Today our course was from Fujinomiya City to the neighboring city of Fuji. In the morning, we had a chance to tour Senen Temple. The atmosphere was completely serene and I’ve never seen such pristine gardens. After a brief visit of the temple, we proceeded to the peace statue in Fujinomiya where our march started. The peace declaration of Fujinomiya reads as follows:
“We, the people of Fujinomiya, home of Mount Fuji, national symbol of peace, fearful of the probably consequences of the nuclear arms race, do hereby declare our desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons and for complete disarmament by the nuclear powers, to ensure the survival of the human race and the attainment of world peace.
We affirm our support for the three non-nuclear principles of not manufacturing nuclear weapons, not possessing nuclear weapons, and not permitting the entry of nuclear weapons into Japan.
To these ends, we declare our city to be a city of peace, and call upon the people of the world to unite in abolishing nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.”
–(Translated by James A. Thompson)
The people of Fujinomiya were extremely friendly and receptive of us while we marched. While we march, there other peace marchers that disperse and solicit donations. This is referred to as bokin. Since I started this journey, we have received many generous donations. As we march, I make sure to hit my djembe drum as loud as I can when I see someone donating to the cause to express our gratitude. After we circled Fujinomiya, we headed to the City Hall for a brief ceremony. Like every city we’ve visited, the City Council delivered their messages of support and wished us luck on our journey to Hiroshima. There I also delivered a speech and briefly explained the militarization on Guam and the plans of the military to take Pagan Island from the Chamorro people for the use of a firing range. After lunch, we proceeded to the neighboring city of Fuji.
We arrived at a park and were greeted by two musicians playing several of the Peace March songs. They were really engaging and got many people in the crowd to participate. They invited me to accompany them to play percussion with my djembe and I am always honored to do so. I still can’t get over how transcendent the language of music is and how it has helped me to establish connections with the people I meet here along the way. After our brief introductions at the City Hall of Fuji, we did our course throughout the city. As expected, we received many generous donations and many people acknowledged us as we waived. This course was about two hours and we had a brief closing ceremony at a nearby park. After the ceremony, we headed to our hotel in Shimizu City where I met my interpreter, Okada Sensei. Okada Sensei is 70 years old and is well-versed in history.
At dinner, I got to know Okada sensei and I was amazed with the story he shared about the air raids that took place in Shizuoka during WWII. Okada Sensei was only a year old at the time and his brother three. During the raids, his mother carried him on his back with his little brother in hand. He described how she was frantic to look for a dark place where they would not be spotted. He explained that after a while, she was severely traumatized and she didn’t notice that she was without shoes and that her feet were bleeding. He proceeded further with his story describing how she became numb to the numerous bodies that lined the streets. The imagery was so vivid that I couldn’t help but get a little teary-eyed. He told me that after the war, his mother seldom shared this story and preferred not to talk about what happened.
As each day of the march passes by, I am learning so much and realizing the urgency to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again. Many of the marchers are in their late adulthood and I am always so amazed by not only their ability to walk such far distances, but by their passion as well. Many if not all of them have been affected by the war and they understand first hand the necessity of keeping peace. From what I observed and hearing the songs they sing, they are deeply concerned about the youth and our safety. One of the peace marchers expressed that she was sad that the number of marchers declines each year. It is rare for the youth in Japan to participate in the Peace March. Daisuke-san who is 22 years old and myself, are the youngest marchers so far in Shizuoka. I hope one day that this will change and more youth will choose to participate in such an amazing cause. I must thank the generations who have experienced and lived through the war, both in Japan and in Guam. You all have been through so much and your resiliency and strength is truly amazing. Thank you for your conviction and your sacrifices in fighting for peace.