February 23, 2008

Today was a big outing for me – ‘big’ in the sense that my train ride was going to be the longest of any of the other day-trips I am planning.
I was out the door at 6:45am today to head on the bullet train for Hiroshima. I went directly onward to the island of Miyajima figuring I
would just end my day in Hiroshima.

Miyajima is a very famous place for Japanese people – and it’s not just because it boasts the largest wooden rice spoon in the world. It’s
known for its beautiful orange ‘floating’ torii. Of course they aren’t really floating – but it appears that way from where they sit in the
water. I have to be honest – it was almost more entertaining watching all of the Japanese people’s reactions and excitement to it than the
actual site itself. But there were also wild deer that came in for some of the action. I guess it’s popular on the deer circuit, too. One of them
in particular was definitely spending lots of time taking in the view of it.

I remembered that Dave and Masayo told me that this island is known for its oysters. I was reminded of this by watching different outdoor
places grilling them. I knew I had to get some. I went into a place with ‘oyster udon’ – basically just udon noodles topped with oysters.
Excellent pick, I must say. For dessert, what would be better than the local ‘momiji manju’ – basically little cakes shaped like maple leaves
with a variety of fillings (I picked one with chocolate and one with apples). Yum!

The day was flying by so it was time to take the train back to Hiroshima. I wasn’t really interested in the castle or gardens. I was here to
see the Peace Memorial and the museum. And let me just say that this is a big part of the beauty of my Japan Rail pass. Would I have ever
spent about $100 each way to come to Hiroshima to just see a museum? Nope. But with the JR pass, it’s like ‘Why not?’

As a girl who spent most of her time in history classes either taking naps or passing notes, I learned a lot by coming here.

Dave already briefed me on a bit – like how the bomb was detonated at 600 meters above the ground since that would increase the span of
the area affected. There was one thing that seriously shocked me with this museum. I’ve been to many where it is all completely one-sided.
And I have no problem with that – I actually understand that it would be the case. But this was different. In the timeline of Japan’s
involvement in different wars, the museum doesn’t hesitate to say that they began the ‘Pacific War’ by their surprise attack on Pearl
Harbor. Nor did the museum hide the fact that in an earlier war, they took over the capital of China, killed many Chinese and then had
Chinese and Koreans in labor camps. For me this was really valuable. When seeing that they were including this type of information, I
tended to read everything as a fact versus ‘their side of it’.

This whole complex is called the Peace Memorial Park and the Peace Memorial Museum – it’s pretty obvious that their aim is peace in the
world. But they aren’t preaching for no more war. Their aim is actually to eradicate nuclear weapons from the world and that until that is
done, there will always be the chance of humankind being wiped out completely in no time at all. Of course, because of countries’ power
struggles, this will never happen. But at least it’s a bit more attainable than ‘no more war’. The U.S. and Russia have the most nuclear
warheads – other countries include France, Canada, the U.K., India and Pakistan (and of course some others).

The museum did a great job of showing what happens when people don’t fight fair (and that is basically what dropping an atomic bomb is,
right?). We killed 200,000 people with that bomb and injured/affected probably about another 150,000. All in the name of saying ‘the war
is now over’ and also to give U.S. more control in the world than the U.S.S.R. at that time (according to the information at the museum).

The shell of a lone building still remains from the atomic bomb. It is called the A-Dome and has now been given UNESCO World Heritage
Site status. This serves as a reminder to everyone. There are also some other memorials that are quite moving when you just stand and
look and think of the number of people and children whose lives were gone in the matter of seconds.

Walking around Hiroshima after going to the museum made me see the city in a totally different light. Every single thing has been erected
post-1945. Everything. Nothing was left after the bomb. It felt good seeing the life in the city and the upbeat pace of things. And you have
to find it amazing when you tell a person that you are American after being asked and they respond to you with a smile on their face.

Walking around Hiroshima only got better from there. At one point something got in my eye. It was a kind of weird feeling. But then I
started seeing a few small things flying in the air and I realized what it was. Snow! The last time I saw the stuff was over two years ago –
and coincidentally it was when I was in Tokyo. I had a huge smile on my face now. I felt like Christmas carols should have been playing.
Judging from the looks on everybody else’s faces, they weren’t as excited about these snowflakes as I was. Nope. They didn’t really look
very happy about it at all. The only person whose excitement matched mine was a small boy. At least he knows what’s up.  

On the train back to Osaka, I watched us speed by all of the snow-covered houses. Ahhh – so beautiful.

I went to dinner with Polina from my hotel. We went to Namba and checked out this great little restaurant that had what I was wanting to
try –
okonomiyaki. It’s a specialty here that is known as Japanese pizza. But I feel it’s a bit more omelet-like. They cook it teppanyaki style
– on the table in front of you. I chose the cuttlefish option which they basically mix in with eggs and cabbage. Sometimes they add noodles
but not at the restaurant we were at. They form a circle with the mix and then throw a layer of fish flakes on top. Minutes later they come
over to flip it. Once they see that it’s done, they put a squiggle of mayonnaise on it and then they liberally brush a sweet-ish brown sauce.
The stove is turned off and dinner is ready. I’m already thinking that a repeat of this meal will be how I end my time here in Osaka.
Back to Japan.
Inside the Peace Museum.
A monument erected in Hiroshima
for the victims of the A-Bomb.
The floating torii in Miyajima.