Author Archives: lwestpfa

Activities week 1 part 1

On July 3, Aja and I set out for Hiroshima.

To get to our destination, I drove 3 hours to St. Louis, then caught a two-and-a-half-hour flight, stayed the night in Brooklynn, caught a 14-hour flight to Tokyo, then an hour-long flight to Hiroshima, then a 30-minute bus ride, and finally a short drive. I was exhausted towards the end and I know Aja noticed. I hope I wasn’t being short with him. I definitely didn’t get much, if any, sleep during those two days of travel. It wasn’t entirely bad, however, I found the flight very accommodating. I even took pictures of the food. This marks the official start of my food blog. 

As a side note, I also found it amusing that the music I was listening to managed to sync up perfectly with our landing in Tokyo. It even played “Midnight Pretenders” which is a Japanese song from the 1980s. This kept me more energetic which is what I needed more than anything to get through customs and the COVID test process. We also missed our connecting flight due to the wait time. The staff at the airport was very helpful, however, and helped us change our flight without any trouble or extra charge. If I’m being honest, I’ve never experienced customer service like this at an American airport. I’m already impressed with the polite attitude and attention to detail many of the workers in Japan are rumored to possess.

When we arrived in Hiroshima, Mirei, who is with the World Friendship Center, kindly drove us to a 7/11. It’s amusing that our first real experience of Japan involved a convenience store but I believe it is fitting. we got to sleep in our futons for the first time. Considering the fact that they’re on the floor, I’m surprised by how comfortable they are. The directors, Matthew and Malachi, promised to let us rest and ease us into the duties of the internship. I appreciate their effort to help us get acclimated and lessen the stress of culture shock. Personally, I felt some culture shock but my gut reaction was not negative but instead an interest in the novelty. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn more about life in Japan without getting thrown in without support.

Aja and I, after getting some rest, went to the Peace Memorial Park. The park is full of memorials for different people who were victims of the A-bomb or helped in the recovery of Hiroshima. I remember the children’s monuments the most. I will reflect on what I learned in other posts. For now, I found the memorials to be incredibly done and the park to be beautifully laid out and maintained. The A-bomb dome, in particular, is a point of interest in the park and serves as an effective reminder of the park’s purpose.

Thank you for reading! I will share the rest of the week in another post. 

Hibakusha Testimony Reflection: Kasoka-san

Aja and I have had a few personal meetings with some Hibakusha (survivors of the A-bomb) so far. I’ll be sharing my reflections on different testimonies through a series of blog posts. I’m starting with a more recent one done by a woman named Kasaoka-san on July 26th. I want to give a content warning because these stories can get quite graphic.

Kasaoka-san shared her experience as a junior high school student during the atomic blast in Hiroshima. As she spoke, she showed us pictures of her family and artworks done by local high school students she has worked with to visually recreate her experiences. She shared that she was at home with her grandmother at the time. Much like the other Hibakusha’s stories, she described a bright flash at the moment the bomb had gone off. Kasaoka-san’s further description of the blast is interesting to me. She states that the light looked “beautiful” and “like a sunset.” I do not doubt that despite the horrors, the blast appeared radiant and amazing. This aspect of the bomb is one I’ve never heard of before. Despite what was going on, she was still able to observe the visual beauty of the light. This detail in her story shows her willingness to share all of her thoughts with us even if they might seem strange to us. Her descriptions beyond this point would get much more understandably graphic.

She described her father coming home with his entire body charred and unrecognizable. His eyes were wide open, likely to his eyelids burning off. He had attempted to bring Kazaoka-san’s mother with him but ultimately was separated from her. He begged Kasaoka-san for water but she had been informed that it was not good to give water to burn victims. She refused her father water and regrets this decision to this day. She described more horrors such as the maggots on her father’s body as he was still barely alive and the flesh coming off victims in the streets. Her father passed a couple days later and she would find her mother by a river also dead. This story, accompanied by the artwork, was some of the most detailed and gut-wrenching descriptions I’ve heard about that day. I appreciate her willingness to be detailed with us. I think shocking details is sometimes important for getting a point across.

Kasaoka-san continued that after she had survived, she described the hatred she felt for America. I am convinced that I would feel the exact same way if I was in her shoes. She then stated that after seeing the help Hiroshima was receiving from foreigners, Americans included, her feelings grew warmer towards Americans. I imagine that she must have differentiated the foreigners that wanted to help from the people that caused her suffering. I find it incredible that anyone can find the slightest amount of forgiveness in their heart after witnessing what she did. I assume it must be exhausting to stay angry forever. I speculate that she looked at her anger as something that would not help in her situation. I admire her for this and I am unsure if I would be able to do the same.

At the end of her talk, she expressed to us the importance of telling her story. She wishes for us to carry this story with us so it may be passed down. I am glad to be writing her story down so that I may fulfill that wish right now. Kasaoka-san stresses the importance of remembering the tragedy so that it never happens again. I find it admirable that she is able to express this by telling us about her traumatic experience with the atomic bomb. I hope with her that there will be no more Hibakusha in the future.

After she told us her story, she answered some of the questions I had, particularly about the artwork she showed us created by students. She stated that it is a part of a yearly project that allows students to speak to Hibakusha and recreate a part of their story through art. The students often have to correct their pieces frequently while working with the Hibakusha for the sake of accuracy. Kasaoka-san told us one of the reasons is that high school students underestimate the disturbing nature of the victims’ bodies.  Other Hibakusha that previously participated in the project have stated that high school students in art clubs/programs do the best with the project.

According to the participating Hibakusha, the university students that have previously participated in the project have been too focused on their own vision over the Hibakusha. I, as a university art student, have felt the need to ponder this. I believe the university students were very focused on aesthetics and showing their skills to convey the emotions they imagine. I do not think that is a bad thing on its own. However, I understand that a project like this one should be primarily focused on the accuracy of the scene as told by the hibakusha. After all, it is a visual record that should be a reflection of those who really experienced the bombing. I will try to keep this statement in mind for my own work in the future. 

I am very grateful to Kasaoka-san for telling us her story without being vague about the details or afraid to express what she thought. I find her strength incredible and I appreciate her active role in making sure the horrors of nuclear weaponry are never repeated.

I am still trying to find the online images of the student art pieces I’m looking for. When I find them, I will share them here.