History Repeats by Kenzaburo Oe

I decided to post an interesting and provoking article written by Kenzaburo Oe and published by The New Yorker on the recent events. Let me know your opinion.

By chance, the day before the earthquake, I wrote an article, which was published a few days later, in the morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun. The article was about a fisherman of my generation who had been exposed to radiation in 1954, during the hydrogen-bomb testing at Bikini Atoll. I first heard about him when I was nineteen. Later, he devoted his life to denouncing the myth of nuclear deterrence and the arrogance of those who advocated it. Was it a kind of sombre foreboding that led me to evoke that fisherman on the eve of the catastrophe? He has also fought against nuclear power plants and the risk that they pose. I have long contemplated the idea of looking at recent Japanese history through the prism of three groups of people: those who died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who were exposed to the Bikini tests, and the victims of accidents at nuclear facilities. If you consider Japanese history through these stories, the tragedy is self-evident. Today, we can confirm that the risk of nuclear reactors has become a reality. However this unfolding disaster ends—and with all the respect I feel for the human effort deployed to contain it—its significance is not the least bit ambiguous: Japanese history has entered a new phase, and once again we must look at things through the eyes of the victims of nuclear power, of the men and the women who have proved their courage through suffering. The lesson that we learn from the current disaster will depend on whether those who survive it resolve not to repeat their mistakes.

This disaster unites, in a dramatic way, two phenomena: Japan’s vulnerability to earthquakes and the risk presented by nuclear energy. The first is a reality that this country has had to face since the dawn of time. The second, which may turn out to be even more catastrophic than the earthquake and the tsunami, is the work of man. What did Japan learn from the tragedy of Hiroshima? One of the great figures of contemporary Japanese thought, Shuichi Kato, who died in 2008, speaking of atomic bombs and nuclear reactors, recalled a line from “The Pillow Book,” written a thousand years ago by a woman, Sei Shonagon, in which the author evokes “something that seems very far away but is, in fact, very close.” Nuclear disaster seems a distant hypothesis, improbable; the prospect of it is, however, always with us. The Japanese should not be thinking of nuclear energy in terms of industrial productivity; they should not draw from the tragedy of Hiroshima a “recipe” for growth. Like earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural calamities, the experience of Hiroshima should be etched into human memory: it was even more dramatic a catastrophe than those natural disasters precisely because it was man-made. To repeat the error by exhibiting, through the construction of nuclear reactors, the same disrespect for human life is the worst possible betrayal of the memory of Hiroshima’s victims.

I was ten years old when Japan was defeated. The following year, the new Constitution was proclaimed. For years afterward, I kept asking myself whether the pacifism written into our Constitution, which included the renunciation of the use of force, and, later, the Three Non-Nuclear Principles (don’t possess, manufacture, or introduce into Japanese territory nuclear weapons) were an accurate representation of the fundamental ideals of postwar Japan. As it happens, Japan has progressively reconstituted its military force, and secret accords made in the nineteen-sixties allowed the United States to introduce nuclear weapons into the archipelago, thereby rendering those three official principles meaningless. The ideals of postwar humanity, however, have not been entirely forgotten. The dead, watching over us, oblige us to respect those ideals, and their memory prevents us from minimizing the pernicious nature of nuclear weaponry in the name of political realism. We are opposed. Therein lies the ambiguity of contemporary Japan: it is a pacifist nation sheltering under the American nuclear umbrella. One hopes that the accident at the Fukushima facility will allow the Japanese to reconnect with the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to recognize the danger of nuclear power, and to put an end to the illusion of the efficacy of deterrence that is advocated by nuclear powers.

When I was at an age that is commonly considered mature, I wrote a novel called “Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness.” Now, in the final stage of life, I am writing a “last novel.” If I manage to outgrow this current madness, the book that I write will open with the last line of Dante’s Inferno: “And then we came out to see once more the stars.”

Help Japan

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Photo Exhibition

Photo Exhibition

From 28 March 2011
The Embassy of Japan
101-104 Piccadilly, London W1J 7JT
Open weekdays 09:30 – 17:30, closed weekends
Admission is free, but photo ID is necessary to gain entry to the Embassy

With our thoughts and prayers for those affected by the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean earthquake and tsunami, a series of photographs will be on display at the Embassy of Japan from Monday, 28 March 2011. The photographs were taken in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck off Japan’s North East coast on Friday, 11 March.

Included in the display are images that show the extent of the damage caused, the conditions that the Japanese rescue services are facing, and the British Search and Rescue Team at work in North East Japan.

The Embassy of Japan is grateful to the Asahi Shimbun, Jiji Press, the Sankei Shimbun and the Yomiuri Shimbun for their generosity in donating the images and to The Color Company for printing them.


Film at the Embassy

Films at the Embassy

Wednesday, 20 April – Haru

The Embassy of Japan 101-104 Piccadilly, London W1J 7JT

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential.

Wednesday, 20 April, 18:30

Doors open at 17:45. No admittance after 19:00

Haru

Yoshimitsu Morita/1996/118 mins
This film contains references of a sexual nature and may be unsuitable for children.

Considered experimental when it was first released in 1996, this sentimental drama is composed mostly of email messages. Hayami Noboru is a budding movie fan who decides to join a film forum on the internet using the name Haru. He finds an email friend online called Star. Though at first they are merely strangers finding anonymous solace in each other’s virtual company, they soon begin to realise the depths to which their feelings for each other have grown.

Winner of Best Screenplay and also Best Actress (Eri Fukatsu) at the 18th Yokohama Film Festival in 1997, Director Morita Yoshimitsu skilfully shows us that a computerised society has not destroyed human love…

Click here for booking details. Please be advised that we now have a new booking system in place:

Due to the popularity of the Embassy screenings, films in 2011 will be advertised two at a time and bookings will be limited to ONE film per person, or per group of people.