And For the Future
by Ai Kamisono, 7th Grade
Ikeda Junior High School, Kagoshima Prefecture
Messages of Peace from Chiran
13th Annual Speech Contest, 2002
First Prize, Junior High School Division
"If the war had gone on another week, Grandpa also
would have flown this plane," my grandmother whispered in front of the
shining green kamikaze plane with its prominent rising sun. I was visiting the
Kamikaze Peace Museum here in Chiran with my grandparents. As my grandfather
looked at Mount Kaimon, rising up clearly toward the deep blue sky painted in
back of the plane, he told me softly, "When I saw that mountain on the
left hand side, I said, 'I'm going now' and waved my hand until it could no
longer be seen." He said that even now he could not forget the indescribable
regret and loneliness of those days.
My grandfather piloted a Zero fighter. Several planes
escorted the kamikaze planes along their route in order to protect them from
enemy attack. Friends who he had lived together with until the day before now
faced "death." How did my grandfather feel saying goodbye to one
friend, then another? When I first heard my grandfather's story, I was touched
and my legs trembled. While looking at the back of my grandfather staring
silently at the photos of the young kamikaze pilots, I was filled with
indescribable sadness and regret. If there had been no war, these sweetly
smiling young men would have been surrounded by their grandchildren, like my
grandfather now, and would have been living quietly in peace. But the war
snatched all that away.
Last summer my Buddhist temple school group visited Vietnam,
a country where there was a horrible war for a long period. However, now it
certainly looks like they are starting to walk toward "peace." The
entire country was full of energy.
There I made friends with the children of Muong Phon
Elementary School. Everyone was a little bit shy, but telling me their dreams
made their eyes sparkle: "I want to study hard and become a school
teacher." "I want to be a nurse." While talking with them, I
thought how great it was these children could tell me about their dreams in the
midst of peace.
However, their parents had experienced the Vietnam War. Even
now many air-raid shelters remain in the hills. With what thoughts did the
people inside these damp earthen holes view the war? At the war museum there
were displayed many battle-scarred tanks that seem to have been used until
recently. It felt like screams from the many victims could be heard. In
addition, even now some children cannot attend school due to the effects of the
chemical weapons such as the defoliant Agent Orange. The country is recovering
and moving toward a new future. In contrast to the children with their bright
hopes, there still remain unspeakable deep scars from the war. I was deeply
shocked when I learned these things. War has not yet ended!
Today's Japan is very peaceful. In this environment don't we
think this peace is natural? However, now somewhere in the world armed
conflicts and terrorist incidents are happening, and many lives are being taken
away. We can never become indifferent to world events.
Peace is something everyone can begin to create.
Since cultures, languages, skin colors, and ways of thinking
are different, it is important to strive to mutually recognize these
differences and to understand each other. With a kind pure heart, each person
should respect oneself and others as friends on this same earth. By doing this
a rich pleasant world in which to live will grow.
Now if we follow these ideas, it will never be forgotten
that we can live peacefully thanks to many precious lives. And the importance
of these lives, regardless of race, religion, and culture, is the same for
everyone throughout the world. We young people must join our lives together, take
each other's hand, and take on the important role of building a peaceful world
for the future. I want to continue my strong determination to maintain peace
and to tell others about precious lives from the past and for the future!
Translated by Bill Gordon