One to Grow On

November 23, 2009

Hiroshima: It starts out heavy, moves onto food, and ends with some bubblin’ crude

Filed under: Uncategorized — midway2go @ 7:14 pm
 

Flame of Peace

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Some of the paper cranes at Sadako's monument, made into something more

Flame of Peace

 

What can I write about Hiroshma? In some ways all that really matters is that on August 6, 1945, it became the target of the first-ever atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy” and dropped by the American plane Enola Gay. It exploded in the air above the main shopping district at 8:15 in the morning, and almost immediately the blast heated the air on the ground to 4000 degrees Celcius. Seventy thousand people died pretty soon thereafter, most incinerated on the spot, others alive but with burns all over their body. Some crawled into the rivers that bordered the neighborhood on two sides. Weakened and injured many drowned; according to local legend many died calling for water. Within a few years 130,000 would die from complications of the exposure to the radiation.  

 

 Today the once-bustling neighborhood has been made into the Peace Park, with a museum that preserves not just photos but also the stories of the hibakusha, the bomb survivors, along with more than 70 monuments and memorials. Through the World Friendship Center, the great place we stayed of which I’ll say more in a minute, we arranged a tour of the park and maybe 15 of its monuments. Akiko-san guided us around, turning stone into stories and making the events of those days and weeks come alive for us. Nora tuned out most everything, just strolling around and balancing on the curbs, but Rory took a lot of it in, asking great questions and thinking hard and being revolted more than once. I thought Akiko-san did a great job of being senstive to her young audience and still sharing true stories. One story that is pretty well known is of a 10 year old girl named Sadako Sasaki who was diagnosed with leukemia. She set out to fold one thousand paper cranes, an animal that lives for one thousand years in Japanese legend and symbolizes health and longevity. She folded them out of the paper wrappers that her medicine came in- talk about transformation through faith. She believed that if she got all one thousand folded she would live. She didn’t finish, but she became a legend herself. School children, first in Japan, then all over the world, folded cranes on her behalf, and now thousands and thousands and thousands of paper cranes are dispayed in the peace park around a statue of Sadako. Every year thousands more arrive. Kids all over the world are still folding these cranes.

 

  

 

There is so much to say about the park, and about the monuments within it, and the stories of the victims of the bombing, that it’s overwhelming to visit and especially to write about. At the center of the park is what they call the Flame of Peace, which was lit almost 50 years ago and will burn until the last nuclear weapon is destroyed. Rory asked why a flame, which got us talking about what fire means and the parallel of the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. This is definately stuff that wouldn’t have just come up for us. In front of that is a monument shaped like the most basic shelter honoring those who died, and around that is a reflecting pool of water to provide the lost souls with the water that they begged for when dying. But I think the park and people like Akiko-san and the folks at World Friendship Center want Hiroshima to mean more than just “look what can happen with nuclear weapons.” It should mean, look what war can do to people, both aggressors and victims, and how easily the lines between those can shift. The whole city and its history begs for peace.

 

Where do you go after the Peace Park? To bed? Nope! To the excellent Hiroshima Children’s Museum, which is oh-so-charmingly free. Rory and Nora climbed in the Space Center-slash-Playground, they played 5,674 games of virutal soccer, they ran the humungous model train set of Hiroshima (complete with a separte line of the famous streetcars, 2 of which have survived the bombing and are still in use!), and made a whole load of friends when a school group came pouring in. The kids took great pains to let Rory and Nora go to the front of the line several times and worked to be sure they each got a fair go at the exhibit that timed a short sprint. We’re no stranger to children’s museums, and this was a great one. My favorite exhibit was translated as “playing with lightning”. Wow.

 

I’ve mentioned the World Friendship Center without explaining anything about it. It’s a center which is run by volunteers from the Church of the Bretheren in the US and which works for peace. They hold seminars, teach classes, arrange tours, and generally work to build understanding, friendship and respect between cultures. In addition to this work they have rooms available, in kind of a hostel/homestay arrangement, at the center. We stayed there, and we were so fortunate to get to know Barb, one of the current volunteer directors. We also had the pleasure of meeting Miho-san and Chiyoko-san, who helped to make us feel so at home. Rory and Nora still ask, “Okay, what do you like better, this place or the World Friendship Center?” They are building peace one person at a time, and we loved every minute of being there.

 

Now that I’ve gone over death and destruction, let’s get serious: FOOD. Yes, what you’ve all been clamouring for, more tales from the dining room table. Well, the first day out we went wild. For lunch we walked halfway across the city to the Cusco Cafe in search of tacos. Sure, ridicule me for giving my kids tacos at a Peruvian restaurant in Japan. Go on. They loved them. And, I could speak Spanish with the wait staff and get just what we wanted. I ended up with paella, no luck in the arroz y frijoles department, and vowed to myself and my children that if they would be less picky I would embrace all the products of the sea. So there I sat and ate everything on my plate. Five mussels and 4 shrimp, plus a heap of yellowish rice. I’m an adult and a mother to boot, so of course I wouldn’t say that mussels are icky and shrimp are gross. That would be very childish indeed. And I am very grown-up, so just won’t say anything. But I ate every bite, so there.

 

Our next adventure was the following night. We were headed back to the Center, hungry enough to be adventerous but not yet cranky, and we passed the corner spot, Tomozo. Outside was the traditional red paper lantern and through the windows we could see a small group in one corner laughing and sharing little plates, like Japanese tapas. The griddles gleamed in the middle of the little tables and the smell coming from the open door was heavenly. This spot had been recommended as a great place to try hirosima-yaki, a version of okonomiyaki, a specialty of Hiroshima that is in no way dairy or gluten free. It starts as a kind of pancake-crepe thing, then on a griddle they add an egg, rice, cheese, meat, any number of veggies, noodles, then cover it with a creamy sauce. Reputed to be delicious, far better than I’ve made it sound, I’m sure. Without question, though, Not Our Kind. Still, we walked past this little joint and it looked so inviting. We went in. Two guys ran the place, one taking orders and the other doing the cooking. The order-taker was so funny and helpful, assuring us that they would make something perfect, no problem. The cook guy looked a little confused, then fully perplexed when he heard all the limitations. Still, he bravely struggled on, until we were served an omelette-type dish that was upsettingly cheesy when we bit into it. The cook went to great pains to show me that the stretchy, slippery stuff was some kind of grated tuber, I could never work out the name, but he used it as the starchy base of the dishes. Great. Rock on. We polished that off, then he presented us with another omelette-thingy, this time made with potatoes and grilled cabbage. Yummy. We got salad with freshly made-to-order vinagerette, then lollipops for the kids. The bill? Remember this was Japan- about $15. I almost cried. It was the cheapest thing we’d had, made with the most care. We exchanged business cards, the kids swore their undying loyalty and were presented with Mario racing toys that have becme their favorite of the trip. What a great meal.

 

So, that was Hiroshima in three days. We didn’t go everywhere we wanted. We all wanted to see Mazda’s longest assembly line in the world, seven kilometers long! I had my heart set on going to Miyajima to see the famous floating torii and walk up the mountain, but instead the kids watched their new favorite show, the Beverly Hillbillies, over and over while I uploaded photos to the blog (hmm-hmm). We now try to use the phrase “cement pond” at least once daily. Move over, Little Rascals, Jethro has come to town.          

 

Our Little Mermaid, making good use of the play silks we packed

nothing like omelette with chopsticks

our wonderful hosts, Chiyoko-san, Miho-san, and Barb-san
standard photo of a $50 melon- but it is pretty!

  What can I write about Hiroshma? In some ways all that really matters is that on August 6, 1945, it became the target of the first-ever atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy” and dropped by the American plane Enola Gay. It exploded in the air above the main shopping district at 8:15 in the morning, and almost immediately the blast heated the air on the ground to 4000 degrees Celcius. Seventy thousand people died pretty soon thereafter, most incinerated on the spot, others alive but with burns all over their body. Some crawled into the rivers that bordered the neighborhood on two sides. Weakened and injured many drowned; according to local legend many died calling for water. Within a few years 130,000 would die from complications of the exposure to the radiation.  

Rory and Nora with our guide, Akiko-san
Rory with a paper crane he folded

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments »

  1. Oh, I do love the silks on Nora. Who can teach Grandma how to make a paper crane? In the picture with the button shirt Rory looks just like Brandon Klink at age 8. Thank you so much for the wonderful stories and pictures Chrislyn. Love, Grandma Barbara

    Comment by Grandma Barbara — November 25, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  2. Hi Chrislyn! I don’t know if you remember us…but we met you at Leavenworth (my daughter was in your kids’ gymnastics class), and you linked me up with Amy. Thanks! She sent me to your blog, and we love it. The kids and I are enjoying it.

    Comment by Susan — November 25, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  3. I now have a profound new understanding and relationship with paper cranes!! Thank you for sharing!! Sharon, Liam and Aaron

    Comment by Sharon O'Sullivan — December 6, 2009 @ 12:32 am


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