United Nations 50th Anniversary · 1995


In our current period of global conflict and social unrest, there is increasing interest in the topic of demilitarization. More than ever, there is an urgent need to analyze the potential for demilitarization in various nations. Costa Rica provides a model for this, having abolished its armed forces in 1949 while maintaining the highest living standard in Central America. We work with people in Costa Rica and endeavor to spread their exemplary practice of having no army to other parts of the world.

A peace and environmental worker for decades, Kaz founded A World Without Armies to encourage awareness and interest in the possibility for worldwide demilitarization as exemplified in Costa Rica.  He wrote the libretto for Ah Nagasaki, From Ashes to Light, a choral and orchestral symphony about the devastation of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and the enduring vow of peace that emerges from its ashes.  

Kaz is the director of A World Without Armies. For more information go to: http://www.aworldwithoutarmies.org


Peace work by Kaz

Below is a selection of summaries of his peace work and related passages from Painting Peace: Art in a Time of Global Crisis, a book in progress.


Participating in the movement to reverse the nuclear arms race

“Artists need audiences. More fundamentally, artists need people to love and be loved by. Artists need landscapes, dreams, and ideas. Just like other beings, artists need earth to stand on, water to drink, and air to breathe in. Artists need the world; without the world there can be no art, no artist. Thus global survival is the primary issue for artists just as it is for all other human beings.”


Participating in the movement to stop the Gulf War

“The ominous message of the billboard, structured on top of a brick building on G Street, San Diego, lost its sense as soon as the Persian Gulf War broke out on January 17, 1991. An explosive black brush mark across the giant poster had suggested the massive destruction likely to occur in the approaching war. The handwritten letters on the picture said, ‘If we go to WAR...' Now that the U.S. Air Force had started pounding Baghdad, the 'if' had become history.

"A man in a white jumpsuit climbed up two service ladders to the billboard frame, carrying a bucketful of paint in his hand. Although he looked like a worker from the advertisement company, he was trembling in fear, as he had never climbed up so high on a narrow, open area. Having inched along on the catwalk at the bottom of the billboard to the left side of the poster, he splattered red paint over the letters 'If we go to.' Some of the paint dripped down on the picture, splashing on his tennis shoes. Now the sign read, ‘WAR...’”



Founding Plutonium Free Future in Berkeley, California, with Mayumi Oda and others, in an effort to stop Japan’s plutonium-based electric generation project

 “This dramatic cut in the plutonium program was subtly but officially confirmed in the revised long-term nuclear energy development plan of the Japanese government. A second shipment of plutonium from Europe still had not taken place as of 2004. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, reported on May 11, 2004, that the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission announced a plan to give up the plutonium-based energy project and that this plan is expected to be reviewed and approved later in the year.

"How was this breakthrough possible? The technological and economic problems the plutonium projects ran into certainly helped this dramatic drop. Many groups and individuals had been working on this issue years before us, and the coalition of the international groups worked beautifully. This shift in the Japanese government’s national project, however, might well not have happened without the committed endeavor of our small group, strengthened by the useful advice of Julian Gresser.”


Creating a large-scale painting “Circle of All Nations” on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter and installing it on the front side of the War Memorial Building, San Francisco, for the official UN celebration, with other members of the American School of Japanese Arts

 “The idea of creating 'Circle of All Nations,' to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations in 1995, came to me three years before the actual event. It was clear to me from the beginning that this symbol of people coming together had to be large, multicolored, and multicultural. It had to be acceptable to most people’s aesthetic standards. Popularity had never been a primary concern in my art. But if the project was to involve all nations, I thought it would be a good ideato create something pleasing to the eyes of all kinds of people. This was a novel perspective for me.”


Founded an international citizens’ organization “A World Without Armies” with Rodrigo Carazo, former president of Costa Rica, as its honorary founder

 “A pre-existing condition for a country to demilitarize is, above all, a regional security where nations cannot and do not invade each other. Also a situation of domestic security is needed to eliminate the potential of armed uprising. The government should be functional and without systematic corruption. There should be solid civilian control and soldiers need to be well paid, trained, and disciplined. It’s paradoxical that we need good military forces so that they can be abolished.”



Creating a bilingual choral symphony, “Ah Nagasaki,” with the composer Robert Kyr, and dedicating the text and score to the citizen of Nagasaki, Japan

“My friends, my family...

Life everywhere... Then suddenly: nothing.

I sat up and looked around.

The only thing that I saw: Skeletons...skeletons of a few buildings...

Nothing else was left.

No, nothing else.

In an instant, we were erased...

Everything gone... total devastation.”



Organizing the first Sino-Japanese conference on the 1937 attack of Nanjing, China and massacre of its citizens by Japanese troops, “Remembering the Nanjing Tragedy” in Nanjing, China.

 "Japan invaded China.

China did not invade Japan.

The troops of our country killed

thousands upon thousands of soldiers, civilians, and prisoners of war.

They raped countless females

including very young girls and very old women.

Our troops waged chemical and biological warfare

and conducted living human experiments.

I was four years old when Japan attacked Nanjing.

The more I learn about the magnitude of the massacre

the more horrified I become."


A documentary film about the work and vision of acclaimed artist calligrapher, author, Dogen translator and peace worker, Kazuaki Tanahashi. This short film in particular discusses non-violence, the ongoing global threat of nuclear weapons and tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, the urgency to de-nuclearize nations, the rapidly increasing overpopulation of the planet, contemplative questions, and how according to Kaz, we are all artists capable of making a meaningful contribution to a peaceful society.