Monday, July 2, 2012

Japan - Day 12 - Hiroshima

    It was hard dragging James out of his futon this morning!  All that travel yesterday really took it out of him, I guess.  I played around on the computer until 10ish, then couldn't stand it any more and dragged him out. We set out on foot for the Peace Park, which was only a 10 minute walk away.  Already it was warm and muggy and we both felt hot and sticky right away.  James was feeling kind of miserable by the time we reached the park, but it was really a pretty good time to go.  The buses filled with tourists didn't start arriving until between 11 and 12.  We knew this visit would be an emotional one.
    A few years ago, we visited Pearl Harbor and stood on Sacred Ground, knowing that James' Great Grandfather was one of the few survivors when his ship (USS California) was bombed.  We tried to imagine the terror and pain of ordinary people being attacked without warning.  Now, on the other side of the hemisphere, we see the horrors inflicted on other innocent people by the same war.
     There are statues all over the park, many festooned with obviously recent chains of paper cranes, a tribute to Sadako Sasaki, a girl who died of leukemia after being exposed to radiation at the age of 2.  She believed that, if she folded 1000 paper cranes, her wish to live would come true. Her wish was not granted, but, since then, the crane has become the symbol of a wish for peace.
     We see the statues and the A-Bomb Dome - all that is left of the building over which the bomb exploded.  (To my surprise, James knows a lot about all this.  His class just recently watched a movie about Hiroshima in school.)  Then we go into the museum.
     There are documents about the creation of the atomic bomb and the decisions leading up to its use.  We are told that the Japanese were ready to surrender, but were negotiating through the Soviet Union to get more favorable terms for Japan.  The US, feeling that this would give the Soviets more power, pushed through the use of the weapon both to deny the Soviets this victory and also to justify the 2 billion dollars spent building the bomb.  This may be so, politicians being what they are, but, if it is, it is a far cry from what Americans believed at the time.  I remember my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Hasley, discussing the decision to use the bomb with his students.  He said that the Japanese, while beaten, were too proud to surrender and that the US felt the only way to end the war would be an invasion of Japan, with soldiers fighting house to house and many lives - both American and Japanese - lost.  He said his older brother was being trained to be one of those soldiers who would be part of the invasion fleet.  He ended by saying that the use of the bomb was a terrible thing, but his family and many others were grateful for their sons that were spared.
     We see many exhibits of clothing - tattered and blood-stained-from victims - many of which were children.  Also melted glass, a tricycle, a piece of roofing, shadows left on pavement from humans who were vaporized. A very moving exhibit has one walk through what feels like the dome itself and shows victims in the throes of death.  I take no pictures here.  There are many volunteers to explain the exhibits - almost as many as there are visitors in some rooms.  Most are older and speak very good English.  I wonder if some were personally acquainted with any of the survivors.  Everyone speaks in whispers.  Many visitors dab at the corners of their eyes.  It is a solemn experience.
Paper cranes adorn the feet of many statues- it rains frequently here, so you can tell many of these are very recent.

The flame looking lengthwise down the Peace Park.  It is supposed to burn until there are no longer any nuclear weapons left on the earth.

Memorial to all the children whose lives were lost.

Beautiful artwork of paper cranes, protected behind glass.

There are so many of these lovely tributes.

Across the river from the A-Bomb Dome

The Dome

Many documents are of great interest.

Letters of protest for every nuclear test ever conducted line walls and pillars.

     James is not feeling well and I think he is getting dehydrated.  He glugs down a bottle of water from a vending machine in seconds so I make him go easy on the next ones.  There are almost no drinking fountains and, if you ask for a cup of water with your meal, they usually give you a tiny dixie cup.  Even the kitchen in the ryokan in which we are staying requests that you leave 100 yen for every water bottle you fill.  I am not used to water being such a precious commodity.
     We start looking for a place to have lunch.  We head for a tall department store that is not far from the Peace Park.  I am afraid James will collapse if I don't get him into some air conditioning soon.  The store is interesting, with many floors devoted to different items.  James finds a book store to enjoy and then gets some CDs from Japanese artists that he has trouble finding online.  I look at the many styles for women - many of which I've seen girls and women wearing everywhere.  Wouldn't this be a fun place to shop if I were 16 and still had a figure!  Styles are far more varied here than we would ever see on a downtown street in, say, Seattle.  There are girls in short, poofy dresses with many petticoats, right next to girls who wouldn't be out of place at the Renaissance Faire, next to girls in long or short diaphanous fabric that look ready for the prom, next to girls wearing traditional business attire, next to quirky girls mixing it up - combat boots with that floating evening gown, pants, skirts - long or very short, the ubiquitous school uniforms, heels so high they make the wearer look ridiculously unbalanced next to sensible casual tennies.
     What I don't see (and don't miss!) are tattoos or piercings.  Gradually, I realize that I feel distinctly frumpy.  Not because I'm middle aged, or overweight, or wearing travel clothes and shoes - all these things are present here and there in other women.  No, it is because I am the ONLY woman I see not wearing makeup.  Every female here - from what looks like age 11 to 101, is wearing foundation and lipstick at the every least, and most have tasteful eye makeup as well.  Every other female on the tram or in a restroom is powdering her nose and looking in a mirror. (Keiko told us that it would in fact be considered disrespectful for a woman to show up at work without makeup.)  From what I see here, no woman even goes out the door without her makeup on.  Maybe that is part of why the Japanese women look so young here, (Keiko, who is nearing 40, looks barely 25) the sun never gets a chance to ravage their skin because it's always covered up!
     We find that the basement floor of the store is devoted to food.  There is a supermarket with nice produce and a number of restaurants.  We find James a shrimp burger (the boy could live on shrimp) and I have a Japanese style hamburger - very good - with tomato and onions and a toasted bakery roll.  (Real food at last!)  James is perking up now, but I know he'll wilt again when I take him outside.  We have seen Miyajima and the Peace Park, we have no other firm plans for the day. I remember how Mom used to take us to the movies when the heat became unbearable in San Diego.  We ask around, and get directions to a theatre a short tram ride away where "The Amazing Spiderman" opened this weekend.  I am looking forward to popcorn - hoping it's not curry flavored.
     The theatre is actually on the 8th floor of a department store.  We pay 2000 yen - or about $25 for our tickets - not much more than the theatre in the US these days.  We are shown a seating chart and choose our seats like at a play.  Alas, there is no popcorn, just a little cafe selling small iced drinks for 300 yen and tiny bags of nuts and other goodies.  We still have time, so James decides to investigate the bottom of this department store.  Sure enough, it also has food, so he gets a couple of egg rolls and a piece of strawberry cake and a 3 liter bottle of water and this becomes our theatre fare.  (He finishes that whole bottle of water during the movie- definitely dehydrated!)
     We're only here for the AC, but I really like the movie - quite different from the version with Toby Maguire.  Afterward, we do a bit more shopping.  It turns out that we've bought so many souvenirs that we actually need another small suitcase. We head back to our small room.  Tomorrow we need to get an early start - it's all the way back to Tokyo where we started out to finish out our trip.
James loves the shrimp burger

Avocados are not bad at all at about $1.40

But how'd you like to pay $11 for a cantelope?  And I saw some premium melons for 70-90 dollars!

Where were fashions like this when I was 16 and had a figure?

Now, this, I could wear to the Renaissance Faire- if I were a size 4...

At the theatre for The Amazing Spiderman

 Classy theater!
Love those cushy seats!

This salad (100g) cost me about $8.  Alas- most of what I took to be lettuce is kelp, and the "feta cheese" is tofu.  I miss the Olive Garden!

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