Tsuruga is a city that Polish orphans came to in the 1920s and Jewish refugees in the 1940s. (If you want to know more about these things, read my previous post.(Tsuruga Port,Fumi Matsuzawa: a heroine, and Chiune Sugihara: a hero.)) Because of this, Tsuruga has friendly relationships with Poland, Lithuania, Israel and the Netherlands.
The aim of the Tsuruga International Cultural Festival is to keep relations strong between Japan and these countries and pass that on to future generations. This year was the second time the festival was held, and visitors experienced the cultures of Poland, Lithuania, Israel and the Netherlands.
Besides the festival, the Port of Humanity Tsuruga Symposium was held at the same place. I went to the symposium and learned about Polish orphans and relations between Poland and Japan.
A polish woman who was there gave everyone a bag commemorating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Poland and Japan.
The venue was Kirameki Minato Kan, which is near Tsuruga Port. There were about 100 people there. There was a movie about Chiune Sugihara, a talk about Jewish refugees who’s lives had been saved because of visas issued by Sugihara, and a lecture about Tsuruga Port. There was also a game show about Poland and a performance of Polish dances.
I listened to a talk by Junichi Kajioka about Jewish refugees whose lives had been saved because of visas issued by Chiune Sugihara. Kajioka had made a movie about Sugihara, and the most memorable thing he said was that knowledge is important. If two countries know about each other, they won’t go to war. Cultural exchange is important in preventing war.
We had food and bought products from Poland, Lithuania, Israel and the Netherlands. I had Polish snacks and cheese from Lithuania. This was my first time to try that kind of food, and it was delicious.
I also bought a wooden coaster (a small mat for drinks) made in Lithuania. A picture of a bird perched in a tree is carved into it. It’s beautiful. Surprisingly, most of the staff at the festival were foreigners.
There was also a concert by a dream pop/indie folk duo, Damon ＆ Naomi. Damon’s father had gotten a visa from Chiune Sugihara and had arrived at Tsuruga about 80 years earlier. Damon is the child of a Sugihara refugee.
Before the concert started, a movie was shown on a large screen above the stage. The movie showed Damon, who was about to perform, interviewing his father. I was surprised and watched the movie intently.
Damon’s father is 89 years old and came to Tsuruga at the age of 9. Before that, Damon’s father and grandfather had been in a concentration camp in Russia. The ship that they took to come to Tsuruga was old and had tossed about very violently, so the father had gotten seasick.
When the refugees landed at Tsuruga, most of them were able to go on to Osaka and Kobe, where they had people waiting for them, but Damon’s father and grandfather couldn’t go with them. They walked around Tsuruga, at a loss as to what to do. They came to a house whose owner let them in and gave them food, and they stayed there that night. Damon’s father said that Japanese people were kind and that he felt no anxiety after coming to Tsuruga. The next day, they were able to go to Kobe.
After the movie, Damon said that he was emotional about coming to Tsuruga. Damon and Naomi played music for about an hour. The audience listened quietly and attentively.
Eighty years have passed since the Jewish refugees came to Tsuruga. One of their children came to Tsuruga and gave a concert. I was moved to hear about the long history behind the concert.
Tsuruga is hosting Polish athletes during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. After the event, the athletes and staff will interact with the residents of Tsuruga.
The year marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Polish orphans at Tsuruga Port and the 80th anniversary of the arrival of Jewish refugees. The relationship between Tsuruga and Poland, Lithuania, Israel and the Netherlands has remained strong since then. At the festival, I had a sense of history and realized that everyone is part of it.