Capt. Orval Amdahl of Lanesboro (left), returning the sword to Mr. Tadahiro Motomura of Nagasaki at a 2013 ceremony in Saint Paul with translator Ben van Lierop at center.
Photo courtesy of Caren Stelson.
Touching stories of reconciliation after World War II
Lanesboro Arts is proud to present In Peace, With Honor, a multi-disciplinary arts and cultural program designed to connect Minnesotans of all ages with both historical and contemporary stories of war, peace and reconciliation through films, literary events, art and history exhibitions, discussions, and educational activities from September 21 through September 30 in Lanesboro. Developed in partnership with Minnesota author Caren Stelson, In Peace, With Honor utilizes art and cultural exchanges as a platform for storytelling, understanding and reconciliation.
On September 21, 2013, Lanesboro resident and WWII veteran Capt. Orval Amdahl returned a handcrafted Japanese World War II sword, a war trophy he had taken from Nagasaki with U.S. government permission, to the son of the Japanese soldier who originally owned it. With the help of the Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee, the Amdahl family and the Motomura family of Nagasaki were brought together at Como Park in Saint Paul. Over 300 people came to witness this moving example of peace and reconciliation, many of them Lanesboro friends.
Caren Stelson interviewed Orval Amdahl in fall 2012, while researching her book, “Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story.” After the interview, Orval said, “Can I show you something?” He brought out the Japanese sword he had been oiling for decades. Amdahl told Stelson, “I want to give this back in peace, with honor.” With those words, a journey to return the sword began.
Amdahl’s story attracted attention on an international scale, a symbol of peace and reconciliation between two nations and two peoples. A presentation and discussion about the return of the sword with the Amdahl family, Stelson and JoAnn Blatchley of the Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 21, the International Day of Peace, at the St. Mane Theatre.
The Return of the Sword presentation and discussion is an opportunity to honor veterans while sharing the story of the sword more broadly and deeply in the greater Lanesboro area. The event will serve as a powerful starting point for 10 days of programs that include the “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” documentary film and companion art exhibit at the St. Mane Theatre.
“Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard,” produced by Shizumi Shigeto Manale and directed by documentary filmmaker Bryan Reichhardt, tells the story of a collection of surprisingly joyful drawings created in 1947 by school children living among the ruins of Hiroshima. After hearing of the dismal conditions of the Hiroshima schools, the congregation of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, D.C., shipped art and school supplies to Hiroshima for the children’s use. In 1948, the children’s drawings were sent from Hiroshima to the Washington, D.C., church as a thank-you for the materials, then displayed around the country with funds from the U.S. government. When the pictures were returned to the church, they were stored away for safekeeping for nearly five decades. In 1995, the children’s drawings were rediscovered and their story was slowly pieced together. Melvin Hardy, then All Souls Church’s administrator, and other church members formed a group to restore and reframe the pictures. In 2006, Shizumi Shigeto Manale visited the church and viewed the children’s pictures. Inspired by the story behind the pictures, Shigeto Manale returned to her home city of Hiroshima to reunite the student artists, now in their 70s and 80s, with their original drawing and to produce a film that reflects on war, peace, and hope. Prints of the original drawings on loan from All Souls Church Unitarian will be on display in the St. Mane Theatre lobby before events and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on September 21-23 and 28-30. Shigeto Manale and Melvin Hardy will be in Lanesboro for a discussion about the drawings and film following a public screening of the “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard” documentary at the St. Mane Theatre on Saturday, September 30, at 7:30 p.m.
A history exhibition called From War to Reconciliation will also be on display in the upper level studio space of the St. Mane Theatre from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on September 21-23 and 28-30. Developed by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Halls for atomic bomb victims, the exhibition will be presented in Lanesboro, on loan from the Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committee. The exhibit includes 47 posters that tell the difficult history of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the closing days of World War II. From the atomic blast, to survival, to recovery, to a call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, this exhibition will remind all who visit that the world must never again experience nuclear war.
On Saturday, September 23, at 2 p.m. at Lanesboro Arts Gallery, Stelson will read from, and share a presentation about, her new book “Sachiko: A Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Story.” Her book is a striking work of narrative nonfiction that tells the true story of six-year-old Sachiko Yasui’s survival of the Nagasaki atomic bomb on August 9, 1945, and the heartbreaking and lifelong aftermath. Having conducted extensive interviews with Sachiko Yasui, Stelson chronicles Yasui’s long journey toward peace. This special book offers readers a remarkable new perspective on the final moments of World War II, the 50 years that followed, and the courage it took for one woman to tell her story of nuclear war and peace. Stelson is also sharing a presentation on the book with students from Lanesboro Public Schools at the Lanesboro Public Library on the morning of Friday, September 22.
Finally, community members are invited to join Stelson, Hardy and Manale at the installation of a World Citizen Peace Pole and Peace Site dedication at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center on Friday, September 29, at 1 p.m. that will also include the planting of a gingko tree that grew from a seed that survived the Hiroshima bombing (donated by the Avalon School in Saint Paul).
In Peace, With Honor is presented by Lanesboro Arts, in collaboration with Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, and made possible by a generous donation from the Lanesboro American Legion. All events are free or with a free-will donation. More information is available via www.lanesboroarts.org, at Lanesboro Arts Gallery by calling 507-467-2446, and at the St. Mane Theatre lobby.
The St. Mane Theatre is located at 206 Parkway Avenue North in Lanesboro. For more than 30 years, Lanesboro Arts has been working to fulfill its mission of serving as a regional catalyst for artistic excellence and educational development in providing diverse art experiences for people of all ages.