The fourth installment of my translations from Yūko Ishida’s Meeting Hiroshima’s Trees is about the ginkgo located in the Anrakuji temple grounds. This is a long excerpt, so please click “continue reading” to read on.
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The Former Chief Priest of Anrakuji: Kōji Toyooka-san’s Story
I wanted to hear more from people with knowledge of the bombing, so one day in June of 2014 I inquired at Anrakuji, which is home to the oldest ginkgo in the city. Anrakuji, situated 2.2 kilometers to the northeast of the hypocenter in the Ushita neighborhood, near where Kanda Bridge spans the Kyōbashi River, is an ancient temple with almost 500 years of history. The large ginkgo next to the temple gate is quite tall and can be spotted even from a distance. With its wide and elegant trunk, this tree is a symbol of Ushita.
The first time I saw the ginkgo’s thick branch passing through the roof of the temple gate, I admiringly exclaimed, “Woah, amazing!” Trees growing in cities have their branches cut if they get in the way of electrical lines or buildings. It’s thought that hurting the trees in order to prioritize people can’t be helped. However, this ginkgo is treated with great care. The carpenter designed a magnificent gate, and the tree is clearly growing unimpeded. The branches, growing long and round, were in full, verdant leaf.
That day, I joined third-year elementary school students from Hiroshima City to hear former Chief Priest Kōji Toyooka-san’s personal story of the bombing.
Toyooka-san, wearing the black robes of a Buddhist priest, met us. His expression and figure seemed kind, giving the impression that he was part of the calm atmosphere of Anrakuji itself.
After waiting a little while, we heard children’s energetic voices coming from the street. The ginkgo was probably also happily welcoming its small, lively guests. About 70 kids entered the main hall, sat politely, and quietly waited for Toyooka-san’s story.
ANT-Hiroshima has been co-operating with Hector Nihal, director of the Aids Awareness Society in Pakistan, who requested assistance in a peace education initiative for schools in Lahore, Pakistan.
Hector organized a poster competition as part of his peace education initiative, “Say No to Nuclear Weapons.” The peace edcuation initiative was originally scheduled to be on 9th August 2014, to commemorate the dropping of the second atomic bomb, on Nagasaki.
However, the event had to be postponed as the venue was at Model Town, Lahore, was where a rally and demonstration at the beginning of Tahirul Qadri’s “Inqalab March” was being held.
The event was held on 6th September instead, and went off successfully.
A total of ten schools took part along with representatives from various NGOs, religious leaders and political parties.
The posters made by the students were put on display, as were the educational posters that were supplied by ANT-Hiroshima.
The school students were shown a film about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and learned about the devastating effects of nuclear weapons. They expressed their solidarity with the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The participants appreciated the courage of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as they struggled to recover from the destruction in a spirit of Peace and forgiveness while moving ahead to rebuild their lives and communities.
The school children received certificates of attendance and gift copies of Sadako’s Prayer.
The school principals offered their full support and cooperation for future peace programs in their schools to educate younger generation about the importance of peace and the effects of weapons of mass destruction.
On behalf of participants we are grateful ANT and its team for providing this opportunity to organize a program on this important topic. – Hector Nihal
The Popoki Peace Project is a voluntary project established in Kobe, Japan in 2006 by Ronnie Alexander and inspired by her pet cat to help promote peace.
By the way, “Popoki” is “cat” in Hawaiian. In the photo you can see Ronnie with Popoki as a kitten.
The idea behind the project is to develop a more imaginative response to peace because,
“We cannot create what we cannot imagine.”
In other words, if we are unable to imagine anything peaceful we won’t be able to create peace in our own lives or in the world.
To help participants think about peace in an imaginative way, the project uses Popoki’s Peace Books in peace workshops, seminars and camps. Events have been held all over Japan and in many other countries.
Popoki’s Peace Books to promote critical thinking, imagination, expression and action for peace through such activities as workshops, seminars, camps and other events for people of all ages.
Popoki Peace Books are bilingual books of questions about peace, using situations from the life of Ronnie’s cat, Popoki to ask some simple questions about peace. The questions are simple but there are no easy answers so the reader is encouraged to think about what “peace” could be from a variety of perspectives. The books are illustrated with cute pictures of Popoki and are designed to appeal to all ages.
Currently, two Popoki Peace Books have been published, volume 1, What Color Is Peace? and volume 2, What Color Is Friendship?
For more information about the Popoki Peace Project and the Popoki books, see Ronnie’s website at: http://popoki.cruisejapan.com
On August 6th 2010, the 65th anniversary of the atom bombing of Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War, the pupils of Nagatsuka Junior High School prepared and delivered their own “Hiroshima Peace Declaration“.
Here is their message:
What kind of image does the city of Hiroshima give to people of the world? Most of them may say “exciting”, “lively”, “peaceful”, or “happy”. However, it was not so in the past.
65 years ago, an unbelievable thing happened in Hiroshima. At that time, people in Hiroshima had no hopes and dreams. All they saw were dead people and destroyed buildings. The bad dreams at that time are still in people’s mind.
8:15 in the morning, on August 6th, 1945. On that day, the American warplane “B29” dropped a single atomic bomb onto Hiroshima. In a few seconds, the city of Hiroshima was burned out. Hiroshima was covered with a sea of fire and everything had gone. Beautiful rivers turned to graves. People alive were so badly damaged, heart and body, that they couldn’t get to their feet. They were full of anger and sorrow.
However, in that difficult situation, a lot of people struggled to live for us. They tried to get over the sorrows of losing their family and pains caused by the atomic bomb. They have had a strong will to live for the day. We must not forget that we are now here thanks to their efforts.
Look. Hiroshima is now a peaceful and safe city to live in. People are full of dreams, hopes and smiles. We promise to thank for people who struggled to live for us, and make the most of our life everyday.
“Learn from yesterday and live for today.” We must not forget the tragedy on that day in Hiroshima. What can we do for that? We can study this tragedy and communicate it to the future generation.
This may be a small step. We cannot save the past, but we can save the future. We will not look away from the reality. We should not treat this as a thing in the past. And we swear we will continue to appeal for the value and importance of peace to the people of the world.