Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The resonance of the evergreen Chinese parasol tree

Written by Eve and Ciaran - student reporters

On Wednesday 18th of October, we set off to the meet the Lord Mayor of Coventry.

It was a typical autumn afternoon, with lots of cloud, wind, and of course, rain drops.

1:10 PM

After a brief introduction, we had a cup of tea with the Lord Mayor Councillor Tony Skipper. Present in the Lord Mayor’s office were Mr John Hartley, Miss Emiko Urata (teacher from our partner school Kamokita in Hiroshima, Japan) and her two students (Shusuki and Shino), Mrs Nguyen (our teacher), and both of us, Eve and Ciaran the student reporters.

During this time we talked about the strong link between the two cities, Coventry and Hiroshima. Miss Urata is from the Coventry Hiroshima Society which is based in Hiroshima and has 60 members.

Did you know that:

On 6th August 1945, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped a five-ton atomic bomb (named Little Boy) over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

On the night of 14th November 1940, the Luftwaffe attacked Coventry. Known as ‘Operation Moonlight Sonata’, over 400 bombers attacked Coventry that night and in the early morning of 15th November 1940.

Here are some questions we posed to the Lord Mayor;-

What is the meaning of the Coat of Arms?

"It is an emblem that signifies the City".

How are you going to obtain Coventry the title: City of Culture?

"Well, we are in the top five cities for the competition. In two days time we are going to receive a visit from the City of Culture judges. Hopefully it’s a fruitful day as we are putting forward proposals in many areas of the City; therefore having a better chance".

What is your biggest challenge as Lord Mayor?

"I don't have any political power and yet, I still have to attend maybe four or five events a day. And most of those events need some sort of speech or lecture".

What is your guilty pleasure?

"Anything involving real ale and live music".

Do you enjoy travelling?

"I like arriving however not the actual travelling segment".

We asked the Lord Mayor a more personal question:

Do you have any pets and what are they called?

"Nelson, Deedee and ginger. I’m a cat man, definitely not a dog person.”

The Lord Mayor unfortunately then had to leave us in the company of Mr John Hartley as he had to attend another function. We thanked the Lord Mayor for his precious time to talk to us and take us around the Council House.

A Conversation with Mr John Hartley

For your information Mr Hartley was the person who has enabled the two schools Whitley Academy and Kamokita to partner up with each other five years ago.

Together with Miss Urata, Mr Hartley verbally took us to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, where the Chinese Parasol Tree still stands strong today. 

We were amazed to realise that the tree survived the atomic bomb, even though it was approximately 1300 metres away from the explosion. It was since taken to grow in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. Nowadays the seeds of the Tree are distributed by the Mayor of Hiroshima to many peace organisations around the world.

Do you know that…

Plants in Hiroshima suffered damage only in the portions exposed above ground, while portions underground were not directly damaged by the atomic bomb.

We asked Mr Hartley: Why are you passionate about the links between Coventry and Hiroshima?
He took us back to the 1950s.

"In 1953 in England every young man at the age of 18 or over had to perform military duties but could not fight on the front lines. They were transported to many different places around the world and were fighting for British territories".

Mr Hartley was taken to Japan and lived in Kure near the prefecture (equivalent to a British county) of Hiroshima. He was part of the British and Commonwealth Forces who formed part of the United Nations army which helped the South Koreans. His uniform bared the United Nations emblem.

Whilst in Japan he met a Japanese boy who was 2 years older than him called Jose and became friends with him. Jose worked as a civilian in his camp called “Cassels Camp”. The Korean War was finished around 1956.

Jose and John are still friends and have regular contact through letters and telephone calls. He is now 84 years old and the friendship is 64 years old. Wow!

When Mr Hartley returned to Coventry he went to work for Glass Coventry Limited. 

John is eternally grateful to the people of Hiroshima, especially his friend Jose. This is why he feels the need to create such a strong bond between Coventry and Hiroshima.

So all in all it was an afternoon with many things to take in,  meeting the Lord Mayor of Coventry, but also an ex-veteran of the British Army. We’ll take this experience with us for the rest of our lives. Many new seeds of inspiration have been planted in our minds and now that you’ve read this, you can plant these seeds in your minds as well.

Thank you for reading our blog.