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Teenage girl recites poem for peace at Okinawa war memorial ceremony

Rinko Sagara, 14, recites a poem for peace during a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Battle of Okinawa, at Peace Memorial Park in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, on June 23, 2018. (Mainichi)

ITOMAN, Okinawa -- A junior high school girl recited a poem for peace during a memorial ceremony remembering the victims of the Battle of Okinawa at a park here on June 23, calling for people to think about war and peace.

Rinko Sagara, 14, a third-year student at Minatogawa Junior High School in Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture, composed the poem based on her great-grandmother's experiences during the battle in the final stages of World War II.

Sagara's great-grandmother, now a 94-year-old resident of the prefectural city of Uruma, told the girl about how her friend was shot and killed in front of her and that she was separated from her family members due to the war.

"I felt the cruelty of the war," said Sagara. "Because of my great-grandmother, I've had more opportunities to think about war and peace."

She decided to write a poem about life when her great-grandmother was admitted to a hospital in May. "Peace means to live an ordinary life, to live your life to the fullest," she thought.

Her poem was eventually picked from 971 poetry works on peace submitted by citizens to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum.

In her poem, she portrayed the beautiful scenery of the islands of Okinawa today in stark contrast to the battlegrounds 73 years ago, hoping to highlight the cruelty of war. "The tunes of sanshin (three-stringed traditional instrument) vanished into the roaring sounds of bombs," and "The blue skies were obscured by the iron rain," the poem reads.

"Let this requiem be heard by the fallen. Let it reach the sorrowful past. Let the sounds of the living reverberate to the future. I will live out this moment," the poem continues.

Sagara recalls her great-grandmother telling her, "War must never be waged, as it changes humans into demons." Therefore, she hopes her poem will give as many people as possible the opportunity to think about the consequences of war and the importance of peace.

"Cherish every single day, thinking about peace, praying for peace. For our future is just an extension of this moment. That is, now is our future," it reads.

(Japanese original by Tadashi Sano, Kyushu News Department)

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