World / Reporter's Journal

Crimes of Hirohito : `We can't let it happen again'

By CHEN JIA in San Francisco (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-04-09 04:43

Lisa Olson says her life has been changed by being in a play.

The play is Crimes of Hirohito, based on the book The Crimes of Hirohito: a Grand Jury Trial by Chinese-American writer Iris Chang, also a famous activist and Nanking historian

"I am so much more aware of the past and the world. I think the audience benefits from the seeing the play by being reminded that it is imperative that we look to the past and not forget," Olson said. "We can't forget what happened because we can't let it happen again."

Olson was in the play when it was put on at the Historic Hoover Theatre in San Jose, California, on April 5.The production was performed by American volunteers of the Foundation Honoring Nanjing Massacre Survivors.

The play is a mock trial of Japanese Emperor Hirohito — one of the biggest war criminals in history who reigned unpunished until his death in 1989 — for his aggressive promotion of Japan's expansion and war crimes during World War II .

Miko Ison, a dance major at San Francisco State University with extensive experience in the theater, said she played the part of Maria Rose Henson.

"She was one of the first Filipina to publicly talk about her experience as a comfort woman during the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese military," she said. "Maria is incredibly strong throughout her captivity. I don't know how I would have reacted in her situation."

It takes a strong woman to be able to continue living such a full life after all the emotional and physical pain she endured, she added.

"I never learned about the Japanese invasion of China, or about the Nanjing Massacre, in high school," Jenny Chan, 23, the play's producer who also runs the foundation, told China Daily in an interview in San Francisco. "I learned of it from my grandpa and grandma, who had to move to Hong Kong (from China's south province Guangdong) for their own safety and hide from the Japanese (during World War II)," she said.

"There is little public education about the war in the US. We study the Jewish Holocaust extensively, but we don't spend any time on the Nanjing Massacre or the war," she said. "I was really overwhelmed by the Rape of Nanking. As an Asian American, I was really ashamed because I didn't really learn about it."

Chan moved to San Francisco from Hong Kong with her parents when she was 10. After high school in San Francisco, she went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studied economics with a concentration in applied statistics.

During October 2011 and August 2012, she co-authored a report entitled Employment Analysis and 2012 Prospects for Illinois and Metropolitan Areas, which assessed the environmental impact of the state's high-speed railway and the impact of Ford Motor Co's automotive manufacturing on the Illinois' economy.

After getting her BA degree in May 2012, Chan didn't continue with applied statistics. Instead, in May 2013 she persuaded San Francisco's largest art space, Intersection for the Arts, to sponsor her new project: the Foundation Honoring Nanjing Massacre Survivors.

"I am an economist by education, dreamer by choice, and activist by necessity," she said.

The foundation aims to promote dialogue about the "forgotten Asian Holocaust" through the arts and theater, she said.

Between March 26-30 this year, the team also premiered The Crimes of Hirohito: A Grand Jury Trial at the Moro Theater in San Francisco. Chang and Minnie Vautrin, who protected refugees at Ginling College, were both characters in the play. Last year, Forever Ginling, a play about Vautrin, was staged by the foundation.

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