This is the last day of that I will march in Shizuoka in this year’s Peace March. I will be in Nagoya tomorrow to catch a flight back home so I can get another visa for the next 2 more months of the Peace March.
There were many participants today. My translator during the first one and a half days in Shizuoka, Kasuya Takako san, is with us again. She was beaming with infectious smile in the morning as she showed us a quilt made by her high school students.
We had our opening ceremony at the Fujieda City Hall. It is a Sunday and many younger people are with us today. The opening ceremony was led by Daijo Takei. He is a young man currently involved in several peace activities in the city. He also has a band named Dash and they play at concerts for peace. Sugoi! I believe he is the youngest person to head the opening ceremonies so far.
I also met Ayaka chan, a junior high school student also holding Takako san’s quilt. Her grandmother is also a member of the Shinfujin. She walked with us the whole morning. I also met another young lady, Chihiro Saitou. Her mom is also active with Shinfujin and Takako san explained to me that Chihiro played an important role as host to a major activity of Shinfujin this year. I was happy to meet another Chihiro.:-) She has the same name as Chihiro Iwasaki and was delighted that I know of and like Chihiro as well.
Chihiro Iwasaki was famous painter in Japan. Her medium was watercolour and most of her subjects were children. I learned about her in college when my mother would bring home calendars from Japan containing her paintings. I also remember her very much because of her artwork in the cover of the book I really liked, Tottochan – The Little Girl by the Window. We went to one of her museums in Tokyo before the Peace March which also houses illustrations for children’s books from around the world. Many women I met in Japan would say they love Chihiro Iwasaki’s art and beliefs in life.
As it was a Sunday, only a representative from the city office was able to join us. He also conveyed that today is the city’s major clean-up day.
By mid-morning, we gathered in a break out space infront of a train station. Our morning break was very special because we had ICE CREAM! Yey! I was so delighted and gushed like a child. I guess all of us felt the same. Nothing beats smooth vanilla ice cream in plastic tubes after a long and hot walk. Everyone was smiling while eating and smile even more when we see one another eating ice cream in a park. I had two. 🙂
We arrived at another temple by lunch time and were welcomed by a group of ladies playing the koto. It was amazing! Everyone was happy! It was my first time to see a live koto performance and it was like a mini-ensemble of koto players. Awesome! We had a short ceremony before having lunch and the young participants Ayaka, Chihiro and Takei were asked to give short speeches. 🙂 They seemed reluctant at first but they eventually warmed up. One speaker also said he has been joining the Peace March for 53 years now. He started at 19 years old.
By mid-afternoon, we were walking along this street in Shimada when we saw a beautiful temple with a pretty, well laid out garden. Many of us were gushing at how scenic the place was and it turns out to be the venue for our next break time. This break was in a small park beside a temple in Shimada. The city hall employees’ union president gave a message of solidarity in our short program. Takako san led me, Muratasan and Takuya kun to a large vertical stone shrine that commemorates something tragic.
On July 26 1945, several days before the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, sample bombs equivalent to that of Fatman (the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima) were dropped by US in Shimada city. It killed around 33 people instantly. 14 were seriously wounded, 200 were injured and several hundred houses were damaged. It was shocking.
The atomic and hydrogen bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are always the popular ones in world history. But I guess, it should also be noted that carpet bombs and these test bombs sprayed over many parts of Japan also heavily devastated the nation. Developed cities were bombed to flames. Takako san also explained there are also other places in Japan that experience the same test bombings like Shimada. Tokyo and Fujisawa are just a some of them. My fellow Peace Marchers were also surprised to learn about this today. These are the some of the things one will learn / experience in the Peace March.
The temple name, by the way, is Fumon-in and it is intended to commemorate the dead people.
We then continued walking along Tokaido and saw many remaining pine trees. Some were very tall and beautifully shaped. It gave a certain old character to the road. Walking further led us to a place that have many old houses and traditional japanese inns during the Edo Period. It was like walking back in time. Amidst the line of old very old inns, we were greeted by the women who played koto during lunch time. It was a very fun greeting them again and the march stopped for a while for a photo opportunity. 🙂
The reason why there were many inns in this part of Shimada was because this is a major stop point before crossing the Oigawa river. There were no bridges back in Edo period and people usually cross the river on food. Affluent people, especially ladies, rode a timber raft carried by men across the river. This is well illustrated in local artworks and street signages.
Takako san explained this to me earlier and it worked up my excitement. Crossing the bridge, however, did not cross my mind earlier. I was clueless about our route that day so it was such a surprise so see very long bridge in front of you and learn that we will cross it.
That Bridge Over Oigawa
The bridge, by the way, is 1 kilometer long. It had pedestrian lanes on each side of the road and it had safety balustrades of course. The balustrades, however, were 5 equally spaced horizontal steel pipes supported by vertical posts at every few meters. One can have an almost complete view of what is going on beneath the bridge through the balustrades. I saw a wide field of big rocks and I imagined how painful it would be if I fall off – that is, if I am still alive / conscious when I land.
For some people with a fear of heights, this might be a challenging situation. Because of this, I felt my knees and hands grow weak as we walked further to the middle. I clinged to Takuya kun’s backpack to keep my composure. I tried to be conscious of my breathing and focused my view straight ahead. I looked back from time to time and it seemed everyone was fully enjoying the bridge except me (I enjoying too but partially only because of the heights). Some were even walking close to the balustrade. Unbelievable, hahaha! It was a great experience nonetheless. 🙂
We finished today’s march at the Kanaya Local Community Centre. The place looks very special, like an old traditional structure up in the woods. Many people were there to welcome us and everyone was all smiles. The through Peace Marchers each gave their messages and feedback of the day. I had fun speaking infront as I talked about what we saw during the day – the koto performance, the temple in Shimada, and the kilometer-long bridge. We were all laughing in between sentences and I’m very thankful that Takako san was translating for me. I also told them that even though I will be temporarily out of the Peace March, they will still be in the company of subarashi (fantastic / wonderful) men, Muratasan and Takuya kun. 🙂
I bid goodbye to the goodbye to the through Peace Marchers and local Gensuikyo organisers before Kitagawa san brought me to the JR station. It was quite funny that I said a lot of goodbyes to them only to find out that they will also be coming to the JR station using the Peace March van to send me off. Hahaha!
There we met Satake san and his wife. I hugged everyone before I left. Satake san and his wife accompanied me to Aichi Prefecture. After a few hours of sleep in the train, we arrived in Aichi. There we met Odamae Keiko san. I will stay with her family for tonight and catch my flight back to Manila tomowrrow evening. Keiko san is the Assistant Secretary General of Aichi Gensuikyo.
Staying in her parent’s house for one night was such a delight. Her parents has such infectious laughter and everyone was laughing from time to time while enjoying dinner. Her sister even gave me a really cool leather necklace with a steel oryziru pendant.
It was such a long fun day. I feel very lucky!