It was in 2020 that I participated in the Stanford e-Hiroshima Program. I was 16, a first-year student at Hiroshima Prefectural Hiroshima Kokutaiji Senior High School. I had wanted to study abroad since I was a junior high school student in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted my whole high school life. However, moving to Hiroshima Prefecture and being chosen to be a part of the Stanford e-Hiroshima Program—one of the amazing regional online courses run by the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE)—was a watershed in my life.
In the Stanford e-Hiroshima Program, I felt extremely privileged to have been given a chance to learn from leaders and experts who are at the forefront of various fields in the United States. This enabled me to ask questions to the experts directly, which fully enriched my understanding of the lectures. The opportunity to discuss ideas with other participants via Zoom and the online discussion boards helped me deepen my knowledge, as well. The lessons on “Peace Education,” “Diversity,” and “Entrepreneurship and Silicon Valley” interested me the most.
After completing the Stanford e-Hiroshima Program, I became more interested in studying peace. As I realized the difference in peace awareness between Hiroshima and Japan’s other prefectures, I strongly began to think that I wanted to be a person who could spread peace and take action by myself, not just study peace.
In my second year of high school, I was chosen as one of the participants in the 6th Hiroshima Junior International Forum and exchanged ideas about global peace, peacebuilding, and the abolishment of nuclear weapons with participants from 14 countries. We also collaborated in formulating the “Hiroshima Declaration.”
As a student attending the high school closest to ground zero of the atomic bombing, I strongly felt the horror and inhumanity of nuclear weapons. War should never be repeated again, and peace is not something to be taken for granted. We should increase awareness for peace, and it must be maintained with efforts to achieve a peaceful world without nuclear weapons.
Putting words into action, last year, in my third year of high school, I decided to become a Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger. I was very happy that I was chosen as one of three high school students to represent Hiroshima Prefecture in the 25th cohort of Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messengers. Now, I have been a Peace Messenger for a year, and I have gained many precious and insightful experiences that I will cherish forever.
The key activity of the Peace Messengers each year is to collect signatures for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of a peaceful world. We deliver the signatures to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in Geneva, Switzerland, and give a speech during the Conference on Disarmament. Although the 23rd to 25th Peace Messenger cohorts were not able to visit the United Nations (UN) due to the pandemic, my successors, the 26th cohort of Peace Messengers made it this year to the UN to deliver about 600,000 signatures collected from 2020 to August 2023. I was delighted and honored to be a part of this activity. Now the Peace Messengers have collected more than 2,600,000 signatures in total for over 20 years, and we have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize since 2018.
Because of COVID-19, the 25th cohort of Peace Messengers wasn’t able to perform our normal activities like visiting the UN. Instead, we went to Tokyo and visited several places significant to peace activities, including several foreign embassies. I was able to talk with Consul Stephan Heisler of the Austrian Embassy. It was the first time for the Peace Messengers to make such a visit. Having a discussion with the Consul, I learned that Austria is one of the pioneers in working for world peace, and under the Austrian constitution, Austria will never use and develop nuclear weapons. In addition, Austria has a resolute position in terms of nuclear power. Austrian citizens have a high awareness of peace, and they never allow their government to use nuclear power plants. Moreover, Austria has friendly relations with its neighboring countries, so it doesn’t have to rely on nuclear weapons or the nuclear umbrella. Through this visit, I realized that each nation has different historical backgrounds, situations, and issues to take into consideration for peace building.
We also visited Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and met with Deputy General Shigeki Ito to submit 11,119 signatures and a letter requesting further peace initiatives in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I hope that Japan—the only country in the world to have ever suffered atomic bombings—will lead the way to a nuclear-free world.
Moreover, this year in March, I proposed and coordinated a peace activity with Ms. Maya Mizuno, whom I met through the Stanford e-Hiroshima Program. She works at the United Nations University for Peace (UPEACE) in Costa Rica. She traveled to Japan to give a peace education workshop to my fellow Peace Messengers. My peers and I learned about holistic peace education and peace and conflict studies. I was able to study actively by thinking logically—not emotionally—about why peace is so important and why wars and conflicts are evil. I was very happy that the workshop went well. We all had a very valuable experience actively learning and discussing peace.
I believe that peace varies from person to person and it cannot be defined exactly. Peace Messengers normally conduct peace activities for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but Ms. Mizuno’s workshop gave me a new perspective. It was great to learn about other peace-building projects to address issues such as gender equality, human rights, poverty, the environment, etc., and many kinds of approaches such as music, the arts, group work, and so on.
This year in May, the G7 Summit was held in Hiroshima. Eager to support this important event, I applied for a job. I was glad to be able to land the job and took part as a staff member at the International Media Center of the G7 Hiroshima Summit 2023. I experienced the frontiers of world media and its effect on the world first-hand. This was an experience I will not forget for the rest of my life.
Needless to say, as a Peace Messenger, I give priority to talking to hibakusha, atomic bomb survivors. Their average age is now 85, and I, being a part of the last generation to listen to their testimonies directly, hope to continue conveying their voices to future generations and around the world. I would like to help keep their memories alive and prevent their testimonies of war and the atomic bombings from fading away. Also, I will bear in mind the slogan of the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messengers, “Our efforts are humble but not powerless.” Although my tenure as a Peace Messenger is now officially over, I intend to continue taking part in various peace activities, contributing to achieving world peace, and striving to be a global citizen in the future.
I am now studying in Malaysia, a multi-ethnic country. My university, Monash University Malaysia (MUM), has students from 76 countries. Here I am able to build a diverse network of people. By gaining cross-cultural understanding, an international outlook, language skills, and a high level of expertise, I hope to become someone who is both globally minded and active in international society, working to solve international issues and contributing positively to Japan and the world. I believe that it will bring significance and fulfillment into my life.
Last but not least, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to Stanford e-Hiroshima instructor and my mentor, Mr. Rylan Sekiguchi, for his unwavering support, the many guest lecturers in the Stanford e-Hiroshima Program, SPICE, and all the people supporting the activities of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Messengers.