Home > Japan, Photos, Reflections, Travel > A trip to Hiroshima

A trip to Hiroshima

“I wish I could show you all the places I lived and visited in Japan,” I told my fiancee last night. “I wish that we could hop in the car and be there in an hour. But of course, for you to see these places, we’ll have to plan and save for years.”

It’s worth it. We will save, and I will someday show him the places I called home, even if I’m unable to locate most of the people who made the places feel like home. I’ll take him to the schoolyard where I once danced goofy in the rain on a school’s webcam to make him smile. I’ll show him the little market to which I used to bike on my rusty, thirty-year-old bicycle, and–if it still exists–the tiny school up in the mountains that continues to make appearances in my dreams.

fogmountains

Last night’s conversation still in mind, I read this morning an article on the lessons of Gettysburg. One particular paragraph talked about the strange sensation of piling off a tour bus and wondering what you’re supposed to do for amusement in such a place. The words evoked my own memory of such a visit: to Hiroshima.

The city itself hums with activity twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That was what my roommate, C, and I initially soaked up when we traveled there together, not any of the somberness correlated with the name when it’s spoken in U.S. classrooms.

2 a.m. okonomiyaki

2 a.m. okonomiyaki

When we visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, it was like we’d been transported from one realm to another mid-stride. The laughter died in our throats as we crossed an invisible threshold and felt the heaviness of the place. We could see the park from our hotel, but we couldn’t feel it.

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As a lifelong horror reader, the best analogy I had was from a Stephen King novel. “It’s like there’s an energy in all places,” I told C, “and the events that transpire in a place change the shape of that energy forever.”

At the Park, we could feel the past as if it were the present. We took a few pictures, but more than that, took time to quietly reflect on what was lost to Hiroshima and the world on August 6, 1945.

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hiroshima10

It’s been eight years since I visited the Park, and as many years since one of my students recounted her own experiences in the moments and days after the bomb was dropped. Even eight years later, I remember both the moments and the sensation of history physically washing over me as if to ask, “Do you remember? Will you remember?”

And yet, remembering the heaviness of the place as I will for the rest of my lifetime, it is impossible not to also remember the hope. Decades later, children continue to bring their paper cranes to the Children’s Peace Monument. This is in part to remember Sadako Sasaki, who died of radiation poisoning before she was able to finish folding her 1,000 paper cranes. But is also, promisingly, a testament to their will that the future be different than the past, as well as to the hope that we might someday both see and act upon seeing that our human similarities are greater than our differences . . . and that we all benefit from striving for peace, one paper crane at a time.

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  1. June 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Hiroshima, and Auschwitz. Painful lessons. And I do hope that we can build a lasting peace.

  2. June 30, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Such beauty from sadness.

  3. June 30, 2013 at 5:11 am

    Perfectly remembered. There are places in this world, each with their own memories that hold us forever captive. They should remind us of our humanity, they should force our will for peace.

  4. June 30, 2013 at 7:07 am

    It has been so long since I spent time wandering the world of Japan, and I still miss it. Three years of my life that were perhaps the most significant despite the lifetime I’ve lived since then. I still remember my first visit to Hiroshima, and hold it in my heart. Thanks you for sharing this and allowing me a moment to revisit my memories.

  5. July 3, 2013 at 4:42 am

    So important to remember in order not to repeat the same mistakes. Oh and how I hope we never repeat this one!!! Thank you for bringing us there through your words and images. Beautiful … tragic.

  1. January 11, 2015 at 9:19 am
  2. February 14, 2015 at 7:19 am
  3. December 24, 2015 at 3:58 am
  4. February 27, 2016 at 7:26 pm

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