Friday, July 1, 2016

Here we go again!

**Parents, you may want to preview this post before sharing with your children.  It discusses the tragedy of Hiroshima in detail.***

Well, I may have a new website, but my blog posts will remain the same.  In fact, as I type this I am having a blog design professionally created for me, so stay tuned for some awesome website updates soon.

While this is my first blog post of the summer, it is most definitely not the beginning of my journey.  I have spent the past week in the most unique, peaceful, beautiful, and bizarrely futuristic place.  Of course I speak of Japan (does any other county even fit all of those adjectives??)  What an incredible journey that week was.  I visited three cities, starting in Tokyo, heading to Hiroshima, then to Kyoto, and back to Tokyo.  Rather than cram three amazing cities into a single blog post, I am going to make three posts over the next few days, one for each city.  The tourism campaign all around Japan right now is "Japan: Endless Discovery."  Which, could not be more true.  On a side note, it's suspiciously close to the new Delaware slogan.  I think you can guess which location deserves it more!

Even though my journey began in Tokyo, I am going to save that for last.  I am going to begin by sharing the city of Hiroshima.  This is, of course, the location of the first atomic bomb that was dropped, which of course, is said to be what caused World War Two to end.  We all know this, we all know the story that led up to the event, but never are we told about the events as seen by the innocent citizens of Japan at the time.  When the US decided to drop the bomb, it was a last resort and they saved it for last for a very good reason.  The destruction it caused to the city was unsurmountable.  As I learned in the National Peace Museum in Hiroshima, the bomb was essentially a mini sun with internal temperatures in the millions.  A mini sun that was created in mere seconds only 600 meters above the center of a large urban center.  For an 11 kilometer radius, what wasn't killed by the blast, was destroyed by the radiation after.  If there is a positive out of the tragedy, it is that since the bomb was detonated in the air, the radiation subsided fairly quickly, leaving behind a still habitable location for the residents who survived to rebuild.

The first place I went on this somber day is known as the Atomic Bomb Dome.  It is the last standing original structure from before the bomb.  That's right, EVERYTHING else in the city was destroyed beyond recognition in the blast.  The dome functions as a not so subtle reminder of the power of war as well as the keystone for a city now focused on creating peace on Earth.


The dome set the tone for the day.  I knew it was not going to be a happy go lucky day in Japan with robots or important temples.  The tragedy started to get to me.

On the way to my next stop, the Children's memorial, I walked across a bridge.  an ordinary overpass, yet with a history that is shocking.  The Aioi bridge was a central marker for the city, making it an ideal location for the bomb to be detonated.  600 meters above this bridge is where the bomb was aimed, consequently it shifted slightly away from the bridge as it fell.  The story of the bridge still continued though.  Under the pressure of the explosion, The bridge thrashed back and forth like a spring throwing the slab up in the air then down to the river.  Yet another reminder that this was no ordinary day trip.  The bridge was of course rebuilt after the war as the city was rebuilt.

Finally I arrived at the location I most wanted to see in Hiroshima.  The Children's Memorial.   For those who do not know the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, for whom this memorial was created, I will give a brief synopsis.  Naturally, the radiation poisoning caused illness in and around the city for years after war.  Even for children who were not yet born when the bomb was set off.  Sadako was just a baby when her city was demolished.  Ten years into her life though, long after the tragedy, she started showing signs of leukemia, which was one of the common illnesses that came from the radiation.  Her young life would come to an end not soon after, but before she passed, she set a personal goal to fold a thousand paper cranes, following the advice of her brother who reminded her of the tradition in which a sickly person proves their strength to the gods by creating these cranes, to which the person is then granted a healthy future.  Unfortunately, she never made it to a thousand, but her classmates, 6th graders, took it upon themselves to finish Sadako's wish and folded the rest of the birds.  They didn't stop there, though.  Her classmates demanded a memorial for Sadako to be erected in the city's Peace Park.  After a large scale, nationwide, fundraising campaign, the students were able to make this happen.  The memorial, which features a statue of Sadako holding a crane, grew to become a place to remember all of the children who perished as a result of the a-bomb.  Circling the statue are boxes containing hundreds of thousand, if not millions, of paper cranes.  Each submitted by a child showing their support for peace on earth.

Needless to say, this monument was a hard one to get through.  But still yet it was not the most emotional part of my day.

Next came the National Peace Museum.  To give you an example of the power of the information learned in this building, about halfway though the tour, a high school girl, there on a trip, had a massive panic attack and had to be carried out hyperventilating.  I have been to many tragedy based museums, but never experienced anything like this.  What made this museum so difficult was the personal stories.  The tragedy was shared through the lives of the people who perished.  Unfortunately, many of the people who died the most graphic and painful deaths were children.  Middle school students who were working construction in the city center as a requirement of wartime.  These children, as young as 12, were mostly lost.  Parents who survived dug through rubble trying to find any sign of their child, but little remains were found.

One story in particular really stood out to me.  The story of Shinchi and his tricycle.  Shinchi was only three years old when he lost his life.  At the time of detonation, he was outside riding his tricycle and had no chance of survival, dieing later that night.  His father, mortified, refused to bury his son away from the family home.  Shinchi was too young to be left on his own .  His father buried him outside of where the family home was located, along with his tricycle, the same one he was riding during the explosion, to allow his son to retain his playful spirit in death.  The tricycle was donated to the museum many years later when the father decided it was time to move his son to a proper grave site.

Much to my surprise, the museum also had a large section discussing Sadako sharing several personal artifacts of hers, including some of her original paper cranes!  To see these in person was parallel to seeing Ann Frank's diary in person.  An artifact used for survival in a time of tragedy.

The stories of World War Two that we read are almost always focused on the countries and their armies and leaders.  This museum brought out the impact to everyday people.  There was no talk of the war, just the innocent people who were impacted.

After leaving the museum, I had to sit.  I needed to process what I had just experienced, which has never happened to me before.  The power of this museum is extraordinary and important.  It will be an experience I remember for the rest of my life.

Well now that I have most likely emotionally drained you, just as I have myself from writing this post, I'll leave you with something a little more calming......a visit to a real life Japanese cat cafe!!  You pay $7, can go in an order drinks, and pet cats!  For being a dog person, I have to say it was quite fun and relaxing!  Definitely a uniquely Japanese experience :D

Stay tuned for my next post.  From here on out they will be MUCH less depressing :)  he next city to learn about:   Kyoto!

Here is a preview:

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