Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hiroshima. Rain Rain Go Away.

Post 6. 


Our time spent in Hiroshima coincided with the perfect weather for the mood, dreary. It didn't stop drizzling the entire four days we were there. From walking to the subway to riding the bullet train to riding a small tram, I always had a rain cover on my bag and an umbrella in my hand. While I was excited to be journeying to a new city, I was a little nervous about how I would feel about my time spent in Hiroshima. As most Americans know, Hiroshima was the first site of the A-bomb drop during WWII in an attempt to stop the war. The city was devastated and at least 70,000 people died instantly with thousands more dying from following complications. Knowing the kind of destruction and pain we caused the civilians of this region, I felt a sense of nervousness that our group would not be received well by the locals. Once we arrived, I felt a sense of extreme welcoming, more than I had imagined. Those currently living in Hiroshima have a mentality that it happened, BUT rather than focusing on the hate that was associated with the bombing they choose to focus on peace. Peace that will end all nuclear war. All of the Japanese people who showed us around were excited that we were there. They were hospitable, receptive to any questions we had, and loved that they had an opportunity to share their story. Most survivors of the bombing view sharing their story as a method of promoting peace.
Walking through the typhoon rain in Hiroshima 
Group C across the river from the A-Bomb dome 
Getting off the tram, we walked to our hotel, Aster Plaza, through the Peace Memorial Park, which we would be visiting the next day. It was eerie. The one structure that is left standing today is the A-Bomb Dome which was once the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition as a remembrance memorial. The naked metal of the dome stuck out against the tall skyscrapers and rushing river that surrounded it. Crows were circling the ruins making the scene even spookier, I was happy to rush to our hotel and settle in.

I shared a double room (with real BEDS!!!) with Alexis on the ninth floor overlooking the busy streets and river. Luckily, we didn't get stuck in one of the rooms that had 10 guys or 5 girls! After settling in for a few minutes and freshening up from our travel day, we set off to hunt for dinner nearby. The streets around our hotel were not as safe or touristy as those in Kyoto so searching for dinners and lunches was a bit more difficult. We still managed to find some great eats, including a Tex Mex place with vegetarian and organic options, called Otis.

The following day we walked to the Peace Memorial Park to visit the museum and surrounding park. Inside the museum we were privileged to hear the testimony of Keiko Ogura, a bomb survivor. Throughout our time spent in the area the only word that I could think of was surreal. To actually be in a place where all these bad things happened, that were caused by MY country was a hard concept to swallow. Within the museum there were destroyed items such as lunch boxes with charred meals, tattered clothes, fingernails and skin, and melted together tea cups donated by survivors.
The A-Bomb Dome
In line with the memorial cenotaph, peace flame, and A-Bomb dome.
Many of the initial survivors of the blast didn't survive for long. One girl in particular, Sadako, was exposed to the bomb when she was only 2 years old. Ten years later, she entered the Red Cross Hospital with leukemia. Despite the pain from her disease, she faithfully folded paper cranes in hopes of a cure. Despite the valiant effort, her brief life ended after an eight-month struggle. Today, cranes are folded as a symbol of casualties like Sadako. I bought some origami paper from the gift shop in the museum and folded a crane in honor of lives lost.
These 7 ft tall containers house thousands upon thousands of folded cranes.
The crane I folded in honor of the A-Bomb victims.
The tour of the museum ended with group discussions with professors and visiting students from the Hiroshima area. The student who joined our group was Kae Oi who was a 25 year old student striving to be a teacher. She had studied in America for a little while and we were able to talk to her about her experiences there and get recommendations for things to do during our stay in Hiroshima. Luckily, Kae didn't have any plans that evening and was able to hang out with us which was such a wonderful experience. I was able to check so many of my "must-do" things off my list such as eating Okonomiyaki, a delicious pizza like treat, singing karakoe, and making friends with locals.
Eating Okonomiyaki a dish with pasta, egg, flour, bacon,
secret sauce, and other yummy stuff!
We even planned to hang out again the next night when she would take us to a traditional Japanese bar. Unfortunately, due to difficulties in communication, we never ended up finding her until we came back to the hotel. Because it was rather late, we decided to squeeze in breakfast with her at the hotel the next morning before departing from Hiroshima Port at 11:15. Again our plans were foiled as the typhoon rolling in through the area forced our group to leave at 10 for the port. We were able to message Kae and let her know that we would not be able to see her before we left. I was so sad that we wouldn't be able to say goodbye properly! When we arrived at the port, Kae was waiting for us there! It felt like something out of a cheesy romantic movie, only instead of waiting at the airport gate it was the ferry port! We were able to say goodbye there and share a cup of coffee and pastries. I hope she comes to America again so we can show her around Chicago!
The gang with Kae Oi! 
My time spent in Hiroshima was a mixture of disbelief, relaxation, and meeting new people.
Matsuyama is only a ferry ride away.
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Due to the prominence of paper cranes during my trip to Hiroshima, I've decided to not feature Spot, but rather the cranes that were folded for all the victims of the A-bomb.
Diana

3 comments:

  1. A touching post, Diana!Thanks for sharing your experience here. It reminds me a bit of my experience visiting a concentration camp in Germany. It was a gray day there too! Love the closing photo of garlands of cranes!
    Hugs to you on your birthday!
    Kathy

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  2. Thanks for sharing this experience with us! It is one of many shrines, museums, memorials of wars in the World. Pray for Peace!

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