Smiling Faces of Peace
by Rina Natsusako, 8th Grade
Ishiki Junior High School, Kagoshima Prefecture
Messages of Peace from Chiran
13th Annual Speech Contest, 2002
Honorable Mention, Junior High School Division
"It's scary." This is what I first felt when I went to Himeyuri
It was during summer vacation five years ago. We went on a family trip to
Okinawa. It was full of natural beauty, and the air was clean. My heart was
filled with longing and a cheerful feeling to see Okinawa for the first time. However,
there was something about which I had a question. I, being young, did not know
until then why foreigners are in Okinawa.
"Father, what is that?" Planes and large buildings could be seen in
an area cut off by a chain-link fence. That place's atmosphere was clearly
different from the pedestrian traffic near it.
My father answered, "That's the place where Americans have a military
base." The tone of his voice was gentle, but his voice was mixed with
anger and sadness. Even though I was young, I became aware of a sad incident.
The first thing that caught my eye at Himeyuri Tower
was the air-raid shelter. It was a large, deep hole. The inside of the air-raid shelter was
wrapped in darkness. Even now I shudder when I think of the many people who
suffered and died inside of it. I joined my hands in prayer in front of the
air-raid shelter. I prayed again and again in my heart that there will not be
war in the future.
What I saw at Himeyuri Tower even now is imprinted in my memory. It was a
fun trip to Okinawa, but the memory that remained was that I realized there for
the first time the preciousness of life and the horror of war. What
I felt at Himeyuri Tower will not be forgotten my entire life.
I felt like I wanted to know more. When I disclosed this to my father, he was
happy. He used a holiday to take me to the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots. Many
photographs are displayed at the Peace Museum. These persons died as kamikaze
pilots. What thoughts might they have had as they set out for the sky? The
men who died making kamikaze attacks are called heroes at the Peace Museum. These
brave men set out for the sky thinking of their country, thinking of their
mothers, and hoping for everlasting peace. Among these brave persons are several
young men, about the same age as high school students, who are playing happily
with a puppy. It was a photo taken twenty minutes prior to their departure. The
heroes in that photo seemed very proud, and their expressions seemed like they had
no doubts. However, was it that they were they thinking about their country and
their parents? I was saddened and distressed, holding back my tears.
There is also someone near to me who faced war and life. It is my
grandmother. My grandmother's life was greatly changed by the war. My
grandmother has a very serious look on her face when she talks about the war.
She talked to me about there being no food and waiting inside a dark air-raid
shelter for the attacks to stop. My grandmother worked prior to the war, but she
had to quit when the war started. She often says, "There was not even a
grain of rice left." In my grandmother's family, her mother passed away
when she young, and my grandmother looked after her younger brother in place of
her mother. Therefore, I think that my grandmother has a good understanding of
the importance of life and food.
There are many opportunities for me to learn about war and the preciousness
of life. Therefore, I can no longer turn away my eyes from what happened in
the past. Since it is what actually was and since many people suffered, I really
want to consider and communicate these facts. The past can never be erased. However,
it can be connected to the future. We can
smile like this since there is an environment of peace. Together let's make and
show others smiling faces of peace.
1. Himeyuri Tower was built in
remembrance of girls in the Himeyuri Corps who lost their lives during the
Battle of Okinawa. Over 200 of these girls worked as nurses in a field hospital
in underground caves, and about half of them lost their lives when they were
killed by American soldiers or when they committed suicide rather than be
captured by the enemy. The word "Himeyuri" means "star
Translated by Bill Gordon