It has been a little more than a week since I arrived in Japan. The journey thus far has been shocking, new, exciting, and fun.
Writing about everything would surely take me days, so I will simply mention the highlights.
July 4th – Arrival at Haneda Airport
After a 14-hour flight, I was exhausted and ready to sleep in the comfort of my new home at the World Friendship Center (WFC). However, before that, I still needed to get through customs, hop on my next flight to Hiroshima, and finally take a bus to Hiroshima Station so Mirei Tashiro, a WFC staff member, could bring me to the campus.
Unfortunately, a shocking event occurred upon arrival that caused these final steps to be delayed by an hour. I MISSED MY FLIGHT! 😱 The COVID-19 checkpoint and line for customs took so long that the short window between flights was quickly obliterated. This was a very stressful situation. While waiting in line at customs I emailed Mirei and Dr. Amoloza, the IWU Freeman Asia Internship Program Director, for instructions in case I missed my flight. I was told to see if the Japan Airlines employees could switch flights, and luckily they were able to at no additional cost. The crisis was averted and I went to sleep peacefully in my new home.
I am thankful for the company of my internship partner Laura Westphal. We troubleshoot many ideas while trying to navigate these Japanese transportation services, and I’m sure I would have been 100 times more stressed without her.
I am also thankful for the help and patience of Mirei who was prepared to drive all the way to Tokyo if needed to bring us safely to the WFC.
July 5th – The Peace Memorial Park and Proper Introductions
At breakfast, Laura and I properly met the WFC Director Matthew Bateman and Vice Director Malachi Nelson. They asked us many questions to get to know us better, such as why we decided to come to Hiroshima, IWU requirements for the internship, and our general interests.
At 2pm we were free to wander around the city, so Laura and I decided to go to the Peace Memorial Park to observe the monuments. The most influential to me was the Children’s Monument and the A-Bomb Dome.
July 6th – Barbara Reynolds Presentation and English Class Visit
Barbara Reynolds founded the WFC on August 7th, 1965. Malachi gave us a presentation on her life, the events that led her to create the WFC, and the work she conducted at the WFC. Most of Barabra’s work involved protesting atomic bomb creation and testing. She also advocated for hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bomb, in Japan because they were socially discriminated against.
After the presentation, we sat in on Matthew’s English Class. I think that anyone can join the English classes if they pay the fee, but mostly WFC board members and volunteers attend. The students were doing presentations over their day or newspapers they translated. Everyone had great English skills! This made me happy because all the students are 60+ years old, so I know that my dream of becoming a polyglot isn’t limited by time.
July 7th – Peace Choir and Hondori Market
At 1:30pm the members of the Peace Choir flooded into the WFC living room. I met many of the WFC board members at this time. Everyone was very kind and asked various questions to get to know me. I was even gifted a potato grown by one member! 😄 We sang for a long time in both Japanese and English. It was a bit exhausting, but fun.
At 2pm Malachi, Laura, and I biked to Hondori Market which is something like a large strip mall, but more amazing. We ordered drinks at Tully’s Coffee and talked for a while. Then, Laura and I were released to the wild streets. We went to many businesses, most significantly Daiso, a Japanese discount store, and Gigo Arcade. We spent a lot of time in Gigo playing their rhythm games. I was awful and Laura destroyed me, but I will avenge myself by the end of this internship 😤!
July 8th – Project Work Time
I was tasked with a labeling project at the WFC. Over time the organization has been given many beautiful sculptures, pictures, works of art, awards, etc. However, they are all without proper labels, so my job is to label them accurately and beautifully. I will do my best to live up to everyone’s expectations 😁.
July 9th – Introduction to the Riji and Peace Memorial Hall
At 1:45pm a WFC Council Meeting called Riji was conducted to go over new policies and other organizational concerns. Laura and I were introduced to all the present members at this time.
TRIGGER WARNING: Gory descriptions
After our Riji Introduction, Laura and I decided to go to the Peace Memorial Museum. This museum is dedicated to recording the devastation caused by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. I read many dreadful stories of the suffering the innocent citizens of Hiroshima endured due to the detonation of the A-Bomb on August 6th, 1945 by the United States of America. Many died instantly, but many more suffered from burns so hot that their skin melted off their bodies. Those without any visible wounds were not safe either, many were diagnosed with radiation poisoning some weeks after August 6th. The main sign of radiation poisoning were purple dots that covered the body from head to toe that were nicknamed the “spots of death” by medical professionals. Being burned alive was also a primary cause of death after houses collapsed on kitchen stoves. Many people were trapped under the ruins of their own homes and could have been saved, but the fire engulfed them before they could be rescued.
Yes, I read many horrible realities that day. I took no pictures inside the part of the museum where these stories were presented because no one else was. I was in this area for perhaps an hour just reading; it felt wrong to pass up anyone’s life.
First Week Conclusion
My first week at the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima has been fantastic and educational. Everyone is so kind, and Japan is so beautiful. I am loving every little thing. I know that the remainder of my journey will be of comparable greatness. Stay tuned for more!!!