I will be condensing this particular blog from May 27-30, 2014. I am currently writing from Aichi. I’m doing my best to keep up with this blog daily but it’s proving to be extremely difficult given the many hours of marching and the heat. As I write, I’m certain that I have walked more than 75 miles. My body has adjusted to walking such long distances and I’ve found that my body aches less. Right now, the challenge is the heat and my allergies. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the sun so I’m getting darker each day. On the 28th, my allergies started to really act up because we marched through the countryside and there was lots of pollen and exhaust in the air. That day was extremely difficult to push through so I took allergy medicine and managed to take a 30-minute nap during our lunch break. The conditions of the march are indeed challenging but the cause is all worth it.
May 27, 2014
After marching for several hours, we visited the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Exhibition. We definitely weren’t welcomed by their staff and their security force followed us. I think they literally heard us from a mile away and the announcer’s call for opposition against nuclear power. When we entered, there were signs that prohibited cameras and a fellow peace marcher unpinned the international youth relay banner from my bag and put it inside. I didn’t have an interpreter that day so I strayed from the group to see if I could find information in English. I noticed a security guard signaling another to follow me, and that he did. I got the impression that they thought I was a spy or that I was going to stage a random protest on their premises. Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Hamaoka nuclear power plant has been closed. From the top floor of the exhibition hall, we were able to see the power plant in the distance. Being so close to the ocean, it looks like an accident just waiting to happen. I was also told that the location of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant is situated in an area that is highly susceptible to earthquakes. The peace marchers and many citizens in Shizuoka fear that the Hamaoka power plant will be up and running in the near future due to support of Omaezaki’s current mayor.
May 28, 2014
I didn’t have an interpreter this day so it was somewhat difficult for me to find out where we were at. To my understanding, we marched through Kikugawa, Kakegawa, Fukuroi, and we ended in Iwata. The economy of Kikugawa is primarily agricultural. This day was extremely hard because we marched through many fields and the pollen caused my allergies to act up. I was having a hard time keeping up in the heat and dealing with my allergies at the same time. I was able to push through with the course after a 30-minute nap and the help of allergy medicine. Our final city was Iwata. I was asked to give a brief speech at our ending ceremony. In my broken Japanese, I expressed that the places that we passed through were beautiful and that I hope to be as convicted as the peace marchers one day. Considering the circumstances of this day, I felt accomplished for making it through the whole day.
May 29, 2014
My interpreter for this day was Eda-san and I was fortunate that she marched the whole day with me. She along with Kasuya-san are English teachers and have helped me understand the current social issues that the peace marchers are working hard to resolve. On this day, we marched through Hamamatsu to the Hamamatsu City Hall. I delivered my speech in the city hall’s large conference room where we also listened to the mayor’s message of support. I was honored to hear the speech of another hibakusha who survived the bombing on Hiroshima. He explained in his speech that because of the radiation, ¾ of his stomach had to be removed because of cancer. It’s surreal to meet the many survivors along the way and to see how ambitious they are to maintain peace despite all the tragedies they’ve experienced. Today’s group of peace marchers was perhaps the most energetic group I’ve marched with thus far. A woman with a cajon (box-shaped percussion instrument) joined us today and her energy was just amazing. She led numerous peace calls throughout our march and really brought up our spirits and energy. I had lots of fun with her as I played a beat on my djembe while she improvised different peace calls. After a long day of marching, we had the chance to visit the Hamamatsu Air Base (Japan Air Self Defense Force). I was told that a plane crashed on the base during an air show several years ago and injured several people. The crash also burned several cars at a nearby Honda car lot. Standing outside the base’s fence, our tour guide pointed out that the base has a missile defense system known as the Pac-3. He also pointed out an underground tunnel that would protect the base’s personnel in the event of an attack or other mishap. He laughed and made a joke and said that it would protect only the people on the base and not civilians. Keep in mind that only a chain-link fence separates the base and the highway.
May 30, 2014
Today’s course was extremely long. We walked the length of three or four train stations and passed through Takatsuka, Maisaka, Bentenjima, Arai, and Washizu. We walked a little over 20 miles. Although today was one of the longest courses, the energy was high and the woman I met from the previous day with her cajon joined us. Along the way, we passed through a section of the Tokaido Road with the pine trees that still stand and line both sides of the street. After nearly eight hours or marching, we had our ending ceremony and I gave a brief speech to the peace marchers that attended today’s long course. As usual, I thanked them for joining us and commented on how lively and energetic they’ve been. At that moment, it started to sink in a little that I would be leaving Shizuoka soon. Every step of the way, I’ve received so much support and respect and it definitely feels like I’ve made a second family. After our ending ceremony, we headed to our hotel and had our last dinner together with Shizuoka’s division of Genusikyo. Our debriefing dinner is referred to as enkai in Japanese. Our enkai was also to celebrate Takeda-san’s 74 birthday which is on the 31st. Our dinner was pretty fun and the president of Shizuoka’s Gensuikyo was hilarious. We found out that Daisuke-san was a baseball player in college and his team made it to the top 4. I didn’t realize how big baseball is in Japan and our president reenacted a classic Japanese baseball cheer which was hysterical. Near the end of our dinner, I expressed how grateful I was to partake in this peace march and how much I’ve learned over the past week and half. I also thanked Gensuikyo and their affiliates for their support and always checking on my well-being.
One of the biggest issues that I’ve learned about since I’ve been here is Japan’s nuclear power plant industry. Japan has already faced a nuclear disaster which was the Fukushima incident. Many fear the possibility of the Hamaoka nuclear power plant being reopened. As stated previously, this particular power plant is supposedly susceptible to earthquakes due to its present location. There have been numerous nuclear accidents throughout the world which begs the question why do they still exist? It seems that the casualties severely outweigh its benefits. From my observation, the peace marchers are extremely conscious of how nuclear power and weapons have affected Japan. When we take into account the bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the tragedy of the Lucky Dragon 5/Daigo Fukuryu Maru, and the recent Fukushima disaster, it appears that Japan has been affected in just about every facet in regards to the nuclear industry. The unfortunate common denominator in all these events is that thousands of innocent lives have been lost due to misuse of science by man. Normally we are supposed to learn from the mistakes in our history, yet there are people, groups, and institutions with power that seem to think they can proceed with the same horrible tactics unscathed. The peace marchers that I have met know that the consequences of the nuclear industry are too high and that the power, control, and money involved in this industry can never supersede the value of life. I absolutely admire the peace marchers for being dedicated and proactive to avoid ever falling prey again to the nuclear industry that has no concept of innocence or the worth of humanity.
Genpatsu iranai yo!