I recently returned from a visit to Japan on a wonderful guided tour with G Adventures. Upon returning home, everyone has asked me my favorite part of the trip. Normally I need a bit of time after I travel to truly asses what my favorite aspect has been.
However this time, almost without hesitation, I’ve answered “visiting the site of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.”
This has been met with some surprise.
Obviously there were many, many incredible experiences. I chanted with Buddhist monks at a Monestary in Koyasan, walked through a beautiful traditional Zen temple, and saw the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, who is believed to have been mediating since the year 806.
But the most intense experience was definitely the privilege and opportunity to pay my respects at Hiroshima. To acknowledge the tremendous and horrific loss of innocent lives at the hand of my country. To not look away from the gruesome photographs and exhibits in the museum. To bow my head over the river where thousands flung themselves, in effort to stop the burns and pain, and drowned.
At risk of turning this post overtly political, in one week the United States will elect our next president. One of our candidates is overly enthusiastic about the idea of nuclear weapons. And I can’t help but feel if he were to take one look at the images of tattered clothes, faces blown off, radiation burns, and read the stories of side effects permeating entire generations, and take a moment to quietly sit among the spirits of so many horrifically lost lives — he might rethink his trigger happy ideals.
At Hiroshima, I witnessed an elderly white gentleman humbly purchase a small paper peace crane from an elderly Japanese man. It was a powerful moment and one I’ll never forget. I watched the acts of war be silently forgiven as they quietly made the exchange.
Visiting Japan was special for so many reasons. But for me, the emotional walk through Hiroshima Peace Park will remain front of mind for a long time.
~ Keep Exploring, Historians