Thursday, December 27, 2012

Keiji Nakazawa: "For humanity, the greatest treasure is peace."

Keiji Nakazawa, the author of "Barefoot Gen," had died (1939-2012). 
The drawing in the photograph reads "For humanity, the greatest treasure is peace." 

(Keiji Nakazawa (March 14, 1939 – December 19, 2012) was a Japanese manga artist and writer. He was born in Hiroshima, where he lived during the Pacific War.  The cartoonist survived the US nuclear bombing of the city in 1945. All of his family, who had not been evacuated, died from the bombing.

 In 1961, Nakazawa moved to Tokyo to become a full-time cartoonist for manga anthologies.

 Following the death of his mother in 1966, Nakazawa began to memorialize the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima  in his stories.  Nakazawa's major work, "Hadashi no Gen" (Barefoot Gen) (a ten-volume series) explored the nuclear bombing and its aftermath, and examined the Japanese government's militarization of Japanese society during World War II.  "Barefoot Gen was adapted into two animated films and a live action TV drama.

Nakazawa was diagnosed with lung cancer and in July 2011.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"They Don't Want You to Know What is Going On": Performance Artists Noora Baker and Yoshiko Chuma Bring Pain of Palestinian Reality onto Tokyo Stage

Japan-born, New-York based performance artist Yoshiko Chuma, founder of the School of Hard Knocks, and Noora Baker, a dancer with the El Funoun company in Ramallah, Palestinian territories, teamed up this week to bring a powerful message to a Tokyo audience in a small theater in Sangenjaya. 

Titled "Love Story, Palestine", the multi-media show featured Chuma and Baker performing to the backdrop of imagery from 6 Seconds in Ramallah, the show performed during Chuma's recent visit to Palestine with a team of other Japanese musicians and artists, including genre-bending violinist Aska Kaneko and singer Sizzle OhtakaInterspersing the performance were hauntingly gorgeous vocals from Ohtaka, who was live in the house, as well as a frank conversation between Chuma and Baker about a reality that few outsiders know.

Baker recounted stories of relatives and friends arrested on a constant basis by Israeli occupation officers--often with little or no justification. "In addition to the regular checkpoints that we all must pass through, they suddenly also sometimes erect barriers so that you cannot pass,"Baker recounted. "They do not care even if they are separating families." She relayed a story of being detained at age seven with a group of other children and having tear gas thrown at her by authorities simply because she happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In response to Chuma's question whether her troupe could possibly face arrest if their visits to Palestine continued, Baker responded, "Yes, the action of simply visiting Palestine on multiple occasions is enough to draw yourself into the spotlight and possibly face detention by Israeli authorities. They don't want you to know what is going on."

Chuma then went on to point out the similarities existing between Palestine and Fukushima following last year's nuclear accident, wherein people truly have no idea what is actually going on. "Both places appear normal from the outside, but in reality, they are not."

                                    Yoshiko Chuma (center) with audience members in Tokyo

The latest news about Yoshiko Chuma and the School of Hard Knocks may be read on her blog.

An interesting review of "Love Story, Palestine" may also be read in Dance Magazine here.

--Kimberly Hughes

Related posts on this blog:

Speakers contemplate Palestinian human rights, urge action at Tokyo event

Live theater performers from Iraq and Tunisia bring deep emotion, human connection to Tokyo stage

"War Makes People Insane": Dramatic work by performance artist Tari Ito lays bare the realities of military sexual violence

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Via Yoko Ono:
Join us to sing John Lennon’s IMAGINE in Times Square NYC on Dec 21st at 11:45pm.

To join the happening, all are invited to meet at the “Red Steps” in Duffy Square, Broadway between 46th and 47th Streets, on Friday, December 21, at 11:45 p.m.

Lead by Thomas McCarger, conductor and singer, and under the auspices of Make Music New York, those who have gathered will sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the very moment IMAGINE PEACE lights up the Times Square billboards at 11:57 p.m. Participants—and those who cannot make it to Times Square—are encouraged to follow @TSqArts on Friday night and tweet photos, videos, and peace using the hashtag #imaginepeaceTSQ.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Banner Rally @ Hitachi in Tokyo: 6 countries unite to protest nuclear exports to Lithuania

Hitachi, Gerbk Lietuva! Hitachi, respect Lithuania!*
Concerned citizens from Japan, Lithuania, Austria, Korea, USA and Russia united in front of Hitachi Headquarters in Tokyo on December 18, 2012 to speak out against the nuclear services provider's insistance on exporting Fukushima-model advanced boiler water reactors to Lithuania. Ten-meter banners stretched across the street like rays of light proclaiming in Lithuanian and Japanese, "Hitachi respect Lithuania!" "Stop nuclear export to Lithuania!"

According to anti-nuclear activist and nuclear engineer by training, Andrey Ozharovskiy, "the banner rally was co-organised by Lithuanian anti-nuclear NGOs and political parties with support from Japanese NGO. Police did not interfere. None from Hitachi came to talk to the protesters." 

Passerby spreads word of protest: "Hitachi- stop nuclear exports to Lithuania!" 
Protesters included permaculturalist Kai Sawyer, Green Action director Aileen Mioko Smith, and Beyond Nuclear director Paul Gunter. Following the banner action, Paul Gunter, Aileen Mioko Smith, and Italian biologist and Scientists against the War member Monica Zoppe held an event at Doshisha University in Kyoto. They spoke on collusion between the U.S. nuclear industry and the nuclear regulations board in Japan and nuclear free Italy.

News of the protests has already reached readers of the Lithuanian newspaper Bakurus Ekspreses, demonstrating the potential for international solidarity in the fight against nuclear power to raise awareness. Lithuanian Farmers Union President told Barkurus Ekspreses that he shares the goals of the protesters. He is working to inform people about the results of the referendum on the power plant, and explained that any self-respecting company would withdraw from a project after a referendum deciding against it. Hitachi has not stated that it will abort its export plans. Shibun Akahata, the newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party, also reported on the banner action.

Banner action appears in Lithuanian newspaper immediately after

In a recent non-binding referendum in October, 62.68% decided against the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania. (For more details see previous post). Lithuania has also lost its funding from the European Union for the decommissioning of its Igalina nuclear reactors because it has not yet resolved the issue of where to store spent fuel from the plants. Closing down Igalina was a requirement for Lithuania's accession to the EU.
Radioactive waste containers at Igalina (Photo courtesy of Igalina Nuclear Power Plant Homepage
Hitachi won a bid from the Lithuanian government for the construction of the plant after Germany decided to denuclearize. Anti-nuclear movements in Lithuania expressed outrage that the government would risk the safety of its people for so-called energy security. Lithuania currently imports 50% of its natural gas from Russia, and is effectively dependent on Russia for 80% of its energy requirements. Despite the Lithuanian governments protest against Russia for its plans to construct nuclear plants near its border, the Lithuanian government is now seeking to build a nuclear power plant in efforts to achieve energy independence.

International environmental NGO, Bellona, however, explains that graduating from nuclear power will allow Lithuania to diversify its energy portfolio and eventually gain independence:
Following Ignalina’s closing, Lithuania will – at least for the first several years – have to depend on imported energy to cover around a half of its energy needs, including imports from Russia, the Ukraine, and Belarus. Those bridges it never had the chance to build with Western electricity providers will then become another option as it negotiates plugging into Swedish and Polish grids....

There are hopes, however, that betting on fossil-based energy will only be a temporary measure for Lithuania. In the long term, the country may grow to generate over a third of its energy from renewable energy sources. According to climate commitments agreed on in the European Union, no less than 23 percent of all energy is expected to be produced from clean sources by 2020. Local biofuel resources hold significant potential for Lithuania’s green energy sector, as do wind energy converters. At present, Lithuanian wind power plants have a combined output of 200 megawatts and another 1,000 megawatts’ worth of electricity production will be added by 2020.

A joint letter of demand (see below) from these Lithuanian and Japanese NGOs was sent to Hitachi,. Ltd and Governments of Lithuania and Japan later today.
Hitachi, Ltd
Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd
Copy to: Government of Japan Government of Lithuania Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC)

LETTER OF DEMAND Vilnius-Tokyo, 18th December 2012

We, the undersigned members of the civil societies of Lithuania and Japan strongly demand from Japanese companies Hitachi, Ltd. and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd. to make public the official withdrawal from the construction project of a new nuclear power plant in Visaginas region (Lithuania) on behalf of the decision of the Lithuanian people expressed in democratic referendum on 14 October 2012.

We inform you that 62.68 per cent of the people who voted in the referendum decided against any new nuclear power plants in Lithuania. Thus the Lithuanian people have decided to stop any development of the nuclear power plant project which was previously started by preliminary agreement signed between the Government of Lithuania and the Japanese company Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. (alliance between Hitachi and US company GE Nuclear Energy Ltd.) on export of nuclear to Lithuania.

The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania provides the possibility for the people to express their opinion on important state decisions. The parliament of Lithuania in the summer of 2012 decided to hold a referendum about new Visaginas nuclear power plant project. According to strict and demanding Lithuanian referendum law, the decision of referendum is legally binding. This therefore applies to the referendum on the Visaginas nuclear power plant. The Lithuanian people have expressed their deep interest in this decision and have made their choice.

We have warned your company and the Japanese government from signing any agreement with Lithuania before the referendum, and we have also expressed our arguments in our letter of concern, signed on December 23, 2011. In that letter we opposed any backing of the project by any direct or hidden subsidies of the Lithuanian Government, Government of Japan and the US Government which strongly contradict with principles of free market economy and fair competition in liberalized EU energy sector. Such subsidies distort investments into the energy sector, first of all into renewable energy sources and incentives for energy efficiency.

A large majority of Japanese society strongly opposes any further development of nuclear energy domestically. Therefore, we call on Japan to refrain from resorting to ‘double standards’ by giving support to Hitachi’s intention to export unsafe technologies.

We address the multinational Hitachi, Ltd. and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd. corporations with a call to respect corporate responsibility standards, the Lithuanian Constitution, democratic values and the will of people, and demand that Hitachi announce withdrawal from the Visaginas nuclear power plant project.

Linas VAINIUS, on behalf of Atgaya NGO
Tomas TOMILINAS, on behalf of the Lithuanian Farmers and Green Party
Andrius Gaidamavičius, on behalf of Lithuanian green movement
Laurynas Okockis, on behalf of Association ŽALI.LT

Aileen Mioko Smith, Executive Director, Green Action 
Yuki TANABE, Program Coordinator, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)
Eri WATANABE, Nuclear and Energy Program, Friends of the Earth Japan
Hideyuki BAN, Co-director, Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center
Contact in Lithuania:, +370 52 13 13 53, +370 686 27469, +370 699 33661, +370 654 73926

Contact in Japan: 
Aileen Mioko Smith, Executive Director Green Action
Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8203 Japan
Tel. +81-75-701-7223 Fax.+81-75-702-1952
*Unless otherwise specified, photos are courtesy of Andrey Ozharovskiy

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Monday, December 17, 2012

Banner Action Tue, Dec 18th: Stop Hitachi's Nuclear Export! Lithuanian National Referendum Says "No" To Nuclear Power

            Russian delegate Andrey Ozharovskiy and Italian delegate Monica Zoppè at "Meet the Guests" session of Nuclear Free World Conference 2
Andrey Ozharovskiy, nuclear engineer by training, and member of the international delegation to Nuclear Free World Conference 2 in Tokyo on December 14 and 15, 2012, shared the work of the Lithuanian people to keep their country nuclear-free country despite a pro-nuclear government. Lituhania's story gave encouragement to participants facing a government that does not see the need to decommission nuclear reactors despite an ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

Ozharovskiy explained how Lithuania became nuclear-free upon its entrance into the European Union in 2004.  The complete shutdown of Lithuania's two  “enhanced” Chernobyl-type graphite reactors (RBMK-1500) at the Ignalina nuclear power plant was a prerequisite for EU entrance as the reactors did not meet safety standards. While the reactors were closed down in 2004 and 2009, waste disposal and radiation leakage during decommissioning work remain to be an issue.

Despite the shutdown, pro-nuclear lobbyists pushed for the construction of a new reactor at the site and the government decided to build in 2007. No investors came forward until after the start of the disaster at Fukushima in March 2011. Hitachi, partnering with Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy offered to cover 20% of the costs to build their advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR)- the same model at the Fukushima plant.

In face of endorsement of the plans for construction by the Lithuanian government and Prime Minister Kubilius, people rose in protest. When the International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano came to show his support for the construction of the Visaginas plant, he was met with protestors.

Ozharovskiy detailed how the movement against the plant continued to grow and NPOs united behind the cause, linking the issue with outrage against the planned construction of two reactors by Russia near the Lithuanian border.  Reaching out to Japanese NGOs for help in preventing the Hitachi build, two Japanese citizens rallied in front of Mitsui Sumitomo Bank in Tokyo February 2012, the day Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius arrived for negotiations between Hitachi and the Japanese government.
Japanese protesters in solidarity with Lithuanians against construction of Hitachi ABWR

Japanese support for the Lithuanian anti-nuclear power movement gained media attention, and months of protest, letters to the government, and international solidarity actions to pressure the government to abandon the construction plans, the government agreed to hold a referendum to decide on the issue.  On October 14, 2012, 62.68% of the people who participated in the referendum decided against the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania.

Despite this, Hitatchi still intends to export an ABWR nuclear reactor to Lithuania. The Lithuanian people do not wish to increase the potential of a repeat of the Fukushima disaster in their country. 
Therefore, on Tuesday, December 18th at 10:30am,  Japanese and Lithuanian NGOs will join together for a joint banner action in front of Hitachi headquarters.

According to Green Action:
Lithuanian and Japanese NGOs have previously warned Hitachi and the Japanese government from signing any agreement with Lithuania before the referendum, expressing their arguments in a letter of concern signed December 23rd 2011. There was no reaction from Hitachi.

A joint letter will be delivered to Hitachi stating, "We address the multinational Hitachi, Ltd. and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, Ltd. corporations with a call to respect corporate responsibility standards, the Lithuanian Constitution, democratic values and the will of people, and demand that Hitachi announce withdrawal from the Visaginas nuclear power plant project." 
Banner Action to Stop Hitachi's Nuclear Export

WHERE: Hitachi Headquarters
Location: Nippon Seimei Marunouchi Building (Marunouchi-oazo) 6-6 Marunouchi 1-chome, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
WHEN: Tuesday December 18th at 10:30am~11:00am
WHO: Japanese and Lithuanian NGOs including Green Action (Japan) and Lithuanian national referendum campaigner currently in Japan for an international nuclear power conference.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Friday, December 14, 2012

Japan at Crossroads on Eve of Election: Top-Down Shock Doctrine or Citizen-Led Social Change?

With Japan’s Lower House parliamentary election scheduled for this Sunday, parties and candidates are rushing to fill the anticipated vacuum to be created by the likely losses of the reigning Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Campaigning for many major parties kicked off early this month in Fukushima prefecture, where candidates emphasized their various strategies for post-3.11 Japan. While this includes openly anti-nuclear messages on the part of several, including the newly formed Mirai no To (Future of Japan Party)—a coalition that has recently brought a number of smaller parties into its fold that wish to end the country’s use of nuclear power—not all parties share this stance.

Notoriously pro-nuclear Tokyo ex-governor Shintaro Ishihara recently joined forces with Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto to form the new Nippon Ishin no kai (Japan Restoration Party), which has continuously changed its position on the nuclear power issue. Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe, who many say is next in line for the Prime Minister position, has said that a zero-nuclear policy is “irresponsible”.

With pre-election polls suggesting that the LDP is poised for a “landslide win,” many are incredulous at the possibility that the party responsible for building up the nuclear industry in the first place during its long postwar reign may be put back in power so soon after last year’s nuclear disaster. Greenpeace staff member Kazue Suzuki put it most succinctly: "This is the first election since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and if it does not result in an anti-nuclear government, that will be one of the wonders of the world.”

There are thankfully some bright spots on the election landscape, including Tokyo gubernatorial candidate Kenji Utsunomiya, although he faces a tough race with favored candidate (and Ishihara protégé)  Naoki Inose. In general, however, with the suddenly-called election being held the year following the 3.11 crisis, the media now spinning (pun intended) out of control about military threats from China and Korea, and many confused voters unsure how to make sense of the myriad of smaller political forces cropping up to challenge the existing LDP vs. DPJ two-party framework, it does not seem out of place to invoke some version of Naomi Klein’s theory regarding the shock “doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters -- to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.”

Indeed, the prospect of a re-crowned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe implementing his vision of a Japan that has been beefed-up both economically and militarily is even more difficult to swallow when considering the failures on the part of past governments to confront the human costs that their policies have directly engendered. As usual, then, it has been artists who have stepped in to fill this gap, voicing the suffering that mainstream government and media channels have left unspoken.

The most epic among these is the 17-minute song “Human Error” by Kyoto-based band Frying Dutchman, which directly names the socioeconomic and political forces responsible for the recent nuclear disaster. Another recent deeply poignant piece, which may be viewed at the top of this blog post, is “Children of Doomsday” from San Francisco Bay Area-based artist Maya Stickney, who uses muted drawings and haunting music to make her point about the forgotten children of Fukushima.

The strongest case urging both politicians and local citizens to embark on a course for change rather than “more of the same”, however, comes directly from Fukushima residents themselves. The documentary film “Women of Fukushima”—which comes to us from Paul Johanessen, who directed the powerful short film “Then and Now” about tsunami survivors in the city of Ishinomaki—makes this point startlingly clear in the last comment of this three-minute clip:

“We are fighting to show that there are more important things than money.”

Lower House elections in Japan will be held Sunday, December 16th.

The Nuclear Free Now! global conference takes place Saturday, December 15th-Sunday, December 16th in Tokyo and Koriyama (Fukushima). 

To sign a petition urging continued economic support for Fukushima families choosing voluntary evacuation, please sign this petition from Avaaz.

--Kimberly Hughes


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kenji Utsunomiya: Nuclear-Free, Social Justice Candidate for Governor of Tokyo

Kenji Utsunomiya, former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, is the embodiment of the best of progressive Japanese nuclear-free political and social vision. 

Last month, the lawyer participated in the November 11 Occupation by 1 Million People Against Nuclear Power Plants" that was hosted by the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes (an organization that has held nuclear-free rallies every Friday evenings since 3/11). 

His opponents, Tokyo Vice Governor Naoki Inose and former Kanagawa Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa, want to continue Governor Shintaro Ishihara's neoliberal policies and expensive pursuit of the 2020 Olympics. A Tokyo Olympics would only benefit a few at the expense of the many in a metropolitan area experiencing increasing rates of homelessness and hunger because of structural poverty. Many neighborhoods in Tokyo are best characterized as slums and the homeless find the city's government increasingly hostile instead of supportive. 

Utsunomiya explains, adding that he would support job creation, public welfare and senior citizens: "Ishihara didn't care about enriching Tokyoites' lives. During Ishihara's tenure, the number of those who starved to death or went on welfare in the 23 wards doubled."

Inose, known for his chain smoking, supports smoking in public venues, despite the health consequences to non-smokers. He is also known for personal extravagance at public expense. In 2007, he had a private toilet was installed in his office at a cost of some ¥4.5 million ($50,000). 

Utsonomiya has dedicated his career to challenging structural poverty. As a lawyer, specialized in poverty-related law cases, including helping victims of predatory lending overcome the burden of multiple loans.  He even served as honorary mayor of a makeshift village for homeless workers in Tokyo's Hibiya Park in 2008. 

Utsunomiya has the support of former PM Kan, who supports a nuclear-free Japan. He  said he will cooperate with other municipalities to persuade the central government to go nuclear-free. The poverty lawyer promised to provide support for victims of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, promising to offer housing in Tokyo.
I want to push forward with a policy to abolish nuclear power starting in Tokyo...I absolutely cannot approve of nuclear power...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FRYING DUTCHMAN special no nukes performance and talk by Toshiya Morita in Kyoto Dec 12th

Travel route of radiation from Fukushima
shared by Toshiya Morita and available here

During the parliamentary elections, the Frying Dutchman, a dance-rock band known for its outspoken stance against nuclear power, gave a special performance at Bukkyo University in Kyoto tonight. Following, writer Toshiya Morita who has been covering the nuclear accident since March 11, 2011, spoke to the need for everyone to be prepared for another nuclear disaster.

The Frying Dutchman became popular throughout Japan after their post-disaster performance of "Human Error" at Sanjo Bridge, a popular gathering spot in Kyoto. "Human Error" details the fallacies of nuclear power, the process by which the nuclear industry has tricked the public, and the tireless efforts of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. Their set opened with this song:
Genpatsu Iranai!
No more nuclear power!

Dondondondondon Koe ageyou ze!
Keep raising and raising and raising your voices!

Ai wo komete FUCK YOU!
With love FUCK YOU!

Koe wo ageyou!
Koe wo agete minna de tomerushikanaize!
Raise your voices, raise your voices-
all we can do join forces to stop nuclear power!

Okashii da ze! Okashii da ze!
It's not right! It's not right!


Okane yori motto daiji no aru yo ne!
There are things more important than money!

Wasureta ha ikenai ne!
We can't forget!

Shizen enerugi minna dashite ikou!
Everyone, let's all use natural energy!

Minna de koe wo agemashypu!
Enryou nakute koe agemashyou!

Nani ga daiji ka saikakunin shiyou ze!!





Genpatsu ha hitsuyou nai!
We don't need to nuclear power!

Genpatsu hantai!

For the full English and Japanese lyrics of "Human Error" check the FRYING DUTCHMAN website. Despite the ongoing nuclear disaster, there are still political parties that promote the continued use of nuclear power, do not discourage its use, or do not even discuss nuclear power in their platform. The FRYING DUTCHMAN may have power to convince people to vote against nuclear power.

The FRYING DUTCHMAN will also be one of many performers at the Nuclear Free Now! Conference in Tokyo on the 15th of December from 3:30-5pm at the Hibiya Outdoor Music Hall.

Following the performance, which was more raging than a dance hall, Toshiya Morita urged the audience to develop an exit strategy well before a nuclear disaster strikes, pointing out that Kyoto is within the exclusion zone for a nuclear disaster, only 60 kilometers from the Ohi nuclear reactor.
"My wife and I have planned to meet at Kyoto station should their be a nuclear accident. That way we can both meet and get on the bullet train immediately. If trains are not running, like after Fukushima, then we have a plan for which bus to take....By the way, who were the first people to leave Fukushima after the disaster? The family members of the workers at Tokyo Electric who controlled the reactor because they already knew how to evacuate in the event of a nuclear disaster." 
Regardless of stance on nuclear power, he urged the audience to not only prepare an evacuation strategy for themselves, but to be prepared to accept evacuees emphasizing the impossibility of depending only on the government. Next he discussed how radiation has flowed from Fukushima along the paths of major roads and trains tracks contaminating major cities throughout Eastern Japan. Osaka and Kyoto have also been contaminated through food coming in from contaminated regions.

Although the accident of four nuclear reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has not been converged, 
the athletic meet of spring of an elementary school is being held in Fukushima. The children who do play 
ball and race have to do a mask so that the dust of radioactivity may not be inhaled. May 2002
He also noted how parents and children have not been vigilant in ensuring children are wearing masks to prevent the inhalation of radiation contaminated dust. He pointed out how the child to the left of the picture was clearly not wearing a mask properly during an outdoor Sports Day event, and showed other photos of unmasked children, or children that did not cover their noses with the masks.

Finally, he shared the advice of Dr. Shintaro Hida, a doctor who entered Hiroshima immediately after the U.S. government dropped the nuclear bomb over the city. Also, receiving radiation poisoning himself, he studied how radiation changed the lives of over 6000 people. He asked the oldest living survivors of the bombing how they lived so long, and they most common answer was "by not overeating."

In the end, he reminded us that the people in Fukushima are fighting harder than anyone now in Japan to get rid of nuclear power. It is because of their courage and determination that we have come this far.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Support Indigenous Ainu of Japan and Maori of New Zealand in cultural exchange

Exchange Program participants with Matarahi Skipper at his Maori Workshop in Ainumosir Hokkaido
In less than two months time, seven Ainu youth from all over Japan, will become the first of hopefully many groups of Ainu, to participate in an intensive 5-week-long exchange with the Maori of Aotearoa New Zealand through the Aotearoa-Ainumsor Exchange Program (AAEP). Their mission- to learn experientially from the initiatives of Maori people to maintain their cultural traditions while shaping modern society. Proposed by Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell, these future Ainu leaders will engage in fieldwork program in several fields:
  • Maori language education
  • Maori media
  • Maori tourism industry
  • Maori policy
  • Maori policy-making
They will also join in on important Maori events and celebrations including the annual Ratana CelebrationWaitangi Day, and the Maori Cultural Festival. The program participants were selected after a rigorous application process which included essay writing and interviews, and a solid commitment to a sharing what they learn in their communities upon return to Japan.

The Ainu and Maori, while separated by miles of ocean, share many similarities in their history, culture, and efforts to revitalize their rights, culture, and position in (now) mainstream societies. However, despite years of struggle and determination, the Ainu have only just gained recognition as an indigenous people by the Japan government; up until 2008, they were referred to as "former aboriginals." According to AAEP,
Due to anxiety about deeply rooted discrimination which pervades society, or the inability for people to discover meaning in being Ainu, there are still many people who have yet to assert their Ainu identity. According to a Hokkaido Prefecture survey there are about 24,000 Ainu people, however in reality there are several times more Ainu people than that figure leads us to believe. Out of the 5,000 to 10,000 Ainu people living in the Tokyo metropolitan area alone, only around 100 of them are active as Ainu.
The Maori have been successful in regaining their rights as indigenous people since 1970s. They have long maintained a strong presence in politics, run Maori language radio and TV programs/stations, have pioneered a groundbreaking approach for language education called Kōhanga Reo (language nests), and have their own universities. The Maori tourist industry is flourishing and as the years pass, education about Maori history and culture is being incorporated into mainstream education, creating a more cohesive New Zealand society. AAEP hopes to build a generation of Ainu leaders that are proud of their identity as Ainu who will work to create a Japan that is more accepting of diversity.

Maya Sekine (pictured below) is the youngest participant in the group:
Irankarapte. Ku-rehe anakune Sekine Maya ne (My name is Maya Sekine).  What I would like to learn in Aotearoa is the similarities and differences between Ainu people and people in Aotearoa. I would also like to learn about Maori language and cultures. When I come back here, I would like to do my best to utilize what I learned in Aotearoa. Suy unukar an ro (See you later.)
Hirofumi Kibata (pictured above far left) hopes this experience will open him to a new world "not only for himself, not only for Ainu and Maori, but so that everyone can see the world from a new perspective." You can read more messages from the participants at the Aotearoa-Ainumosir Exchange Program (AAEP) blog.

Once the participants reach Aotearoa, several organizations, including the Advancement of Maori Opportunity, will cover transportation, most meals, and accommodation.  Over the past 9 months, AAEP has raised enough money to cover most of the airplane tickets, but funds are still needed for several more tickets for interpreters and the AAEP chair, insurance, daily expenses, reports and information exchange sessions in Japan, and maintenance of the program for future exchanges.

Maya Sekine, from Nibutani, is a heritage learner of the Ainu language.  
In order to raise these funds, AAEP has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Already, in two days, they have received 35% of their goal of $10,000. With your help, they can reach their goal or even surpass it. A successful Indiegogo campaign encourages a crowd of people to support it, not only with monetary donations, but by spreading the word through social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+. The more people talking and donating to the campaign, even in small amounts, the more momentum the campaign gains, which brings even more people to the project.

Become a part of the movement to bring resurgence to the Ainu culture and Ainu society in Japan! In exchange for contributions, you can receive an Ainu jaw harp, an original program T-shirt or unique woodblock print designed by Ainu artist Koji Yuuki, head of the Ainu Art Project.

Watch the video below to find out more, or click here to watch it directly on the campaign site!