When I got on board the coach from Osaka to Nagano at 10 pm April 25, I had no idea I was with a group of people heading to support the torch relay scheduled for the following morning.
The supporters for the Beijing Olympic Games torch relay, mostly students of the Osaka University, impressed me as business people from a big corporation, going for a certain project. They solemnly went around, checking your ID, health insurance certificate, and other documents, as if preparing some experiment in a lab.
"We must guarantee that every participant of this activity has the legal identity so as to give no excuse for any possible accusations," says Ke Chenfeng, an engineering major.
Most of the organizers are science or engineering majors like Ke. No wonder I witnessed such scrutiny. They were so thorough about the details that every participant was assigned a bottle of mineral water, a trash bag, an emergency guidebook and a map of Nagano.
Everything was spontaneously organized by these young people in their early 20s. As one of the few seniors in mid-30s, I could feel a certain amateurish tension when the youths announced the rules.
Compared with such specialized organizations as Reporters sans Frontiers (Reporters without Borders) and their sophisticated plots to mar the torch relay, I found these young people's amateurism lovely.
They are at an age to enjoy life fully. Could we have an enjoyable torch relay?
We covered the more than 500 kilometers in about six hours when we got to Nagano at 4 am April 26.
Immediately we spotted some "snow lion" flags held up by supporters of so-called "Free Tibet".
"I'd go and have a photo taken with them," yelled a young man, grabbing a banner carrying the characters, that said, "Tibet belongs to China and will always do," and dashing off board the coach.
Yet the pro-separatists had all vanished when we got off. The young man who intended to have a photo taken with them was obviously disappointed.
I thought we were the first group of Chinese to arrive in Nagano, when I saw five-star red flags sparkling across the street. The Chinese students in Kyoto were ahead of us.
Instantly, more and more five-star red flags appeared in the streets of Nagano as coach after coach carrying young Chinese drove in. They smiled and cheered to each other, although they had been strangers to one another up to that moment. The atmosphere even infected many local Japanese coming out to do exercises, who also smiled to the enthusiastic Chinese youths.
The pro-Chinese enthusiasts outnumbered the anti-Chinese protestors by about 10 to one, yet the latter used high pitch loudspeakers, while the former relied entirely on their natural voice. On the appearance it was like a tie between the two sides.
I could spot no Tibetan on the pro-separatist side, which comprised a purely Japanese-speaking community. Aside from the "snow-lion" flags, there were a lot of Japanese right-wing flags and anti-China slogans.
When a Chinese youth with a five-star red flag mark painted on his cheek passed by the anti-Chinese protestors, several of them screamed and pounced on the lad, covering him with fists and kicks.
My first reaction was a shout of "Tamu!" (No!) And I tried to stop them. But they continued kicking the young man before the police came.
The Chinese young man never hit back. "Be restrained", I heard him shouting to his friends. "We must be civilized!"
He kept standing despite the beating, and was never subdued.
I later learned that the anti-Chinese protestors also attacked two torchbearers - a famous Japanese actor of 66, and Ai Fukuhara, the table tennis player nicknamed "porcelain doll".
They threw bottles at the elderly man, and would have hit him in the head had the police not shielded them off.
In my heart I cursed these cowards, who bullied either the elderly or girls. You call it Peace? It is a shame!
A veteran Japanese reporter told me, "This is not what ordinary Japanese people think!"
At 35 years of age and as a writer, I thought I would be passionate no more. But at that moment, I suddenly felt I was so close to the national heroes whose stories I learned by heart since childhood.
I unbuttoned my overcoat and bore the slogan printed on my T-shirt, which says: "Defend the Olympic Torch!" I strolled in front of the pro-secessionists, and the police quickly drew me away.
Amid the applause of my own people, I returned to the Chinese arrays. Tears rolled down as I saw the five-star red flags in our ranks.
Going through all this, I am convinced that I am on the side of justice.
As for the separatists, they are losing the last strain of people's sympathy for them because of their violence.
Many Japanese, including local residents and members of Japan-China friendship associations across the country, also joined us, and local firm owners placed garlands at the door as a gesture of support for us.
And the violence from the pro-secessionists drew the full attention of the police to them. They stood in a row facing the pro-secessionists, leaving on our side only one or two officers, who even joked with us.
The most touching scene took place as the last torchbearer entered the arena, when every guardian of the torch stopped running and took to a stroll. Amid the thousands of young Chinese who had stood in the chilly rain for hours and who were now singing in chorus the National Anthem of the People's Republic of China, no protection was needed for the torch.
The author is an IT engineer and writer living in Japan
(China Daily 04/28/2008 page4)