Author Archives: lwestpfa


Peace Memorial Park

Tea Ceremony

On August 9th, Aja, Matthew, Malachi, and I all went to Kido-sensei’s house to experience a tea ceremony. I brought the yukata I had bought together with Kido-sensei and she helped me put it on. This was the first time I had worn the entire set and I think it looked very elegant. Kido-sensei complimented the color choices and told me to wear it when I’m 65 years old. If I can find the occasion, I certainly will.

One of my main thoughts on the ceremony was how detailed all of the steps were. The first thing we did was take seven steps, sit down, bow, and reflect on a scroll with calligraphy that roughly translates to “study forever.” I first thought the saying sounded funny but I think it is supposed to suggest that we must be constantly learning and growing. That is a message I think is more worth reflecting than what I originally thought.

At the point of the actual ceremony, we were given small treats with red bean paste inside them. I personally love red bean paste so I found this to be the most delicious part. Once it was time for Kido-sensei to start making tea, she explained the manners we must display. After being given the tea by the helper, the participant turns the bowl in two small counter clockwise motions. We sit in a line from oldest to youngest with the oldest given the tea first. Once it goes down the line, everyone must ask the person on their right if they’d like the tea. The person then (most likely) says no so they then apologize to the person on the left for going first. Then the participant thanks the maker of the tea and drinks the tea. They hand it back to the helper after turning it twice counter-clockwise and then the same process goes  down the line of participants. It was essential to pay attention but we all eventually got the hang of it. The tea itself was very delicious. I have never had high quality or unsweetened matcha before. The taste was slightly bitter but I think it was the best tea I’ve ever tasted.

We did the tea drinking process once with Kido-sensei making the tea before we were given a chance to take turns making the tea. There are many specific steps to making the tea and one must execute it perfectly. The bowl must be warmed up with some water, then the container of matcha must be opened in such a way that displays the design on the lid, and then exactly two scoops of matcha must be added with one soft tap to knock off any extra from the spoon. A half scoop of water is added then the maker uses the whisk in a small back and forth motion that creates fine bubbles. They then turn the bowl twice clockwise and hand it off to be given to one of the participants.I was corrected many times on the process and movements by Kido-sensei but in the end I believe I was successful. Kido-sensei even gave me high compliments on the tea I had made for her.

In my eyes, the tea ceremony showed the ability of Japanese culture to be extremely detail oriented. There is a high emphasis on perfection and doing things in an elegant system. This was completely foreign to me as I have been raised with a more utility-focused mindset. I find it difficult to follow what feels like extremely specific instructions for the sake of the art form. I can deeply respect the artform and those who can execute it well. I think when it is done by seasoned participants, it must be very elegant and a reflection of the quality of the tea itself. It, in the end, is not just a tea tasting activity but a whole other way of respecting the tea and those who are hosting you.

Miyajima blog

On July 15th, Aja and I set out for Miyajima. Our goal was to experience as much as we could during our short trip. I mainly hoped to try oysters and see the Itsukushima shrine. Once we headed out, we took a boat that had a screen with facts about the landmarks we were passing. We found out about the way oysters are harvested and about a very small island with an ancient legend attached to it. Once we got there, the staff was very helpful and gave us a map to start exploring. We immediately saw deer, which was an amusing part of the experience.

We had decided to eat oysters first. I have had oysters before but never like this. The shop we went to gave us an opportunity to practice our Japanese. We ordered some regular and some miso oysters. They were much larger than any I’ve had back in the states which really proves they’re a staple at Miyajima. We were both very impressed with the way it looked and tasted.

We then tried Momiji Manju at another shop. We tried both the classic type and a small type with dipping sauce. I ordered matcha dip forgetting that Aja dislikes matcha. Nevertheless, we both enjoyed it and are glad we got to try it. 

After we had crossed the food we wanted to try off of the list, we walked around for a moment and came across a very large staircase leading up to a small shrine. We took on the challenge and climbed all the way to the top. We were out of breath by the time we got up but felt victorious. We paid our respects to the shrine and took a moment to enjoy the view. Aja had some trouble coming down the steps because it is admittingly scarier to come down than to climb up. 

At this point, we headed to the main shrine and saw the gate. The tide was all the way down so we got to walk across. After looking down I realized how many small sea creatures were under my feet. I felt bad for stepping on them but I assume they are unharmed because of their hard shells. Despite the gate is under construction, the whole sight was so surreal I will never forget it. Once we entered the main shrine, I saw many things I did not fully understand. We found out that the different small shrines represent different deities of different specialties. The entire shrine was very beautiful and I was grateful to see a style of architecture I very rarely have the privilege to see in real life. We even pulled for fortune cards. We couldn’t read them at the moment but took a picture for later translation.

We walked around more and saw many more statues and smaller shrines. Some had donation boxes and some had incense. I know the basics of how people pray at shrines so it was interesting to see people do it in real life. I feel I have gotten to witness a key part of Japanese culture that has been around for a very long time. Although brief, I’m glad I caught a glimpse of the spiritual side of Japanese culture during my internship.

The final activity we did was a short hike up Mount Misen. We could not go very far up but we saw several beautiful areas. We came across an open area full of relaxing deer. I have never seen so many deer, and calm ones at that. It added to the surreal nature of the island. We saw gorgeous forestry and streams that I really appreciated. We even came across a small koi bond that I loved. We ran out of time so we only made it up to a sign that warned against recklessness or hiking too late. We took that as our sign to turn around and head back. 

Finally, I bought some souvenirs before boarding the boat again. I regret not studying further up on the island and the shrine. I would have liked to know more about the history of it and what deities were being represented there. Nevertheless, seeing the island was an irreplaceable experience and I hope to hike higher up Mount Misen one day.

Fallout short report

Fallout by Lesley M.M. Blume

Fallout details journalist John Hersey’s efforts to create a story that would come to shock the American public into empathy. He sought to cover the catastrophic tragedy that was the bombing of Hiroshima. Other reporters focused on the carnage of the city but often ignored the human lives permanently changed or ended by the blast. The impersonal approach taken until then was not working to inspire empathy or reflection from the majority of Americans. Hersey aimed to wake postwar Americans from the victorious complacency they’d been privileged to have post-war.

The chapter “Some Events at Hiroshima” briefly details the cover of the New Yorker that would hold Hersey’s influential story. The cover, created by Charles E. Martin, depicted a peaceful scene at a park of Americans at leisure. The editors kept the cover despite the initial unfit nature of the scene with the grotesque story within. However, according to Blume, the scene would serve as a reflection on the American public’s comfortable ignorant state of the horrifying acts done on their behalf. It would create an uncomfortable message so that readers may be forced to confront their own position in comparison to those in Hiroshima.

On the other hand, however, editors worried about the readers unwittingly picking up the story and not expecting a revolting story. While these criticisms do hold weight for the sake of publishing, the cover can still be considered a genius decision. It brings in another side of the story without the need for words, greatly enhancing the original text. It is much like adding a mirror to force the intended audience to reflect harder on the story. It is a great example of a cover serving an intention, even through unconventional means.

The method of pairing a contrasting cover with a story is one not observed often, even today. This provides another angle of presenting stories, even if it isn’t entirely friendly to the reader. It is sometimes necessary to call out the reader in subtle ways on topics that encompass widespread issues. It can even be interpreted as visual satire to draw attention. It may be a tool that can benefit current publications with hopes that it can help issues resonate better with today’s readers.

Hibakusha Testimony Reflection: Furuya-san

On August 10th, the last testimony we received was given by Furuya-san who was three years old at the time of the A-bomb. She was with her parents and aunt at the time. Her story is interesting because her youth at the time likely greatly affected her reaction in comparison with those who were older. In my eyes, she described suffering but never seemed to have reacted very strongly herself. I believe this is not an uncommon way for people to react when faced with a tragedy so large. It almost feels natural to revert to a seemingly neutral reaction, perhaps to defend one’s mind. Of course, this is simply my speculation in response to Furuya-san’s story.

Furuya-san described the large flash and her getting launched about three meters from the blast. The building around them had also crumbled. Glass shattered from the window and cut her in many places, much of which still leave scars on her body today. She laid there still and did not cry from the pain. As a result, her parents thought she was dead. Perhaps she was in shock and could not find it within herself to cry. 

Her parents carried her and her injured aunt towards a hill with a shrine on it. They aimed to get there so they can drink from the water fountain located in the front. However, many victims were already there and the water fountain was completely destroyed. Just like what we’ve heard in other hibakusha testimonies, drinking water was known to cause burn victims to die. Furuya-san believes her parents did not know this. However, she believes that victims would die regardless of whether they drank water so they might as well drink it anyway. I find this perspective very interesting. 

What Furuya-san described next made her story especially unique. She described the way in which she played in certain areas of Hiroshima after the war. Despite the ruin, she still found ways in which to still be a child. I find it very reassuring that children do not need to always lose their playfulness in times of tragedy. After hearing many descriptions of bodies in the river, it is interesting to hear about Furuya-san playing in that very river post-war. I did not realize how quickly some citizens were able to find joy again. Her youth helped her in staying positive after the war.

Another interesting detail Furuya-san gave was the story of the shard of glass stuck in her  cheek. A comparatively large shard of glass stuck into her cheek from the initial blast but was not removed. Thirty years later, her friend was messing with her and pinching her cheek. Amazingly, a shard of glass came out of her cheek from this incident. She went to the doctor and he easily took it out. Once again, Furuya-san seems to have been very calm and even told us it did not hurt at all. I find this aspect of her story to be somewhat amusing in the way  she told it and a good indicator of her resilient attitude towards what happened to her and her family.

Decades later, Furuya-san worked for Ford and got to know many Americans. She told us she had felt hatred towards the U.S. when she was young but had come to accept Americans as fellow human beings later on. She felt welcomed by all except for a veteran she had met while at a work party. She learned that he still harbored resentment towards Japan for an attack he endured during WWII. She understands why he feels this way and hopes for people of different backgrounds to come to know each other as people and not enemies. 

Furuya-san overall hopes for increased communication and empathy between people in different countries. I agree that war causes us to dehumanize each other. Being able to talk and understand differences is key to fostering peace. Furuya-san closed by stating communication and nuclear disarmament are vital for humanity’s survival. I believe her beliefs are very notable and just. I am glad to have gotten to hear her story and I’m happy to see that she was able to thrive after August 6th, 1945.

Hibakusha Testimony Reflection: Goro-san

On August 3rd, the fifth hibakusha testimony was done by Goro-san. Regrettably, his talk was given to us over Zoom so it was slightly difficult to hear every detail he gave us. However, I was still appreciative of his details on the role of the community of Hiroshima. Due to air-raid signaling, Goro-san had chosen to stay indoors. This, according to him, is a vital part of his survival. 

Goro-san detailed that the community worked together to tear down the buildings. This is because of the fear of fire bombings. The buildings would catch fire and spread throughout the city if they were not taken down. The surrounding cities were being firebombed so Hiroshima prepared to be targeted next. Many of those working to do this included women and students. This, of course, led to the death of those working outside on August 6th. Goro-san stated that whether someone was in the shade or not was a huge indicator of whether or not they survived.

When the bomb was dropped, Goro-san described a bright light and heat felt upon his back. This area was burned from the blast but he was in relatively good condition. His friend, Kei-san (not sure if this is the correct spelling), was looking much worse. He was in extreme pain as his entire back was horribly burned. Goro-san had watched Kei-san and others like him suffer their burns. Goro-san then described the way in which radiation “sucked the life out” everyone, including those who got away with fewer injuries. The description he had given of radiation sickness put new imagery in my mind of it. The deterioration of a sickness can be horrific to experience as well as witness.

Goro-san’s testimony added emphasis on what makes nuclear weapons particularly cruel. It is especially the case for those who couldn’t have been aware of the effects of radiation. It must be confusing to see seemingly uninjured people become deathly ill after they must have thought they survived. The effects of such a weapon is bound to last much longer than the initial conflict it is used in response to. To make people pay the price decades down the line is something unethical that the use of nuclear weapons brings.

Luckily, Kei-san had survived even with heavy injuries. I’m glad to know Goro-san remained friends with Kei-san long after the disaster. I appreciate the glimpses of hope we receive within these testimonies. It is important to hear about the horrors but it is equally important to learn about the overcoming of the struggles. Goro-san provided us with both aspects in his story.

In closing, Goro-san expressed that his goal is to educate young people on what happened on August 6th, 1945. It is vital for young people to take the story and continue to tell it for years to come. When asked about the war, Goro-san speculated that it was reliant on the “foolishness” of his time. He wishes for the young generation to learn from the mistakes of the past so they may never be forgotten or repeated. His main statement is that the bomb should never have been used and opened the door to nuclear weaponry worldwide. He strongly believes in the repeal of nuclear weapons everywhere. I hope his message spreads and we can reach a future that Goro-san and other hibakusha imagine.

Hibakusha Testimony Reflection: Tamiyuki-san

July 29th, the fourth hibakusha to speak with us was Tamiyuki-san. The most notable difference in his testimony was that it centered around his father. Tamiyuki-san was only two, if I remember correctly, and was evacuated to Saijo town before the bomb had dropped. His father, however, was only 500 meters from the hypocenter and was able to miraculously survive despite his odds. Tamiyuki-san’s father’s story was incredibly captivating as he fought his way out of Hiroshima on August 6th.

Tamiyuki-san’s father was working at a business close to the hypocenter. He had a small trifle with a coworker a few minutes before the bomb had dropped. He decided to end the argument and go to his desk because believed that angry conversations should be left for the end of the day. Because he had gone back to his desk, he was behind a large safe when the bomb dropped. His decision to not argue with his coworker that morning ended up saving his life. 

Only him and one other worker survived. They made their way east towards one of the rivers to escape. Because Tamiyuki-san’s father was horribly burned, he was incredibly weak and thirsty. When he made it to the river, he decided to get in it to cross. However, a soldier stopped him to inform him that those who go into the river always get carried off and die. So he was guided to head to the bridge instead. He attempted to drink the water in order to quench the unbearable thirst he felt but was once again stopped by a soldier. Those who drink the water all end up sick and die. He followed the advice and continued onward.

He had eventually tried to rest  and eat what I believe was scoops of rotting pumpkin in order to survive. However, Tmiyuki-san’s father vomited it back up immediately and felt even worse. He found out later that the food was radioactive and heavily contaminated. It is surprising that he survived after attempting to eat it. These consecutive miracles lead to him making it out to where Tamiyuki-san was. Tamiyuki-san describes his father to have been unrecognizable from his horribly charred body. He managed to survive and recover after making it to safety. Amazingly, the family was able to live somewhat peacefully due to Tamiyuki-san’s father’s hard work. He continued to work and send his children to school. It is incredible for somebody to endure a disaster of such magnitude and still live to support his family. It is hard to imagine how strong he must have been in order to do that.

Interestingly, Tamiyuki-san’s father never talked to them about his experience. However, decades later, Tamiyuki-san and his brother found an old newspaper article detailing their father’s story. Their father had already died at the point in which they found it and realized the magnitude of his survival. I had asked Tamikyuki-san why he believes his father never spoke to him about it. It seems he did not wish to express the painful memory towards his children. He perhaps found it unnecessary that they know. I find it incredibly interesting that Tamiyuki-san’s father only spoke once to the press so his story would be passed on but his children would not be exposed to it. I could never know exactly what had gone through his father’s head, but I suspect he simply wished to protect his children entirely from what happened.

Tamiyuki-san then told us the rules his father had made that aided his survival:

  1. Don’t argue with others about silly trifles
  2. Don’t panic when you face disaster
  3. You should accept the advice of others
  4. Do your best in all situations

These rules are now a part of Tamiyuki-san’s legacy. I hope to apply these rules when I can. I imagine Tamiyuki-san follows these rules as well. To follow up the story, Tamiyuki-san stated that the use of nuclear weapons is criminal. It is important that the atrocities that happened to his father are never repeated. This belief for Tamiyuki-san for nuclear disarmament is shared with the other hibakusha. With all of the different stories, the simple belief that Hiroshima’s tragedy must never be repeated endures. I believe it should be the wishes of the hibakusha that are what we remember the most from these testimonies.

Hibakusha Testimony Reflection: Kajiya-san

July 28th, Kajiya-san was the third hibakusha to give us his testimony. The visuals he provided really stood out because he had drawn them himself. It is amazing to see the impact that visuals have in conveying one’s experience more thoroughly. I find particular interest in the use of art to convey topics related to one’s own experience. I had asked him how he creates it and he uses a mix of oil pastels, watercolor, and other media he finds. The real pieces are quite large, I’ve been told. They seem to be fueled by both passion and a need to tell his story well. He expressed that he originally created the art to better hold the attention of his younger audience. I believe it not only helps hold the attention of children but expresses the imagery better to adults as well. The effort he puts in is very appreciated and the inclusion of his art with his testimony was a great addition. His story and art included not only himself but his father, mother, and sister as well. For this reason, I felt his story to be very impactful and one I cannot imagine forgetting. 

More so than some of the previous hibakusha testimony, Kajiya-san’s focused not only on his own experience but the world leading up to it. He gave us some history of Japan and its place in the war. According to Kajiya-san, Japanese people thought the war wouldn’t last very long. I can’t say I am surprised by this because I think anyone who willingly enters a war expects it to be quick. An interesting statement from Kajiya-san is that it is easy to start a war but difficult to end it. I agree that this is likely true. Kajiya-san then told us that while the surrounding areas of Japan had been firebombed, Hiroshima was left untouched. That must have left an anticipatory type of fear in Hiroshima citizens leading up to the bomb.

Kajiya-san then told us a detailed firsthand account of what happened to him. He had gone to the elementary school that day and was helping clean when he saw a huge burst of light. The school building had fallen onto him and his fellow students. His small body was crushed under the fallen rubble. He could see a light and mustered all of his strength to climb to it. Miraculously, he had made it out of the rubble with his own willpower. If he had not made it out quickly, the house would have burned completely with him still under it. He described the pride he felt in his strength to survive. This is the first time I have heard somebody describe pride in themself for surviving the blast. I am glad he feels this way because his strength as a child is admirable. I believe in his story he represents the spirit of Hiroshima’s survival. After he escaped the rubble, he followed the line of other survivors towards the outskirts of town.

Kajiya-san continued by telling us of his father rushing to the school house to help all of the children. He and other parents worked together to lift debris and pull children out. His father had come after he had already escaped and left but his sister was still under. The father dug Kajiya-san’s sister out but she was already dead, having been crushed. He proceeded to carry her body towards the outskirts. Kajiya-san was found by his parents who were overjoyed to see him alive, having assumed him to be dead. However, his mother mournfully held his sister’s body, heartbroken. Kajiya-san described the perplexing way in which his sister’s face had a slight smile.

Many years later, Kajiya-san’s mother was still extremely mournful of his sister’s passing. When he asked about her inability to move on, she confided with him about what happened before the bomb. At the time, third graders were supposed to evacuate the city while younger children stayed in the city with their parents. Being a third grader, Kajiya-san’s sister was evacuated. However, she wept and begged her mother to allow her to stay. His mother insisted that she would be safer outside the city. His mother had even got on the bus to leave but his sister ran after it crying. His mother could not bear the sight of this so she made the bus driver stop. When she spoke to his sister, the sister said she’d be okay with dying because she’d be with her mother. This convinced Kajiya-san’s mother to take his sister back into the city right before the bomb dropped. Of course, this decision directly led to his sister’s death. He believes, however, that this is the reason for her smile in death.

I deeply appreciate Kajiya-san’s telling of both the story of his own strength and survival as well as the stories of his family. His story brings in the experience of enduring survival and traumatic loss for his family. Later on in life, he and his family members also suffered the physical and mental effects of the bomb. He seems to bear the trauma with both pride and sorrow. I believe this is what makes his story all the more impactful. Kajiya-san, however, expressed that he is simply happy to be alive every morning. He said he wakes up every day and says “thank you.” I believe that to be a wonderful conclusion to his testimony

His following statements include his stance on war and what we need to remember. He believes only those countries who willingly enter conflict should receive the consequences of war. He connects this to Russia and its attacks on Ukraine. I personally appreciate his ability to apply what has happened in the past to current events. As someone who is young, I am very interested in the future and what needs to be done. Kajiya-san expresses the need for peace and believes in the disarmament of nuclear weaponry everywhere. I hope we can make this come true for not just the hibakusha but for the sake of the entire world. 

Hibakusha Testimony Reflection: Soh-san

July 22nd, Soh-san is the first hibakusha to give a testimony for us. Unfortunately, I had regrettably not yet thought to take notes until the next testimony. I still remember some details, however, Soh-san was six years old when the bomb had dropped. His father was killed since he was closer to the hypocenter. Soh-san had witnessed the victims, some very young, coming from the center of the city. The bodies were blackened and horribly injured. To see this at a young age must have been soul-shattering. When I think of myself at six years old, I cannot imagine the shock that must have come over him. Soh-san and his remaining family members fled to safety but the effects would remain.

Soh-san had shown us some incredible visuals that truly helped us get to see his family and connect better with what had happened. We were shown photos of him and his family before the blast. They look to be such a lovely family that I personally had to hold back tears. For some reason, I was not as emotionally moved by pictures of burnt bodies or destruction in this case. Instead, I was captured by the image of a family I knew was going to be torn apart very shortly after. I still wonder if it has ever been difficult for Soh-san to look at these pictures. I was too hesitant to ask this very personal question. After all, the events of a single day impacted him and his family for the rest of their lives. August 6th, 1945 would not be the end of Soh-san or his family’s story.

Today, Soh-san is an energetic man in his 70s. He and his family had continued to suffer from cancer and other effects of radiation after the war. It is incredibly cruel in the way his family had to suffer further long after losing their father. I used to wonder why the citizens of Hiroshima stayed in the area after the bomb. I now know that it is simply the utter lack of information they had. Anyone who’s seeing the effects of such a bomb for the first time would almost certainly believe it is safe after the fire is out. I have heard many times about the effects of radiation but this is the first time I’ve knowingly met someone who’s faced it. 

This being the first testimony, I believe I was especially affected by how real that day had suddenly become for me. One thing that had registered in my mind more than ever before is the novelty of the bomb and the resulting confusion surrounding it. Those living in Hiroshima must have been prepared for another firebombing but instead got something nobody was prepared for. Nowadays, we’re so familiar with A-bombs that I had forgotten how confusing it would be to experience one with no prior knowledge of it.  Soh-san helped me realize that lack of information may be one of the scariest aspects of disasters. 

With an event happening back in 1945, I feel I’ve been separated from the mentality of the victims at that moment. I am incredibly grateful to Hibakusha like Soh-san for bringing the stories of an event that feels so long ago to the present moment. My schooling in the U.S. feels less effective now. The detached classroom setting I’ve been in before could not have been enough for me to understand the human aspect that still endures. Seeing Soh-san still work and participate with the WFC gives me joy because it shows incredible endurance. Despite the lasting effects of the tragedy that victimized him and so many others, he still lives and tells his story. In his closing statement, Soh-san expresses an end to nuclear weaponry. The final lesson is for there to be no more hibakushas. I cannot agree more and hope to pass his wishes on.