As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’m taking my grandson Ethan on an educational expedition, and his first choice to visit was the Peace Park in Hiroshima. It had not been high on my list, but after being here, I would encourage anyone who has not been here to come.
The A-bomb dome is a singular icon for peace as are the paper cranes of the young girl who contacted leukemia some years later from the radiation. One thousand origami cranes are to make your wish come true. It did not work for her, nor for so many of the other victims, not only that day, but years later as radiation took its toll. Today estimates of existing nuclear weapons: the US and Russia account for 16,200 with the UK, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea at an estimated at less than 1,700 collectively. Any one country enough to destroy the planet, that’s for sure!
As much as I liked Hiroshima and its message of peace, I disliked Tokyo, and not because of the people. It’s one of the most “foreign-visitor unfriendly” cities I’ve ever visited and that list includes Nairobi, Cairo, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, and many others. Restaurants with English language names have menus only in kanji and no one on the staff speaks English. I absolutely do NOT expect the world to accommodate my language skills or lack thereof, but if you want my money, you need to let me know in some way what I am getting. Often there would be pictures, but of what? We could recognize an egg, but that was about it. The formerly ubiquitous plastic models of different dishes seem to be disappearing. Ethan and I would often say when eating in Tokyo, “I don’t know what it is, but I hope it’s good.” Sometimes it was, but often it wasn’t. Whereas in Hiroshima, the cuisine is much more interesting and delicious. Of course everywhere you can get US fast food, but since I don’t eat it in the US, I’m certainly not going to eat it here! Directional signs and other signage would only be in kanji. Enough about Tokyo. If you haven’t visited Japan before, I suggest bypassing Tokyo and focus on the areas you want to go, but be sure to include Hiroshima and the Peace Park. Depending on how long you will be here and where you are going, I highly recommend a Japan Rail Pass.
Outside Hiroshima, but an easy train and ferry ride is Miyajima Island and the famous Itsukishma torii. I’m including a couple of photos of it. The island is a lovely, peaceful place . . . except for the deer (sounds like Salida, Colorado near where I live, where the local citified deer are an issue also), who sneak up on you and want to eat your tickets, map, shirt, or whatever they can get!
Today, Ethan is visiting a Hiroshima family with two teen-age daughters who are taking him to the university where they study and for dinner with their family. I arranged this through a wonderful program at the International Exchange Lounge, located near the Peace Museum. If interested, you need to contact them ahead of time, but final logistics need to be completed with an in-person visit and interview. Here’s an email address for them. They need at least a 1-day advance appointment to arrange a visit: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ethan reports that it was genuine, heartwarming, and fun!
I took advantage of his being otherwise engaged to go to the Sukkeien Gardens, which I found calming and particularly delightful that the feudal lords, the daimyo, found the “elegant shoinzukuri writing chamber” beloved. What author or poet wouldn’t love having a “writing chamber”(a room of our own ) located in the middle of our garden!
Tomorrow we leave for Kyoto.