Banaban Documentary Airs on Japanese TV

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Banaban Documentary Airs on Japanese TV


by Manabu Kitaguchi - Representative, Banaban Heritage Society Inc. Japan


Japanese National TV (NHK) showed Banaban documentary today 5th. May at 11:00am - titled ‘Missing Paradise in the South Pacific’. The program was aired in Japanese which was made by NHK and supported by Banaban Heritage Society Inc. and the Banaban Heritage Society Inc., Japan. It was a good program that focused on Banaban Thomas Teai and his son visiting Banaba (the Homeland) with Ms. Stacey M King. I studied a lot on Banaban history from Stacey and libraries here in Japan, and I am well aware of the full extend of Japanese involvement with Banaban history, especially during WW2 years.. I had asked the director to show the Japanese public all about the Japanese occupation of Banaba/Ocean Island, and such terrible happenings such as genocide (when 162 Islanders were murdered 2 days after the War was over), and other documented War crimes - it such a sad story that the Japanese public need to hear.

Unfortunately the program didn’t reveal a lot about this dark side of our involvement with Banaban history. The program did however give the general history of the Banabans and mainly focused on the damage done by the BPC (British Phosphate Commission) and how Thomas Teai and his son feel about the way their beloved homeland has been left after 80 years of exploitation by phosphate mining. Thomas’ explanations and answers to his son Donald’s questions are so beautifully moving, and the shock and response from his son who is seeing his homeland for the very first time are equally moving. Stacey's comments and reactions to seeing what Banaba has been left like today is also beautiful, as she also struggles to come to terms with her own family’s involvement in the early mining of the island.

The program is a very good way to teach the Japanese public about what happened on Banaba. Some of my friends who watched the TV program said, `How bad the BPC were!`. Now the Japanese people will know about a place called Banaba and what beautiful people the Banabans are. Unfortunately there was no information about the upcoming ‘HOMECOMING TRIP’ and only a little bit of information about the Banaban Heritage Society Inc in Australian and Japan. The Society is distributing a lot of information by way of printing materials, News papers, books and magazines from their offices situated in Australia and Japan.

These are my own personal opinions and ideas, but I know many Japanese people’s hearts will be greatly moved after seeing this documentary. I feel this program is only just beginning of educating the Japanese people about their own historical involvement with the Banaban people and their beloved homeland. It is more importantly a start of reconciliation between Banabans and the Japanese people, and a way in which more Japanese can now get involved in helping the Banabans move towards a better future.

Many young Japanese through various youth groups are now wanting to know about the Banabans and the true history about what happened during WWII in the South Pacific region. Every week I’m now invited to speak about Banaban history, and an invitation has already been sent to the Banaban Cultural Dancing Group from Rabi Island this August. The Dancers are being sponsored to attend the Ethnic Day Concert which is held in Japan every August. a memorial day to remember the finish of the War on 15th August 1945 in Japan. It also coincides with the dropping of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August. The Dancing Group will arrive in Japan on the 1st August to begin their tour.

It is great timing to come to Japan with so many journalists now interested in Banaba. The Japanese Youth Group is also preparing a press release and information about WWII - Japan and Banaban history. It is good that this first program has now gone to air and stirred the interest of the Japanese public. But I’m sure Japanese journalist will get a real surprise when they hear the full extend of Japanese involvement in Banaban history, and especially the War years.

Yes, this TV documentary is a good beginning, and now it is up to me to finish work on my own documentary which will give a full account of those tragic War years and let the Japanese public know more about what really happened on Banaba and to the Banaban people. It is a story that should never be forgotten!


Manabu Kitaguchi, Society Representative,

Banaban Heritage Society Inc - Japan Office


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