Saturday, August 1, 2009

Peace by Picasso

We have arrived safely and settled into Tokyo, experiencing a whirlwind of food, ceremony, music, and subway in the last two days. While landing, uncharacteristically (as I am terrified of flying), I opened my window to watch. "1 minute to arrival" the screen in front of me said, yet all I could see was a dense fog. Seconds from landing the fog cleared to reveal lush green countryside as we touched down. Welcome to Tokyo... well, almost. 70 minutes of train later, after watching the scenery change from vibrant green to vibrant neon and flashing lights, we stepped into the largest city in the world.

First impressions of Japan ranged from surprise at the cleanliness and full recycling bins, the eagerness of those we have met to smile, the beauty and lack of obesity, the abundant sense of style, the box walls built each night by the homeless to surround their sleeping mats. But common among all of our first impressions was a sense of awe at the kindness shown to us. The woman in a noodle shop who, though she did not work there, delivered water to Demetra and Alyson. The hotel owner where we are staying offering his own computer and printer for me to use when I could not find an Internet cafe with printing capabilities, then feeding me shrimp crackers and tea while I used both. The staff of the corner shop, of Kinkos, of an Internet cafe, and of the police station who rushed forward to help Tom get in contact with his wife, Laura, when both our international phone and calling cards did not want to cooperate. Kindness has been shown to us at every step - that is our first impression.

Last night we had the privilege of meeting with the Japan Peace Committee, the oldest peace organization in the country. Upon sitting down to meet with them, we were presented with a wide array of sweets and snacks, coffee and tea, and asked to please enjoy. Three years ago, this very group visited us in Tacoma and Olympia, Washington, to organize support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty review which comes up this May, 2010. On this, our return visit, they welcomed us, and stated that they "are encouraged and empowered" to know that they are not along in their work against nuclear weapons. One representative stated that they "have no feelings of hatred toward American people, even the Hibakusha. But, [they] are very happy that people are coming from the US to help realize a world free of nuclear weapons." In spite of the language barrier, which our translator did much to minimize, both groups felt an immense connection.

There is something wonderful about realizing that people across the world who speak a different language and have such different customs can feel exactly the same about an issue such as nuclear weapons. As we prepared to leave, our groups exchanged gifts, and the committee presented us with several packages. In a wave of gratitude we hardly understood what was being handed to us. However, after exiting, we opened up a flat package, to find an original Pablo Picasso sketch of a dove with a face inside of it. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe in Japanese culture we are to, upon receiving a gift, return one of equal value? A request: If anyone out there has a priceless sketch by one of the most famous artists of all time that you'd like to send on our behalf to the Japan Peace Committee, please stand up.

It is August 2nd, four days to the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.


  1. Thank you for your beautiful description. I'm checking the blog frequently so please keep writing. I feel like I'm with you.

  2. Thanks for the update, glad to hear how it's going so far. I wonder if this link is to a representation of the Picasso image you were given?
    Blessings on you, your hosts, and all who work for a better world.

  3. Just makes me cry with relief, Tamara. I love how you see beauty wherever you are. The Picasso gift is amazing! I was just thinking of that image... the 2010 Syracuse Cultural Workers' calendar has a cover I'm sure took inspiration from the Picasso icon.

    Thank you for putting your impressions into words.


  4. What great imagery -feel almost as if I am there with you! Best wishes & high hopes to all of the travelers and to those you meet on your journey. You are on the minds and in the hearts of so many here at home. Stay cool (in all ways)!

  5. As usual I am weighning in on the late side. Tamara I love to read the way you see your world there in Japan. What a gift you have to bring us along for the ride. And again as the movie say's "Love is all around", we just have to be open, heh. Anyway, I don't have anything here at home to match the Pacasso but I can check out Guadalupe House in the morning, they must have something of equal value hanging around. Love Dad