16 May 2013

Peace Promotion?

The municipal government of Nagasaki regularly calls for the "abolition of nuclear weapons" and the "promotion of lasting world peace" in one sentence.  The mayor of Nagasaki delivers a public "Peace Declaration" every year on the August 9 anniversary of the atomic bombing and, with minor adjustments, trots out the same message each time, namely the assertion that world peace cannot be achieved as long as nuclear weapons exist.

Once a year, several Nagasaki high school students are nominated "Peace Messengers" and dispatched to the United States and other countries.  The purpose is to convey information about the horror of the atomic bombing; the reward is praise at home for valiant "peace activities."  Whenever I read the news, I imagine the naive teenagers crying in their hotel rooms at night after facing questions on topics such as Pearl Harbor, Korean comfort women and the Bataan Death March -- not to mention factors hindering global security such as economic disparity, environmental degradation and religious conflict -- about which of course they know little if anything.

Ironically, the current Japanese government seems to regard nuclear weapons as necessary for peace.   Japanese officials recently refused to approve a joint statement aired at the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in Geneva.  The explanation was that Japan’s national security is protected under the American nuclear umbrella, making it impossible to advocate statements like, "It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances."  In other words, Japan needs American nuclear weapons to keep China and North Korea at bay and to maintain peace in the region.  I wonder how the mayor of Nagasaki intends to deal with this in his next “Peace Declaration."

Another reason to question Nagasaki City's motivation in waving the peace placard is the conflict of interest represented by tourism.  Just as the "Peace Dome" is Hiroshima's hottest attraction, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is second only to the Glover Garden theme park as Nagasaki's most popular tourist destination. Statistics published by Nagasaki City show that 644,391 and 933,660 people visited the two facilities, respectively, during the year 2012.  The restored Dutch East India Company Factory on Dejima came in a distant third at 393,807 visitors.

Despite the inclusion of the name on the above list of tourist facilities -- and despite the enormous revenue gained from admission fees -- Nagasaki City insists that the museum's mission is to promote peace, not to attract tourists.  However, the tourist stamp from the early postwar years shown below suggests that tourism and "peace promotion" have always been two sides of the same coin.

Tourist stamp from the 1950s.  The stamp has the characters meaning "Nagasaki Tourist Memento" on the bottom with an image of the atomic bomb mushroom cloud rising above the city and the popular tourist attractions Oura Catholic Church and Sofukuji Temple (left) shown below. 
The government led by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has raised eyebrows in recent weeks for its increasingly nationalistic rhetoric and its efforts to revise the Japanese constitution, particularly Article Nine prohibiting acts of war by the state.  The prime minister has also been busy during trips abroad trying to sell nuclear reactors to developing countries.  After the Pandora's Box of Fukushima and all the problems it unleashed -- as well as the scourge of radiation generated by the 1945 atomic bombings -- shouldn't Japan be the world's foremost proponent of alternative energy?

To conclude, one more peace-related photograph: 

The official name of the pachinko (pinball gambling) parlor on the corner of Nagasaki's main downtown intersection is "Peace Park."  No one seems to find this odd or inappropriate, even though the city has a famous park of the same name located near the atomic bomb hypocenter, a sacrosanct space supposedly designed to appeal to the world about the importance of "peace."