Interview with Japanese peace activist and author, Satoko Oka Norimatsu


In August 2016, I had the good fortune to spend a couple days with American University’s educational tour of Nagasaki and other Japanese sites of historical interest. I met there the intrepid leader of the group, historian Peter Kuznick, and author Satoko Oka Norimatsu. We kept in touch afterwards, and in June 2018 I hosted Satoko for a guest lecture at the university where I teach, and I followed up this year with an interview she gave me from her home in Vancouver.

Satoko is on my most-respected persons list for several reasons. She is an activist, author, translator, researcher and tireless traveler in the pursuit of building peaceful relations between nations and conducting thorough inquiry into the legacies of war and imperialism. It is all the more admirable that she is self-made in these endeavors. She succeeded without an academic affiliation to back her up, and has simply always done what she felt she had to do in order to follow her principles wherever they led. She is particularly remarkable for her achievement in building bridges across borders and between Japanese-language and English-language literature on Asian studies. She is a true peace-builder and internationalist.

Much of Satoko’s English-language writing can be found on her blog and in the Asia-Pacific Journal, as well as in the book Resistant Islands, co-authored with Gavan McCormack. Her Japanese writing has been published in the Ryuku Shimpo (based in Okinawa) and in several books in which she was the author, co-author, editor or translator.

The interview that follows explains much more.

The interview was conducted in March, 2019


Dennis Riches (DR): Last year in the lecture you gave at the Center for Glocal Studies you talked a little bit about your personal background, how you came to Canada, and how you came became interested in history and its connection to contemporary events.

Satoko Norimatsu (SN): Yes, I talked about my high school days. I didn’t know much about history then, and particularly the history of the Japanese Empire, and I came to know a little bit about that history through my Asian friends at Pearson College. I was at Lester Pearson College in Victoria, Canada from 1982 to 1984, and it was a big surprise to know what the Japanese military did to the people of Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, etc.

DR: I think I had the same experience when I went to Japan. I thought much more seriously about world history after I left my country.

SN: Yes, I guess I hadn’t been looking for that kind of information, but one day my Philippino friend told me that he didn’t think he would meet anyone so nice from Japan. My Indonesian friend talked about the Japanese word romusha and I wondered why she would know that word. It was a term that referred to slave laborers. The Japanese Empire mobilized millions of Indonesian women and men, so they knew this term. And my Singaporean friend talked about the Japanese military’s massacre of people of Chinese descent in Singapore. She talked about such things as soldiers throwing up babies and stabbing them with bayonets—horror stories like that. So that that was the beginning of my learning about these things.

Then during those two years I was at Pearson College I came to know this book on the Japanese military’s Unit 731 by novelist Morimura Seiichi. It was a best-seller. The name of the book was Akuma no houshoku.[1] The Devil’s Gluttony would be the English translation, I think.

DR: So that was a best-seller in Japan?

SN: Yes, it was a best-seller. It was a surprise. It was a horrific book and it was published through a popular publisher Kobunsha in 1981. It really came as a shock to many readers. Unit 731 wasn’t a secret, but it was more like Iris Chang’s Rape of Nanking, in 1997.[2] Of course, the knowledge of the rape of Nanking was always there, but I think her work was groundbreaking in the sense that it really popularized the knowledge, particularly for anglophone readers. I think Morimura’s book played that kind of role.

DR: When did you start your own formal activities with your Peace Philosophy Centre (

SN: Around the end of 2006. It was really 2004 when I was invited to be part of the Article 9 group that was starting.[3] The local Article 9 group was started by some Japanese organic farmers and people who care about peace and the environment. Most of them were immigrants from Japan, and so about ten of us got together to start an Article 9 group. It was really inspired by the Article 9 group that started in Tokyo. They were nine prominent Japanese intellectuals who in 2004 organized a response to the then-Prime Minister Koizumi’s moves to change Article 9 and dispatch Japan’s Self-Defense Forces overseas in order to be a “normal country,” and to be a bigger contributor to the United States’ military campaigns.

DR: Yes, that was right after the Iraq war started.

SN: Right. That was in 2003, so there was increasing pressure on Japan to be a more positive contributor to the war, so Koizumi was really urging the parliament or the general public to change Article 9.

So this Article 9 group was in response to such moves and also it was an attempt to network with other groups. There were over 7,000 grassroots Article 9 groups throughout Japan, so it was also an attempt to network with those. We were pretty unique because we were outside of Japan. When we had the World Peace Forum back in 2006 at the University of British Columbia [Vancouver], there were about 300 people from Japan there—peace activists, anti-nuclear activists, hibakusha,[4] Peace Boat people, and so on. The conference itself had about 10,000 participants. That was sort of a turning point for me. Up to that point, I think I was pretty local. We had local events and we had film screenings—for example, John Junkerman’s film Japan’s Peace Constitution. Then in 2006, because of this conference, I got to know a lot of anti-nuclear activists and atomic bomb survivors, Japanese scholars, journalists, and activists who work in these fields, and that was when I met professor Atsushi Fujioka of Ritsumeikan University. I met professor Fujioka at the World Peace Forum and he invited me to be a translator for hibakusha that summer. Peter Kuznick and he had already been doing a study tour in Japan for ten years, and I was going to go there to attend a conference in Hiroshima about depleted uranium that year. Since I was in Hiroshima anyway, Professor Fujioka invited me to be a translator.

It was my first time to translate for an atomic-bomb survivor, and the hibakusha that I translated for was very famous. Her name was Yamaoka Michiko. She has passed away now, but she was one of the Hiroshima Maidens who had gone to the United States in the 1950s for plastic surgery.[5] I started getting to know more people in Japan and my activism now went beyond Vancouver.

DR: It sounds like your Article 9 group was in a good position to be a bridge between the Japanese-speaking world and the English-speaking world.

SN: Yes. We were just a small group, but we got a lot of attention. All these 300 Japanese activists were pleasantly surprised that there was an Article 9 group outside of Japan in Vancouver where this conference took place. It was a little overwhelming because we were just a small group. If we had been in Japan we would have been like any other small-town peace group. We just happened to be outside of Japan, so we got some attention.

DR: A few years later, while you were participating in Peter Kuznick’s study tour to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oliver Stone joined you and you all went to Okinawa as well.

SN: Yes. That was a lot later in 2013.

DR: How was that experience? I remember Oliver Stone got a lot of attention in the media in Japan because the famous film director was visiting these historic sites.

SN: Yes, there was a lot of attention in Hiroshima. First he came to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and then we went to Tokyo and Okinawa at the end. Oliver had always wanted to come to Hiroshima. Peter and Oliver had been working together for many years then, and they had just published their book, The Untold History of the United States. Peter was going to come to Hiroshima anyway. He goes there every year with students from American University in his study tour. That year we invited Oliver. We asked him to come to Hiroshima, and he said yes, and then we suggested he should come to Okinawa and he agreed. He ended up going to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Okinawa and also Jeju Island in Korea. He actually went to Korea before he came to Japan. I think it was a good experience. We published a book based on that experience and it turned out to be really successful.

DR: What was the title?

SN: Yoshi, sensou ni tsuite hanashi o shiyo. Senso no honsitsu ni tsuite hanashi o shiyo janaika! (Alright, Let’s Talk about the War. Let’s Talk about What War Really Is!)[6] It was published by Kinyobi in 2014.

DR: So you translated their talks and the whole experience of the tour into Japanese?

SN: Yes. My colleagues and I translated Peter and Oliver’s talks, our talks together, and also added my own writing and columns contributed by people who interacted with Oliver and Peter throughout the tour, including former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio and former Nago mayor Inamine Susumu, and it was a good compilation of different talks and essays.

DR: Recently you published another book: Okinawa wa koritsu shite inai (Okinawa is not Isolated).[7] Can you tell me about that book?

Okinawa is Not Isolated
(Okinawa wa koritsu shite inai)

SN: My involvement with Okinawa goes back to 2009 or so. I was part of the Article 9 movement, but I thought something was missing. Once I met an activist from Okinawa, at the 2006 World Peace Conference. His name was Onishi Teruo and we had a large conference on Article 9 and he was part of the conference. We, the panelists, spoke too long and he was going to speak about Okinawa at the end, but we ran out of time. The moderator asked him to talk about Okinawa for just one minute and he wasn’t happy about that. He just stood up and said he couldn’t talk about Okinawa for just one minute, and he refused to speak. It was very awkward in the room, and that was when I started thinking about Okinawa. I wondered what he was going to say and why he was so angry.

Ever since then, over these 13 years I have believed that it is Article 9 or the Constitution that we believed in that actually left Okinawa behind because Article 9, or the Peace Constitution as it is called, was not applicable to Okinawa under the U.S. military rule. By 1972, the Okinawan people wanted to be part of Japan again, not necessarily because they liked Japan or Japanese people, not because they wanted to be Japanese again, but because they wanted the democratic constitution. They wanted the Peace Constitution to apply to them so that they would be free from US military rule. Okinawa was a US territory, ruled by military-appointed governors, then high commissioners, between 1945 and 1972. But, with the so-called reversion that took place in 1972, the desired change didn’t happen. The US bases stayed there, just as they had stayed there after 1945. They were supposed to leave, but they never left.

DR: And Okinawa has such a disproportionate share of the US bases in Japan, too.

SN: That’s why I was ashamed of myself. Until then I wasn’t fully aware of the contradiction between Article 9 and the anpo jōyaku [Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan]. How could these two be compatible? It’s impossible. And why do we delude ourselves that they are compatible? We mainlanders, we who live outside of Okinawa, we can afford to tell ourselves that we are peaceful. We don’t have so many US bases. Most of us don’t see the bases from our backyards like Okinawans do. But these people in Okinawa cannot think that way. Every part of their lives is affected by the presence of US military bases, so I thought the Article 9 movement from then on, for me, was going to be about working for justice for Okinawa. Only then the Article 9 movement would be truly significant for me.

We can praise Article 9 in the way we want, but it’s at the expense of Okinawan people, the damage to their well-being. So that’s why I started writing about and translating works on Okinawan issues. In 2012, I published my first book on Okinawa which is the one co-authored with Gavan McCormack [Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States], and then I did the Japanese version of it, and there were Korean and Chinese versions that were published. I have also been writing for Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, and then the book with Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, and then this one (Okinawa Is Not Isolated) was published last year. This book is a result of three years of an international authors series published in the Okinawan newspaper Ryukyu Shimpo, from 2014 to the 2017.

This international authors’ column series called “Seigi e no sekinin (Responsibility for Justice)” actually is related to Oliver Stone’s visit in 2013. At the end of that year, the Okinawa governor at that time, Nakaima Hirokazu, gave approval for the reclamation of Henoko. That was a big shock to people who had tried to trust him and believe that he would oppose construction and he would not approve the reclamation of Henoko. But it happened, and it was a big shock, so I wanted to do something. My colleagues, Gavan McCormack, Joseph Gerson, and Peter Kuznick and I, wrote a statement together and then we got endorsement from many prominent people, including Oliver Stone, John Dower, Michael Moore, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, Ann Wright, Naomi Klein, Johan Galtung, and Karel van Wolferen. At the beginning of 2014 we came out with this statement with the signatures of all these prominent people, and that really became big news in Japan. NHK, Asahi and Kyodo reported on it, and of course it was big news in Okinawa too. For that we got an award from the Ryukyu Shimpo last year.

That action by 103 international authors, scholars, journalists and activists was preceded by Oliver and Peter’s visit to Okinawa in the summer of 2013. So after the Okinawa Statement action of January 2014, the Ryukyu Shimpo invited me to run an international authors series. I asked mostly the signers of this international action to write an article. I gave editorial advice and I also translated and edited. I did that for three years. So this book is the compilation of all these articles plus some original content.

DR: So you wrote the original content?

SN: Yes, and I wrote a small column about each author because not all the authors are known in Japan. I wanted to give some background and some personal story so that the readers would get to know the authors. I also added a special chapter on Daniel Ellsberg, with the two interviews that I did with him and some content from his new book The Doomsday Machine.[8] Two of his chapters were about Japan—about Iwakuni [in western Honshu, main island of Japan], about the fact that the nuclear weapons were deployed just off the coast of Iwakuni in the 1950s and 1960s. In all, there were forty authors who contributed to the book Okinawa Is Not Isolated. They were really high-profile authors, so I am hoping it will get more readers.

DR: You’ve travelled to Korea a few times. Could you tell me about your activities there?

SN: I went to Jeju Island last year and visited the people of Gangjeong village. It was the 70th anniversary of “4.3 Incident,” massacre of tens of thousands of people of Jeju by the South Korean authorities and anti-Communist groups backed by the United States, which started in 1948 and lasted for several years, even during and after the Korean War.

Last year, there were many events to commemorate the 70th anniversary, and I went to the 4.3 Museum in Jeju, and it was very moving and very painful history for me to learn. Jeju has also, of course, a history of Japanese invasion and many of the perpetrators of 4.3 massacre were those who had previously collaborated with the Japanese colonial rulers, so as a Japanese I feel responsible for this history.

DR: I think you mentioned in one of your articles that they commemorate the Nanjing Massacre there because that’s where the Japanese air raids were launched from.

SN: Exactly. I was so moved. I felt even ashamed. The people in Jeju have no responsibility for that. They had no control and people on Jeju were actually mobilized to work on the construction of the air base. They had no choice because they were under Japanese colonial rule, yet the current activists in Jeju express their regrets about their island having participated in this aggression. They are not just the local people of Jeju. There were Koreans from the mainland of Korea. Jeju activism is very international. One of their spokespersons is American, and there are also people from Taiwan. It’s a really international movement, yet they commemorate this history because they feel responsible for passing on the memory.

DR: Is there an essay in your book by Tim Shorrock? He’s done a lot of really good work on Korea.

SN: Especially on the 1980 Gwangju incident. I know Tim Shorrock and still he’s very active in reporting the truth about what’s happening Korean Peninsula and peace talks between the United States and the DPRK.[9]

DR: Especially the history of how Korea got divided after WWII. The South was established by the United States, using military and police officers who had collaborated with the Japanese. They became the South Korean government.

SN: Right.

DR: They fought communists in the South as well. It wasn’t as if communists were only in the North above that imaginary line imposed by the US State Department.

SN: Right. It’s so unfortunate that the majority of Japanese people don’t know that history. They think that North Korea is this evil regime that appeared from out of the blue suddenly in the 1990s, armed with nuclear weapons, and that they are bad people who abduct innocent citizens from Japan. That’s the sort of mainstream thinking in Japan. That’s really sad. This is why they cannot understand what’s happened in Jeju, and they cannot understand the most recent event which is the hundredth anniversary of the of the March 1st, 1919 independence movement that spread across the Korean Peninsula. There were a lot of memorial events and ceremonies across Korea, and in Japan, too. In big cities like Tokyo and Osaka there were some events, but it never becomes mainstream knowledge, particularly because of the hostility of the Abe government against both Koreas. It used to be always against North Korea but now South Korea too has become a big target of hate and anti-Korea propaganda since October 30th last year [2018] when the Korean supreme court ruled against Japanese corporations that used Korean forced labor.

I felt so bad that while the people of Jeju were commemorating the Nanjing massacre, people in Japan are even doubting the history at all. The Omura airport in Nagasaki was also a launch pad for the air attacks against Nanjing, but people in Nagasaki don’t know that. They mostly talk about their own suffering—except the small groups of people like those who are involved with Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum, one of the very few peace museums in Japan that are dedicated to remembering Japanese Empire’s colonial and imperial history.

DR: There is a parallel to Canada with the Dene indigenous people of Great Bear Lake. They found out many years later that they had helped haul the uranium which was used to make the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They felt horrible and they apologized for it, but mainstream Canadian society never had any guilt or even any awareness of Canada’s role in the atom bombs.

SN: I watched the film Village of Widows about that.

DR: Yes. That had a small viewing in Canada, but it never entered into mainstream consciousness or high school history lessons.

SN: Dene people had no responsibility, yet they felt responsible. I agree. It is a parallel.

DR: You told me last year that you got involved in lobbying the Canadian government to recognize the Nanjing Massacre.

SN: That goes back to 2015. That was when it all started. It wasn’t about the Nanjing Massacre. First it was about the comfort women statue.[10] There’s a group of people with Japanese ancestry, mostly immigrants from Japan, with a few Japanese Canadians, who are influenced by the Japanese government and right-wingers to oppose the erection of the comfort women statue. Partly because of their strong opposition, it didn’t happen, and then only three years later when the member of Canadian parliament Jenny Kwan tried to establish a Nanjing Massacre commemorative day, interestingly, it was almost exactly the same people—the ones who had opposed the comfort women statue—who gathered to oppose this.

DR: How many people are you talking about?

SN: The key committee members that they announce and make public are about ten to fifteen people, but they have been quite successful in getting the Japanese-speaking people, immigrants or Japanese people who are in Canada, to believe that it is a bad idea and it is anti-Japan, and would cause conflict between the Japanese and different ethnicities. Supposedly, Japanese children here in Canada would be bullied if this history were faced openly. They used the same reasoning to oppose both the comfort women statue and memorialization of the Nanjing Massacre. It’s a sort of a cookie cutter prototype that they use wherever there are such so-called “anti-Japan” movements.

DR: Right. You see the same talking points.

SN: I believe it is centrally controlled by the right-wing forces in Japan including the Japanese government and its diplomacy.

DR: What kind of reaction did Jenny Kwan get inside her own party (the NDP) or inside the Canadian government?

SN: I honestly don’t know too much. She tabled a motion in parliament on November 28, but it could not get the unanimous consent that it needed. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did talk about the importance of recognizing that date, the Nanjing Massacre, to remember that history, and he also said that this kind of memorial needs to be done in a true spirit of reconciliation.

DR: Did she have a lot of support for it from the Chinese-Canadian community?

SN: Not as much as she wanted, I believe, although the Chinese-language media in Canada gave the issue extensive coverage I understand. She was aiming at getting a hundred thousand signatures, but she ended up getting about 40,000 signatures. There’s not a lot of interest, I think. Ironically, those that appeared passionately interested in this issue were the opposition group that consisted of Japanese immigrants and Japanese Canadians, and the Japanese-language newspapers in Canada. I have not seen any mainstream Canadian media covering this, except The Globe and Mail which did an article on this issue in July last year. When Jenny Kwan’s motion was tabled and rejected last November, no Canadian mainstream media covered it to my knowledge. That kind of shows the low level of interest.

DR: I guess that there are differences in that community depending on where they come from—Taiwan, Hong Kong, or mainland China, for example.

SN: Right. The sentiment in Taiwan against the Japanese colonial period can be quite different compared to the sentiments of people from mainland China. I remember you and I had this discussion about the Nanjing memorial day before. You weren’t so sure about supporting an official commemorative day. You weren’t sure about associating Nanjing with the other five examples of officially recognized genocides because a couple of those memorializations were quite politically motivated and still controversial. The move to create a Nanjing Massacre Memorial Day is partly politically motivated as well, I believe, but my main motive was really to oppose the opposition to it. I thought it was so shameful for the people with Japanese ancestry to actively oppose this commemorative day and especially knowing that not a few, or many of those people in opposition, were not just opposing the creation of a Memorial Day, but they were actually denying the history itself.

DR: Yes. Or they argue about the number of victims.

SN: I heard them say many times, “Oh, you know, the Nanjing Massacre supposedly happened 80 years ago,” hinting that it actually didn’t happen. They actually want to say that it didn’t happen, but if they are not brave enough to say that they say, “Oh, there’s so little evidence, and it’s something that happened 80 years ago in the distant past, on the other side of the earth. How can we be so sure that it actually happened?” With the nationalistic motivation, they deny history, and oppose this commemorative day. That is really what bothered me.
DR: I always think it’s unfortunate that people cannot just say let’s have an open historical study about these issues between all the countries involved, and honestly resolve all these historical issues and talk about it openly. I very seldom hear people saying that. They get defensive about their own interpretation of history, but they don’t even want to open it to an honest inquiry.

SN: People in the opposition don’t want to know the history. They don’t want to learn, and of course we can have a debate or discussion, or academic inquiry about this history, but we need to accept that the Nanjing Massacre happened. There’s no doubt that it happened, and though we never know the exact number of victims, serious scholars have come to conclude that that the number of the victims is in the proximity of two hundred thousand. It could be as many as 300,000. It could be even more. We don’t know, but 200,000 is a reasonable estimate. This is why I can tolerate it if Canadians choose not to have a Canadian national commemoration of this event, but I just could not tolerate the denial of history.

That really motivated me to have this commemorative event on December 10th last year at the Roundhouse Community Center in Vancouver. We remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki every year. Our group has an atomic bomb exhibit every year. So why don’t we remember the Nanjing Massacre every year? We have done it before, but we don’t do that every year. So I thought maybe that just shows that we’re not putting as much emphasis on the Nanjing Massacre or comfort women, or these uncomfortable or inconvenient histories of Japan. If we really want to describe ourselves as peace activists or pacifists, it is really the dark side of our own history that we should be looking at before we look at the other side of history.

What should I say? The German people admit the Holocaust happened. I’m sure there’s some debate about the scale of it, but of course it happened, and they learn about it. They don’t deny it. And they also carry the memory of their civilians being killed in Hamburg and Dresden, and German women raped by Russians. So those German descendants of victims of course know what happened, but they don’t necessarily go around the world emphasizing that part of history without even talking about the Holocaust. But that’s what the Japanese are doing. They’re travelling around the world talking about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, translating Barefoot Gen,[11] talking about how we were the only ones victimized by atomic bombing, and we have a pure mission in the world to tell the horrors of the nuclear weapons and suffering of the hibakusha. Of course, that’s important, and we need to remember ten to twenty percent of the victims of these bombings were Koreans, who would not have been in Japan if it were not for colonization, but most of Japanese people are so oblivious to the seventy-year history of Japan’s empire, which killed tens of millions of people. So it’s like they’re focusing on a relatively small portion of their history, and I just don’t think it’s right. Some peace activism outside of Japan plays into this.

DR: I’ve criticized peace activism too for focusing too much on nuclear weapons. Everyone wants to eliminate nuclear weapons, of course, but you also have to talk about militarism and Cold War history, and I’ve never heard of many Chinese or Russian citizens welcomed into the Western anti-nuclear movement. And many of the Western NGOs have been affected by government sponsorship or cooperation, so Chinese and Russian activists, not to mention their governments, are wary of them. The role of US empire and overseas military bases is ignored. I don’t see how we could eliminate nuclear weapons without first addressing the concerns of China, Russia and North Korea. They want to keep a nuclear deterrent against this overwhelming American conventional military lined up against them. So I think that’s one reason we don’t talk about these things.

This next question is a little bit outside of what you’ve studied before, but I’m just interested in your opinion as a Canadian resident watching current events. What’s going on with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government? He’s got a few problems on his hands. He’s supporting the American move to demonize the Chinese high-tech company Huawei. He’s going along with the war that’s being generated against Venezuela. And he’s caught in a scandal for interfering with the work of the attorney general in a very important case. What do you see happening?

SN: In general, I’m very disappointed. It is just like in the United States. Whether it is Republican or Democrat, they may have some differences in domestic policies, but when it comes to foreign policy, it is really the military-industrial complex that both parties serve, and I think it is the same in Canada. Whether it’s Conservative or Liberal, the foreign policy and military policy are almost the same. Trudeau’s absolute obedience to the United States and NATO is utterly disappointing to me. I thought in the past Canada could be an example for Japan. For example, in 2003, Prime Minister Jean Chretien refused to be part of the coalition against Iraq. There were some instances before when Canada took some visibly independent actions, but I haven’t seen any of that lately. Justin Trudeau has been pressured to increase military spending, and he’s sent troops to Latvia, just to be part of the NATO forces to pose a threat to Russia.

DR: And now they’re taking a leading part in this Lima Group that has formed against Venezuela.

SN: Yes, exactly. The Venezuela case is so hard to believe. How could anyone be led to think that it’s OK just to replace a democratically chosen president with someone that no one knew before, someone that’s associated with some kind of intelligence work. I don’t know why this man Guaido appeared. Where did he come from?

It’s the same in Syria, Iraq, North Korea and Libya. We are told there’s this devil-like dictator that we have to get rid of in order to install democracy and freedom, to provide humanitarian aid, and people are just so easily fooled into believing this—even peace activists, even the otherwise liberally-inclined. People are just so easily brought into that belief.

I’ve had some disagreements about Donald Trump because most American liberals and Canadian liberals love to hate Trump. Of course, Trump has done terrible things, like emboldening hate within the U.S., and right now the warmongering against Iran and Venezuela. But when you look at what’s happening on the Korean Peninsula, with the ongoing peace talks with Kim Jong-un, I can’t believe that that would have ever happened with Hillary Clinton.

I think people need to understand the complexity around this issue. It’s not like Trump is an absolute evil, but people like to treat him that way and just feel good about hating everything he does, and just be oblivious to the reality that both major parties in United States and Canada are indeed servants of the military-industrial complex.

There was an issue that our group took action on early in 2016, after Japan’s Abe government passed its new national security bill to effectively get rid of Article 9 and enable the SDF to fight any war hand-in-hand with the United States. That security bill was officially endorsed by the Canadian foreign minister at the time, Stephane Dion, and that was when we got really angry and we wrote a protest letter to Stephane Dion and Justin Trudeau. That was early in the Trudeau government, early 2016.

So, to answer your question, I’m very disappointed with Trudeau’s foreign policy. The policy toward Israel, too. Recently he criticized the BDS movement as being anti-Semitic. It’s just such simplistic thinking. Does he ever give any thought to the suffering of Palestinians?

Now this young American Congresswoman, a black Muslim woman, has been a target of really unfair bashing just because she said what is actually true. The Israeli and Jewish lobby has a big influence on American policy. She got heavily criticized just for talking about it.

DR: Finally, to finish the interview, I’ll ask you what you have planned for the year ahead. What’s your next project or your next trip?

SN: I’m going to North Korea for the first time this summer [2019]. This is my next project.

DR: Who will you go with?

SN: I’m going with a few of my friends including a Zainichi-Korean [Japanese-born Korea] friend. We are going to use a travel agency that specializes in trips to North Korea. We’re going to have to go through Beijing. It’s going to be quite expensive because of the sanctions. I still have hope for the ongoing Korean peace talks. Trump could have one more year left in his presidency, and I hope that at least they will get to conclude peace talks by having a peace treaty or an end of the war, or a guarantee of security from the United States to North Korea. I really hope that it will happen. I want to see history. I want to see North Korea, and we have a great opportunity, so I’m going to write about it. Also, since we received this award from the Ryukyu Shimpo for our years of work of raising international awareness of oppression in Okinawa, we want to use the prize money in a way that will enhance more international awareness of Okinawa. We hope it will help reduce or eliminate US military presence from Okinawa. So I’m thinking of different ideas.

DR: In North Korea, do you have any contacts lined up there? Who will you be able to speak to?

SN: We will have an official guide and we will be sightseeing and going to museums. We’re still planning, but I’ve been told that we’ll be pretty free. Of course, it’s not like we can go anywhere in the country, but we have been told that we will be free to just talk to anyone. We are not allowed to take photographs of soldiers and weapons, but I have been told we have a lot of freedom as tourists otherwise.

DR: I would think that with your resume of all your publications and your research work, maybe some North Korean officials would be interested in meeting you.

SN: I don’t know. My friend also suggested I should meet atomic bomb victims or comfort women victims who are in North Korea, and I thought I would be really honored to meet those people if that could happen.

DR: But you have skills as a writer and a journalist, and I think you could be an interesting person to bring stories from there to the outside world.

SN: I’m going to find out because yes, I’ll be writing about my trip anyway and publishing.

DR: OK. Well, we’ve spoken for over an hour, so we should end the interview here. Thanks for talking with me today.

SN: You’re welcome. Thank you.


[1] 森村 誠一 悪魔の飽食日本細菌戦部隊の恐怖の実像! (角川文庫, 1983). Morimura, Seiichi, Akuma no houshoku (Kadokawa, 1983). Originally published by Kobunsha in 1981.

[2] Iris Chang, The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II (Basic Books, 1997).

[3] Article 9 refers to Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan that was enacted in 1947 by the Allied Occupation Forces. Under Article 9, “Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
[4] Hibakusha is the Japanese term for persons affected by nuclear bombs or radiation poisoning.

[5] For more about the Hiroshima Maidens, see Robert Jacobs, “Reconstructing the Perpetrator’s Soul by Reconstructing the Victim’s Body: The Portrayal of the ‘Hiroshima Maidens’ by the Mainstream Media in the United States,” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 24, June 2010.

[6] オリバー・ストーン, ピーター ・カズニック, 乗松 聡子, よし、戦争について話をしよう. 戦争の本質について話しをしようじゃないか!金曜日 (Yoshi, sensou ni tsuite hanashi o shiyo. Senso no honsitsu nit suite hanashi o shiyo janaika!), Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick and Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Alright, Let’s Talk about the War. Let’s talk about What War Really Means (Kinyobi, 2014).

[7] 乗松 聡子, 沖縄は孤立していない (世界から沖縄への声、声、声。) (金曜日, 2018). Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Okinawa wa kouritsu shite inai. Okinawa is Not Isolated (Kinyobi, 2018).

[8] Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017).

[9] See reports by Tim Shorrock at

[10] This euphemistic term “comfort women” refers to women who were forced into prostitution throughout the Japanese Empire during wartime.

[11] Keiji Nakazawa, Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima (New Society, 1986).

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