IN KYOTO IS THE RYOANJI TEMPLE. It features a famed zen rock garden that we went to see. The garden proved underwhelming, and as we turned away disappointed a quartet of Japanese schoolchildren approached and shyly asked if they could speak English with us. We said yes, of course. Then the girl who is third from left in the photo above pulled out a set of stapled pages and the four students huddled around it. The pages were a script, and one by one the kids posed questions.
"Where do you come from?"
"Is this your first time in Japan?"
"What do you like the most about Japan?"
To each of our answers, they would nod, look at each other quizzically, then take a turn with the next question. Then the girl holding the script, who seemed to be in charge, pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to me. On the cover was a hand-drawn Christmas tree and a title, "Peace Message."
Inside were words in ball-and-stick printing, addressed to "dear friends":
We love Japan, the world and the earth. We think that we must do what we can do for peace of peace the world. We love peace but we hate war. We want to have a way to go toward world peace. We are all good friends together. We wish the world is peaceful forever. Let's work together for world peace. Let's make our home, the earth full of smile.
We thanked them, and they produced one more sheet of paper, this one a form. I filled it out—name, address—and then pondered its request for a message. Finally I wrote, "Thank you, Japan, for your lovely children."
The kids asked to have their picture taken with my wife. I complied and they thanked us again, bowed, and moved off. I silently gave thanks to Nameishi, Mukaida, Kitano, and Matsuo, four eighth-graders from Fukuoka, for leaving us with an earth full of smile.