Candles for Hope and Courage--Relay For Life 2007 in Ashiya, Hyogo

"Relay For Life" is an activity to support cancer patients by sponsoring a 24-hour walk relay. Once a year, those who are dedicated to fighting cancer in their community, gather to participate in the Relay For Life to celebrate cancer survivors and caregivers, pay tribute to the lives lost to the disease, and raise money to help fight it.

The event was started in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon and member of the American Cancer Society in Seattle, U.S.A. Currently, the events are held in more than 4,800 cities in the U.S.A. alone, and in more than 20 countries all over the world.

For more information on Relay For Life, please visit

On September 15, the second Relay For Life event was held in Japan at Ashiya Park in Ashiya City, Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan. What was it like? Approximately 4,000 people, including staff members of the event, walked around a 400-meter track for 24 hours. The relay walk was highlighted by using candles with messages, called "Luminaries." At around five p.m. some 2,500 candles were decorated around the track and formed the letters "HOPE" on the side slope of the track.

Each candle was kept lit for 12 hours. It was placed in soil in a half-cut plastic bottle and covered by a bag that participants wrote messages on for cancer survivors and their deceased loved ones.

Shinji Fujita, a staff member of the event said, "My colleagues in charge of Luminarie  had a challenging time preparing them. They had to affix the handwritten messages from all over Japan to each bag. They took special care so they would not burn. They also worked hard to prevent the candles from going out from the rain and wind."

During Luminarie, the candles were the only light for the event. Although there were street lamps on the highway near the park, the beautiful candles and people's thoughts for the event filled the atmosphere during the "candle run."

Fujikawa told us that he had tears in his eyes when he read a message on one of the bags--"Don't be so hard on yourself. You have fought enough." People's messages are words from their soul. Most participants spent time during the event feeling the souls around them. Flickering candles reminded them of their loved ones. Flames of candles lit the night with thoughts filled with love.

For Ashiya's Relay For Life, please visit
(Only in Japanese)

Yuko Kishikami

October 25, 2007