Today was the big day for the school trip! We left the I-house at an early 7:00 AM and made our way to Kyoto Station where we boarded a Nozomi Shinkansen bullet train (that’s the fastest service that you can’t even go on with a Japan Rail Pass) which zoomed us to Hiroshima. As soon as we arrived, we took a local train to Miyajima-guchi station for the ferry ride to Miyajima Island to visit the shrine there.
Sadly, we only had about an hour-and-a-half there in which time we were supposed to see everything and eat lunch (neither of which there was enough time to do). I did get to take a fairly leisurely stroll through the Itsukushima Shrine where I got lots more photos, video of some Shinto priests doing a service and a video of a new bride walking in her ceremonial Kimono.
But then it was back on the boat to a streetcar to downtown Hiroshima and a visit to the Peace Memorial and Museum. If you’ve read my 2006 journal, you realize just how much this place affected me, and it was the same this time. It’s when you are walking through the museum and see the ephemera left by the victims that it really hits you—the wooden geta sandal of a small child with her footprint burned into it by the blast; the rusted tricycle buried with a 3 year old killed in the blast because his father thought he’d like to ride it in the next life since he loved it so much; the singed school uniforms of those very few Junior High students who weren’t instantly incinerated in the blast. Glass bottles fused together into weird lumps; advertising posters with holes where the black letters were burned through because they absorbed heat where the white paper reflected it. Once again, it was really moving and I had my handkerchief in hand the whole time.
We stayed in a Ryokan-style hotel and I finally got to sleep on a tatami floor on a real futon. It was pretty nice, and late in the evening we watched the live Wimbledon Women’s final and saw Venus Williams beat up on her little sister Serena. Before that, we ate dinner and had some delicious Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki—yummy!
But before all that was an event that made this entire trip to Japan worthwhile. One of the University’s directors who is also from Hiroshima arranged to have two of the Hibakusha or Hiroshima Bombing survivors speak to us. These two sweet little grandmotherly ladies sat before us and told us of their lives before, during and after the bombing. They were actually there and lived to tell about it. Believe me, it was absolutely heart-wrenching listening to their story and my eyes filled with tears more than a few times. Paul was doing a live translation and he got choked up a couple of times and had to pause. I shot a video of the first 43 minutes of the presentation before my camera’s battery died, and it’s something I’ll always treasure. This is precisely the type of experience that makes such an impact on your life and I’m so glad we had the opportunity, no matter how emotionally draining it was.
But who am I to complain? I wasn’t one of only 2 survivors out of a 600-student Junior High School class from August 6, 1945—Mrs. Ito had that day off and wasn’t working in downtown Hiroshima with the rest of her classmates who were all instantly obliterated by the bomb. I also didn’t have to return to my school like she did where her dead classmates’ parents came every day and told her that if she had been doing what she was supposed to instead of ‘slacking-off’ then she would have died gloriously for the Emperor like their children had—and that they didn’t want to see her ugly face ever again.
I guess you can see why I cried quite a bit…