NUCLEAR FREE KOBE
It was grassroots action that led the U.S. to remove its base from Kobe's Pier 6. A permanent billboard sign at the harbor suggested what became the "Kobe Formula." The billboard was torn down and replaced several times. Finally the City Council passed an ordinance permitting its presence. Thanks to citizen pressure, the Kobe city councillors declared their city a nuclear-weapons-free port in March, 1975, the first such port in the world. Since the U.S. policy is never to declare whether or not a ship has nuclear weapons aboard, no U.S. warships have been in Kobe harbor since the "Kobe Formula" was adopted.
- THE KOBE FORMULA -
RESOLUTION ON THE REJECTION OF THE VISIT OF
NUCLEAR-ARMED WARSHIPS INTO KOBE PORT
"Kobe Port is among the world's leading ports in terms of the number of ship calls and the volume of handling cargo. While developing Kobe Port as a port convenient for the users and comfortable for the workers, we have to maintain it as a peaceful one acceptable to the citizens in general. It can easily be imagined that the bringing of nuclear weapons into our port will cause the citizens' uneasiness and confusion, and it will hamper the normal functioning of the port.
"WE, Kobe City Council, reject the visit of all nuclear-armed warships into Kobe Port."
March 18, 1975, Kobe City Council
The U.S. military left their parabolic radar communications base at the top of Rocco Mountain, which enfolds Kobe Harbor. It
wasn't until 1993, after years of "demands" by Gensuikyo
activists, that the base was finally removed.
Reverend Yoshiatsu Okawa is a Representative Director for Gensuikyo who, with Nobue Kugimaya, served as a gentle guide through Kobe while other local activists came and went as we traveled briskly through the complexities of Kobe's port, Underground City, Mayor's office, speeches here and there, visits to temples, a family home, and various fine restaurants.
Mr. Okawa is a minister of the United Church of Christ. In 1961 he co-founded the Japan Religionists Council for Peace, "some thousands of religious people acting for world peace -- buddhists, christians, and shinto of a number of sects who have collected many of the signatures on the Hiroshima Appeal."
I expressed awe at 45 million signatures in nine years. "Our Initiative only required 25,000 signatures. That's so little in comparison!"
Mr. Okawa replied, "Japanese people belong to organizations. They tend to think if the leader says they should do something, then they should do it. The passion for nuclear disarmament comes from not so many. But if their leader says 'sign this,' then they tend to sign it. Japanese are good at organizing large numbers, but many hearts are not behind the signatures. In America one person with heart can have a big voice.
"What gives Japanese people hope about D.C. Initiative 37 and HR-3750," said Mr. Okawa and several other people during my tour, "is that so few people were able to accomplish so much - - and in the capital city of the United States, as well!"
On a tour of the harbor I saw submarines of the Japan Defense Forces, which local activists wish removed. I photographed the city from the Mayor's office, where we learned (to Reverend Okawa's delight) that the Mayor had finally agreed to build a Peace
Museum honoring Kobe as the world's first nuclear free port. I now wonder if it will ever be built.
In January, 1995, Kobe was hit by a terrible earthquake. Photographs were similar to post-bomb Nagasaki, survivors climbing over broken masonry, blackened by fire. But tales of kindness soon overtook tales of rubble and woe, and the truth of Japan shone through.
I called my translator, Nobue Kugimaya, shortly after the quake. She has since written: "Yesterday I went to Gensuikyo to see people there. The JR transportation service has been resumed between Suma and Kobe. I saw countless buildings and houses were crashed, collapsed and tilted. At some places I felt dangerous. Some of the buildings were sooty. Everything was more devastating than I had expected. It was like hell. But people have started working there and I was moved to see them. I talked with Kajimoto-san [the Director] at the office of Hyogo Gensuikyo. The office is O.K. All the main staff are fine, although some of them have lost their houses. I told him that you called me and were very concerned for our safety. He asked me to tell you that we are going to have a ceremony on March 18th as planned. Nothing would change our will for a nuclear-free world."