Nonoka Koga, an exchange student from Fukuoka, Japan, not far from Nagasaki where the atomic bomb was dropped, was shocked when she arrived at Richland High School, home of the “Bombers”, where she found the problematic school logo everywhere in school—a big “R” over a mushroom cloud.
To many Japanese people, especially to those from Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the atomic mushroom cloud is a reminder of those who lost their lives in the Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where the US dropped two atomic bombs during World War II. If Koga had spent the year in Japan rather than Richland, she would have participated in an annual peace day to learn about the devastation and terror of the atomic bombing of Japan, where it remains the only country in the world where the nuclear weapon was used by the States.
She told Tri-City Herald that she was expecting that there would be a school assembly to address such a serious subject, but that was not brought up.
According to The Seattle Times, in Richland, the mushroom cloud is a point of pride for many and a reminder for those who worked long hours on a secret mission to produce the plutonium for the atomic weapon dropped on Nagasaki, “helping to end the war”. “Proud of the cloud” is a familiar chant, and many seem to believe that the bombing of Japan was a right decision that was made.
Koga, who was not fluent in English when she first arrived to Richland High, was afraid that she would be bullied if she spoke up about this issue. She didn’t discuss her opinions about the cloud until the atomic bombing came up in her U.S. history class, but she was prompted to discuss her perspective with her photography class teacher, who encouraged to write a script and share her thoughts on the mushroom cloud with her classmates during a recent broadcast on ‘Atomic TV’, the high school’s morning announcement program.
On the program, she expressed that she had learnt about her classmates’ culture and history over the school year—and now, she wants to share some of her own.
Her grandparents lived about 30 miles from Kokura, where the atomic bomb with Hanford plutonium was planned to be dropped. But as the American plane carrying ”Fat Man” flew over Kokura, the cloud cover was heavy and the bomb was dropped to the backup site, Nagasaki.
“I am here today because of a cloudy day,” she said in the video.
Her grandparents were safe, but 80,000 Japanese civilians including children, women and men, who were unrelated to the war were killed in an instant, unjustly in Nagasaki.
“Should we have pride in killing innocent people?” she asked her peers in the video. “That cloud rising from the ground is made up of what is destroyed, the city and the people,” she continued, “I am not trying to change your mascot, but just to help you consider a perspective that is more personal”.
Koga heard there were some complaints after the video was broadcasted, but many people, students and teachers, told her they were proud of her for standing up and be bold enough to say something that some people disagree with.