Earlier in July I, along with about thirty or so other TUJ students took a trip to Hiroshima. I did not know too much about the city itself, only its significance in World War II. We took an overnight bus from Shinjuku station and arrived in the city early in the morning. From the bus station we took a street car (similar to a trolley car but much lower to the ground) to Peace Memorial Park. We met with survivors of the fateful atomic bomb as well as other city residents. The survivors retold the stories of where and what they doing when the bomb hit. Some of them were just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time; those who were in their vicinity either died or received very grave wounds. After receiving a tour of the Park we checked out the Peace Memorial Museum.
From what I can remember of history classes I had in my preteens and teenage years, a significant time of the school year was spent on the World Wars. I’m only speaking from my own experiences, but very little time was spent on the events that happened in Japan; specifically Hiroshima. The deeper I walked into the museum more the I began to realize how horrific this tragedy really was. Imagine the entirety of downtown Philadelphia being wiped out instantly; over 100,000 people dying instantly. It’s hard to really comprehend the power of nuclear weapons until you’ve seen a physical example of the damage they can do.
After checking out the museum I was starving. One food that I really wanted to try this weekend was okonomiyaki. The Hiroshima style of this dish is considered the best in all of Japan. I, along with a few other friends went to a nice spot that was recommended by our tour guides. Okonomiyaki itself is sort of like a pancake, with just about anything you want beneath it. Sounds like a fairly simple dish, but I don’t think my explanation will really do it any justice. You’ll have to try for yourself if your ever in Japan.
As the afternoon approached, we began to regroup and make our way towards Miyajima, the island where we would be spending the night. As we ferried across the sea, I could spot the famous torii of the Itsukushima Shrine in the distance. A calm, awe-inspiring feeling came across me as we neared the island. This type of gate stands before every Shinto shrine in Japan. Yet this one felt more unique in that it was not on dry land. The next morning we would be meeting up with students from Hiroshima University, who would accompany us on a tour of the island. I later learned from the students that the torii had not moved at all since it was built. A true feat of ancient architecture.
We couldn’t have had a better weekend to spend our time in Miyajima. We were greeted at the entrance of the Itsukushima Shrine by kaitenma boat rowers from a neighboring island. In addition a post-wedding ceremony was occurring at the entrance to the shrine. With all the tourists snapping photos of the event, the couple could have saved money on hiring a professional photographer! After all this, we dined with the Hiroshima U students and staff in an okonomiyaki restaurant. This weekend might have sealed the deal on me being an okonomiyaki addict; it’s just that good.
After lunch I decided to take some personal time to stray away from friends and reflect on Life. One thing learned while living in Japan is to have balance, in all aspects of living. While living in America I found it hard to balance my social and personal life. I would always be at one extreme or the other. It is good be around others: to learn new things, as well as for enjoyment. Yet sometimes it is wise to take some time to be alone with your thoughts; so that you might affirm your own opinions and ideals on things. I hiked up a hill to a small a secluded shrine; and I thought about these things, as well as others. Before long I’d be back on a bus headed towards the busy streets of Tokyo.