MAY 20, 2014
This morning, we gathered at a nearby town and made our way to Mishima City Hall. In 1959, Mishima City made a declaration that they do not condone nuclear weapons and are in support of peace. I admire the many mayors here who are invested in creating a safer place for the people they serve. This unfortunately is not the case on my home island of Guam as many of our mayors are in support of a bill introduced by our Congresswoman that supports the use of Ritidian Point as a firing range. It is my wish that the leaders on my island will adopt this same sentiment of acknowledging the humanity of its people and not the alleged economic development that the military build-up is supposed to bring.
We were welcomed by the Mishima City Council and they expressed their continuous support of this Peace March. It was there that I introduced myself and shared a little about the social issues involved with the military build-up on Guam. After our brief meeting, they presented us with bento or lunch box. About half an hour later, the peace marchers stood in the front of the City Council and we each offered our words of gratitude and support to our fellow marchers. I didn’t expect how difficult today’s course would be. We marched for several hours and the course was extremely steep as we were ascending to high altitudes. Along the way, Kasuya taught me several terms that we use frequently in our peace calls. One frequent term is kakuheiki or nuclear weapons. Repeatedly we shout that we are in support of its abolishment by, “Kakuheiki wo NAKUSOU!” She also taught me about the significance of Article 9 in the Japanese constitution that outlaws wars as means to settle international disputes. She expressed however that there are certain groups and people who are compromising the article would adversely affect the safety and security of the people of Japan.
As we made our way up steep slopes, we finally made it to Nagaizumi where we first saw the view of Mt. Fuji. I can’t express how thoughtful and hospitable everyone is to me. The women of Shinfujin collected donations in support of my journey to Aichi. This gesture was beyond words and the women of Shinfujin are truly incredible and undoubtedly empowered. One of my fellow marchers from this area noticed the djembe drum I was playing. As a gift, she gave me a Japanese whistle that she crafted herself and a packet that explained how to play it along with songs. I am always delighted when I meet other musicians along the way with their instruments. We tend to gravitate towards one another and I am always so grateful when I get the chance to play alongside them. Music is truly a universal language and it has definitely helped me to get to know my fellow peace marchers despite my broken Japanese. As always, I meet people along the way who truly inspire me. A woman by the name of Suzuki-san waited to march with us. She has been participating in the march for several years and is currently 82 years old. She has chosen to take part in the peace march as she has been personally affected by WWII and has lost several of her siblings. I thanked her for marching with us and commended her for her strength. Many of the peace marchers are in their late adulthood. Although our march is extremely physically tasking, their conviction helps me to move forward and forget how sore I feel. After marching for nearly seven hours, we reached our final destination where we congratulated one another for their hard work and dedication to this cause.
After we departed, Watanabe sensei took several of us to the firing range at the east side of Mt. Fuji. The view of Mt. Fuji was breathtaking with the exception of the firing range that desecrates its beauty. After taking several pictures as a group, we were told by the Japanese patrol of the Jietai that we had to leave because we were trespassing. This issue hits close to home as our land in Guam has been taken and commodified for the sake of military purposes. At dinner, Watanabe sensei gave us a presentation educating us about the types of training that occurs at the firing range. I couldn’t believe how massive the artillery that was being used and the huge tanks and cannons. It was horrific to see to the pictures he showed us of the explosions as it highlighted an outright disrespect to the land and the people of Gotemba.
Today was extremely tiring yet enlightening and it’s a wonderful experience each day when we share each other’s struggles. It is my hope that one day, both our countries will be free of trivial military bases and be able to enjoy our land as it is our inherent right.