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Located just 50 miles from where the American atomic bomb landed on Hiroshima in 1945, the center is home to a statue of Anne Frank, one of only two such statues found in Japan and the only ones in her memory in the Far East.
The children also tour the center’s scale model of the Anne Frank House in Holland.
In 2011, the center received one of two cuttings sent to Japan from the chestnut tree Frank described in her diary.
Japan is the only Asian country besides Israel with saplings from the tree. The one in Fukuyama is already nine feet tall, according to Otsuka, who spoke to JTA in Hebrew. He studied the language to improve his ability to study the Holocaust, he said.
“Anne Frank is a powerful symbol for peace in Japan,” Otsuka said. “That’s why her story resonates with so many Japanese, who have suffered the horrors of war.”
Otsuka began planning a Holocaust education center in 1971 after meeting Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, the only member of the family to survive the war.
“What I instantly saw in the man was how much love he had, despite everything he’d been through,” Otsuka said. Introducing Japanese people to Anne Frank’s story was important to Otto Frank. His efforts in this regard may be part of the reason for the Japanese interest in his daughter, according to Ronald Leopold, director of Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House.
In his book, Lewkowicz juxtaposes Japan’s Anne Frank fascination with what he and many others consider Japan’s failure to fully acknowledge the actions of Japanese troops in areas they occupied in China and Korea.
“The Anne Frank-Japan connection is based on a kinship of victims,” Lewkowicz said. “The Japanese perceive themselves as such because of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They don’t think of the countless Anne Franks their troops created in Korea and China during the same years,”