The day started with an opening ceremony at the Kawasaki City Hall. Takashi Kisaki san led the opening ceremonies and introduced the Peace Marchers once again. He is the Secretary General of Kanagawa Gensuikyo – in-charge of the Peace March for this prefecture. We will be walking with him and with many Kanagawa Gensuikyo members for the next 13 days. The photo below shows a representative of the Kawasaki City Hall delivering a message from the mayor.
Before the start of the ceremonies, by the way, Wataru Kajihara (Kajyan) of Japan Gensuikyo gave me a chargeable mobile wi-fi router before the start of the ceremonies. This is very helpful!
The course today passed through big streets and through the smaller ones. Our first short break was at the Saiwai Ward where we were also welcomed by the municipality workers. When we went back to the March, Kasakisan and many others told me that my mother also walked the same streets with them around 5 years ago! We reached the Kawasaki Peace Park and Museum before lunch time. We were welcomed again by the trumpeteer Akirasan. We were lucky to eventually be introduced to him. He gave me a copy of his CD album. Sugoi!
I learned from Katsuyoshi Tanabe, a very kind English teacher who translated for me the rest of the day, that the place was a military factory 80 years ago. The base was closed because of strong will of the people of Kawasaki City. By 1975, the city completed the total removal of US Bases. It was eventually converted to a park, museum and a high school complex.
The park is now a large expanse of green and trees dotted with large sculptures symbolizing peace. There is an open mini theater, playground, and different activity centers within the park. On one corner was the musuem. It is quite a big one. It houses several items from the city’s history. There were videos explaining the war history of the city – how it became part of their everyday lives and how even the children were trained to be part of the war i.e. air raid drills, working in ammunition factories, and military drills, to name a few. The exhibit finished by explaining the bases conversion plan and expressed the city’s desire not to be involved in war anymore.
I believe this is a great example of a bases conversion plan that really gives back the land to the people. The Philippines closed all the military bases in the country. The main ones, Clark and Subic, were converted to commercial and industrial zones that helped the economy. This is good, but there should be a better way. An excerpt in Prof. Roland Simbulan’s during the 20th Anniversary of US Bases-free Philippines last year explains this:
Farmers and indigenous peoples are still disallowed from their claims for inclusion of the former base lands in agrarian reform, and in the ancestral domain as in the case of the Aeta people. The former bases have been blatantly excluded from the government’s agrarian reform program, allowing only the rich local and foreign investors to pour in money to develop the fertile base lands. Landless Filipino farmers continue to be denied the use of the former baselands for agriculture, thus preventing the bases’ transformation from “weapons” use into “ploughshares.”
I always like to tell our visiting Japanese and South Korean academic and activist friends who visit to learn about our bases conversion experience that in the Philippine experience, bases conversion, while initially open to local participation in the bases communities, later was tailored to the elite-based decision-making prevailing in the national economy. Thus I say, there is the continuing clash between the people’s base conversion strategy versus the elite-dominated national economic strategy and system. Their potential for growth as commercial business enclaves today however, show potential under a neoliberal economic system. Military buildings and ammunition storage had been transformed into factories, commercial offices, recreational and sports facilities, schools including a branch of the University of the Philippines, Ateneo and other schools are now located inside Clark and Subic. There are zoos such as the Zoobic Safari, civilian airports, aviaries, and so many hotels and restaurants. In short, I tell our Japanese and Korean foreign friends who are so awed by our feat of kicking out the bases that our lesson here is that, THERE IS LIFE AFTER THE U.S. BASES. But the continuing challenge is how to make it a pro-Filipino and pro-poor economic conversion and people’s development.
Another highlight of the day was the refreshments. Well, it’s not really the food and drinks but the story of who takes care of us during the breaks. The Coop is the name of the consumer’s cooperative who also supports the Peace March by catering for us at break time. Kanagawa has around 100 Coop stores. 6 of them are in Kawasaki City. Each member pays 1000 yen per year (?). The Coop ensures that the members have access to good quality local produce and other products at a cheaper price. The system supports the local industries and protects the as the consumers. Awesome! The Coop stores are really big and the produce section is extensive. Double awesome!
The Coop also employs many people. One of them is my fellow Peace Marcher Sando Keiko from Wakayama. Sandosan walks with us from Tokyo to Kanagawa. She recently got her job at the Coop and she is incharge of deliveries. I learned from her that the Coop also has adapted online bulk buying within communities. People can sign up for orders as a group either online or by writing the office and goods can be delivered to their houses.
We finished earlier today at around 4:30 pm at the Shinjo Park at Nakahara Ward. Tsuneji Yabe san, also from the local Gensuikyo, brought us to a homey Chinese restaurant nearby. I think this is one of his favourite restaurants as he seems to know the chef well. The chef seems to be all by himself that time. He takes our orders, cooks it and serves it. The dishes were served one at a time so it felt like a we are guests in a chef’s house. Very nice. For the past 3 nights of having dinner in Chinese restaurants, I observed that they usually serve gohan (rice) as the last course before dessert. It is a good finisher for a long cardio work out during the day. 🙂
During dinner, the Peace Marchers discussed the plans for tomorrow. Tomorrow’s course will have many uphill and downhill climbs so we are bracing ourselves for the challenge. My fellow Peace Marcher for tomorrow will be Murata Sumio san, Kaneko Machiko san, Itou Hisako san, Suzuki Kazuhira, Stefan Fukushima san and Keiko Sando san.
Murata Sumio is a through peace marcher like me. We will be walking together for almost 90 days. He just recently retired and has been an active member of the labor union for a long time. Kanekosan (80) and Itousan (81) are best friends and ski buddies. Itousan has been joining the Peace March in Kanagawa for the past 20 years. Amazing! Kanekosan is the the most cheerful one who would crack jokes and make Fukushima san laugh so hard he would have tears in his eyes. Fukushima Stefan is an english / japanese instructor so he also helps me get by with the translations. He also taught me how to say 1st to 10th in Nihongo on our way home. Keiko Sando is the youngest at 22. She walks with us from Tokyo to Kanagawa. Another young man, not in the photo is Suzuki kun. He is 31 years old, a bit quiet but he always gives us goodies!
The Imadesyo chant goes like this:
When will negotiation for total abolition of nuclear weapons be started? Imadesyo
Nuclear weapons, when will they be eliminated? Imadesyo
Nuclear weapon states, when will they pledge their promise? Imadesyo
Nuclear abolition, when will they start taking this seriously? Imadesyo
Restoration of US bases to Okinawa, when will it be realized? Imadesyo
Government responsibility for causing the nuclear accident, when will they take it? Imadesyo
Peaceful and just world, when will it be realized? Imadesyo