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Veteran, 95, takes four buses to join Auckland anti-racism rally - 'We're all one'

It was one of the most moving moments of the rally against racism at Auckland's Aotea Square on Sunday.

An elderly man was supported by police and a helper to show his support for the Muslim community and his opposition to racism.

He is 95-year-old John Sato from Auckland, and it took him four buses to join the march.

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    Seven Sharp reporter Michael Holland spent the day with John Sato. Source: Seven Sharp

    Mr Sato said he was a bit out of touch with the modern world.

    Most of the time, he would have a walk around the neighbourhood, do some house chores, and listen to his favourite classical music and opera on the radio.

    However, after hearing the news about the mass shooting in Christchurch, he couldn't sleep.

    "I stayed awake quite a lot at the night. I didn't sleep too well ever since. I thought it was so sad. You can feel the suffering of other people," Mr Sato said.

    Mr Sato identifies himself as Eurasian. His mother is Scottish and his father Japanese.

    His wife passed away 15 years ago and their only daughter, who was born blind but talented in yoga, also passed away last year.

    Mr Sato said the hardships were all part of life, and it was important for people to look after one another regardless of their cultural backgrounds and ethnicity.

    "I think it's such a tragedy, and yet it has the other side. It has brought people together, no matter what their race or anything. People suddenly realised we're all one. We care for each other."

    Mr Sato heard about the vigils and memorial events around the country following the tragic shootings in Christchurch, so he wanted to check out a mosque in Pakuranga which was not far away from his house. It was the start of a long journey for him.

    He left home in Howick at around 10am, took a bus to Pakuranga, where he saw many flowers and messages. Then he decided to go into the city centre.

    After two more transfers, he arrived.

    Taking a bus was easier than walking at least, which can save him shoes, he said with a smile.

    People were so kind to give him a hand when they saw him. A policeman even gave him a bottle of water and took him home.

    "Policeman took me all the way home, waited down there until he saw me getting up the stairs. The tragedy in Christchurch, look at what it brought out in people. It shows the best of humanity."

    Mr Sato was young when he was recruited into the New Zealand army during World War II to fight against Japan. He was one of only two Kiwi-Japanese in the army, he said.

    He said the war claimed innocent lives and it was a waste of time. Life, he said, was too short to be wasted on meaningless things such as hatred.

    The Christchurch incident was more than just a tragedy for us, Mr Sato said.

    "We all go through our furnace in certain ways and some of the things that happen to us will make you more understanding, I hope."

    By Liu Chen

    rnz.co.nz

    John Sato (C) 95, one of only two Japanese servicemen in the New Zealand army in WWII, took multiple buses from Howick to join the march against racism at Aotea Square. Source: Getty