(Clearwisdom.net) Hiroshima in May is full of flowers and crowds of people. The annual May Flower Festival began on May 3, 2004 with the theme, "Let the circle of flowers, the circle of human beings and the message of peace spread more and more widely." The festival was mainly held on Peace Boulevard and Peace Memorial Park. Sixty-nine groups-- about 6200 people-- participated in the first day's parade on Peace Boulevard. It rained in the afternoon, but about 350,000 spectators were still in high spirits. In order to let more people know the wonderfulness of Falun Dafa, Japan Falun Gong practitioners participated in the festival for the third time.

During the past three years, Falun Gong practitioners have frequently appeared in various community activities in Japan and have gradually become more and more in harmony with the community. It's hard for people to imagine that such a wonderful cultivation practice, which has been welcomed in more than 60 countries, is suffering brutal persecution in China.

The opening ceremony was held at noon in Peace Memorial Park. After standing in silent tribute for the victims of the bombing, Hiroshima City Mayor lit a fire for the symbol of this festival--the tower of flowers and the light of peace.

The Chinese News Publishing Center director and the Planning and Implementing Department of the Flower Festival Executive Board told reporters that besides local groups from all over Japan, the Falun Gong contingent, composed of many Chinese people, was participating in the festival for the third time. The reporter asked if he knew that in China, 949 people have died as a result of persecution. The director answered that in Japan, the flower festival executive board respects freedom of belief and welcomes Falun Gong practitioners' participation in the event to introduce their principles and their activities to the public.

A broadcasting station set up along Peace Boulevard introduced each group in the parade, which was aired live by a local TV station. The Falun Gong contingent was composed of a waist drum group, float decorated with flowers, Tang Dynasty Costume group, celestial maiden dance group, Japan's Minghui School and several other groups. The Falun Gong practitioners' performances won warm applause as they displayed the Chinese traditional culture and brought a glimpse into the beauty of Dafa to Hiroshima's citizens.

Some members of the audience followed practitioners on the float to do the exercises. Upon seeing practitioners in beautiful Tang Dynasty dresses, some people cheered: "So beautiful." An elderly Japanese person pointed at the Falun Gong group and told his granddaughter to wave. Many Chinese people were surprised and amazed by the Falun Gong procession. Two people from China, one a university teacher and the other an official, followed the practitioners' contingent in the rain until it arrived at Peace Memorial Park. They held umbrellas and listened to practitioners explaining the facts about Falun Gong for about an hour. They raised many questions, and practitioners answered them one by one. Finally one of them expressed a wish to learn Falun Gong. The university teacher learned the truth and said that he hadn't known all this. He asked for many truth clarification materials, took down Falun Dafa website addresses and expressed that he would get a thorough understanding of Falun Dafa.

As the Falun Gong contingent marched down several streets, the broadcaster's introduction could repeatedly be heard, "Now coming towards us are Falun Gong practitioners in beautiful costumes, a waist drum group, beautiful ladies accompanying the flower-float with the three words 'Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.' Truthfulness is to be sincere and truthful, Compassion is to be kind and benevolent, and Forbearance is to be patient and tolerant. That is to say, to be a good person according to the standard of 'Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.' Falun Gong is an advanced qigong practice with a tremendous effect on health, and it has spread to many countries in the world. There is a two-hour free instruction of exercises each week in the Peace Park. Everybody, do please come and give it a try!"

The broadcaster seemed to have a special fondness for the Falun Gong group, as during the course of the parade, she introduced the Falun Gong contingent three times.

After the parade, practitioners participated in a stage performance, classical dancing, exercise demonstration and traditional dance performance, and concluded with the song, "Coming for You." After the parade, the rain poured down, but many spectators watched practitioners' performance in the rain.

During the performance on the stage, Falun Gong practitioner Yoko Kaneko gave a speech in the street. She was illegally detained for one and a half years in China for distributing Falun Gong truth clarification materials. Practitioners held banners that read "Bring Jiang to justice" and explained the facts about the persecution. When people heard that more than 949 practitioners have died as a result of the persecution in China, they could not believe that such brutal persecution is still going on. When Yoko Kaneko was detained in a Chinese labor camp, Hiroshima citizens were concerned for her safety, and many citizens recognized her. The Japanese people have seen more clearly the evil nature of the persecution through Yoko's experience.

Prior to the parade, while practitioners rehearsed in the park, several amateur photographers shot footage of the practitioners.