This is the day many of us have been waiting for. I was quite nervous for today in anticipation for the long walk ahead. And today I will try to explain as many things as I can.
Kimurasan and I headed to Yumenoshima Park at 925 am for the opening ceremonies of the Peace March. Kimurasan accommodated me in her spacious home for the past 3 nights in Tokyo. (She let me stay in a tatami room and prepared many delicious meals like onigiri (riceballs) with stuffed with tasty shake (salmon)). She is a volunteer tour guide at the Lucky Fifth Dragon Museum at the Yumenoshima Park.
When we came, people from Japan and Tokyo Gensuikyos are already there busy setting up. I was led to the Lucky Fifth Dragon Museum where Yusuke continued guiding me for the rest of the tour in the museum. Yusukesan recently graduated from The university this year and he is now with the Lucky Fifth Dragon Musuem as a guide. He plans to take a license exam for guides or curatorship in the next couple of years. Yusukesan ganbatte kudasai!
So what is the Lucky Fifth Dragon Museum, and the Bikini Incident?
This museum houses the Daigo Fukuryu Maru which means Lucky Fifth Dragon Ship. It is a large wooden fishing vessel originally intended for fishing kaguro (bonito) during the late 1940s. Its base is made primarily of timber and is considered to be large for its type. This is the time after the Second World War when there was scarcity of food on land, and the fishing crew of the Luck Fifth Dragon was tasked to sail farther into the Pacific Ocean to get more maguro (tuna) as source of protein for its people.
On March 1, 1954. the crew of the Lucky Fifth Dragon witnessed an untimely sunrise at the Bikini Atoll. They saw a big flash of light from the horizon and they felt strong vibrations from the ocean. A few minutes after, there was a rain of ash from exploded corals. The head of the crew previously felt similar vibrations from the atomic bombing in Hiroshima so somehow understood the danger of what they have witnessed. They decided not to report the incident immediately to authorities for fear of being heard by other seafarers in the area. Take note that this is a Cold War era.
They were only able to report the incident when they returned to Yaizu, their mother port, a couple of weeks later. They sent samples of the ash from the ship and from different parts of their bodies to the nearest university and learned that everything they had was radioactive. They learned further that what they saw was a nuclear bomb being tested by the US at the Bikini Atoll. Back then, nobody knew about these tests.
News of this spread in Japan, and caused a lot of protests from around the country. Take note that this is the period less than 10 years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombing. It was also a time when people’s outcry against the bombings were not very much made public for fear of being prosecuted.
Aside from contaminating the Lucky Fifth Dragon’s Crew, the nuclear test also contaminated the fishes and most especially the the environment of the Marshall Islands.
Many tunas in Japan were contaminated and they were popularly called Radioactive Tunas. A map in the musuem showed different parts of the Pacific Ocean where radioactive tunas were caught. I was surprised to see more than a couple of incidents even in the Philippines. Refer to photo below.
Many more people started attending the annual World Conference Against Atomic & Hydrogen Bombs from then on.
So the next question of the day is: What is The Peace March?
In 1958, a monk from Hiroshima decided to walk from Hiroshima all the way to Tokyo to attend the World Conference. Back then, the World Conference was usually held in Tokyo. He started alone and eventually many people joined as he passed through different cities, wards and prefectures along the way. When they reached Tokyo, there delegation was overwhelmingly large. From then on, the Peace March was held every year. There has never been a gap year. Ever.
There had been some revisions from 1958. The World Conference is now held annually at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At present, there are several courses of the Peace March. The quite popular one is the Tokyo Hiroshima Course. There is also a course starting from up north in Hokkaido all the way to Tokyo. Another one is from Okinawa to Nagasaki. I think there still a few more shorter courses. I will have to update later on.
Also back then, the first course started at around middle of June and finished in Tokyo at August 6. Now the Peace March starts on May 6 at the Yumenoshima Park in Tokyo and ends at the World Conference in Hiroshima on August 6. So we would be walking for approximately 3 months.
As you can see from the schedule and the courses, the Peace March is a daily demonstration on the streets almost all over Japan to campaign for the end of nuclear weapons and for a real lasting peace around the world. Perhaps it works 2 ways:
1. It is a powerful tool to reach out to all people in Japan and let them know of the cause and eventually get their support and involvement.
2. It is also a meaningful way for all those involved in the Peace movement to express their common desire for a nuke free planet.
From what I saw so far as today, the Peace March is a strong & creative symbol of the Japanese people’s perservering, unrelenting and patient struggle to make sure that the wrongs made from their past would not be repeated in their country and anywhere else in the world.
Heiwa Koshin desu! (This is the Peace March!)