Parallel Worlds in the Antiwar Movement in Japan

By Sumie SATO, World BEYOND War, 1 June 2023


Sato is a member of World BEYOND War’s Japan Chapter.

One week has passed since the G7 Hiroshima Summit ended. On Sunday, May 20, I, as a mother and citizen of the democratic nation of Japan, expressed my message of nuclear abolition in a bicycle caravan protest in Hiroshima along with other members of the WBW Japan Chapter.

We had many online discussions in advance to become acquainted with each other and planned for the event. None of us were entirely sure how the caravan would turn out as we kept hearing in the news that local restrictions were getting tighter and tighter as the day neared.

May 19th, the day before the caravan, I definitely got a taste of the traffic restrictions as I was suddenly stranded for over an hour without warning in Hiroshima City. I saw in front of me several police cars and motorcycles passing by slowly and behind them were black cars with “some important people” on board. We had no choice but to endure the sudden restrictions. The following day, as we rode bicycles through the city, it felt like a ghost town with very few people despite the weekend. The citizens of Hiroshima had been advised repeatedly prior to the weekend to refrain from unnecessary outings due to the traffic restrictions.

In this report, I, as a citizen of Japan, would like to share with the readers what I felt and thought about the G7 Hiroshima Summit based on some media coverage and articles I came across. For a full and comprehensive report on the caravan action, please read the article written by Joseph Essertier, the Coordinator of the WBW Japan Chapter.

After the caravan action, and 24 hours of reflection on the event, members of the WBW Japan Chapter exchanged thoughts and we all agreed that engaging in a direct action had been positive and meaningful. I participated with my whole family, and I believe that people carrying messages and exercising their rights to freedom of expression in a public space, which is a sight rarely seen in this democratic nation of Japan, left an impression upon my children. At the same time, however, I was made acutely aware once again that the response of Japanese society to the G7 Hiroshima Summit was far from what I had hoped. Very few people around me took an interest in the G7 Hiroshima Summit, and all I saw through the media were reports from experts and intellectuals who discussed in all seriousness Japan’s military buildup in line with other G7 countries, while the general public were constantly showered with festive images and gossip about events taking place during the G7 summit as if celebrities were in town. Unfortunately, such was typical of the news coverage that I saw.

Although there were high hopes for great progress toward nuclear abolition, the closing of the conference was greeted by such comments as “It is unacceptable for Hiroshima, a place where an atomic bomb was dropped, to send out a message that affirms its own nuclear weapons and only condemns those of opposing nations.” These words were from Setsuko Thurlow, the atomic bomb survivor. “My hopes were shattered”—voices like this from Hiroshima indicated that the outcome of the summit was hardly satisfactory, to say the least. I then came across an article that described Setsuko Thurlow’s statement as “self-contradictory nonsense” and that wished that the visits to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum made by leaders of the world, in the author’s words, “would be a butterfly effect that would avert nuclear war.”

Why is it that the voices for nuclear abolition have failed so miserably to reach the leaders of the world?

In Japan, since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the mass media has continued to propagate narratives of the war against Russia disseminated by the U.S., without a thorough discussion of the origins of the war, and this has largely shaped public opinion. However, if we look at the war in Ukraine from a perspective that is not reported in the major media in the U.S. and mostly Western countries, a different story, of a U.S.-led proxy war (and its military industry) emerges. I believe that what is happening in the world today is the emergence of a parallel universe, i.e., two worlds with different interpretations of history that do not intersect, and that this parallel universe is causing a twist in the anti-war movement.

I will give an example. A press conference was held before the opening of the G7 Hiroshima summit titled “Ceasefire Now.” It was led by people like Kenji ISEZAKI, former Special Envoy of Japanese Government for DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration) in Afghanistan and others who, though they represent a minority view, have consistently made it their top priority since the beginning of the war to create a negotiating table and save human lives. And, as we saw in the question-and-answer session at the press conference, there are those in the audience who question the ceasefire and claim that we should not ignore Ukrainian people’s desire to fight for their homeland. This view is shared by many people in the West, especially in the U.S., where Russia is viewed as the root of all evil. In other words, they insist that they will continue to fight Russia no matter how many lives are sacrificed and cannot let the evil Russia have its way. Against such evil, the possession of nuclear weapons will serve as a deterrent, in their view. In fact, this rhetoric was used at the G7 nations to justify the possession of nuclear weapons. This rhetoric of deterrence has often been used to justify Japan’s military expansion against “the threat” of China. The argument that the possession of nuclear weapons and arms buildup are justified in order to fight evil is the opposite of what an anti-war movement should be about.

The anti-war movement has always rejected all wars. However, in today’s world governed by a parallel universe, we are witnessing a twisted situation where even many of the anti-war activists are pushing for more arms support and continuation of war, in order to fight for peace.

We all want peace.

Do we achieve peace by rejecting war, pushing for nuclear abolition, and engage through dialogue in order to build mutual understanding? Or do we achieve peace by arming ourselves, by relying on deterrence through the possession of nuclear weapons, and inciting fear?

If I had to choose who I want for my neighbor, I, as a mother, would choose the former.

I will continue to reject all wars for the sake of peace.

I will continue to imagine and take action towards creating a world beyond war.

Simply because there is no other way.

Now the task we have in front of us is to figure out how we can, through dialogue and non-violent direct actions, prevent this parallel world from falling apart even more.



5月20日(日)、私は母として、民主国家日本の一有権者として、核廃絶のメッセージをWorld BEYOND War日本支部のメンバーと共に現地広島で自転車キャラバンという抗議行動で表明してきました。



抗議行動の振り返りはWBW支部局長のエサティエ ジョセフさんが記事にしてくださいました。私はG7広島サミットに関する幾つかの記事をもとに閉幕後に感じたこと思ったことを皆さんと共有したいと思います。










私は戦争のない世界 (World BEYOND War)を想像し創造する為に行動し続けます。


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