Back to School August 2018 Hiroshima, Japan


One of the most severe mudslides caused the highway to collapse into a pile of mud on top of the commuter train line below.

Schools in Japan typically operate on a trimester system, so it’s not the start of a new school year, but it is the end of summer vacation. August is when, according to Shinto tradition, the dead return en masse to the world of the living. But these imperialist ghosts are also joined in August in Hiroshima by the ghosts of the victims of the atomic bombs. The number of living hibakusha (atomic bomb victims) are declining along with the population of this country, which has suffered the slow burn of neo-liberalism since the 1980s Nakasone government.

The public high school where I work has only about 600 students now, compared to 1200 a quarter century ago. And the future of public schools here does not look good. In a picture typical of any system you might find globally where the government has been completely captured by capital, public infrastructure is allowed to crumble while school curriculum is reduced to the churn of human resources to feed the corporate machine.

As a more disturbing illustration of the damage global capital is doing to my local school district, I present the case of the landslides, and flooding which left some of the more mountainous areas outside of Hiroshima in chaos and cut some communities off almost completely from the rest of the country. As you can see in the video I’ve included, the main highway connecting Kure, the suburb where I live, to Hiroshima, where my school is located, has collapsed and what used to be the railway line below, is buried under several meters of mud and rock. At the beginning of the summer, my home, like many thousands of my neighbors’ homes, was without running water. We relied on military supply stations for drinking water and even laundry and bathing facilities

In short, this was my first direct experience with the extreme environmental harm wrought by global climate change. Like the levees in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, the drainage systems, roads and river bridges in our community just couldn’t withstand the onslaught of a super-storm. To hold capitalism responsible for such disasters doesn’t mean that I believe Sony or Mazda or Tepco or Ratheon or Amazon somehow ordered up this storm. It just means that these companies have too long held the human and environmental costs of their enterprises at arms-length as externalities or liabilities.

When the trains start running again, and as my commute time returns to normal in the next few weeks, I intend to teach about the connections between these seemingly disparate phenomena: mudslides, atomic bombs, and decaying schools.

Wide Island View » Blog Archive » The Usual Suspects: The Who’s Who of Your Karaoke Room

Wide Island View » Blog Archive » The Usual Suspects: The Who’s Who of Your Karaoke Room.  Excellent, hilarious article with beautiful illustrations in the WIV, a web-based periodical I have contributed to in the past…  I’ve been out of touch with the editors of the WIV, who have probably changed since I’ve been in Canada, but I’d love to get back into writing for this ezine.  To be completely honest, my contributions to the WIV are some of my best memories of my first 3 years in Hiroshima-ken.  Kudos to the WIV editors for keeping this puppy up and running.  The Tambourine Player Here are a few links to my favorite old-school WIV pieces, some of which were even published in the days before WIV appeared as a slick WordPress blog.

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