Okinawa torchbearer advocates for peace in the world


For four years, UEHARA Koime has been involved in the Peace Guide training programme in Itoman City, which was the site of the final front of the Battle of Okinawa.

In the programme, participants speak to those who experienced the Battle of Okinawa, walk the battlefields, prepare presentations, and then guide students visiting from other prefectures.

As the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII approaches, people who witnessed the war have grown old and it's becoming more difficult to explain to the next generation the value of peace.

Uehara wants to tell people the preciousness of peace, as described in the 16th sustainable development goal adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2015: ‘Peace, justice, and strong institutions'.

While wondering if there was someway she could be involved in at the Olympic Games, she discovered torchbearers were being recruited to carry the flame around Japan. In Itoman, the torch will visit the Peace Memorial Park, where the Flame of Peace also burns. Upon learning about the symbolism of the Olympic flame, which represents the ideals of peace, unity and friendship, Uehara applied to be torchbearer.

Her wish as torchbearer is to advocate peace in the world.

Why did you decide to participate in the Peace Guide training programme and what were your thoughts when you applied?

The principal at my primary school asked us if we would try being Peace Guides. I had learned about peace and the Battle of Okinawa in class, but I had never thought about it deeply. ‘What happened in the city where I live 70 years ago?’ I decided to participate because I wanted to know more.

Tell us about what you gained and how your thoughts changed by participating.

Initially, all I could do to guide people around the battlefields was do the preliminary research. As I continued, I met elderly people who told me of their experiences during the war. I began to think, ‘I’m living in what used to be the front line in the Battle of Okinawa – I must tell my generation, and the next, all about it’.

Are there any stories that you want to share, or that you are in a unique position to tell?

I want to tell the stories of the elderly who told us to ‘never go to war again,’ and ask us to ‘treasure life’. What can we do to ensure that the 75 years since the war do not become the next ‘pre-war period’? That’s what I want everyone to consider.

What are the good aspects of Itoman City and Okinawa?

The blue sea, the white sand, and the abundant nature. Itoman City holds many lunar calendar festivals including 'Jugo-ya' (Night of the full moon) and 'Hari' (dragon boat race), which everyone from children to the elderly enjoys together. People also take great care of their ancestors and deceased extended family by making them offerings and cleaning their graves and tombs.

With what frame of mind will you carry the flame, which will go on to the Peace Memorial Park, and then on to the Olympic venue?

I’m determined to run so the ‘Flame of Peace’, passed to me by the people who teach us to treasure life, will be linked to the flame of the Olympic Games. From Itoman, Okinawa, I want to advocate peace and life to the world.