Visitor brings message of peace, reminders of war

March 01, 1993|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,Contributing Writer

Sachie Kudo, wearing a brilliant floral kimono, encourages her audience of children to speak a few Japanese words. Then she delicately folds colorful origami paper into a long-necked bird.

It's a crane, which has become one symbol of peace for children in her native Japan.

Sometimes, Ms. Kudo shows the formal tea ceremony, in which making and drinking a single cup of tea is elevated into 15 minutes of studied reverence, art and symbolism. She also shows slides of contemporary Japan, a country bustling with energy.

Most of all, she conveys hopes for world peace.

Currently speaking at schools in Baltimore, she will come to Carroll County in mid-March.

Ms. Kudo arrived in the United States in September to spend a year under the auspices of the Never Again Campaign. This outreach program of Berkshire Community College, in Pittsfield, Mass., supports about 20 volunteers worldwide. Ms. Kudo and two other Japanese are now in the United States working with the program.

Through cultural awareness, the Never Again Campaign hopes to gain world peace, one person at a time. Since 1985, the group has reached about 200,000 people, delivering the message spoken by Japanese survivors of the atomic bomb: "Never again."

"True peace is created by people. By us. Not only the leaders of nations," Ms. Kudo says. "So when I heard of [the Never Again Campaign], I was very excited because this was what I wanted to find to do for peace."

She said she left employment as an office worker to join the group, which she describes as "a very small peace movement, a grass-roots movement."

Ms. Kudo, 39, belongs to a generation reared after the bombs were dropped on her country during World War II.

In her presentation, the grim specter of devastation surfaces with a videotape she can show to high school students and adults.

When the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, World War II was ended. The bombs killed 66,000 people and injured 69,000 in metropolitan Hiroshima; in the country town of Nagasaki, 39,000 people were killed and 25,000 were injured.

Those who survived were maimed in grotesque ways -- some which took years to become apparent.

When the bombs were dropped, no one foresaw that radiation exposure would mean a slow, sickly death for many of the survivors, nor did they know that the effects of the bombings would reach into future generations. Today, some mental and physical illnesses are thought to be traceable three generations back to Aug. 6 and 9, 1945.

Terrible, too, was the fear among the Japanese people of developing diseases linked to radiation, such as epilepsy, anemia, cancer, and kidney and liver diseases. Many children of the survivors became adults before learning that their parents VTC had been exposed. And their children displayed similar illnesses linked to radiation.

Ms. Kudo has talked with 20 survivors of the atomic bomb. "They only want world peace," she says, "because they hope no one will ever have the experience that they have survived."

She shows a circle composed of 1,000 origami paper cranes. In Japan, it is said, a crane can live for 1,000 years; fold 1,000 paper cranes and you'll be protected from illness.

Thousands upon thousands of paper cranes now wreathe the Children's Monument in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, which was constructed to display many memorials at the epicenter of the A-bomb blast.

The Children's Monument honors Sadako Sasaki and other children who died from the bomb.

Sadako, a mile from the explosion, was drenched by radioactive fallout as a 2-year-old. She seemed healthy until age 12, in 1955, when leukemia took her life.

After her death, Sadako's family looked under her hospital mattress. She had folded 964 origami cranes.

Sadako, somewhat like Anne Frank half a world away, was "a young woman whose death from radiation inspired a whole energy in Japan and a monument to her," said Naomi Dagen Bloom, Ms. Kudo's host in Baltimore.

Mrs. Bloom teaches urban housing and family living at Morgan State University; her husband, Ronald, chairs the university's department of human ecology.

Of the war and the bombs, said Mrs. Bloom, "It sort of doesn't matter. It happened. Now what? How do we look at it? To know about one another, we have to stop feeling this profound difficulty with difference."

"You and I have different cultures but we all are human beings," says Ms. Kudo, her voice rich with the accent of the Far East.

"In our daily life in Japan, we are just like you. Our [the Never Again Campaign's] purpose is to convey peace, for many to share thinking about peace."

Ms. Kudo will come to Carroll County the last two weeks in March. Her host here will be Wayne Cogswell of Taneytown, a local peace activist who has attended all-night peace vigils held commemoratively from Aug. 6-9 at Site R in Emmitsburg.

"I've never talked to a survivor of the bomb, but I have seen pictures. It's incomprehensible," he said.

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