November 26, 2009
We arrived in Hiroshima early the evening before. After checking into the hotel, we decided to go for a walk and then find something to eat. We found the Peace Prominade about five blocks east of the hotel. There were lighted displays several blocks along the boulevard. It was warm enough to walk and view the lights. The lights were special displays for Christmas. There was a carosel, a whaling ship, pumpkin carriage ala Cinderella, pipe organ, snow flake, a Christmas tree, etc. It was truly impressive.
Nathan bought me a sweet potato from a street vendor. It was yellow instead of orange but it had the same taste only a little sweeter. After walking up and down the boulevard, we stopped for dinner then returned to the hotel.
Thanksgiving Day I was eating miso, sushi, and fish again for breakfast. No turkey and stuffing, Santa Claus parades, or football games this year. Afterwards we took our luggage to the train station and then waited for the personal tour guide Nathan hired. She was delightful. She was a part time English teacher and a part time guide. She spoke English well enough for us to understand her all day.
The first part of the day we took a ferry to Miyajima Island. It is also known as Itsukushima Island. It is a world heritage site. There is supposed to be an upside down Buddha with its chin to the top on one of the mountains, but I wasn’t able to see it.
The guide was a little disappointed that we weren’t greeted by deer. She said there were about 500 on the island. People used to feed them but since that was stopped, there are fewer deer coming down to be among the visitors. The more we walked, the more we saw, but not nearly as many as there used to be.
When we landed, we walked towards the gate which symbolically separates
we walked around the shinto shrine. Then we toured the permanent village, walking up some pretty steep hills and steps. At the top of about forty steep steps, we were standing at the bottom of the five story pagoda. Many Japanese pagodas are purported to be sites containing ashes of Buddha. This is one of them.
We left the island and returned to the city for lunch. I had soba noodles for the first time. It was a soup called kamonanban. Soba noodles are made out of buckwheat and have a different consistency than ramen or rice noodles. I was hungry and it was tasty. After lunch I excused myself for a while to take a walk. On the way back I noticed an entire store dedicated to Michael Jackson memorabilia. It was on the other side of the aisle so I didn’t walk over to investigate. I guess he was really popular all over Japan.
That afternoon we walked to the Hiroshema Peace Park. I remember writing a story my senior year in high school about the day that the Enola Gay dropped the bomb on this city. I thought some day I would like to visit the city. I never really thought I would have the opportunity. Yet, here I was standing outside the iron fence surrounding the A bomb dome.
I am really not very much of an emotional person. I usually describe myself as having emotions from A to C. Most people switch emotions from A to Z far more often than I do. Anyway, I was standing there and all of a sudden I felt like every sad soul in Hiroshima fell upon my shoulders. I was overwhelmed with sadness that I didn’t know how to handle. Tears started streaming down my face. I was very unprepared for such a reaction. The feeling soon passed and I was able to continue to tour. It wasn’t like I actually sobbed or anything. It just seemed like thousands of souls were waiting to be heard.
From there we walked to the Children’s Peace Monument. It was erected in 1958 to honor Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who was still unborn when the bomb hit. She lived ten years and was a healthy athlete until she suddenly developed radiation related leukemia. While she was being treated, she folded her medicine papers into origami paper cranes, thinking if she could fold 1,000 of them, she would be cured. On top of the dome, she stands holding a golden folded crane. Children from all over the world send 1,000 cranes in the effort to support peace. Walking further, we came to the Bell of Peace. Nathan and I rang the bell together. I guess it was kind of symbolic because peace reigned between us the rest of the trip.Several other children rang the bell.
A little further down the path we stood at the Atom Bomb Memorial Mound. The city had cremated ashes of approximately 70,000 victims of the bomb. A vault was created to hold the ashes.
Each year the city publishes lists of victims. There are still 824 victims who have been identified whose ashes remain in the vault unclaimed.
We entered the museum and relived the history of August 6, 1945 at 8:15 a.m. There was a number of reasons Hiroshima was selected. You can read about it at another site. One of the reasons was simply that it was a sunny, clear summer morning, making the navigation much more simple. Inside the museum there are copies of letters sent from the city of Hiroshima photocopied and reduced to fit on pillars. Every time something happens regarding nuclear weapons, the city sends letters of protest. I estimated that so far there are 424 letters adorning those two pillars. The last one was sent this year to North Korea. The guide said that the city hopes every letter would be the last one before all nuclear weapons are destroyed. Anyone who is anxious for war and who thoughtlessly spouts out, “Let’s nuke ’em,” should be flown to Hiroshima to see first hand the results of such an idea. I have never been so moved at a memorial in my life. I hope the citizens of Hiroshima some day are able to reach the leaders of the world with their message of peace. Namaste. Attic Annie