Saturday, August 06, 2005

60 anniversary of the bomb part 1

I somehow managed to wake up at 7:00 pm. The train station was just packed, I mean packed with school kids and foreign tourists on an excursion to go to the Peace Park. And what a sensory overload upon arriving. Saw zengakuren student activists shouting slogans, Buddhist priests chanting before the A-bomb dome, lots of people and school kids with petitions (for what, I do not know), riot police on standby, and just hoards of people, surprisingly many of them foreigners, walking to the Dome.Here are the student activists:
And here are the riot police standing nearby in case the small group of activists decided to emulate their breatheren in the West...
Just too many people at the ceremony. They had set up a tent to handle the overflow of crowds, but the crowd spilled way past the tents. I could have stood way in the back to strain for a glimpse of the ceremony, but would have been in the unbelievably hot sun, not to mention muggy weather.Here is my view of the scene, if I was 6 and a half feet tall...(I held the camera way over my head). So I stood in the shade of the Peace Memorial Museum, far away from the festivities. Then the moment of silence at 8:15 followed by the release of doves. There were more speeches and such, but rather than broil in the sun, I just chatted with people around the park. For example, I met American Zen disciples from Oregon. The one I met in the morning needed help with translation – was there a locker somewhere? He carried pictures of jizos and spread them around. We talked a little and found out that the temple was in Astoria, and that he used to live on Powell Street in Portland.

(Later in the evening, I met another Zen disciple from Oregon. He told me that one of the purposes of the trips was to meet the people who were the enemy. Then once you humanize the enemy, you can never want to go to war against them again.) He also had pictures of jizo to give away. Those Jizo are guardians of dead children and unborn but aborted fetuses.
But I digress. While waiting for the ceremony to end, I also met a teacher from Okinawa, who was with school kid representatives from all over Okinawa. They were there for a student peace conference, and they met kids from Afghanistan, Korea, and all over Japan. I had him and his students pose for my camera.
I also saw some Boy Scouts. In Japan, Scouts have been gender integrated, and now you see young boys and girls together. So Japan, in my eyes, is more advanced than the U.S. BTW, the Scout leader on the far left told me that he was going in Hawaii this fall.
A volunteer table was handing out glasses of water, and when I drank, I saw a sign reminding me that after the bomb, badly burned victims often died in the merciless heat crying out, “Water, water…” So I felt guilty about water.
I could hear Prime Minister speaking, but not see him. Then the ceremony was over. I waited in the International Exchange Lounge (with free English books to read) for awhile, then remembered a sign telling people to come to ground zero at 10:00 am. I ran there in the sweltering heat, and saw a crowd of people staring at the sky. A helicopter was hovering at the exact spot where the bomb went off and was going to take a picture of us. Some kind of peace project. In the meantime, a boat with some musicians standing on it was just 30 meters from the A-Bomb dome in the river, and the Japanese woman was singing, “What a wonderful world” and “Imagine”.
Are western songs that popular? BTW, these two songs are available on Karaoke in Japan, and I recommend you learn them if you want to sing in English over here.

Saw a demonstration of people gathered. But no bad vibes. They were inviting foreigners to come up, for example, one would say, “I’m from Iran.” Then the emcee asked him to chant in Persian for “Peace in Iran. Peace in Iran.” Then they all did it in English. An American came up, and they stared chanting, “Peace in America. Peace in America”. Then "Peace in Korea. Peace in Korea."
Pacifism has truly spread throughout Japan. Very little anti-American sentiment, and more a forward-looking "lets have peace" sentiment. Much of the crowd was visiting all the memorials to the dead and burning incense and saying prayers.

I saw a kamishibai performance. A woman arrived on a bike, and then showed illustrations on card, which she kept revealing like a slideshow. She changed her voice to play different roles, and was quite dramatic in her tellingthe story of Sadako, the girl who inspired the Children’s memorial in the Park. Some 10 meters or so away from her, another group of performers was telling the story of Sadako, this time one played on a wooden cello, and the woman just read from the Sadako book. No Role Playing whatsoever.
I got soaked with sweat in the unbelievable heat and so headed on back to the station to check my email, and then went off to eat dinner with the family. Then I realized I had no sunscreen, and saw I was sunburned on a little patch of skin. Ouch!

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