Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Playfulness ふざける事

Question: What happens when you cross famous sights of Japan with plain silliness?




A visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park - 広島平和記念公園の訪問

One of the highlights of my trip was the visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It was part of a three day trip to Kyoto, Hiroshima and the island of Miyajima. Since it is a cultural educational program and since we're foreigners from various regions of the world, - some of which are war-torn - JF invited us to the Peace Memorial Park as a way to introduce and share with us the Japanese vision of peace, by showing us the hideous effects of war. Specifically, the Second World War and the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb.

The first thing that we encountered when we entered the park was the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall. This is the closest building to ground zero to remain standing.
Being around this building gave me a surreal feeling; it constantly reminded me that this beautiful peaceful park around me was the site of unspeakable horrors.

This is one tough building. The dome is replicated.

More pictures of the building...

We continued our walk along the beautiful peace memorial park...

Look at the beautiful trees or big plants.

While we walked along the park, I noticed a few landmarks...

Help. I can't read that. The only thing I can make out is 'kudasai'.

This is where they (used to?) measure distances
between Hiroshima and other places from.

I don't really know what this is.

Or what this is.

Sometimes we just wandered off or the guide wasn't around to answer questions.

While we passed by this river, the guide detailed to me how after the explosion people were running and jumping in the river because of the heat. I imagined the scene of people running towards the river and jumping in.. at that moment was the only thing on their minds wanting to feel cool? Or did they realize that it will be their resting place? Was the river even cool after the explosion and extreme heat wave which set things on fire? I looked down and imagined all those people's bodies at the bottom of the river.

Next we went to a very famous landmark.

Small children taking pictures under Sadako's statue.

Big children taking pictures under Sadako's statue.

Now here's something interesting. This is one of those 'it's a small world' moments. Around this time last year, I was chatting with N-sensei about my trip, and I told her I'll be going to Hiroshima. She said that the writing engraved under Sadako's statue is her mother-in-law's shodou. She was a 15 years old when she wrote it. Her mother-in-law taught shodou in a high school and retired last year. Talk about bragging rights!

"This is our cry.
This is our prayer.
For the establishment of peace in the world"

Around Sadako's memorial thousands of paper cranes were displayed. Cranes of all sizes and colours.

And then we reached the A-bomb Museum. The Museum claims that it tries its best not to be biased and the underlying theme of the Museum is that the atomic bomb was not necessary to end the war. Here is where I learn some things I didn't know about the atomic bomb.

Like Britain's involvement.

And the Soviets preparing to engage the Japanese.

And that there was not any warning.

And how Hiroshima was chosen.

Not the average thing to lose sleep over.

The culprit who wrote that.

Before the bombing

After the bombing

The first seeds of the Japanese people's peace efforts.

Prohibition of the peace festival during the Korean war.

Sorry for the blurry pictures. I am bad at close-quarters shooting; I couldn't keep a steady hand. I took many other pictures also including the effects of the atomic bomb. I don't want to post them here because of their quality and also because they are sort of saddening and disturbing. Besides, you can research them on your own.

One week later, during the Tokyo bus tour, I learned something unexpected and ironic. For all the attention the atomic bombing of Hiroshima gets one would think it was the most devastating raid in history. Apparently it was not!! The tour guide detailed to us why Tokyo is all-modern, unlike Kyoto which is a wonderful mix of old and new Japan: The Firebombings of Tokyo which torched more than 30 kilometers of the city. The guide detailed how due to the heat, the 'fireproof' suits worn by citizens melted on their skin. She detailed how the raid was carried out, calling the Americans 'very smart'.

I deeply respect the Japanese peace efforts, especially those by the individuals and civil groups there. In the park there were peace activists who were victims of the atomic bomb. Even here: I met a JICA Jordan intern who left his work in the engineering field after 4 years to pursue 'Peace studies'. Truly admirable.

Alright. This ends the last detailed report about my Japan trip. Please expect some more light-hearted pictures and the closing post soon.