Japan Trip 2010–Day 13


We gladly deferred to Emma and Marie for planning our overnight excursion together.  I didn’t expect that of all possible places they’d choose Hiroshima. We were to take the train to the Atomic Bomb Memorial in the morning and then in the late afternoon continue on to the Isle of Miyajima, whose Tori gate in the water was as familiar a tourist icon as Mt. Fuji.

Before we left, You-ki worked on healing Marie’s headache with a little tool she’d been given by her “shaman” and gave me and Jan a pungent herb concoction from her acupuncturist to clear our sinuses.


She insisted on escorting the six of us in two cabs to the ShinOsaka station and on treating us to breakfast.  Jan ordered the specialty of the house, which lived up to its name, Morning Dog.


When we arrived in Hiroshima it was raining, fitting weather for this destination. Stepping off the trolley we came upon the restored ruin of a large building that had miraculously escaped incineration at ground zero, surrounded by posters and engraved stones that told some of the story.



I walked away from the others to experience fully the heaviness of this place: the destruction of a city, the agony of men, women and children who’d been bombed, the ruthlessness of those who’d inflicted it, the national aggression that brought it on, the sadness of all those who’d come to it afterward.

I felt the history of our parents’ generation converging here with the generation of our children.  Jan’s purebred American mother and father, who met in the war against Germany and Japan, bearing one child who married the son of German refugees, and another who married a woman from Japan. Both linked families had themselves been victims in their homelands, mine as Jews persecuted by Hitler, Emma and Marie’s grandparents as Korean nationals kidnapped by the Emperor, their grandmother eyewitnessing both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Straddling the river, a sprawling complex of gardens and heavy concrete monuments extended in all directions.  In the distance stood the Museum, two blocky gray buildings joined by an elevated upper story suspended for 100 yards between them.  We joined busloads of other visitors streaming into a darkened hall filled with dioramas of the incinerated city, film loops of atomic explosions and display cases with posters showing Hiroshima’s past history and a chronology of the war. A mournful symphonic dirge repeated relentlessly on the P.A.

I found myself focusing more on the exhibit’s sanitizing of Japanese war crimes than on its graphic and strangely redundant representations of local suffering.


My curiosity was piqued by the brackets surrounding parts of the story of the Nanking massacre, whose recurrent Japanese denials I remembered had caused international outrage, similar to that produced by Holocaust deniers.


The tears warranted by this pilgrimage were finally released by accounts of the decision-making process of American leaders.


I found the exhibits of Hiroshima’s citizens’ fifty five year commitment to work for international nuclear disarmament genuinely inspiring.


One of them recalled the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, which I lived through in terror during my senior year in college. I wondered how facing this evidence of the folly of military-industrial-political influence in the world was affecting the young people whose futures it could determine.


After three hours at the memorial and museum, the six of us agreed to move on and the rain stopped.  We trollied back to the train station, bought snacks and a bottle of whiskey, and horsed around till the departure for Miyajima.


The ferry approached the island in the late afternoon mist and the young people took advantage of low tide to walk to the Tori gate to place coins on it for good luck.



Jan and I checked into the hotel fronting a secluded bay on the other side of the landing.


Three adjoining rooms were reserved for the three couples, and we passed the bottle of Scotch back and forth across balconies while waiting for dinner to be served in another room next door.


There we reveled as the sun went down and then happily retired to our mats.


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