We marched through Soja today, which began with about an hour through very rural scenery, including finally walking through a road that cuts through the very dense forestry, and coming out on the other side to see a lot of farmland and a five-tiered temple way in the distance. What a view!!
Yoda-san helped interpret for us in the morning, and Tomoki-san, a Kurashiki government official, joined us in the afternoon.
The March was greeted by the Kurashiki mayor, and we gave short speeches, translated by a woman from the City Office. We had a brief rest at that office, where I met some very friendly staff, including a man from Brazil whose work for the city is to help Brazilians to adjust to life in Japan, as there are many people who have come to work at the Mitsubishi factory in that area. And a secretary very generously went and filled my bottle with ice water – when I thanked him, he left and said “it’s my job as secretary!”
We rested at a shrine where we ate watermelon and enjoyed shade (!), then stopped at another city building where we met with the Vice Mayor. I always wonder about the genuine commitment of politicians when they greet demonstrators that are demanding real change.
I enjoyed lunch from the Coop, and other marchers shared umeboshi (homemade pickled plums – yum!) and small tomatoes. This type of generosity is so appreciated throughout the long days!
The last hour or so flew buy with the help of a man and his Taylor guitar; we played many songs together with him following along as I sang, sometimes to songs he’d never heard before!
On the final leg of the day’s March, we passed by a woman’s home whose mother, in 1958, set off on her own on the first ever Peace March from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Throughout the course she was joined by a couple of friends. If this weren’t inspiring enough, in 2007, at the age of 94, Shinko-san embarked on the Peace March again! She passed away later that year, and her daughter, who joined us at the end of the March, was obviously incredibly proud. What a moving and inspirational story to walk with. I do feel at moments like these (which abound) the spirit of the March, in which so many motivations and back-stories drive the participants, and the camaraderie that exists between us all, both those whom I stand beside and those who have walked before for peace – both in person and metaphorically.