May 30, 2019 (Thursday)/Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture
By Galileo de Guzman Castillo
I arrived before sunrise at Chubu Centrair International Airport in Tokoname yesterday for the 2019 Japan Peace March International Youth Relay. I was invited by the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) to walk through Aichi and Gifu prefectures from May 29 to June 18. Hideki “Run” Yokoe, Director-General of the Aichi Gensuikyo (see photo above) briefed me about the Peace March and why thousands of people join the annual action of the Japanese peace movement. Run-san has been with the peace movement since 1982, initially as a young university student studying social welfare in Chita, Aichi.
I learned from Run-san that the Peace March is a build-up activity in the lead up to the annual World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs that is held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The collective goal is to call and drum up support for a peaceful world without nuclear weapons and this has been done since 1958, when the first Peace Marcher, Nishimoto Atsushi, a monk, walked all the way from Hiroshima to Tokyo where the World Conference was held back then.
Later in the afternoon, Run-san introduced me to different Japanese movements based in Aichi that will all join the Peace March. I met local leaders from the women’s movement, medical profession, pensioners’ association, and trade union. I also joined the preparatory meeting of Aichi Peace Marchers and was warmly welcomed by fellow peace and nuclear abolition activists
I observed in the course of the conversations that majority of the people in the room are older persons. Nishioka-san (right-most in the photo), a long-time Peace Marcher who completed the entire Peace March course all the way from Tokyo to Hiroshima, is the oldest at 85 years old. I realized that even combining Run-san’s (55 years) and my age (27 years) would not even add up to Nishioka-san’s! It was both a humbling and inspiring experience to be with long-time activists who has dedicated most of their life to the peace movement.
Gensuikyo invited me to be an International Youth Relay marcher as they believe my presence in the Peace March, as a young activist, will encourage many participants including the Hibakusha. In hindsight, I reckon that it is in fact a mutually valuable exchange of connection and understanding that gives one another support, encouragement, and hope. While the youth, who cut across all the sectors of society are most of the time viewed as source of energy and enthusiasm, the older persons—those in their so-called “sunset years”—are also a wellspring of wisdom, inspiration, and courage.#
Focus on the Global South’s Galileo de Guzman Castillo from the Philippines is currently in Japan as part of the 2019 International Youth Relay Peace March. The International youth relay aims to provide a place and an opportunity for overseas young delegates to witness the Japan National Peace March, interact with Hibakushas (atomic bombing survivors) and learn about peace and nuclear weapons abolition while walking with grassroots people in Japan. It is also meant to encourage more Japanese youth activists to respond to the call of Hibakushas that no one will ever suffer the same experience that they had. The Peace March focuses on issues of peace, opposition to war, justice for the Hibakushas. The addition of the International youth relay hopes also to integrate cross cutting issues such as climate justice, environmental protection, arms trade, human rights and economic issues that are integral to the call for peace and justice.