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News photo
Brian Berry –
, an American student who spent the last year at Tokyo’s
Waseda University, rehearses Saturday for the Japanese-language recitation
play “The Day the Dragonflies Were Gone” with fellow performers from China,
Japan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Sweden and Ukraine.
AKEMI NAKAMURA PHOTO

On Saturday, the student from California State University Sacramento, who has just finished a year of studying Japanese culture and history at Waseda University, was part of a group reading the Japanese play “The Day the Dragonflies Were Gone” in Tokyo. He read with seven others — a combination of amateurs and professionals from Japan, China, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Sweden and Ukraine.

The play was organized by Plaza Plaza, a Tokyo-based monthly magazine on multicultural issues in Japan.

The 40-minute play, written by Plaza Plaza editor Satomi Nakamura, is about people who lived through the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It tells the stories of several people, including a woman who lost her legs three days before her wedding, a Korean slave laborer who watched another Korean die after drinking water and a woman who did not identify herself publicly as a hibakusha for 40 years because she was afraid she would face discrimination.

“I had a chance to actually to meet with (three) hibakusha (in Tokyo and Hiroshima to prepare for the reading), which is extremely important and different from reading any experiences in books,” said the 25-year-old Berry, who also read up on the two bombings before the performance.

“The biggest change for me is having a chance to see more human perspectives of the bomb dropping.”

He said that learning the views of other countries about the bombings and World War II was also interesting.

Part of the performance was for the actors each to speak briefly about their countries’ situations during the war and how their relatives were involved as well as how they reacted upon learning that Japan had lost.

The South Korean performer told the story of her grandfather, who had his land taken from him and was forced to work in a gold mine under the Imperial Japanese Army. She said that Koreans were pleased to hear about the bombings because it finally liberated them from Japan’s 35-year colonial rule.

Berry spoke about two relatives who took part in the war — Dewey, who was part of a team on Guam whose job it was to tell Japanese soldiers that the war was over, and Ed, who survived the fierce landing at Normandy.

Dewey and Ed “never actually talked about what happened. They only mentioned, ‘This was a very important war. Don’t make it happen again,’ ” he said.

The American student said that if the play were performed in the U.S., it would be very controversial because some Americans believe it was a good idea to drop the A-bombs, arguing that it ended the war and in doing so saved lives. And controversy, he added, is an effective way of getting people to think about the nuclear-bomb issue.

The play’s aim is not just to have people remember the A-bombs and the war but also to remind people of the fact that they live in a world that now has even more nuclear arms, he said.

Berry is concerned by reports that several countries, including Iran and North Korea, have nuclear capabilities.

“In America, it can be a very serious issue. For example, North Korean missiles can reach California, which is where I live,” he said, “It won’t be another Hiroshima because the next one will be much worse” because now nuclear weapons are more powerful.

He thinks the stumbling block to getting rid of nuclear weapons is that people have difficulty understanding the devastation they bring.

“You don’t understand the damage they can do. You don’t understand what it would be like to have a family hit by, or burned and killed by a nuclear bomb. Sometimes, I think that might be the biggest hurdle to stopping nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that the high cost of disposing of nuclear weapons is another big issue.

Berry, who will go back home to Sacramento, Calif., early next month, wants to be a college professor and hopes he will be able to teach about nuclear issues, including the bombs dropped on Japan.

“I think the only thing you can do is just pushing (to get rid of nuclear weapons) as much as you can and not giving up,” he said.

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