This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 375 – September 4, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

Lost and Found.

For a rough translation in your own language click here: Translate now

As the Bullet train heads west, away from Tokyo towards Kyoto and Hiroshima I try to take some photographs.  It’s difficult.  The train is travelling at speeds of up to 250kph, and it’s raining.  We’ve just missed the edge of a typhoon, and according to weather reports, another is on the way.  

But I want to take photos because I’m seeing a unique landscape that helps me understand something of Japanese art.  The train travels across large flood plains where modern cities rise and rice fields provide nourishment for Japans 130 million inhabitants.  Behind the flood plains the mountains rise, layer upon layer, often with mist and cloud making them look like they are the stage set from some fairy tale film.  Rather than three dimensional the perspective makes the mountains look layered – almost exactly as you see it portrayed in Japanese art – and more recently by impressionist painters who, understandably, fell in love with the landscape.  

If you enjoy nature then Japan is a must visit place.  Many of the shrines and temples are set in exotic locations, my favourite, the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, a half hour tram ride south west of Hiroshima city.  The shrine is a world heritage site, originally built around 593 with the main shrine buildings constructed around 1168.  The Otorii gate is one of the most famous views in Japan , standing as it does in the Sea, providing photo opportunities for amateur and professional alike.  If you want to see my efforts, check out our website!  

It’s a place of outstanding beauty that has survived the ravages of time, nature and man.  Yes indeed, perhaps man especially, since it was so near to the place where man first killed man with an atomic bomb.  Hiroshima is witness to that event.  The peace park, the museum, the many monuments, activities and efforts of the town council a stark reminder of the horrors of war, along with active efforts around the world to act for peace.  I interviewed two elderly ladies who were in their teens and twenties at the time the bomb went off.  The younger one should not have survived.  A 17 year old school girl she was 1.7 km from the epicentre.  Her skin was burnt and sliding off her like an undercooked pizza topping.  Her lungs were scorched causing her severe breathing difficulties.  Her father found her and carried her to a first aid post where they told him to take her away to die.  She was too far gone.  A horrific story – but she has no bitterness as she tells it.  And she has a peace in her heart as she shares how her faith in God carried her through the difficult years following August 6, 1945.  

A faith that came, partly perhaps, by another disaster reported in last Sunday’s Japan Times.  Otokichi was a 14 year old sailor in 1832 when, along with 13 others, he sailed in a boat laden with rice and pottery.  That was the last time he would see home.  A severe storm blew up sweeping the small craft way out into the Pacific Ocean , where, with no mast or rudder, he and two others survived 14 months, using their skill to desalinate sea water and surviving on a diet of rice.  Eventually making landfall in Washington State , USA , their adventures continued across to England and then to Macao .  The intention was to use the three of them as bargaining chips in a bid to open up trade with a fiercely isolationist Japan .  It never happened for as the American merchant ship, with them on board, approached Japan it was fired on wherever it tried to make landfall, and had to return to Macao .  

So what has this story got to do with a A-bomb survivor and her faith?  Well, in Macao lived a German missionary, Karl Gützlaff.  Using Otokichi and his friends he learnt Japanese and produced the first Bible translation in 1837, a version of the Gospel of John.  It’s an interesting translation, starting out, “In the beginning was the wise thing.  This wise thing was paradise”.   Not quite what you will read in a modern translation, but a start, and, although today Christians make up less than one percent of the Japanese population, they are a respected group and are making a difference.  For instance, one council official I met in Hiroshima told me how much she had benefited from the education she received at Saniko Adventist High School .  Christians are making a difference in the lives of those who are seeking for more.  

At each Shinto shrine you will find hand written prayers to the local deity.  My guide told me that if the prayers are not answered the person will probably go to a different shrine and try there until success is achieved.  It can be a long search, and as I headed back towards Tokyo on the bullet train, passing again past those silhouette hills, and then as my plane takes off running ahead of Typhoon Chaba and its 145kph winds, I think of those words, translated into Japanese back in 1837, but of such meaning to all of us -- the ultimate answer to all of our prayers.  

“For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him should be saved.”  (John 3:17)  

A promise for now, for me, and for eternity.

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