Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Japan hosted a series of Peace Design Forums, first at the Hatagaya Kumin Kaikan on August 8, 2023, and a second at Hikari Juku Common Contact on September 5, both in Shibuya, Tokyo. The forums helped bring people together from different nationalities and cultures living in Japan to consider “Peacebuilding Together in Asia.”
Both events kicked off with a taiko performance by Takeshi Chiyozono, a traditional Japanese drummer whose producer shared how he started his career with the hopes of bringing hope and joy to Japan through the energy of traditional Japanese drums. Naturally, he wanted to share this joy with the rest of the world and has performed in Taiwan, Seoul, and the Philippines. His performance at the forums helped remind all those in attendance that music does indeed help break down barriers of religion, race, and nationality.
Emanuel Pastreich, the president of the Asia Institute and a senior fellow at Global Peace Foundation, gave a presentation at both forums on the key to peacebuilding in Asia, especially in Northeast Asia, which will require the unity of the Korean Peninsula. He mentioned that a united Korea based on a culture of peace would not only benefit the peninsula but would likely consist of a new constitution, which in effect, could impact Japan, China, and even America to revise their constitutions towards peace.
The main presentations were given by Aya Goto, representative director of GPF Japan. He started his talks by explaining how peace must not only be built, but that it also requires “designing.” Some people may consider war as a means towards peace, but as seen in Ukraine, Goto said that “once war starts, it is very difficult to end.” He went on to share how wars and conflicts are mainly due to differences in identity and that the Global Peace Foundation is focused on diffusing identity-based conflict. He explained that peace requires understanding these differences instead of pointing fingers because of them, and thus, revealed that peacebuilding is actually about building good human relations. Goto further explained that the current division on the Korean Peninsula is precisely a matter of identity-based conflict, which has led to more than 5 million casualties. Therefore, in order to build peace on the peninsula, he said that there needs to be an adequate strategy or “design” of peace.
In the first forum, Eiko Kawasaki, representative director of Action for Korea United and a North Korea defector, shared her life testimony. She explained that while growing up in Japan, she was fed the propaganda that North Korea was “paradise on earth” which led her to join the repatriation program. However, the moment she set foot in the North, she realized the unbearable truth: that there was no freedom and liberty whatsoever in that country. She went on to share the dire situation of the people living in the North and expressed her gratitude to those in attendance for taking interest in building peace in the region.
Shogo Okuyama, producer of the movie Jun Ai, a joint production between Japan, China, and Korea, shared how he currently feels that it is one of his roles to support the Korean Dream in building a united Korea. He expressed how it was his dream to bring people of different backgrounds together through his passion for filmmaking. By making the film Jun Ai, he has seen the impact the film has made on spectators’ lives: how their “identity” has changed to where they can see other people as human beings. He went on to say that we all share a common theme as human beings: pure love.
He expressed that he would like to share this message together with the Global Peace Foundation.
Hiroko Hasegawa, singer and director of the documentary Ikitahi, offered a couple of songs of peace to conclude the first forum: a theme song dedicated to the recovery of the Tohoku region (affected by the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011) and Amazing Grace. Before her songs, she talked about the reason why she created her documentary, which was a film recording moments of her husband’s life, from their wedding to his passing. She shared that every human being cannot avoid death, so why should people die in war hating each other’s differences? She pondered the question that if people could understand the greatest commonality between them is death, then perhaps people could come together and create peace (in order to pass away in peace).
The second forum included Takashi Nigorikawa, professor emeritus at Rikkyo University, who followed Goto’s presentation, explaining that differences in identity must be acknowledged in order to create a common identity. He compared this with music and how music is the harmony of different sounds, which first must be acknowledged before they can flow together to create melodies. Differences among people, he explained, are necessary as part of diversity, and by coexisting together, people can form harmony. He went on to mention that the basis for diversity to coexist has to be spirituality. Raising spirituality amongst people, he explained, will strengthen the bond that will allow diversity to coexist peacefully.
After Nigorikawa’s talk, Yoji Gomi, a journalist and expert on the Korean Peninsula, shared his experiences and how he feels there is a real drive towards unification of the peninsula at GPF, which he does not get a sense of at conferences organized by other groups. He was especially impressed with the vision of “hongik-ingan” and that we must all focus on a common goal, instead of just our differences.
Overall, the events were a success in helping those in attendance not only see the ideals of peace, but by sharing testimonies and experiences, it also opened their eyes in how they can help “design” peace in the Northeast Asian region.