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What an atomic bombing of Hiroshima survivor has learned 70 years later

Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
Takashi Tanemori on the University of Oklahoma's campus Thursday afternoon.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – When he was 18 years-old, a Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor traveled to the U.S. to avenge his parents’ death.

“When I left for America, I spent all night at my father’s grave marker,” said Takashi Tanemori, now 78. “I hugged that marker the entire evening and I promised my daddy that ‘even if it takes 200 years I am going to avenge your death.’”

On August 6, 1945 Tanemori was only 8 years-old when his life changed forever. The effects of the bombing took the lives of his parents and two of his sisters.

While living in post-war Japan he became known as a distrusted orphan and turned to garbage cans for food.

Sitting at a table in the University of Oklahoma Memorial Union, Tanemori recounted his life and shared the many things he remembers his father taught him in only eight years.

“Always learn to live for the benefit of others,” Tanemori said his father stressed to him.

As he spent years digging through waste sites there were countless times he looked to the sky saying, “‘Daddy, you are stupid, you don’t know what I’m going through!’”

When he arrived in California he met an individual who encouraged the young man to pursue a life serving others through Christianity.

For nearly two decades Tanemori stayed true to this path, but still was unable to conquer prejudice in his congregations.

Tanemori realized he still carried hatred in his heart towards Americans and continued seeking ways to avenge his family’s death.

“How did I do it? I learned to forgive. It took 40 long years to come to that place on the Bay Bridge, crossing the bridge,” he said with a relieved smile.

He calls this his epiphany and has taken the term bridging the gap from this crucial moment in his life.

Bridging the gap

In 1985 Tanemori founded the Silkworm Peace Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to international peace.

Through this institute he has fostered forgiveness and helps others overcome barriers.

“If we change the heart, war will fall to the wayside,” Tanemori answered in response to his opinion on nuclear weapons and war.

Four years ago Tanemori met Elizabeth Weinberg who Tanemori admits had a much greater picture of bridging the nations. Tanemori was more focused on the U.S. and Japan, but Weinberg was much more knowledgeable about encompassing the rest of the world. She has helped Tanemori understand more nations’ issues.

As director of the institute Weinberg has helped Tanemori’s vision really turn into reality.

“We want to do some bridging work with communities, particularly the ones like the Pearl Harbor Remembrance communities,” she said. “Who had maybe a little or a lot of struggle with forgiveness or have had a lot of turmoil in their own personal, cultural or ethnic histories.”

Through the institute Tanemori shares his life story with speaking engagements, writings, conflict resolution seminars, workshops on The Seven Codes of the Samurai (“Peace through Forgiveness”), his writing and artwork.

Weinberg said Tanemori has created an 80-piece art exhibit that traces U.S.-Japan history relations and they hope to expand it and travel more with that.

They wish to go to Japan for the 70th anniversary of the bombings, and this year also marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations.

“They said nothing would grow in Hiroshima for 70 years and now it’s 70 years later, so we kind of have a story to tell especially his personal story where he returned a year following and found a single blade of grass growing in Hiroshima,” Weinberg said in a hopeful tone. “It’s a really important year; we’re both hoping to go as we’re looking for sponsorships.”

Tanemori and Weinberg both agreed their 9-day visit to Oklahoma was a successful one, despite having it prolonged due to a normal-for-these-parts tornado Wednesday evening.

“Everyone has been very receptive and very kind,” Weinberg said.

Tanemori looks forward to being invited back to speak to even more people. “I am grateful the reception we have received and also Oklahoma folks are much more eager to learn about Hiroshima, Nagasaki and who I am.”

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Sarah Hussain

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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