The following reflection is a guest post written by Stanford e-Hiroshima alum Rio Sasaki, who served as one of three high school peace messengers from Hiroshima Prefecture in 2021–22.
Hello. I am Rio Sasaki, a 19-year-old woman living in Hiroshima, Japan. Today, I want to share about my experience as a Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger.
Do you know the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messengers program? It was started in 1998, and since then, Peace Messengers have visited the United Nations every year to appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of a peaceful world. Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messengers collect signatures against war and do peace-promoting operations. We have submitted more than one million signatures so far. We visited the UN Headquarters in New York City, the United States, until 1999, and since 2000 we have been visiting the UN Office at Geneva, Switzerland, where the Conference on Disarmament will be held.
Last year, in my third year of high school, I was chosen as a Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger. The reason why I wanted to be a Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger was because my grandparents are hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) and I wanted to tell the truth of their story to posterity as the last generation that can hear the voice of hibakusha. Moreover, I was inspired by the story of a young woman who fought to protect democracy in Hong Kong. Then I thought to myself, “I want to make a difference in the world, too.”
The most shocking event in my year as a Peace Messenger was the world suddenly being in a situation in which nuclear weapons may be used in war. We—the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messengers—held urgent fundraising activities for Ukraine and collected signatures against the war. After that, we went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo with the signatures we collected and handed them to State Minister for Foreign Affairs Odawara. Then, I conversed with Prime Minister Kishida at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum as a Youth Communicator for a World without Nuclear Weapons. I did not think an ordinary high school student like me would have a chance to talk to the prime minister of a country. I was very nervous, but it became a memorable day for me. In this way, my experience as a Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger had a huge effect on my life. Photo to the right: Rio Sasaki in Nagasaki speaking as a peace messenger.
I participated in the Stanford e-Hiroshima program when I was in the first year of high school and learned about the United States and the world. Being able to finish this curriculum lent me great confidence. In particular, my life changed by meeting my Stanford e-Hiroshima instructor, Mr. Rylan Sekiguchi. I challenged myself to become a Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger when I was a second-year high school student, but I was not chosen and felt very discouraged. However, Mr. Rylan encouraged me to keep my chin up. The next year, I applied a second time, and I was chosen. If it had not been for Mr. Rylan’s support, I wouldn’t be who I am. Participating in Stanford e-Hiroshima and meeting Mr. Rylan Sekiguchi were extremely important events in my life.
I am now a first-year student at Hiroshima City University majoring in International Studies. Moving forward, I hope to continue advocating for peace in my community and around the world. From now on, I plan to polish my English skills to continue promoting peace activities to the world.