Today will be the first full day march in Nara Prefecture. The Peace Marchers assembled again in Nara City Hall, same place as yesterday’s closing ceremonies. Good thing it is not raining anymore and the sun is not very strong. It is a bit cloudy and windy – ideal for walking long distance.
Walking with me today as interpreter is Ms. Shirakawa. She and Umebayashi-san welcomed me at the Kansai Airport the other night. I think she is a very good interpreter and sometimes let me speak Nihongo for practice! 🙂
This time we started with short speeches by the Peace Marchers and organizers. Today’s march is especially scenic as we will pass through several old temples in areas away from the city center. We started at 10am and walked all the way Toshodaiji temple. The route was scenic as we headed outside the city and into what seems to be the country side. The scenery was green. We walked over rivers, through narrow streets with old house on each side.
We had a 10 minute break in a nearby souvenir shop. The temple seems to be quite famous because of the wide parking space allotted and a relatively big souvenir shop beside it.
As we continued to walk, I can’t help but smile because of the beautiful scenery. Mothers with kids in strollers joined us in this segment of the march. They are from Shinfujin! 🙂 It was also nice to see that people wave at us and it was surprising to see that many different people joined us as we passed by. It seems they have been waiting to join us.
The streets we walked through were quite narrow. Some could accommodate only one car but the neighbourhood was very pretty.
There is an interesting part where you will see a rice field on one side of the street surrounded by small single detached houses and then on the other side of the narrow road is a couple of vendos containing refreshing drinks.
We passed by rice fields with view of mountain, crossed short bridges over running water. We also passed by many temples. It was my first time to see houses with courtyards. The old houses were big and have beautiful gardens. The roofs are intricate as well and have low height only. I definitely recommend Nara for sightseeing.
We also walked to Yamato Kooriyama City Hall. We were welcomed by the vice mayor and many office members. They read messages and gave kampa (donation) and penants. The penants will be carried with the Peace March all the way to Hiroshima and Nagasaki until August. The local Gensuikyo members participating in the march also handed over the Peace March Message.
In the City office of Yamato Koriyama, one of the members read the Peace march message to the city office members very passionately. Shirakawa-san explained that he was asking the government to really play their part in abolishing nuclear weapons and that the mayor should convey the message of the people to the higher government. He also made strong commentaries against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to change / reinterpret the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.
Written in 1946, the Article 9 is the part of their constitution which declares its renunciation of war. It explicitly states the following:
1. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.
2. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Since I arrived in Japan on June 24, I observed a deep concern from the people I meet in the movement. They are worried about PM Abe’s efforts to change article 9 and enable its self defense forces to again engage more aggresive stance other than self defense and military exercise. The women are especially worried as this would entail compulsory drafting of young people to military forces if needed. They do not want their children to be engaged in any form of war.
From last year’s Peace March and after seeing many foreign military bases through Kanagawa and Shizuoka, I realized how undermined the Article 9 was. The issue of Article 9 reinterpretation was not yet discussed last year (atleast during my stay with the Peace March) but many people from the Japanese movement are already against the existence of foreign military bases and further strengthening of their own self-defense forces. So this time, one could say that the condition is getting worse.
Going back to the march, the announcer turned out to be our march leader throughout the day! He has lots of energy and has a solid voice. As we were walking, Shirakawa-san laughed when I told her mic wa iranai (microphone is not needed). His energy is really inspiring and contagious. He made us smiling and energetic all the time.
After lunch, we walked to Katagiri Town and had rest at around 220pm. We continued walking for almost an hour more until we reached Hourinji temple in Ikaruga Town by 320pm.
After this, we walked a few minutes more and reached Ikaruga Town Hall by around 420pm. We were received warmly by the town office representatives. We also sang Aoi Sorawa (Blue Skies) during the day’s closing ceremony.
During the afternoon, it seems that our lead announcer (on-foot) is so contagious that he manages to energize not only his fellow marchers but other people in the streets as well. It was surprising to see more people wave at us strongly with a big smile. Some even honk their car horns and wave hands outside the window as they wait for their traffic light to turn green. There was also man inside a bus (also in full stop) who took his hand out and did fist pumps for us. 🙂
Some more notes about Nara and its Ikaruga town (as I understood from my fellow marchers): Japan’s capital city used to be Kamakura. Before Kamakura, it used to be Kyoto. But before Kyoto, it was Nara. And Ikaruga Town inside Nara Prefecture is the earliest seat of Buddhism in Japan. This is the area where the original Buddhism from India first flourished. Japan eventually developed it’s own form of Buddhism and this flourished in Kyoto after many years. So when you want to see the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan, you can see it in Ikaruga. And Horyuji Temple is declared as the oldest standing Buddhist temple in Japan. No nails were used in its construction.
I’m sorry that this post is very late and very long. 🙂 Today’s march was indeed very scenic and full of history. Many of my Japanese friends highly recommended Nara for historical sight seeing before. Some of them say it with conviction, others with a sigh of nostalgia / endearment. Perhaps now, I could say I understand why.