your grandfather died a POW
we apologize —
Mr. Koshi Kobayashi took me sight-seeing to the seaside towns of Fukuyama, Tomonoura and Onomichi, including dropping me off at the Zen Retreat Center Shinshoji for a few days. Under the golden October sun, he then drove me to the Mukaishima POW Memorial near Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture.
He and locals erected the monument in memory of one American and 23 British POWs who died in this World War II prison camp. The camp is now a strip mall. “Let’s have a healthy, beautiful life,” read large, red lettering across the front of a grocery store.
asphalt parking lot
they died for freedom
Eighty-years-old, Koshi is energetic despite his frozen right shoulder pain. His soft voice and excellent English introduced me to his friend Matsuura Seiichi, who runs the Japan English Karaoke Association and the Hiroshima-Ken International Exchange Association. His mission: to spread friendship and help the world understand Japan better and heal the wounds of war. I, too apologized for the horrific atomic bombings on Japan, as I had done for my Tokyo friends, who had also apologized for Japan’s part in the war and death of my grandfather in 1943.
Matsuura fled the fire bombing of Osaka when he was 5 and grew up on Shikoku. Later in his living room in Onomichi, I would sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic at Koshi’s behest, being the very first time I would ever perform karaoke.
Koshi had asked me to help him with English, and said that karaoke is good for the health and lungs! “
When I was at the memorial, Naoko Mizobuchi and Chiyomi Kagawa of the Mukaishima Board of Education Mukaishima Elementary School Training Institute in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan joined us. They brought me the English edition of The Wing of Time, Beyond the Tragedy of the Prison Camp that they created and whose English version was published by the Japan-UK and USA Friendship Monument Society. Page 1 featured Japan’s constitution: peace through education. In gratitude I gave everyone a copy of my Storytime Yoga CD Peace, For the Children.
Here’s to the memory of the soldiers, their families. Here’s to Japan for owning up to its past and working for peace. Let’s hope the USA stops its human rights abuses with its migrant and family separation policy, because that’s what the Japanese had done to my family during WWII. Stop Trump’s assassination of Iranian Generals, or torture tactics for detainees. Our taxes are much better spent on education and health care! May we all work for peace. For the children!
I was deeply touched by everyone’s generosity and kindness. The peaceful people of Japan’s gentleness and also fierce heritage, history and culture blaze on in my heart and memory. The Japanese people are my friends, and the world is new again because we all walk hand in hand with peace as our message!
As I was leaving Fukuyama, Koshi stood at the Fukuyama train platform with me.
saying goodbye he
told me that fukuyama
means happy/lucky mountain
I am so lucky!
I am so happy!