century this myth took on a life of its own as many artists and writers--many in genuine despair over industrialization's commodification of their worlds--lived out and sacrificed themselves to its self-fulfilling prophesies.

At the same time, some schools of thought––notably the Arts and Crafts and Mingei movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries––challenged this reductionist notion of humanity and nature. A shared holistic worldview connected affirmative visionaries across the planet--including William Morris in England and Kanjiro Kawai in Japan (who said "We are all one. I am you. The you that only I can see."). They foreshadowed a shift that has burgeoned in recent decades as engaged citizens have joined with artists in a renewal of community arts--an open and creative dialogue resurrecting the traditional worldview's communal framework. Most of these contemporary projects are local; some are global. The Tsunagu Series contributes to and mirrors the infinite web of intersections at both the local and the global.

If you'd like to be a part of the Tsunagu Wall (I exchanged a tiny shell for 2 pieces of brick), send an item to Keiko Miyamori at this address; she'll send you a piece of Philadelphia salvaged from the roots of her wonderful oak tree root--as an art barter.)

-- Jean Downey

Friday, October 2, 2009

140th Anniversary of Gandhi's Birthday • UN Day of International Nonviolence • 1st Day of the World March for Peace



Today––the 140th anniversary of Gandhi's birthday––participants in New Zealand kicked off the World March for Peace and Nonviolence: the first six-continent peace march calling for the elimination of wars, nuclear weapons and violence of all kinds that will end in Argentina in 2010.

Many Asian luminaries, leaders and grassroots NGOS have endorsed the World March including • the Dalai Lama • Burmese Buddhist monk Ashin Sopaka, creator of the Movements for Peace and Freedom in Burma and founder of The Best Friend movement, which seeks to build unity through education •  Ekta Parishad, India's largest people’s movement • Zubin Mehta • Amma - Mata Amritanandamayi • Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee (great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi) • Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) • Ramin Jahanbegloo • Adnan Shino, founder of the Iraqi Academy of art • Mayors for Peace • Peace Boat •  International Campaign to Ban Uraniun Weapons • HANWA (Hiroshima Alliance for Nuclear Weapons Abolition) • Peace Not War Japan • Bassam Aramin , co-founder of Combatants for Peace (Palestinian & Israeli organization) • Palestinian-American psychologist of nonviolence Mubarak Awad • Political economist Roland Simbulan • Prime Bishop of the Episcopalian Church of the Philippines Edward P. Malecdan • Archbishop of Jaro, Philippines Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D. • South Korean musician Young Ahn • The Women's Aid Organization and Nur Salam (a twenty-four hour crisis and drop-in centre for children commited to children's rights and the rights of all beings to live lives free of violence (Malaysia).

In a preparatory nonviolent training event sponsored by the Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC) held at Methodist Theological University in Seoul, CNVC representative Katharine Han worked with participants on issues of transforming the image of the "enemy" and subconscious negative psychological energies that are the starting point of all violence. Dr. Park Sung-Yong, coordinator of the World March in Korea, elucidated: "We hope more people find the peace within themselves with the charm of nonviolence communication which deals with hidden violence and antagonism."

Makiko Sato, coordinator of the Japan leg of the march, said Japanese marchers have organized events in Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

Outside of Asia, endorsers include President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigian Maguire, Abolition 2000, Veterans for Peace, Yoko Ono, Isabel Allende, Jose Ramos-Horta, Viggo Mortensen, and Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky emphasizes that the ideals of the World March (launched by the Humanist Movement's peace association––World without Wars) originate with the nonviolent and sustainabilty ideas of Gandhi: "The World March for Peace and Non-Violence is a wonderful idea, a fitting commemoration of Gandhi's legacy on the centenary of his birth... It could hardly be more timely, and should serve as an inspiration to those who seek to fulfill the noble ideals that Gandhi's life and work symbolized in ways that are rarely approached."