Japan

I haven’t heard from daughter Summer in over a week, and then only a short note.  They have been back onboard since the evening before Thankgiving (in their time zone).  I don’t know if the Internet has been down or if they are just swamped with classes, studies and last minute fun?
 
The Thanksgiving feast included: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie – and hopefully after filling their plates and bellies, they sat back and talked about what they were thankful for, which certainly had to include their new friends and what they’ve experienced.
 
In the meantime, I will pass along parts of Beth’s account (an SAS staffer and blogger that I have followed, along with Summer, throughout this cruise) about Japan…
  
We arrived yesterday morning to a fireboat spraying a welcome with jets of dancing water. Then a marching band (well, they were standing still – I’m not sure what you’d call that) played Sousa marches as we pulled alongside the dock. John warned us that Kobe goes all out when we arrive, and boy he wasn’t kidding. We had our usual diplomatic briefing by members of the US Consulate, then a Japanese drum ensemble performed traditional drum pieces. The energy they put into their performance had us off our seats – it must be something primeval, the beat of the drums echoing down to our ancient roots…anyway, it was amazing and exciting, and a great way to start our stay in Japan.  We were then released into Kobe.   It’s 50′s and sunny here, and gorgeous.
 
On Tuesday I set myself the task of visiting Hiroshima. Much like Vietnam, I have to admit to ambiguous feelings about being there – it’s not like Americans have distinguished themselves historically in these places. But the Vietnamese were gracious and welcoming, and I have to believe the same will be true in Hiroshima. Those events happened to another generation, in another time – overtly, they seem to not hold us responsible for the sins of our fathers. I wonder if I could be that forgiving…
 
It’s quite a process to get to Hiroshima from the ship. The Portliner is a shuttle service from Port Island, where the ship is docked, to downtown Kobe. Then a subway ride one stop, once you figure out which subway line goes in the right direction. Then hop on the Bullet Train (known here as the Shinkansen) and voila! 180 mph and 1.5 hours later, you’re in Hiroshima. Then a 15 minute street car ride to the Peace Memorial Park – where the familiar domed building waits.

The Peace Memorial Park is a sea of tranquility amid the hustle of Hiroshima. The changing leaves turn the scene into a riot of yellows, golds and reds. I ran into Lindsey, a student traveling to Hiroshima on her own, so we wandered around the park together. The A Bomb Dome stirred emotions similar to those I’ve experienced at the war memorials in Washington DC – a solemn sadness, a burden of grief, born for a few moments then left behind – but traces linger. We wandered through the trees to each monument in the park: the Peace Bell, the Peace Tower Clock, the A Bomb Memorial Mound (where cremated remains of those killed by the blast are interred), the Peace Fountain. There are so many, all sharing a single purpose: end the obscenity of war and existence of nuclear weapons. The Flame of Peace will burn until all nuclear weapons are destroyed. The Peace Memorial Museum tells the story of Hiroshima’s rise to first a cultural and educational center, then later as the war progressed, to a military stronghold. It outlines the events leading to the dropping of the bomb from the US standpoint, and then from that of the thousands of citizens going about their daily lives when Hell descended upon them. The photographs of the victims are graphic, and luckily are in black and white. There are the remains of shredded school uniforms, charred lunchboxes and melted bottles. The displays went on to chronicle the tales of survivors, but I had had enough and escaped back into the fresh air of the park. I slowly worked my way back to the train station, grabbed a quick lunch of seaweed udon (noodle soup), then back onto the Shinkansen for the ride home. I spent the evening relaxing, organizing, and ruminating.

As this voyage winds down, I’m being easier on myself. I realize I don’t have to justify to anyone why I would travel all the way to Hiroshima just to see the park, and not feel obligated to cram in a number of other sites. I’m just enjoying being in my own skin, filling my own needs, and focusing on what I need to do to continue to be healthy and happy. I’m slowly starting to feel less exhausted, probably due to my taking it a little slower recently. This is our last port – well, we have a day in Honolulu but I really don’t think that counts – and the next two weeks will be filled with end of voyage inventories, reports, packing up office supplies for the staff packing and personal belongings, and saying goodbye. Or at least “see ya later” for all.  For the students it will also be filled with lots of studying and finals.

Anyway, my day in Hiroshima was yet another memory to be tucked away in the vault, along with the emotions and thoughts it stirred. Later on I’ll pull them out one by one and reexamine them – but for now, suffice to say I’m glad I went, and hope that soon no one has to toll the Peace Bell again, longing for peace in our war-torn world.

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About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place".
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