NAJC HERITAGE TOUR
The Festive Season is upon us and a new year is about to begin. As we contemplate the past year and thoughts of new beginnings, I am reminded of a significant time during the recent NAJC Heritage Tour—the visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It is a outstanding reminder of the devastation of the atomic bomb and the need to abolish all nuclear weapons. The Mayors for Peace ( representing over 5300 cities, world wide) have called for the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020, and Mayor Masui Kazumi, of Hiroshima, in his speech of August 6, 2012, stated: “I firmly believe that the demand for freedom from nuclear weapons will soon spread out from Hiroshima, encircle the globe and lead us to genuine world peace.”
While our tour group listened intently to the words of the Tour Guide, I was struck by the magnitude of the devastation to Hiroshima and the resiliency of the people of Japan to rebuild the city and create such a powerful message of world peace. In particular was a monument to a tree that survived the destruction of the A-Bomb, the “Phoenix Tree,” which is a Chinese Parasol tree. This tree, which was in the epicentre of the bomb, was not expected to survive. Slowly, however, people noticed that leaves appeared within the charred remains of the tree and it was a message of hope and renewal. The tree was replanted to its current location in the Peace Park and the seeds from this tree are sent to schoolyards all over Japan to send a message to children, of hope and peace. Apparently in the Millennium year, there was a call to songwriters to write a song about celebrating Japan in the new century. Many songs were submitted, but the one that was chosen, was a song about the tree, that was written and sung by a seven-year-old girl. One of the lines of the song (translated) goes “gathering courage, we make a vow….to create countries that do not fight.” I purchased the CD of her song and was impacted by the strength of her voice and the warmth and hope that it conveys.
Hiroshima had a personal significance to me as well. It was here that my father was born and grew up, until he was 19 years old and journeyed to Canada, at the request of a relative who needed help. I wondered how it was for him, to leave his birthplace and be immersed in an unfamiliar country, often unfriendly to Asian immigrants. My father, along with many persons of his generation, stayed and made a life for himself and his family, despite many challenges. We are all the benefactors of past generations who paved the way for our communities to thrive and be strong. I looked for Kaki trees in Hiroshima as this was a lasting memory of my father, who often spoke of his anticipation of the time when the fruit matured and how he so enjoyed picking these fruits.
May the New Year bring much peace and joy to all.