By Jane Stoever
“I was born and raised in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo,” Hiroko Komiya said, speaking during the Hiroshima & Nagasaki Remembrance Aug. 6 in KC MO. When she was in fourth grade, in 1967, Hiroko had a best friend, Yuko, whose mother was very ill. “One day, Yuko whispered that she wouldn’t get married when she grew up,” Hiroko said. “Yuko asked, ‘Did you know my mom was in Hiroshima? That’s why she has leukemia. And I will get it someday because I am her child. And my children will get it, too. We have bad blood.’”
Yuko’s mother died a few days later, and she was sent to grandparents who raised her. “I was devastated,” said Hiroko. With this story, she conveyed the avalanche of suffering the US caused in dropping nuclear bombs on Japan. Hiroko is now the principal of the Kansas City Japanese School. Glad to be at the Aug. 6 gathering at Loose Park, Hiroko told about 75 of us, “We take this time to recommit ourselves to world peace.”
Another speaker Aug. 6, Analisa Colom-Todd, talked about Ikebana, Japanese flower arranging. “My mother started learning about Ikebana when she was a child, before World War II,” Analisa said. For safety, many people sent their children to mountain areas, out of urban areas that were being bombed. Munitions other than the atom bomb were dropped on cities such as the port city of Numazu, where Analisa’s mother’s family was. Her mother and grandfather were separated from their family during the rest of World War II.
After the war, Analisa continued, her mother decided at age 15 to go with a new school of Ikebana, one allowing anybody, anytime to practice Ikebana—the Sogestsu form of Ikebana, which Analisa teaches in KC MO. “My mother fell in love with Ikebana, and I fell in love with it,” she said. The new form of Ikebana allowed people to use any kind of material; “flowers and leaves were difficult to find with everything all burned up,” Analisa explained.
The KC leader of Veterans for Peace, Theodore John, brought a bell he himself made, a peace bell, and rang it to open our Aug. 6 gathering. Theodore also invited Jason Swartley of the Heart of America Indian Center to sing a Lakota prayer, a song for healing.
Our meeting Aug. 6 was emceed by PeaceWorks Board member Kimmy Igla, who introduced Breanna Crawford, another PW Board member, a Cherokee-Dakota activist. Breanna said, “The Manhattan Project (creating the two bombs dropped in 1945 on Japan, with one tested at Los Alamos, NM) had a profound impact on Indigenous people, and we were impacted by uranium mining. The radioactive particles contaminate aquatic ecosystems, threatening downstream communities of fish and wildlife” as well as generations of Indigenous people.
Breanna reminded us that the Hiroshima bomb killed about 80,000 persons, and the Nagasaki bomb some 39,000 persons, with thousands killed later from radiation. PeaceWorks cosponsored this program with Poetic Underground KC, Physicians for Social Responsibility KC, and Veterans for Peace KC.
—Jane Stoever serves on the PeaceWorks Communications Team. Other stories on this website include poetry by AP, the Poet, “Poppy Poem,” and “Morning Newspaper” by Eri Sakata.