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Hiroshima Japan


Monday, February 25, 2008

The view from Himeji Castle we visited yesterday.

Today we are bound for Hiroshima. Julia and I were able to find some English DVDs last night so after dinner we watched Sabrina you know the one with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. It was such a treat to watch a movie as we really have not seen much TV, movies, or video since December; but strangely we have not missed them much. Julia had not seen the movie before and so it really entertained her. In the morning we ate our regular breakfast, checked out of the hotel, went over to the Internet place, and then ate another terrific lunch in our un-named favorite restaurant. We do not know its name as it is in Kanji with no English translation but we love eating there as it has the best Japanese food we have had our entire stay. We dropped into the Post Office and then took our place on the clockwork train system. One quick stop in Osaka and then direct to Hiroshima.

But we love Japan. An early blossom.

We considered why the Japanese have the best train system in the world or at least that we have experienced. England invented train travel but their current system is merely adequate and nowhere near the Japanese system. America has no rail system at all in comparison. I remember when I was a kid in the 60s there was a vision of the future that looked very much like what the Japanese have achieved now; what happened to America, Australia, and England? In fact in general the Japanese have a very low carbon footprint compared to the rest of us and yet they live in very modern cities and live a very modern life. Certainly consumerism is not to blame for the gap between us and them, as I have never seen such consumers as the Japanese. We read an article in the current issue of the Economist which mentioned how Japanese companies are focused on their workers welfare much more than other countries and this has had a negative impact on their profitability. Given this perhaps it is capitalism and the "anything for profit" attitude that has denied us our dreams. I am sure there are many counter argument to mine but we sure did something wrong.

On the other hand Julia and I are reading Bill Bryson's book "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and in it he points to how devastated the world fishing industry is by over fishing. Given the Japanese consumption of everything fish they perhaps have a lot to account for with this sin.

From Julia -- All Japanese cities I have been to so far look the same to me. Maybe It's just looking at them from trains. They look very modern, metallic, industrial and newly constructed. And I have the impression that if you have to live and work in them life would be quite dreary. Although I have no idea of the reality as being a tourist is completely different to living in a place. For sure, commuting to work on a train that zooms along can't be bad. I wished I could"ve taken a Shinkansen to Sacramento or LA when I used to go regularly for work. As I sit here, munching a delicious crunchy thing wrapped in seaweed It's easy to notice the nice bits on the train. They are very clean; we saw a cleaning crew go to work at one station and they were good! The loos are clean and Davido San even encountered a bottom washing heated seat version on one train. There is lots of space, like being on a business class airplane ride, and even smartly dressed women train attendants. The only downside has been when smoke from smoking cars has travelled through the air to make our area smelly and noxious too. If fact they are far behind Australia, America, and England with smoking bans.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The A-Bomb building.

There is destruction in all human nature; this has never been more evident to me than today while and after visiting the Hiroshima A-Bomb memorials. When we arrived at the last remaining building standing today, which was at the epicenter of the blast, we were fortunate to meet a Japanese guide whom was also a blast survivor. Mito Kosei is five foot and a few inches tall with brown eyes and a leathery completion. He is in fact 65 years young and was very friendly and enthusiastic to us.

Julia at the Peace Bell.

He proudly told us that he was in his mother's womb the day of the blast and that his mother was fortunately far enough away to have survived instantaneous vaporization which, was the fate of thousands of souls that day. She did eventually develop blood cancer but is still with him today; 90 years young. He would not go into detail but he had, had various illnesses all of his life. His father, while teaching school, was much closer to the blast but was fortunate to be in a basement at the time of the detonation. He also developed radiation related illnesses and died in his old age of it. His uncle who also survived the initial blast died shortly after from radiation sickness. Mito guided us to various sites not in our tour book and has done this with 8,000 people over the years. Explaining to us that it is his life's passion to ensure that all he meets get to understand the consequences of using nuclear weapons. It was hard for me to contain the sadness I felt as he told the stories of the river, which runs through the site, full of dead bodies. Of cremation funeral piers that burnt for days after the explosion. As he showed us photographs of burnt victims, we were glad to have met him but also distressed to have the reality of this horrific event given to us firsthand. He wanted to leave us with three things to take away from his experience. They are: Never to use weapons like this ever again, to know and to celebrate how resilient humans are, and to be able to know the power of forgiveness.

Miyajima Island.

After the gloom of this visit Julia and I left the city and went to see Miyajima which is a little island close to Hiroshima. This island is a scared place to the Buddhists and was a tremendous relief after the bomb site. The island also had deer on it but they seemed much more sedate than in Nara; much to Julia's relief.

From Julia: It's difficult to describe my feelings after visiting Hiroshima today. At the bomb site I felt very sad, and I felt very privileged to meet a survivor. Mito Kosei called himself a Peace Navigator. Every day he bicycles in to the city to meet visitors from around the world and to share his family's story and the story of Hiroshima's destruction and regeneration. I wish that all government officials with the power to use nuclear weapons could have our experience from today. But I wonder that even if they did hear his testimony would it stop them from ever using such bombs again? It seems to me that there is a strong human tendency to switch off from compassion and love, and to avoid acting in an ethical way when the right motivation is there, usually greed or power.

Hiroshima is built in a beautiful location on the water with several rivers and surrounded by mountains. It reminds me of Seattle. And I realize how wrong I was yesterday to think all Japanese cities look the same. It was good to take a ferry boat to a picturesque island after all the sadness and look back across the water to Hiroshima.

The Peace Bell


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