Hiroshima and Miyajima!
It is a cool but cloudy Monday morning in Tokyo, and the CIEE students just finished an amazing weekend in Hiroshima and Miyajima. On Friday afternoon, we left from campus to go to Tokyo Station to take the shinkansen up to Hiroshima. Our nozomi shinkansen train was super fast and comfortable – we made it to Hiroshima in just about four hours – but when we got to the station in Hiroshima it was raining. But, we didn’t have far to go to the hotel, so we packed into the street car and set off for the hotel. Hiroshima is one of the few cities in Japan that still uses street cars, so it was pretty cool to get to ride in one. We only had a few stops to go, and once we got off the street car we were only about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, so were in our rooms by 10pm or so and were able to run any errands we needed to run before turning in early to get ready for the big day ahead of us!
Saturday started out dreary and drizzling, but it actually cleared up and turned into a beautiful sunny day. We had a buffet breakfast in the amazing hotel restaurant – it was on the 15th floor and had a spectacular view of the surrounding area, including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. After breakfast, we left the hotel and walked over to the Peace Memorial Museum that was built to honor the victims of the bomb and continue to advocate for peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. We had a few minutes to explore the exhibits downstairs before going to watch a film about the experience of the mothers of victims from the bomb. It was a pretty heavy film and started the day off on a somber note, which continued as we spent the rest of the morning wandering around the museum and seeing the exhibits. It was a personal experience for all of us and being there is hard to put into words, but I will say it is definitely a place you should visit at least once if you go to Japan.
After the museum, we went on a walking tour of the Peace Memorial Park. By that time the rain had gone away and it was a beautiful sunny day, so we got a lot of great pictures. The park is really well done and is a beautiful memorial to the victims. Monuments in the park include a cenotaph housing the names of all the victims, a flame that will burn until all nuclear arms are decommissioned, the museum itself, and the atomic bomb dome, which was pretty close to the hypocenter of the bomb but remained (comparatively) pretty intact. All of these elements lie in a straight line, which made for a really cool picture!
After walking around the park, we had obento for lunch and then had the amazing opportunity to hear an “hibakusha,” or someone who was affected by the bomb, speak. The woman, Matsubara-san, was a school child at the time of the bombing and was working outside helping the government to demolish houses for a fire break when the bomb hit. Her story was really emotional and it was an incredible opportunity to hear her speak in person. There are currently about 70,000 hibakusha still living in Hiroshima, but of course that number is continuously declining. She seemed to be in pretty good health, and although it was hard to understand her English at times, she said a lot of interesting things. She concluded by talking about how the hibakusha won’t always be around to fight for peace. She passed the “torch of peace” on to us and urged us to continue fighting against the use of nuclear weapons in the future. It was really moving and definitely got us all thinking.
But, eventually the rain took its toll and most of us got back to the ferry station a few minutes before our scheduled meeting time of 1:55pm. After that, there were five different means of transportation between us and getting home – the ferry, our bus, the shinkansen, the JR rail trains, and then the walk from our home station back to the dorm. But, we all made it back safely and collapsed into our rooms to get ready for the week. This weekend flew by and I can't believe it's already the middle June! Can't wait to see what's in store for this week - mata!