Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No Good War, No Bad Peace

Harper, by Deana Brown while babysitting

This morning she met with Yuki Tanaka at the Hiroshima Peace Institute. He translated Howard Zinn’s book War and Terrorism into Japanese. Joseph Gerson from the American Friends Service Committee gave her Yuki’s name and Yuki showed her Joseph’s book – Empire and the Bomb. Yuki tells her to check out the MIT website Visualizing Cultures. He doesn’t seem that interested in her project, but more in telling her everything about himself. She is quite interested in his story - he is working on a book about the early stages of the Japanese Peace Movement, married to an Australian woman who has two artist parents. . They live apart – seeing each other every 6 weeks or so. She asks him to go to lunch and he takes her to a noodle shop. As soon as she sees what he has – a steep bowl of cold soba noodles, grated daikon, wet and dry seaweed and a cool sauce to be poured over it, she wishes she had not ordered the hot udon noodles with goba tempura even though it is very good.

She walks over, again, to the Peace Memorial Museum and decides to go in this time with the hundreds of school kids. She can barely see the soft and thin clothing on display, the black rain on a white wall, the utensils and melted bottles. The schoolchildren take notes. The U.S. dropped the A-bomb to “justify expenditures.” Dummy A-bombs were called pumpkins. There were children called bomb orphans (who shined the shoes of westerners). The ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casuality Commission, now the RERF) was formed in 1947 and the Japanese people had this to say about it, “They examine us but they do not treat us.” Hibakusha say simply, “I met with the A-Bomb.” As of 2007, there were 251,834 Hibakusha in Japan, 78,111 in Hiroshima. “A woman passed water from her own mouth to mouth of her mother before she died.” – Yoshio Hamada (text describing the print he made as an Atomic Bomb Survivor). There is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace.

She gets caught in a downpour when she comes out and gets a taxi to the YMCA where she reads Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman by Sumie Kawakami for an hour while waiting for her children. Harper is so glad to see her that Harper runs across the room and hugs her so tightly, patting her back, making her so very happy. Guthrie barely noticed that his mother had arrived. They had their daily ice cream in the fluorescent vending room downstairs while waiting for the taxi. “Taxi, taxi, riding in the back seat….” Over and over again is the song the kids have made up since being here and she worries that they are driving the taxi drivers crazy. Once home, she rushes to get ready to meet Yoshie, an adjunct professor in the art department at Hiroshima City University and a curator at the Hiroshima City Culture Foundation. They meet at SATY, the big department store at the bottom of the hill. They take the elevator to the 7th floor for tea. Yoshie becomes her guardian angel. Yoshie keeps saying how much she loves helping artists. She was once a curator at the Hiroshima Contemporary Museum. Yoshie connects her with a “Hiroshima Interpreter for Peace” because she thinks she will need one. She agrees. Yoshie tells her about Masao Okabe who did big rubbings (frottages – which has a double meaning in Japan of rubbing against another person in a sexual manner) of stone walls from Ugine Station in Hiroshima that were exhibited in this year’s Venice Bienale. Elin looks at his work online and can not believe it – an entire room of rubbings of atomic things and a wall of negative photographic images of plant specimens in lightboxes! She wonders if she should even do her project. He is so famous. People will think she copied his ideas and work. She knows her work would be different in some way but how? Yoshie will try to introduce her to Ms. Kamiya, curator at the contemporary museum and will bring her out to the university to meet colleagues, students and to give a lecture on her work. She rushes home in the rain to get there before her kids are asleep.

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