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  • Writer's picturePaul Coleman

Hiroshima: The Painful Journey of the Pathway to Peace

My walk began with a talk in a teepee at the WPPD

On June 26th 2004 I began walking from the World Peace Prayer Day (WPPD) at Mt. Fuji to Hiroshima, planting trees along the way to draw attention to the massive impact of war, not only on humanity, but also on the natural environment that we all need to exist.

I aimed to arrive in Hiroshima in time to participate in the August 6th memorial ceremony that marks the time the Atom bomb exploded over the city.

One thing struck me then as it does now, sixteen years later. for the first few weeks of my walk, people would ask in amazement why I would want to make such a journey? This was not at all what I expected in Japan, the only nation ever to experience the impact of an atomic bomb. I thought they would readily understand. It seems distance, even just a few hunded kilometers, gradually numbed the senses and it brought me the realization that if people so close to such a man made catastrophe could find it difficult to comprehend why someone would want to do something to help stop such a tragedy ever happening agan, then what does that say for the rest of the world.

Planting a tree at a Shinto Shrine

Thankfully, not long after leaving the city of Osaka this all changed as the days passed with no one questioning why I was there. By the time I arrived in Hiroshima I had six young Japanese people walking with me and had been planting trees at Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and schools at an ever increasing rate.

We arrived into the city at three in the morning, just a few hours before the ceremony began.

Peace Park: School kids on the way to the ceremony

We slept on the bare earth at the peace park, to awake surrounded by thousands of people as the sun rose above the city. With them we walked to the ceremony and listened tp Prime Minister Koizumi. who mumbled his way through minf numbing speech that had people shouting for him to speak up or shut up, which surprised me in the ever so polite society of Japan.

At eight fifteen silence marked the moment the bomb exploded. On the middle of it something shocked me: The angry screams of Japanese right wing fanatics broadcast over loud speakers in an obvious effort to ruin the proceedings. It was a most discordant sound and it shattered the peace of the moment, as it was intended to do.

The Peace Arch represents a shelter for the souls of the victims

Later, I was interviewed by a US journalist and I mentioned the awful interruption to the peace ceremony and he in turn blithely stated. "It's a democracy"

I wondered at this sense of democracy and how such an interuption would be received at Ground Zero during the 9/11 ceremonial gathering. What is democracy if it empowers one man to shatter the joy and the dreams of another?

Makiko's feet before a 30 km walk

We have a long way to go to achieve peace, but in order for us and life to survive upon this planet, it is something that has to be done. God help us all. We have such a log way to go in such a brief time.

So buckle up for the journey. It promises to be one heck of a trip..

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