Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Day of Wandering and Sad Contemplation

We decided that our first day in the area would be spent exploring and seeing the sights of Hiroshima City. We slept very well and woke up early in the morning and headed out to explore the city. We hoped that by getting out the door relatively early in the morning we could beat the heat. I guess that is not possible in Japan. When we left the lobby of the hotel at eight thirty in the morning it was already blazing hot. We walked up the street towards the peace park and the different memorials that are located in it. We walked to find the information center, and found out that they did not open for another thirty minutes. We decided to go and view the A-bomb Dome first. The A-bomb Dome is the remains of the agriculture and trade building that was located near the epicenter of the bomb. It is the only building that remains from the devastation wrought by the bomb. There were shells of about three or four buildings that remained standing after the explosion, but the A-bomb Dome, as it is called now, is the only one that was preserved as a memorial to that fateful day. The building is hardly more than a shell and it has been painstakingly preserved in the same condition as it stood over fifty years ago. It is interesting to see the steel skeleton that holds the crumbling walls together. We walked around and took in the sights of the building from all sides before heading off to the memorial for the little girl Sadako.

I remember being an elementary school student and having our teacher read the book, "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" to us. A few years back I read it to a class of my own. It was very hard reading the story of a little girl, whose joy was running races because she was the fastest girl in her class, only to have her life cut short after she developed leukemia. She was only a baby when the bomb detonated but the radiation was still in the air and it ended her life. I thought that it was difficult reading the book to my students. Reading a book was nothing compared to seeing the memorial that was dedicated to her and all of the children who lost their lives. Seeing the cranes that are left in the giant boxes to remember. Going to the museum where they have the actual cranes that were folded by Sadako. Being able to see with my own eyes, and experience this was very difficult.

After seeing the children's memorial we walked down through the park and passed by the eternal flame. The flame was lit and will only be extinguished when there are no more nuclear weapons left on earth. Next to the eternal flame is the symbolic grave of all of the thousands of people who were obliterated that fateful day. When I came with the people from Grand Rapids we were able to witness city workers removing the books that list the names of the dead as a symbolic remembrance. This time we walked by and gazed and offered a silent prayer toward everlasting peace.

Next we went into the peace museum. I will admit that I did not give the museum the attention that it deserves; this time. It was my second time and I wanted Jenny to be able to enjoy and take it all in. She told me that it was difficult to see. I agree and think that it was very sobering. When I signed the visitor book the first time I left the comment area blank. One of the students asked why I didn't write something and I simply responded, "There are no words to explain how I feel right now." Logan seemed to be quite captivated with the model of the city, both before and after the bomb. He enjoyed looking at the map and finding the things that he recognized. "There is a boat. Where is the train Papa? Oh there it is." He spent close to twenty minutes studying the map and finding the things that he knew about. Then we walked over to the model that showed what the city looked like after the bomb exploded. He simply looked at me and said, "This one is all messed up." I could not sum it up better, "Yes Logan" I responded. "Someone wasn't very careful."

After visiting the museum we headed back to the hotel to escape the dreadful heat, and to take a rest. We spent a couple of hours resting and playing in the hotel room with the AC turned all the way up. Once we figured that the temperature had dropped a degree or two we decided to venture forth again. This time it was off to someplace a bit more light hearted; the shopping street. We hoped to find some stores that would be good stores to find traditional Japanese things in. We were a bit out of luck. The stores that we found were for the most part the same stores we have around here. But the night would not be complete without dinner. We decided that we had to eat at the Okonomiyaki Village. It is hard to describe okonomiyaki, some people call it Japanese pancake or pizza, but it is not really either of those things. It is round and flat like a pizza, it is cooked on a griddle like a pancake, but to call it one of those two things is to do it great disrespect. I would simply call it... deeelicious! We headed to a building where it is eight floors of restaurants all selling the same food, Hiroshima's special okonomiyaki called hiroshima-yaki. Okonomiyaki is different in Hiroshima because they use noodles in their okonomiyaki.

The building was fairly narrow and it contained about six restaurants on each floor. Each one looked like your typical greasy spoon from an old movie. An L shaped griddle with a wooden area on the outside flanked by stools. We walked up three flights and I realized that it didn't matter which one we picked because they were all essentially the same. We chose one that had some customers but still had room for us at the bar. It was a lot of fun. The shop was run by an old woman and her husband. She took the orders, yelled them to him, even though he was a foot away, and he cooked the food. It was great fun to watch them make the food right there in front of us. They both took great pride in their work. At one point my glass of beer was sitting on the griddle in front of my, now mind you that this part was not being used, and she told me not to leave it there because my beer might get warm. Of course mind you she said all this in Japanese, so I am only guessing, but he fact that I know the word for hot and that she would touch the grill and move her hand away quickly, well lets just say that I got the picture.

We stubbled home, but not before stopping at the local Hagen-Daz location to enjoy some cold refreshing ice cream. We crawled into bed hoping and praying that tomorrow would not be as hot as today.

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