Peace Mission to Osaka, Japan
Day 1: March 16, 2002

Photos by Steve Freedkin unless otherwise noted.

March 17: Conference  |  March 18: Tokyo  |  March 19: Hiroshima  |  Text of Speech

I had a great but exhausting first day in Japan. (Little did I know how relaxed this day was compared to what lay ahead.) I was greeted like a major international figure at a welcoming ceremony in Osaka. Numerous peace-and-justice activists spoke about issues they are working on -- and, with reverence, about how inspired they are by Berkeley's lead, not just on international issues but on disabled rights/barrier-free community, environment, and much more. They are particularly wowed by our city's structure of citizen commissions that provide input into government policies, and they look at Berkeley as a model to emulate in many respects. Displayed at the welcoming party was a large reproduction of the Berkeley city logo. One speaker who had been to Berkeley earlier in the year described the meaning of the logo, after I was asked but, embarrassingly, was uninformed. So, right from the start, I was learning things -- about my home town!

Electronics Avenue

To find equipment that would enable my digital camera to transfer images to my laptop computer, my hosts took me to this street, in an area nicknamed "Electric Town," which features store after store selling electronic goods of every description.
Click image above to see it displayed in larger size, in a new window.

Osaka: Mothra

Wire sculpture over "Electric Town" is reminiscent of Mothra from the 1950s Japanese giant-monster movies.
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Osaka Peace Museum sign

My first substantive activity in Japan was a sobering visit to the Osaka Peace Museum, containing exhibits about World War II. The controversial museum was built by the City of Osaka.

Osaka: incendiary bombs

U.S. incendiary bombs like these reduced Japan's population centers -- and many of their people -- to smoldering ash in a matter of days. (In the floor is a television screen showing footage of Osaka city afire.)

Osaka: diorama

Built into the floor of the museum is a diorama illustrating the large swaths of Osaka destroyed in the bombing.
Seen in person, the effect of the exhibit is stunning.

Osaka: controversial museum

The exhibit hall displaying atrocities inflicted by the Japanese in their attempted conquest of Asia has drawn the ire of the right wing in Osaka, according to Linking Peace and Life members. The complainants are viewed as a relatively powerless fringe element, however.
Click image above to see it displayed in larger size, in a new window.

Osaka: Homeless

The Peace Museum sits on the edge of the spectacular Osaka Castle Park. Throughout the park's wooded areas are blue tarps and tents, housing hundreds of homeless people. Osaka has an estimated 6,000 homeless, according to Linking Peace and Life, of whom many live in the park. Homelessness is a major concern of the peace and justice organization, whose members peppered me with questions about how Berkeley helps the homeless.

Osaka: Homeless Dog

This dog has a more suitable home in Osaka Castle Park than its owner.
Click image above to see it displayed in larger size, in a new window.

Me at head table, greeting party, Osaka 3/16/02

Welcoming party in Osaka, March 16, 2002. The Japanese activists are particularly enamored of Berkeley's multi-ethnic emblem, on the wall at left, representing Native American, white, Hispanic, Asian, and African-American Berkeleyans living together in harmony. More than 40 members of the Japanese peace-and-justice group Linking Peace and Life (Heiwa to Seikatsu o Musubu Kai) attended. Seated next to me is interpreter Toshiko Sujimoto. Photo: Tetsu Okada.


Singer: Imagine

Singer Tyurasan performs John Lennon's "Imagine" (in Japanese). Photo: Tetsu Okada.

Musicians: Hana

Tyurasan and Her Troupe perform "Hana" (Flower), a popular Japanese protest song that originated on her native island of Okinawa. According to Japanese justice activists, Okinawa suffers from all of the environmental and social problems facing the Japanese people. Photo: Tetsu Okada.

Singer: Overcome

Performer Takeuchi leads the room in singing "We Shall Overcome." The American civil-rights spiritual is a favorite of Japanese peace and justice activists; several of themeetings I attended wereconcluded with the participants singing the song's first three verses.

March 17: Conference  |  March 18: Tokyo  |  March 19: Hiroshima

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