Hope all is well with all you folks back home.
I’m enjoying Japan. I love cute things and Japan is cute world magnified. You should see me in those toy shops, some serious regression going on. John got rather excited about all the different lego available, you can even play with it in store. Mega!
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We left Tokyo on Monday. Thanks Keith for a fun stay. It was into wider Japan all on our tods with no hand holding from Keith. Arch, scary! But quite exciting.
Mega exciting was the bullet train. I’ve never been so hyper about going on a train before. It was a huge monster of a machine with a bit of a strange duck billed front. Masses of leg room, a smooth ride and some serious speed. Oh if only back in the UK….. I need not continue.
We arrived in Hiroshima knowing that we would find it interesting but also a little scared of how it might make us feel. We exited the station looking a bit lost. Immediately someone stopped and asked us if we needed help and pointed out the tram stop for us. Nice. When we got on the tram we were studying our map. An old man was also looking at it with interest. He offered help and insisted guiding us to the very street we needed. He didn’t actually know where he was going and we had to persude him to take a different route at times. It was still really sweet of him and we arrived safely. This man was easily 70 years old and told us he was born in Hiroshima and had lived there all of his life. He clearly lived through the Atom bomb. We wondered what stories he might have to tell.
We were a little worried about staying at the ‘World friendship centre’ even though it was our first choice of accomodation. In the back of our minds was the concern that we might find the people a little overpowering. We needent have worried. It was run on a voluntary basis by an American couple. You got fantastic breakfast in the morning and could go and watch the news in the living room. It was a little like staying with relatives. We were made to feel really welcome. Thanks to Don and Pauline.
On our first full day in Hiroshima we set out to see what is known as the A-bomb dome. It’s a grand old building which has been left exactly as it was immediately after the bombing. It certainly stirred up the emotions, mangled metal and rubble really gives a strong visual impression of what the rest of the area must have been like. Many near by memorials in Hiroshima’s peace park were tasteful, simple and gentle in their message. The museum was admirable too. It starts by introducing you to the political context around the bombing. We found this to be pretty objective and a good introduction to the facts. At no point was there any goodie vs baddie insinuations. This part of the museum was the easy bit.
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The second half started to get harder. When you see personal stories, scorced childrens clothes, photographs of people with appalling burns and walls stained with black rain it’s pretty hard to take. I rushed the last bit a little as I was feeling physically sick. While I was waiting outside for John people were coming out and bursting into tears. We left for five minutes or so and braced ourselves for the art and photographic exhibition. The art exhibition was by various survivors of the bomb depicting their lasting memories. The visual images they presented and the commentary along side them were deeply personal and highlighted the psychological side of the aftermath. The tissues were certainly out after that, it was one of the most increadible insights into human suffering I’ve ever experienced. We were both almost speechless afterwards. It’s not something we could just come out and have a debate about, we’re discussing it in small chunks.
The amazing thing about Hiroshima is that it has a hopeful, cheerful and kind atmosphere. It’s an admirable city and we found it a rewarding trip.
We treated ourselves to half an hour in the toy shop after all of that. A temporary but necessary fix.
While in Hiroshima we also got out onto Miyajima, a mountain island, and did a little walking. It did us good but it was seriously cold and snowing a little on the top. We also went to a small English cafe selling Jacket potatoes called ‘spud love’. It was really cosy in there and actually a really good way to speak to some of the locals who were all really lovely.
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We’re in a 30 bed dorm in Kyoto now. It’s not as bad as it sounds and has free internet. All is well but we’re still in a very reflective mood.
Bye for now,