Tokyo (AsiaNews) The Pope went to Japan in February 1981 to encourage the Japanese Church and Christians in their mission, and to meet the Japanese people and their culture, which goes back 1,000 years.
As a sign of love and respect for Japan and its people, John Paul II spent several months preparing himself to read in Japanese: during his trip (undertaken from 23 to 26 February), he gave seven speeches in Japanese, including one which lasted more than 20 minutes.
But above all it was his teaching from the heart and his gestures which touched the Japanese people most of all: when, for example, approached by the famous singer Agnes Chang during the youth meeting, he improvised a pirouette with some children; or else during Mass celebrated on 26 February in Nagasaki, in heavy snowfall, when he praised Japanese martyrs, comparing them to the first martyrs of the Christian era.
During his trip, John Paul II recalled several exemplary missionaries, like Brother Zeno Zebrowski, a Polish cloistered Franciscan who arrived in Japan in 1930 with Fr Maximilian Kolbe.
In the course of his trip, the Pontiff also paid homage at the monument set up in memory of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. "Remembering Hiroshima," said the Pope, "is hating nuclear war and committing oneself to peace. We pray that the world will no longer resort to arms of this kind".