Text and photos by Crina-Ioana Pentiuc
Today, our adventure in Japan continued in Hiroshima where we had a day filled with impressive discoverings.
We started with an early breakfast and readily began our journey to Miyajima. A ferry boat took us to the sacred island, this trip offering us wonderful views which seemed to resemble traditional Japanese paintings. The Torii Gate, rising out of the water, its reflection like a picture on a postcard, the mountains in the distance, delicately covered in fine fog and the temple embracing the sea at the shore. Additionally, soon after arriving we were welcomed by a surprising sight, namely deers wondering around, being photographed, petted and receiving food.
Even though there were many tourists visiting the Itsukushima Shrine, the place seemed to be filled with silence, appearing to me as a place where time was flowing slower, inviting people to get away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday life, relieving their inner turmoil and receiving instead the healing peace of mind.
Walking along the open corridors, being so close to the calm and slowly glittering water, having above a clear sky we spent a peaceful time there, wishing to come back again one day.
Our next destination has been the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, a place that stands as a legacy of the tragedy that happened on the 6th of August 1945, when the Atomic Bomb was dropped above the city. Is a place that deeply impressed me, full of memories, cultivating compassion and understanding among people, inviting us to remember and to treasure the past, to learn from it and to fight so as not to cause so much pain again.
This place is the enduring memory of the sorrow, of the cries, of the harrowing deaths and dreadful losses, but also it is a symbol of hope and of victory gained by the admirable struggle and determination of the Japanese people to not succumb under the devastating misfortune, but to rise again and to continue living.
On this occasion we folded cranes, dedicating them to Sadako, a girl that got leukemia due to exposure to radiation. It was sorrowfully touching to learn that she believed that by making 1000 origami cranes she would get cured. Seeing so many colourful cranes near her statue, seeing people ringing a bell and bowing in front of her, made me think that she indeed had surpassed death through the memories and hearts of thousands and thousands of people who visit this place.
Additionally, we saw the remains of the A-Bomb Dome, we walked along the Aioi Bridge that was the one intended to be bombed, we got near the Peace Clock that each and every day rings at 8:15 am, reminding of the time of the tragedy. We also heard the resounding sounds of the Peace Bell which has the map of the world engraved on it, the particularity being that there are no borders separating countries, this aiming for peace.
The following activity was very emotional, bringing tears in our eyes and a sorrowful amazement while we had the extraordinary chance to listen to a survivor of the A-Bomb.
It was a heartbreaking story, portraying the prolonged unimaginable disaster, pain and hardships that Yoshiko Kajimoto had to endure and overcome on that very day on the 6th of August 1945 and in the following years. Deep and heavy thoughts pressed against our hearts while hearing the story which was accompanied by a series of horrifying paintings depicting the aftermath, “The burned baby with mother” and ” Reunion” having a strong impact on me through the powerful expression of emotions. Through this presentation, we were given a valuable lesson on courage, hope and determination.
Afterwards, we went to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Along the way we saw other important monuments, one holding the Flame of Peace that seemed to be kept in two hands and we passed near a place enclosing the volumes with all the names of those who died because of the A-Bomb.
The experience of stepping and wondering inside this museum cannot be easily described in words, but what struck me the most was the animation of the bombing that seemed so real, having not only a visual impact, but also a strong emotional one and I could not stop myself from shivering with dread. Also, I was impressed by the replicas of the two bombs that had been dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki and I kept thinking about the people that had to bravely endure and fight against the consequences.
The day ended with us returning to Tokyo by taking the Shinkansen train that moved smoothly at hight speed towards Japan’s capital.
Now, looking back on this day, I can say that it was an emotionally powerful experience that thought us the value of hope. At the Itsukushima Shrine we could see the hope that drives people to go there and make wishes to the Kamisama. At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park we heard about Sadako’s hope of healing that transformed her end into a continuous existence through others’ memories. Moreover, the presentation held by Yoshiko Kajimoto taught us about the hope of life through which she had defeated death, struggling to survive and which finally led to the victory over the tragedy, helping her to move forward. This last type of hope gives strength to not remain stuck in the past, but to fight for the present and finally to win the future, a better, more peaceful future.
Finally, I see this day as a continuation of professor Alexander Bennet’s presentation about Kendo, telling us that the essence of Kendo also lies in reflecting – which always gives us something to aspire for. Today, all the places that we visited were infused in silence, being meaningful opportunities to reflect not only upon ourselves, but also upon the need for peace; the peace of the world.