Today is a beautiful day. After a week of almost non-stop rain showers and cold temperature, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of waking up on a bright, sunny Sunday morning. As if each sun rays is reminding you that today will be a good one.
Today is March 11, 2012. Exactly a year after the devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake strikes the Tohoku Region of Japan. The earthquake that triggered a tsunami so powerful that leaves you in complete awe while watching on your television screen how it swept away houses and cars as if they are just made of cardboard, the one that claims thousands of lives and leave behind thousands still lost and grieving. A tsunami so strong that triggered level 7 reactor meltdown at Fukishima Daiichi Nuclear Plant and ignited widespread radiation panic.
Today is not an ordinary day. Today the whole Japan and the rest of the world remembers the estimated 15, 850 lives lost, the 9,600 injured and the 3,150 still missing.
Today my destination is Hibiya Park, Tokyo. Not because I wanted to spend my weekend in complete relaxation mode by sitting on a bench and savouring every page of Murakami’s 1Q84. Instead, I purposely boarded the train bound for the park to participate on remembering 3.11.
“Peace On Earth” is a two-day sort of celebration attended by celebrities , activist, artists, musicians and a program divided between live music and discussions with the country known film director and environmentalist. Several booths were set-up all through out the park for charities and non-profit organizations, as well as for traders who I can only assume were mostly residents of Tohoku trying to re-introduce the products of the region. The best booth for me is the one where kids can draw and send a message of hope and happiness tor their fellow kids of the devastated region.
The atmosphere is a mixture of solemnity and festivity, but there is a part of me that looses interest all together after spending a few minutes. It feels like I was walking into weekend flea market instead of a gathering that leans toward honoring, remembering or if not at least initiate a lesson from what happened on that unforgettable day.
At the back of the park, close to the Hibiya Public Library, I saw a small gathering of people that catches my curiosity. At first, I suspected it might be another booth that sells memorial T-shirt but after seeing the mega-phones, the banners, the armband, I realize that these people are gearing up for a different celebration- remembering March 11 via Anti-Nuke protest.
Their message is straightforward. There is more underlying problem that couldn’t be replaced by the rock and roll sound of Asian Kung Fu Generation band at the Peace on Earth stage, that more than the celebration is something so real – nuclear power, the threat it pose to humanity and the call for its complete eradication.
If the “Peace on Earth” celebration is a family affair, the same can be said regarding the Anti-Nuke protest. There are parents who instead of letting their kids run around the park have them actively involved in the protest. There are friends who happily help each other put their armbands and paraphernalia. There are husband and wives who help each other fixing their banners.
Apart from the creative banners populating the streets, there were the uniquely styled individuals who in one way or another added color to the protest itself. You have the rockers, the clowns, the musicians, John Lennon/ Che Guevara fanatics in the mix and some I can’t categorized. But the most interesting is the group that will be heading the protest, fashionably dress in black as if marching for a funeral.
The drum beaters and the house-band playing “Amazing Grace” somehow compliments with the angry mega-phone shouts of few protesters who cannot contain their anger towards anyone who seems to represents the government.
But a protest will not be complete without the participation of the crowd-control police. Prior the start, the organizers and what I can only assume is the chief of the police discussed the route and the rules. If you don’t look closely, you will only assume that for such a huge gathering, there are only few uniformed officers but behind the lined of photographers are men dress in black keenly observing , as if with one wrong move from any participants guarantees jail time.
From what I initially taught a gathering of no less than thirty grew into one big protest march. I know that they don’t mean to disrespect the people who choose the Peace on Earth celebration but there are more important matters that still affect those left behind.
At exactly 2:46pm, everyone heads bow down, camera stopped shuttering and the crowd from both celebration grew silent. 2:46pm is the exact time the earthquake hit Japan. A minute of silent prayer was offered. The protesters, the police officers, the celebrities, the rock band, the kids, the traders, the spectators- everyone was united at least for a minute praying for the lives tragically perished, for the recovery of the region and its people.
Please pray for Japan. No to Nuclear Power. Peace on Earth.