Remembering Hiroshima

In 1990 I was living in Kobe, teaching at an American community college campus.  It gave me the opportunity to travel quite a bit within Japan.  My kids arrived in the summer, so one of the places we went was Hiroshima.

A young woman we knew from when she was a foreign student in Oregon took us around.  Her family was Hiroshima Prefecture (like a state or province) but they lived over the mountains from the city of Hiroshima.  Chisa told us a few things.  One was that her mother as a child had lived in Manchuria in China during the war.  At the time, people in Japan were starving, so when this plump little girl of five returned with her family, the other children called her a Manchurian pig. Although the family lived relatively far from the devastation of the city, because they were from the prefecture, people asked (and still do) if they were ‘okay’, meaning were they clean of the effects of the atomic bomb that ruined so many lives.  As a matter of fact, yes, so far they are ‘clean’ but still the dropping of the bomb affected them.

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When we went to Hiroshima with my kids, we saw many people praying.  Of course we saw the bare dome of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall.  We were very struck at the park where there was a grassy dome to mark the graves of the people who died and were never found.  Many people prayed there and the low chanting made my hair stand up. Many other people, especially students, had made strings of origami birds, which were actually strings of prayers.  We went to the museum to see photos and artifacts of the aftermath of the bomb, which impressed us in a terrible way.  My daughter asked if people in Hiroshima hated Americans, but Chisa’s swift response was that the Japanese had started the war, so in a way it was their fault.  I was amazed at this, since how could anyone excuse such a devastating event.

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I went to Hiroshima again the next year with a couple of American friends, again with Chisa.  Again we were affected by the energy of this place.  The park, even full of people, was calm and soothing, amazing considering that it was the epicenter of the bomb.  The rest of the city looked like a normal bustling Japanese city.  Check out this link to see how it looked in 1945 and how it looks now: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/08/05/hiroshima-what-70-years-of-reconstruction-looks-like/

Hiroshima is why still the Japanese espouse peace.  I think more people in the world should visit the epicenter on August 6 (August 7 in the U.S.) and get a feeling for what evil devastation we humans visit upon our fellows.

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