Princess Aiko’s Yearbook Essay: “Praying for Peace in the World”

On March 22, the Imperial Household Agency announced that Toshinomiya Aiko-sama, the daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, had written an essay for Gakushuin Girls’ Junior High School memorial yearbook on the occasion of her graduation. Princess Aiko’s essay, titled “Praying for Peace in the World,” is reprinted below in full:

 

One winter morning not long before graduation, I was hurrying through the front gates of the school when I happened to glance up at the sky. It was a perfectly clear day—there was not a single cloud anywhere to be seen. I have my family to look after me. I am able to go to school every day to learn. I have friends who are waiting for me… “How happy I am! And how peaceful,” I thought quietly to myself as I looked up at the blue sky. I began to think very differently about just how happy and peaceful my world is after I visited Hiroshima in May, during my third year of junior high school.

 

As I gazed up at the ruined dome directly under which the atom bomb exploded, I suddenly found that I was unable to move. It was as though I was standing at that spot on August 6, 71 years ago. I had seen the dome in pictures before, or at least what is left of it: the iron framework and part of the outer wall. But I was shocked to see it in person. It is so wretchedly horrifying and real. In the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum I saw the charred remains of lunchboxes which children killed in the blast had been holding. I saw many other exhibits, too, about the damage that heat rays and radioactivity cause to the human body, and about the after-effects of the bombing. I couldn’t believe my own eyes—could this really have happened? I could not view it all and maintain my presence of mind. More than anything else, I felt anger and sadness at the hundreds of thousands of lives taken by the bomb. And what about those who survived? How did they get through each day having lost their families, the people who took care of them, and even the will to go on living? How did they feel? I could not even begin to imagine it.

 

It was only when I first felt myself somehow back there that August day seventy-one years before that I began to know something of the suffering, the deep regret experienced by those who were in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. This was an invaluable experience—something that it is impossible to understand unless one has actually gone to the scene where the bomb fell and exploded more than seventy years ago.

 

Two weeks after I went to Hiroshima, the American president, Barack Obama, also went to the site of the bombing. While there, he expressed his desire to work together for greater peace, and to have the courage to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. President Obama folded two origami cranes himself while praying for peace, quietly placing them in the Peace Memorial Museum. We also offered the thousand-crane strand that we had all folded together. But there were thousand-crane offerings from many others who had come to Hiroshima, and from all over the world. When I saw all of these thousands upon thousands of folded cranes, I felt, anew, that everyone is united in the same desire.

 

In the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima there is the Flame of Peace which has been burning continuously since 1964. This flame was lit with the hope that one day there would be no more nuclear weapons in the world, and it will go on burning until that day comes. As a symbol of peace, this flame has been used in a variety of ceremonies. As I stood before the Memorial Cenotaph, I could see the skeletal dome beyond the Flame of Peace. But the dome that had appeared unspeakably cruel when I saw it up close now looked different. It was protected by the arch-shaped cenotaph, beneath which nestled all of the profound hopes and prayers of people from around the world. It was at this precise moment that I first asked myself, “What is peace?”
There is no one who does not wish for peace. This is why we speak of it so often. However, to speak of peace is one thing, but to achieve it in the world is not so easy. There are millions around the world who even today suffer from conflicts and wars. How should we work to make peace a reality? What should we do?

 

I glanced up unthinkingly at the blue sky as I entered my school gate that winter day. But I cannot take it for granted—the sky is not always blue. Likewise, I cannot take for granted that I am able to live each day in peace and security, free from strife. During the war, no one was able to take these things for granted, for peace and security were nowhere to be found. Perhaps, peace begins with each one of us, showing our regard for one another and giving thanks for each kindness we receive, each tiny moment of every day.

 

We who were born in Japan were born into the only country ever bombed with nuclear weapons in a war. I believe that it is incumbent upon us, as Japanese, to tell the world what he have seen with our own eyes and felt in our own lives. We cannot wait for somebody else to create peace—we each must act thoughtfully and responsibly in order to bring it about ourselves.

 

I would like to visit Hiroshima again in order to deepen my understanding of the meaning of peace. I know that I will find the beginnings of new appreciations of peace there. I pray with my whole heart that soon, in the not distant future, the world will be rid of nuclear weapons, so that the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima can finally be blown out.

 

(Click here to read the original article in Japanese)

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