Yesterday, August 1, 2015, I climbed the  171 meter, 561 foot high Mount Shizuhata, in Shizuoka, Japan. The temperature was 38 degrees Celsius, 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a hard climb up and exhausting going down. But it was worth it!

The Fuji TV station is making a four hour documentary about World War Two and the summit of the mountain has  a Memorial Peace statue and a plaque that says B-29 in English and tells the story of the twenty three American Airmen who were killed in a mid-air collision of  two B-29 bombers on a bombing mission on the night of June 20, 1945.  There is also a small plaque with the names of the Americans who died.
I am but a small portion of the documentary which will be shown on August 15 in Japan, the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. But I am huge proponent of the story of the blackened canteen that was found in the wreckage of the bombers.
Doctor Hiroya Sugano was 39 when he climbed Mount Shizuhata in 1972 and discovered the  Memorial Peace statue. Curious, he asked a worker for information about the statue and was directed to Fukumoto Itoh, a Bhuddist  monk at  a nearby Temple. Mr. Itoh was a town councilman in 1945 as well as a Soy bean farmer and Soy sauce maker. He found an American canteen in the wreckage that had been held by one of the airmen when he died fighting for his country. His fingers made a dent in the canteen and you can feel them when you hold it.
After his release from prison for giving council to the enemy for burying the remains of the Americans, Mr Itoh became a Priest. A few years later he raised enough money from the townspeople of the burnt out city to build a monument to Peace. Then, on the Saturday closest to June 20, he began a tradition of inviting the citizens of Shizuoka to participate in a ceremony honoring the lives of the 23 American airmen who died while bombing their enemy.
Doctor Sugano asked Mr. Itoh why. “Why did you bury those men, why this ceremony?”
“Unless those who die are buried with a proper ceremony before 50 years elapses, they will return as they died. That is my belief. I did not want them to return as warriors and die again in battle with an enemy. That is why I did what I did.”
Doctor Sugano is 82 now and has carried the tradition forward since Mr. Itoh passed several years ago.
He too climbed the mountain yesterday. He carried a bottle of American Bourbon with him and watched me fill the canteen with the whiskey and pour it on the B-29 plaque from the canteen as I closed my eyes, thought about all who died in war and said a prayer for Peace.