Today is our last morning in Nara Prefecture. The through peace marchers (Takeda-san, Tanaka-san and Igarashi-san) and I were fetched by Umebayashi-san and some people from Osaka Gensuikyo. We drove for around 30 minutes to the Handover venue in Osaka. On our way, the four of us took a selfie. This is our little message saying, ‘Osaka, here we come!’
We arrived in Osaka at around 11:30 and we met the Osaka Gensuikyo organizers and Niño Desierto – our international youth relay marcher for Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures. He is a musician from Mindanao, Philippines. He is also the multi-media editor of Mindanao People’s Peace Movement (MPPM) and also a member of YAPAK – an artists’ group that is very active with peace education and social awareness endeavors.
We met him December last year during the Mindanao People’s Peace Summit held in Lanao del Norte, Mindanao. My mother and I were inspired by the strong participation of the youth and artists in their group so we made a mental note to invite them if there is a chance to push through with the international youth relay in mind. Once we got a heads up with Nihon Gensuikyo, we immediately asked MPPM to send a delegate for the Peace March.
Mindanao also faces several issues related to peace and security. I believe that Mindanao, in a way, faces common struggles with some parts of Okinawa, Jeju Island and Guam with regards to claiming their own land, their voice, identity and their fight against further militarism.
Now it is for real that both of us are in Osaka together with the Peace Marchers for the handover. It is nice to know that Iwata-san and Komatsu-san (Osaka Gensuikyo’s president and secretary-general, respectively) are taking good care of Niño. He seems to be in high spirits and nervous at the same time.
We had an early lunch along the green riverbanks. It was very relaxing. Tanaka-san seems to be more excited than usual because his hometown is in Osaka. So there will be nights when he can actually go home. Being a through Peace Marcher would entail sleeping in different towns almost every night for about 3 months maximum. This would mean not going home for that long except perhaps when the route is near your hometown.
Local marchers came one by one or by groups. The atmosphere is like an outdoor reunion where people catch up after some time of not seeing each other. Perhaps it has been from last year’s Peace March since some of them came together. There are also some people I met in Aichi in 2013. One of them gave photos and news clippings of this year’s march in Aichi to the through Peace Marchers.
There were already many people gathered by 12:40. Just as scheduled, we started the handover ceremonies at 12:45. There were around 250 people present. The five of us (Niño, Tanaka-san, Takeda-san, Igarashi-san and I) were introduced and gave short messages. Messages of support from different organizations and the city office were also expressed. We also have 10-11 prefectural marchers in Osaka who come from different organizations supporting the peace movement. That’s a lot!
We started walking by 1pm and there was a long line if marchers behind us! It is also very hot and humid compared to our time in Nara, but it seems the local marchers are mentally prepared for it. 🙂 They are indeed very genki (healthy). A relatively young and tall man walked with us for a few blocks and we are being photographed. I believe he is a member if the city council. He also delivered a message of support earlier and seems to be well received by the local marchers.
By 320pm, we had a break at Yao City where there was a lot of people waiting for us. Again we received the message from the mayor and the head of local Shinfujin (New Japan Women’s Organization). The city council members also wished us success and good health.
We finished the march by 5 pm at Higashi Osaka City (East Osaka City). By this time, the number of marchers have increased from 250 to 550 people. Everybody was greeting each other ‘Otsukare sama deshita!’ which means ‘Thank you / congratulations for your hard work!’ It was indeed hard work because today was hot and humid. More than this, the time and distances of the march in Osaka was way longer than what we did in Nara. My legs are complaining but of course the spirit is not.
The venue for the closing ceremony was in a community park with a playground. There were many kids at play and some of them were curious about what we were doing. Takeda-san took the time to explain to them about the Peace March and the things that we are campaigning for. 🙂
Niño seems to be settling right in this early as he was lent a mini taiko (traditional Japanese drum) and he made lively beats throughout the afternoon. I keep hearing the word ‘jyouzu’ when he plays the taiko. It means he is playing well. There are times when he seems to be dancing slightly as we walk. He is a musician so I won’t be surprised if he is asked to perform in the next days to come. He also prepared a song for the Peace March. Hopefully we can have a chance to post it as well.
Today’s closing ceremony is extra special because three hibakushas joined us. One of them gave a speech. He said that they appreciate the Peace March for the work they are doing. As I realized last year, the voice of the Hibakusha is the driving force of the peace movement not just in Japan but around the world as well. Their voice gives a sense of urgency to realize a total ban on nuclear weapons. The average age of the hibakusha is now past 80 years old. But still many of them (especially the remaining younger ones) are very active in passing on their stories about the horrors they experienced from the war, the A-bomb, and the difficult life they had afterwards. Their story should not be forgotten and must be used as a reference to push forward a real peaceful and just society. There have been applications / efforts / campaigns to award a Hibakusha a Nobel Peace Prize. However, it has not been realized yet.
Tonight’s accommodation is special as we were brought to a ryoukan (traditional Japanese inn) with onsen (hot bath). I believe this is also Niño’s first ryokan and onsen experience – and with the through Peace Marchers! They are pleased that he is enjoying. During dinner time when Iwata-san and Komatsu-san are no longer with us, I try my best to help Niño break through the language barrier with my very limited Nihongo vocabulary.
During dinner the through peace marchers and the driver were discussing the next day’s march. They say tomorrow is one of the hardest parts of the Peace March (I’m not sure if it’s among Osaka Prefecture only or the entire Tokyo-Hiroshima Course). The walk tomorrow is longer than usual and most probably hotter as we are approaching summer already. I will still be walking with them for the next two days, but this time Niño is the main international youth relay marcher for Osaka Prefecture.
From here on, Niño Desierto will be sharing his experience through words, photos and videos as he joins the Peace Marchers in Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures for 16 days. Salamat at Mabuhay ka Niño! (Thank you and more power to you Niño!)
To end this post I will have to say: Hello Osaka! Welcome Niño! Goodluck for tomorrow! Issho ni gambarimasyo! (Let us fight together!)