YCAPS, in partnership with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, kicked off its first Community Conversations series in-person event in Misawa, Aomori at the Misawa International Center on December 14th. YCAPS invited Mr. Satoshi Miyata, the director of the 2014 documentary film, ‘Mount Hakkoda’ and Mr. Ryan Drees, the voice actor for the film to learn about one of the worst mountain climbing accident in the world that took place only 35 miles away from Misawa in 1902. The documentary presents a novel historical account of this disaster that claimed the lives of 199 men among the 210 Japanese Imperial Army soldiers during a 12 mile Winter march from Mount Hakkoda to Tashiro Hot Spring that was not supposed to be an arduous training. Despite the heavy snow, the event attracted around 20 participants from the broader Misawa community. This included U.S. service members based in Misawa, the local Japanese and expat community, including local English teachers as well as University students interested in international exchange who all gathered for a lively discussion on the film, the Mount Hakkoda disaster, and lessons drawn from this historical tragedy. There were also interests from the media, including a local cable television network and NHK’s Aomori office.
After a casual conversation over refreshments and snacks, Mr. Miyata first offered an overview of the 2014 film that portrays this historical event with local relevance. It was followed by Mr. Drees’ presentation that vividly illustrated not only the background of the event but also the various factors that contributed to this devastating event such as the typhoon-like low pressure systems and the impact that severe cold temperatures have on human bodies, including frost bite and the loss of orientation, often referred to as “ring-wandering”. The questions-and-answers session turned into a vibrant discussion as eager participants asked a variety of thought-provoking questions for the speakers that covered a wide-range of topics pertaining to the film and the Mount Hakkoda disaster. It ranged from the influence of major disasters upon culture such as films, to the challenges of filming under severe weather conditions. Participants were particularly interested in discussing issues such as the lessons that could be drawn from the tragedy and the different factors that had contributed to such an outcome such as strategy, leadership, and decision-making, the challenges in land navigation, and the psychological factors that influence soldiers under severe conditions which are topics of unique relevance to the military community.
Takuya Matsuda for YCAPS