Just when the days were getting sweltering, we arrived at Fukuyama City Office to RAIN! – first very heavy, then tapering off in time for the march. Wow, did it cool things down!!!
Nakajima-sensei greeted us in the morning, and we were given huge numbers of beautiful peace cranes by residents of Fukayama. What a beautiful gift and tradition.
I enjoyed conversations with Nakajima-sensei throughout the day, including hearing about his upcoming trip to Hiroshima, where he’ll not only join the August 6 commemoration, but also will get to go to a Carps game with his son. I also enjoyed that his 9 year old daughter shared the microphone with him to do some chanting.
We enjoyed a (luxuriously) long lunch sitting outside a junior high school, and I was lucky to receive a simple but very helpful act of generosity by a woman who gifted me some baking soda that I was looking for to wash my clothes!
I’m struck by how calm and helpful the police are here. On stretches of the March where we’re going along highly trafficked roads, we’ll have about seven police escorts, sometimes for hours at a time. What a new experience for an officer to smile and bow every time it’s time we cross the road!! AND, not only is it totally accepted that we use loudspeakers, but it also doesn’t seem to bother the police at all that their mega-phone can barely even carry sound to the front of the crowd!! A big difference from the often aggressive police that we face in the U.S. during nonviolent demonstrations.
That said, this also brought to my realization that we have not once been heckled or harassed (verbally or physically!) by people passing our march. Yes, sometimes people avoid eye contact, and displays of solidarity are also not as loud as they might be in the U.S. (where it’s typical to honk your horn many times to show you agree with marchers), but not one person has shouted obscenities or accusations out their car windows!
Speaking of the reactions of people we pass, a highlight today was walking by a flower/plant shop and at least three or four people inside rushed to the window and waved so enthusiastically to the whole of our long line of marchers! So encouraging!!
The scenery (where we are) in Hiroshima definitely looks different, with denser and more abundant forests. And we reached ocean upon arriving in Onomochi – a beautiful port city!!
We finished marching at 5pm and enjoyed dinner at our hotel with Sumita-sensei (who’s in charge of the Onomichi City March), a number of other residents and marchers from the city, and our interpreter Kurihara-sensei (a high school teacher and first-time basketball coach!).
Per Manisha’s suggestion, after dinner, she, Kurihara-sensei, and I accompanied Sumita-sensei back to the nearby island where he lives, called Mukaishima – a five minute ferry ride away. Wow! At 8:35pm the streets were dark, calm, and very quiet. Sumita-sensi brought us to Sumita Bakery, which he and his wife run, and which is now in its fourth generation. He gave us many treats, and his wife joined for a short visit.
She pulled some old photos from under the register (both of them are 72 years old; they were high school sweethearts!), and they showed us a baby photo of Sumita-sensei with his mother, and a picture of his mom and dad.
We learned that his father had died as a soldier in the Philippines in 1945. His dad was 29; his mom was 26; and he was just 3 years old. This, Sumita-sensei’s wife told us (interpreted by Kurihara-sensei), was his origin.
What an insight this gives into this incredibly friendly, light-hearted man who introduced me with a twinkle in his eye as “Sophia Loren” at dinner. Wow. The stories people carry.