My Films

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Walking for Peace from Kobe to Hiroshima

Hey, I copied this verbatim from what I wrote for the Peace Boat website about the walk I participated in August. It's already September, craziness! September is a very special month for Peace and I'll be updating my blog frequently over the next thirty days.

okay here goes:

On July 16th, the remaining participants of the 53rd voyage disembarked from the TSS Topaz at the Port of Kobe. Having sailed around the world for the past 102 days, their bags overflowed with gifts from unusual places and their digital cameras were jammed with the photos of their new international friends. The voyage took them to places previously unheard of and exposed them to diverse cultures, languages and global issues. While many of them were ready to return to their familiar lives and begin to look for work, a handful of them were ready to take the tools and skills they had acquired and put them into action.

A week later, six eager souls began a 320 km peace walk from Kobe to Hiroshima. Beginning their walk from the Port of Kobe as the 54th Global Voyage departed, they aimed to arrive to the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome by August 5th, one day before the 61st anniversary of the Atomic Bomb dropping. Miki Tatsuya, from Yokohama, joined the walk because he not only saw the walk as overcoming a personal challenge but also because, “I thought that if people could see us persevering in the heat of the summer, the message would reach their hearts that much more.”
Peace walk leader Shunsuke Hirai from Osaka, who began organizing the walk a week before Peace Boat arrived back in Japan, said, “we learned about so many issues while at sea. I asked myself what will I do with what I learned when I get back to Japan?”

The photo exhibit of the Depleted Uranium victims in Iraq.
Six walkers began the 15 day journey, averaging 25 kilometers a day under grueling temperatures of up to 35° Celsius. The walkers carried with them gruesome poster images of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima hibakusha. They also brought along photos of Depleted Uranium victims in Iraq taken by photojournalist Naomi Toyoda. Ji Hae Song, from Korea, said, “On the ship, we learned that there are many other “hibakusha,” not just the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People in Korea, Iraq and elsewhere are suffering from the effects of radiation.” The participants have helped the public to make the connection, by setting up photo exhibitions at heavily trafficked train stations and shopping areas.

Walking through the city of Hiroshima escorted by the police.
The walkers have not only been speaking publicly about their experiences around the world but have made stops along their journey to learn about Japan’s imperialist military past. They visited the island of Okunojima, also called Doku Gas Jima (Poisonous Gas Island) that defied the 1925 Geneva Protocol to produce mustard seed gas from the 20s through 40s. At the Poisonous Gas Museum, they learned that to keep the gas production a secret, the island was erased from many maps at the time. Now, the island that has been converted into a resort. “The kids were swimming in the pools... they said they changed the soil but you have to wonder…” said Yuka Asada from Akashi.

The walkers pose in front of the A-bomb Dome.
As they got closer to their destination, more and more participants joined the walk. At local convenience stores and restaurants, words of encouragement came from the local community. “Keep on trucking along,” “Wow, you’ve walked all that?” have been a few of people’s reactions. Shunsuke said that an older man he met at a bath house reminded him that the hibakusha had walked the same route fleeing the bombing in much more dire conditions—higher temperatures and without water. “We should remember this as we walk,” he told the group in one of their nightly meetings.

On August 5th, 30 participants completed the last leg of the walk to the Atomic Bomb Dome. They carried the 13m banner “Pieces of Peace,” made out of messages of peace they collected from around the world. Along with it they carried a banner they had received from the World Peace Forum in Vancouver in late June. As they walked through the city streets of Hiroshima, escorted by police, Shunsuke and Peace Boat staff member Mika Hasegawa loudly announced on a megaphone, “We have just traveled around the world. We want a world without war and so we support Article 9 of the constitution. We hope that Article 9 will be adopted by constitutions of the world.” When they arrived at the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Peace Park, the six original walkers delivered the banners to the Peace Promotion Office at the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation. A 15 day, 320km journey through both city and country had come to an end. That evening, they celebrated with other peace activists from Japan anticipating the memorial event the following day.

The “die-in” held at 8:15 on August 6th.
While many thousands gathered in the Peace Park for the main memorial event, many of the peace walk participants choose to participate in an alternative event by the Atomic Bomb Dome. At 8:15 am, the moment the bomb exploded 61 years ago, several hundred people lay down in front of the atomic bomb in a “die-in.” Shunsuke felt that in reaching Hiroshima, he saw the potential to change Japan. “This is just one journey we have accomplished, I’m sure we will continue on many more.”

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