The weeks need to stop passing so quickly. I talked more about my feelings in my last weekly post and I still have the same worries then as I do now.
This week honestly was difficult for me. Finding a balance between doing school work and taking advantage of my time in Hiroshima has been a challenge. I had my progress report due earlier this week, I had to make some serious progress on the book cataloging, finish my weekly blog, and I had to do some preparation for August 6th. It began as a busy week for me.
August 6th was the anniversary of the A-bomb. We were able to attend the peace ceremony in Peace Memorial Park and I am very grateful for that experience. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Honestly, the whole day was so surreal that I did not even notice the heat.
The ceremony included a variety of speeches and call of action for nuclear abolition. I enjoyed the speeches from the school children. I appreciate when speeches are not given by politicians but rather individuals who know not much about politics, but know about love and kindness.
After the ceremony, I gave a presentation to the board members of WFC. I told them about my time in Hiroshima, what I had learned, my favorite parts, my research, etc. Right after, we went to a play titled “Grandchildren of Hiroshima”. It was in Japanese but I could still understand what was happening based on the visuals. After that, we attended a gathering of WFC members and read some poems in front of Barbara Reynolds monument. At the end of the night, we attended the lantern ceremony where they put laterns in the river to commemorate the victims of the A-bomb.
Thats the highlight of one my last weeks in Japan! It was such great experience and I loved intereacting with poeple involved with WFC throughout the day.
This blog post is coming out a bit late, and for that, I apologize. I have been so preoccupied that last week that I have struggled to manage time. I am finally able to sit down and dedicate a chunk of my time to writing this blog post.
There are two weeks left for me in Japan and it seems to be grabbing most of my attention. I keep picturing myself going back home to rural Illinois and then back to school. Two weeks ago, I found myself missing home, my friends, and my lifestyle; However, now I fret about going home and leaving the community of people I have worked and socialized with in Japan.
One thing I tend to worry about often is my relationship with people I have met. I am not good with forever goodbyes. I hate to think about not seeing the people I spent every day with for 6 weeks disappearing from my life. But, that is how life works. I am working to come to terms with that.
Enough with my sappy over-display of emotion, here is what I did this past week!
Tuesday was a bit rough for me personally. I started to feel sick when we came back from our trip to Osaka and Kyoto. My throat was sore and I was really congested. I was really worried that I might have gotten Covid while on our trip. I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to my health (and the health of others), so I quickly got tested Tuesday morning. I work with people much older than I am and I did not want to risk getting any of them sick. Hannah and I both tested negative luckily. We left work that day and made dinner in the hostel.
I am going to be honest, dinner was not my proudest cooking moment. I was a bit lazy and communal kitchens gross me out. My dinner was rice, with broccoli, tofu, and soy sauce. I know it sounds bland, I ate the same thing for dinner practically the whole week so I tried to spruce it up a little each time. I promise I make much more extravagant meals at home.
The next day was busy and tiring for us. We got up at 6:30 and met with a tree tour guide at 7:30 am. It was hot that afternoon, so that is why we did the tour earlier. The heat at 7:30 was still unbearable. The tour was fascinating. We looked at some of the trees in the city that survived the A-bomb. Most of the trees were wiped out by the bomb or weakened and then swept away by the typhoon in September. However, some were able to continue to stand. Some of these trees are obviously A-bombed trees, you can tell at first glance. The side facing the hypocenter might be a lighter color, have different-looking bark, or have branches strung out from irregular places and twisting into weird shapes. For some of the other trees, you need to take a closer look or know a lot more about trees than I do. Some of the trees were even able to reproduce after the A-bomb. These are called second and third-generation A-bombed trees. There is a famous story surrounding these trees. These trees became a symbol of hope and rehabilitation for one woman.
At the moment, I, unfortunately, can’t remember her name. Once I find her name I will be sure to include it in this post. There was a woman who struggled after the bombing. She struggled with her mental health immensely. She wanted to kill herself because of all the struggles and feelings she was facing. However, she saw that some of the trees that survived the bomb were able to grow, and that gave her hope. They inspired her to stay strong and continue living.
This is a very beautiful story and I am very appreciative that I was able to have the A-bombed tree tour. Later in the day, Hannah and I received a tour of the Schmoe House. The Schmoe House is now a mini museum/memorial remembering the aid that Floyd Schmoe was able to give to the people of Hiroshima after the bombing.
After the bombing, many hibakushas lived in shanty towns by the rivers in the city. They did not have proper housing. Floyd Schmoe, an American professor, provided support to the community by coming over to Hiroshima with a group of people to build houses for those living in shacks. The house we visited has had some work done since it was first built, but I believe the guide said the ceiling or its supports were the original. This was very impact full for me because I feel like most of the time foreigners help victims of mass violence through less direct means. They send money and letters, but building houses directly provided the hibakusha with something that they were missing and needed. Schmoe was also able to form a community and interact directly with the locals which I think is an important thing to do when providing support for people.
Thursday was a chill day for us. We mostly worked on our book project and then attended a presentation by one of the local professors. I am going, to be honest, the presentation was unlike any lecture I have seen as a college student. I learned a bit about film, literature, and U.S. perspective on the Atom-bomb after its dropping, though.
Friday we were able to join a translation class. We helped students give a better translation of the text that is originally in Japanese. It was a lot harder than you would think. You really have to think about what is the best wording to use and how to give the same message and not shift the meaning of the message the author gives.
I also finished the manga Barefoot Gen on Friday. I only finished the first book, but the ending was intense. I am going to be honest, after translating and reading dark literature all day, I felt a bit depressed for the rest of the day. We got dinner together, just Hannah and I, that night at a Vietnamese place we like called Ao Baba. Hannah was able to order for us in Vietnamese and I had yummy pho. I absolutely love pho. We also tried a Vietnamese energy drink. It was so sweet, it reminded me of Monster energy drinks.
Saturday I came into work feeling really sick, at this point I has fully lost my voice and I did not sleep well the night before. I was able to leave early, rest, do some work from the hostel, and get ready for the peace concert that night.
Hannah and I sang in the peace choir at the concert that night. We did not have much practice and couldn’t read the music and we both lost our voices so we mostly hummed along to the songs. Of course, we were front and center in the choir. The other musicians were absolutely wonderful. I love music and I heard so many talented people. Satoko-san, who I lived with for several weeks, played the piano and I was in awe. She is unbelievably talented.
Sunday, we spent time with Yoko-san! I have mentioned her here on my blog before, she taught us calligraphy once. She took us to a museum and bought us a delicious lunch. We told her about our struggles to find thrift stores that are not meant for tourists and she knew just the place. She took us to this shop and there were so many cute clothes. Hannah and I could spend all day in there. Afterward, Yoko-san took us for ice cream and back to the WFC to wait for our new host family to come to pick us up. Once we got picked up, we had dinner with them and moved all our stuff into their home.
We had a chill ending to a busy week and I met a lot of new people this week, which is very exciting for me. I have struggled to be social with some of the people here, just because I am a bit awkward. Finding people that I feel less awkward around was a good experience and I was able to push myself to become more social without making myself uncomfortable.
I hope my week sparked your interest. Here is what I learned and what I plan for the next two weeks in Japan:
I learned about the A-bomb trees and Floyd Schmoe. I think both of those were a big highlight of my week. I learned what works best for me work-ethic-wise. Creating a goal for the book project was helpful. I also have been keeping my headphones on to keep myself from getting distracted. I concretized my research question and methods. I am going to look more into the ABCC and US occupation in Japan following the bombing.
I created a plan for our book project to make sure we get it done before we leave. I thought it would be a good idea to have a goal set for each day of how many books we should finish. That goal seemed to be a good idea because we started getting a lot more books done. I plan to go to Miyajima next week and I am so excited. I cannot wait. I wish I would have gone earlier though, just so that I could be more familiar with the island and not have to explore a brand new place on my last week. I also plan to present on August 6th at the WFC open house. I am going to reflect on my time working here. I am working on the presentation now and I am feeling a lot of nostalgia.
Thank you for reading my blog. I apologize for the lack of photos. I am typically so good at photographing all my new experiences, but this past week was tiring for me and I seemed to be off my game. I hope to give exciting updates next week with more photos.
I have just spent my 3rd week in Japan, and it is difficult for me to believe that I am halfway through my time here. I am comfortable staying here and cannot imagine going home. I had a fabulous, and challenging, week full of adventure and learning. I missed a couple daily journals, so this post will update you on my past couple of days! But first, Monday, July 17th-
Monday was my day off. I decided to volunteer at a Hibakusha story-telling event that was coordinated by one of the WFC staff. This was in the early morning and, because the story was fully in Japanese, I was permitted to leave a bit early. Hondori, the popular shopping center, was near the location of the event, so I went there after. However, I was a bit tired and dehydrated and wanted to leave almost right away. I went back to my homestay and spent the day relaxing. Hannah came back during dinner from her trip with her aunt, so we talked about her time in Nagoya and near Iwakuni. We had a great dinner this night. Our host family put a griddle on the table and we picked vegetables and sauces to grill on there and then we put the vegetables on rice. I tried okra for the first time- I loved it. I am vegan, but I am not a picky eater by any means. I love trying new fruits and vegetables.
Monday was chill, but Tuesday we went back to work at WFC. We worked on our library catalog, but we had the afternoon free. We decided to go to the art museum because we were recently gifted tickets. The tickets were entirely in Japanese, so we, without thinking, clicked the first art museum Google Maps listed. We went across town to the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. We arrived there when we realized the tickets that he had were for the other art museum, back on the other side of town. We decided to find the Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot, instead. This depot was used during World War II as a warehouse for manufacturing, distributing, and storing Japanese military uniforms. You would think we would have learned our lesson and not selected the first recommendation from Google Maps, but we did not. We went to the first place the map recommended and it was a large building seeming to be full of offices. There was no plaque or monument stating that it was an Army Clothing Depot, and it was not abandoned like the former depot is supposed to be. We went to the wrong place, but we had been walking so much that day that we decided to go back to our homestay for the night.
Wednesday we worked on our library project again at the WFC. We, had a free afternoon to explore the Peace Memorial Park some more, so that is what we did. We had originally planned to go to the park and rent one of their bikes and go to the correct Army Clothing Depot, but our IC card did not work with the bike rental. We, instead, went to the A-bomb dome and got a closer look. It is a pretty popular place for tourists, so we typically do not go up close. Hannah and I also decided to visit one of the underground museum exhibits in the park.
The main exhibits both above and below ground, both include somewhat abstract clocks. Above ground, the clock is glass, and below, the clock is a stone. The clock is set at 8:16. This represents the time the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. Both of these exhibits also include running water. The running water is meant to memorialize those who died from the bombing, begging for water. Victims of the bomb were so hot after the explosion, they begged for water, died trying to find water, or choked on water they found because their bodies were too hot. The running water symbolizes their struggle.
On Thursday, Hannah and I planned our weekend trip. We decided that we wanted to go to both Kyoto and Osaka. I had been wanting to visit Kyoto before I even left for Japan, so I am pleased that we were able to plan that trip. We found places to stay and figured out the railway pass. That night we visited the Hijiyama Military Cemetary. I had originally thought that this cemetery was only for victims of the A-bomb who were military personnel, but it actually includes soldiers from the first world war as well. The cemetery used to be in a different spot, but it was moved after the US built the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC). The ABCC was a US organization that tested on and collected data from survivors of the A-bomb and the radiation. Their practices, from what I have learned, were very unethical. Now, it is the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), which is a joint effort of radiation research from both Japan and the US. Operations seemed to be different now as it is a more peaceful, cooperative effort from both countries to study the effects of radiation. After the cemetery, we had dinner with our host family at a restaurant, as it was our light night staying with them (until later in August). We went to a Vietnamese place and we all seemed to enjoy the food. After dinner, Hannah and I packed up all of our things, in order to get ready for our trip and our new hostel.
The next morning we moved our belongings to WFC because we were leaving for Osaka right after work. Friday was a day for listening and reflection. Goro-san is a Hibakusha and he was willing to share his story with us on Friday. Hannah and were very grateful for this opportunity and his willingness to share his recount of the bombing and the aftermath with us. He was a child when the A-bomb was dropped. He said that we only suffered a scratch on his arm because he was able to take cover and his family lived a couple kilometers from the hypocenter. Some of his family was away when the bomb dropped, it was just him, his mother, his sister, and one of his brothers in Hiroshima. His sister suffered from burns but is still alive today. His mother was not initially exposed to radiation and was unharmed, but she had gone into the town, closer to the hypocenter after the bomb to notify Goro-san’s father via sending a letter. There, she was exposed to the radiation. She later suffered from a swollen spleen and the ABCC did tests on her and provided her with medicine too strong for her to take. She died from radiation exposure.
We were given time to write and reflect after he gave us his story. His story was emotional for me, so I am glad we had this time before we left for our trip.
After reflection, we left for the train station to get a train to Osaka. This is where the stress of our trip began. We had difficulties getting the ticket and getting to the train on time. But we finally, were able to take an hour and a half train ride to Osaka. It was much shorter than I imagined. Once we got to Osaka, we realized that we did not have our other rail pass. We only had one. We talked to the information desk and they said we either had to buy a new one or go back and find the old one. They called Hiroshima Station and they said the pass was found. The passes are expensive and the train ride was free, so we hatched a plan. We went to our hostel and then decided to look around the town. We walked for a while but eventually decided to go back. Hannah, being the trooper she is, got on the earliest train (6:00 am) to Hiroshima, picked up the ticket, and got another train back to Osaka. She was back by 11:00 am. We went to Dotonburi after, which is a famous shopping street. It was hot and sunny, and we were exhausted. We went to the castle after even though we were exhausted. I did not go in because I was too tired to climb, but I got some pictures outside. We left the castle and decided it was time to head for Kyoto.
We got to the train station and caught a train to Kyoto. It took us less than half an hour to get there. We checked into our hostel, and once again, decided to check out the popular part of town. The next day we went to the famous golden temple, Kinkaku-ji. Again, it was sunny and hot, so we got exhausted quickly. After, we wanted to go to Fushimi Inari Taisha, the famous red shrine, but it was too hot for us. We decided to try an Okonomiyaki place instead. I was able to use an infographic I received earlier in the week to explain what I could and could not eat to the waitress and chef. They said I could have Okonomiyaki (traditionally made with egg) but it would be difficult and a very small portion. I was willing to try it, but because of the difficulty and the stress I was causing the staff, I decided to eat curry instead. I love curry though, so I did not mind.
We decided that we would go to Fushimi Inari Taisha at night because it is open 24 hours and is lit up at night. By the time we were ready to go, we were too tired and made a new plan to go the next day. we decided to go later in the evening the next day so there would not be as many people and it would be less hot. The next morning we went shopping at some of the places we wanted to visit. I was able to visit the Snoopy store, and I love Snoopy, so that was a great experience. We went to the shrine, but we did not visit the whole thing because we were so exhausted and still had to catch a train back to Hiroshima in order to check into our hostel in time. We got to the station, caught our train to Osaka, and then from Osaka to Hiroshima. We got to our hostel finally and went straight to bed. Our hostel is really nice and it is meant for international youth travelers.
Here is what I learned this week and what I have planned for the rest of my time here:
One major thing I learned was that I love Hiroshima and am thankful I am living there instead of in a bigger city. Kyoto and Osaka were so difficult for us transportation wise and everything was so busy all the time. Being in those cities made me realize how easy it was for us to become familiar with Hiroshima. We were able to get to our hostel without using a map last night. I never considered Hiroshima a small city until after seeing Kyoto and Osaka.
I also learned to become more open to communicating my dietary preferences to restaurants. Before, I decided that rather than eating at a restaurant, it was less stressful for me to just grab something from the konbini or make something myself. I have decided that I want to communicate more because it is possible to be vegan in Japan, there are people that do it successfully.
As for my plans, I need to work harder on our library project. We are working at a snail’s pace it seems, making little progress each day. I am going to dedicate more time each day to the books and give myself a goal as for many how many books I should enter into the catalog each day. I plan to tour the trees affected by the A-bomb tomorrow morning. This weekend, I plan to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
There’s all the information I have from this week. I will continue to update throughout the week. Thanks for reading!
I have spent another week in Japan. I realized I only have a month left here and that feels surreal. This week I became a lot more comfortable in the city. Hannah and I travel around the city much more often now.
Last Monday, we spent time with one of the volunteers, board members, and English students at WFC. She taught us about one of her hobbies: calligraphy. That was a really nice experience and I appreciate her willingness to teach us about one of her passions. I mentioned in my journal earlier this week that my name does not easily translate to the Japanese alphabet, so I used “Zo” instead of “Zoe” in my calligraphy piece. “Zo” means elephant in Japanese and, oftentimes, when I meet new people here, they ask me, “How can I remember your name?” so I tell them it’s similar to an elephant. Everyone finds that hilarious, and I think “Zo” fits me now.
On Tuesday, we joined more English classes. I always enjoy joining these classes because I get to engage with many new people, and they all seem interested in knowing more about me, whether it be my hobbies, where I am from, or how I became interested in peacebuilding. I have become much more comfortable asking the students questions and helping them with their English. I have noticed that sometimes I struggle with English as well while trying to answer their questions. Sometimes the words the students learn are difficult for even me to pronounce or I cannot think of an easy synonym for words they are learning.
On Wednesday, we toured the park alongside one of WFC’s volunteer guides. I learned so much about the monuments in the park. Some of them are more difficult to notice or find when walking around the park without a guide, so I am glad we had a guide there to show us some of the more hidden monuments. One monument that I think really spoke to me was one that included a poem, which was a message to President Truman, pleading for world peace and no more bombs. Some of the other monuments were dedicated to foreigners who, in some capacity, gave aid to victims after the bombing. One monument was a large tomb that holds a portion of the ashes of victims- it is unique because it combines two styles of tombs- shinto and Emperor.
Thursday and Friday included more English classes for us and some library organization work. Outside of our internship on Thursday, we went to Hondori and looked around until it was late and time for us to go back to our homestay. Hannah and I love going to Hondori because there are so many places to shop and there are a lot of tourists, so we constantly meet new people.
We also went to the Peace Memorial Museum, in the park on Thursday. We could not stay long, but we were able to visit most of the exhibits. Honestly, this was a very emotional day for me. The museum is very intense and impactful. I am very passionate about issues surrounding human rights and peace, so seeing images and descriptions of individuals who lost their lives or were directly impacted in some way by the bombing is difficult for me emotionally. I knew coming here that I might struggle to control my emotions, but I did not think I would be so emotional so soon. I have been taking time to reflect and talk to others about my feelings, so as of recently I have been feeling better. I would be lying if I said I was too nervous about how I will feel after attending Hibakusha talks.
I learned how to make a peace doll on Friday. Peace doll making is a tradition that has been carried out over many years at WFC. They were originally made by a Hibakusha, and one of the crafty volunteers at WFC was able to teach Hannah and I how to make them. We also received many handmade gifts from her, which I appreciate deeply. Making the peace dolls was a beautiful experience. I was able to engage with more people involved with WFC and they were able to teach me some origami. I also learned how to make a paper crane. Paper cranes are very symbolic here. Sadako, a young girl who survived the A-bomb, but was later diagnosed with leukemia (due to radiation exposure), was passionate about world peace and completing a project that represented her passion. Her goal was to make a thousand paper cranes while she was in the hospital. She was unable to finish this project, but because of her, paper cranes have become a symbol of the desire for peace.
Hannah and I made dinner for our host family on Thursday night, and they always seem to enjoy our food. This time we made spaghetti from scratch (except for the noodles) and a side salad. I love cooking for them because I love to cook back home. It has made me much more comfortable being here because I am able to pursue my hobbies.
Hannah and I decided that, after work on Friday, we would get dinner together in the city. Typically we eat dinner with our homestay and we love doing that, but we wanted to try a new place close to WFC this night. It was a small restaurant with vegan options, which is great because it has been a struggle for me to be vegan here.
Saturday was a long day for me. We did not have to work long at WFC. I listened to some of the volunteer tour guides give a sample of their script for the peace tours and provided my feedback. Hannah left to visit her aunt for the weekend, so I ventured off on my own for the rest of the day. First, I walked to a cafe I have not tried before to get some lunch. They had some great vegan options, I was able to get a bento box and eat it in Peace Memorial Park. After lunch, I visited the hypocenter, which is the area right below where the bomb was dropped. I walked from there to the Hiroshima Castle. The original castle was destroyed by the bomb, but it was rebuilt and contains a history museum on the inside. This history museum focuses on feudalist history in Japan. Some parts were interesting, but I went mostly because I was interested in seeing the castle from the outside and learning about its reconstruction.
I walked from the Castle to the Shukkien Garden. This garden was beautiful, it contains Shinto and Buddhist-affiliated objects. I loved seeing the fish and turtles. The bridges were also very cool, and I got some great photos. I learned that this garden was also destroyed by the bomb. Many victims took shelter there but were unable to seek medical treatment in time. The bodies of these victims have been buried in the garden.
I was so exhausted after Saturday’s solo excursions. Luckily, I woke up the next day with enough energy to go to Mitaki-Dera with my host family. We tried a new lunch spot that had a lot of vegan alternatives for things- such as soy milk, soy meat, etc. Mitaki-Dera wiped out all my energy. It includes many Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples. “Mitaki” means “three” in English and “Dera” means waterfall, I learned. This makes sense because the place has three main waterfalls that you can see if you climb to see them. I wrote an “ema” while I was there, which is a Shinto wooden plaque that you write wishes on and hang on a shrine, so deities can receive them.
Again, I want to end this blog post by summarizing things I have learned this week and some of my plans for the future.
I have learned so much this week that it has made me much more comfortable and excited about being here. I learned more about the people involved with WFC, such as their passions, hobbies, lifestyles, etc. I learned how to do some origami and I learned more about the A-bomb and radiation exposure after. I learned more about Shinto and Buddhism, temples, shrines, as well as the former kingdom that once existed in Hiroshima.
I am still planning on going to Kyoto, but all of my following weekends before I leave are busy for me. I am working with Hannah and the directors of WFC to figure out that trip. I plan to visit RERF (Radiation Effects Research Foundation) on August 5th and that will be an interesting experience for me because it has some questionable history. I plan to explore more restaurants and give another visit to the ones I have found so far. I plan to cook more because my host family seems to really enjoy the food I make and I think it takes some weight off their shoulders. I plan to work more on cataloging the library because I am behind and need to catch up so I can finish it before I leave. I plan to concretize my research question, it has been taking me a while because there is so much information I am learning here that I would love to include in my paper, but not all of it is relevant. I plan to attend some Hibakusha talks and take some time to reflect on those because sometimes my emotions can get the best of me.
It is obvious I have a lot in store for the rest of my time here. I am excited to have and share some new experiences with Hannah.
I arrived in Hiroshima about a week ago. Being here and interning at the World Friendship Center (WFC) is a surreal experience. Hannah and I have spent our time so far learning the ropes of living here as foreigners who do not speak the language. We have definitely put our problem-solving skills to the test as we have had several trial-and-error experiences.
I flew from O’Hare to Tokyo on July 2nd, approximately one week ago. The flight was long and I was already struggling to communicate my needs and dietary preferences with the flight crew. I was able to do that, but that was just the beginning of my communication issues. I landed in Tokyo and had to make a connecting flight to Hiroshima. It seemed easy enough until I got to immigration. Immigration looked at my paperwork and told me that I needed a visa. I attempted to explain that I did not and gave them the contract explaining my internship. It took about an hour for someone to allow me to pass through. With my flight in another terminal and my baggage nowhere to be seen, I was in a time crunch. I ended up missing my flight, so I had to reschedule, but the airline employees struggled to get me on a new flight. After about two hours, I was put on a new flight that night. I had no difficulties landing in Hiroshima, getting on a bus, traveling to the station, and meeting up with Hannah and Satoko (the wonderful woman hosting Hannah and I for the first two weeks).
My first day at WFC was great. I enjoyed meeting all the staff and touring the facility. Hannah and I were allowed to explore more of the city that day, so we went to Peace Memorial Park and Hondori to look around. We were only at Peace Memorial Park briefly, but we will be getting a tour of it from the WFC Directors soon. In the park, is the Atomic Bomb Dome. The building mystically survived the bombing and had become a symbol of nuclear weapon abolition. I plan to talk more about it in my blog next week. After the park, we walked to Hondori, a large shopping center that has arcades, restaurants, cafes, and clothing stores. We were exhausted when we got home, but we knew we wanted to go back to Hondori in the future.
Our second day, we were assigned our first project from the WFC directors. Our first duty was to organize the library at the center and log all the books into the online catalog. This tedious project is one we are still continuing now. We also were able to meet other interns from the local university and learn about the history of the center. One of the directors gave a presentation on Barbara Reynolds, the founder the WFC. She was a peace activist that stood up for Hibakushas (survivors of the A-bomb) and attempted to amplify their stories to the world. It is important to note that she is also a somewhat controversial figure as her husband once worked for the ABCC- an American-ran organization that utilized Hibakushas for their data research without their permission. Nevertheless, she did play an integral role in displaying the Hibakusha’s stories to the whole world through her peace pilgrimages. After the presentation, we had an insightful discussion with the local interns about peace education in Hiroshima and contemporary, differing attitudes toward remembering the city’s history.
One important topic of discussion was that the bombing, because of the frequent education and memorials, has become a part of the locals’ everyday lives. It has become trivialized by some of the locals. This prompted another important conversation. We discussed how people feel about moving on from the past. To some, moving on from the past includes memorializing the violence, but to others, moving on may include forgetting the past completely and removing the symbols that commemorate the past.
In the following days, Hannah and I tested different methods of transportation to commute to the WFC. We tried biking, walking, and the bus. We came to a consensus that we will walk to the center unless the weather is bad. Then, we will use the bus. We constantly have issues with transportation. We typically are late and miss the bus or cannot find the bus stop. We also had issues with the IC cards. I was able to out money on an IC card on my phone in the United States, but I have not been able to put more money on the card since I have been in Japan. I was stressed out for a couple days about it because I did not bring much yen with me, thinking that I could put money on the IC card once I got here. One of the WFC employees was able to get me a physical IC card and I was able to exchange some USD for yen as well. I was able to mostly solve those issues.
We continued to organize the library in the following days and explore more of the city. One struggle for me has been finding meals that fit my dietary preferences. Being vegan is not a popular lifestyle here like it is in the US. Satoko has been very kind in making me meals twice a day that are vegan. She also helps me translate ingredients at supermarkets. I am very grateful for her generosity.
Outside of work, the past two days we have been able to go to Hondori and look around some more. One night we got food and the other night we went shopping.
Yesterday, Hannah and I formally introduced ourselves to the board of directors at WFC. It was brief- we talked about our hobbies, interests, and education.
Today was our day off, we spent time with our host family. We went shopping and got lunch with them. Later that night, we made them dinner. Hannah and I made soup and spring rolls with peanut sauce. Our host family seemed to really like the food we made.
That was my first week recapitulated. I want to end this week’s blog post by summarizing what I learned and what my plans are for the next 5 weeks.
I learned more about the public transportation system and became more familiar with using it. I learned to never forget an umbrella and wear shoes that are easier to slip on and off. On a more academic note, I learned about the founding of WFC and different perspectives on peacebuilding in Hiroshima. I learned more about my role and what is expected of me at my internship.
As for my plans, I plan to go to Kyoto at some point. I had planned on going next weekend for a festival, but my plans fell through. I also plan to get a local sim card for my phone because wifi has been a real issue for Hannah and I. It has caused us to be late and get lost a few times. I want to do a currency exchange as well when I have some free time and explore more parts of the city. Another one of my plans is to find some more places that can cater to my dietary preferences as that has been a bit of a struggle so far. More importantly, I want to start my research project. I plan to explore the younger generation’s perception of the bombing and compare that to the past mobilization efforts against nuclear proliferation.
That’s my blog post for this week. I can’t wait to give more updates. I’ll also be including some details in my daily journals, which I complete for my internship credit. I’ll check back in briefly tomorrow.
Mata later (a new Japanese-English phrase I love),
My last week in Japan was filled with a lot of realization, honesty, and work.
I went to Miyajima twice- two days back to back. The trip was so easy via train and ferry. Hannah and i went together the first day, and we did a lot of shopping. After some lunch, we took a ropeway up Mt. Misen. We climbed a bit more up and then made the long descent down. Hannah got down a lot quicker than I cause I was scared of falling. I am go glad I went to the top though cause I could see the ocean and the rest of the island. The following day, I went alone. It was nice to be alone, I bought some gifts for my friends. However, it was much hotter and sunnier that day and I started to not feel great so I was only there for maybe 3 hours before I decided to go back to Hiroshima. It felt nice traveling by myself, and I wasn’t even nervous, which I typically am.
We finished up some work at WFC throughout the week and we listned to two more hibakusha testimonies. Both of these testimonies were very moving. I realized that the visuals make the testimonies a lot more emotional for me. These testimonies were a bit more detailed and they required a lot of reflection for me. I am so grateful i was able to hear them though.
All of the sudden, it was time for me to leave Hiroshima. Hannah and i were on different flights and she got a ride to the airport so I was stressing about traveling alone again, especially internationally. I got on a bus in Hiroshima station, and Matthew, Malachi, and Satoko-san waved me off. That felt so surreal saying goodbye to them for the last time. I looked out the window the whole time and took in my last view of Hiroshima.
I got onto my flight easily, but i was nervous for my flight from Tokyo to LA because I only had an hour layover and the airport was so confusing last time. I got to my flight quickly and then I was on that flight for 10 hours. Landing in LA was easy-ish. I had to grab my luggage and find my terminal which was a while walk. Plus, security was a huge line. I made it to my flight on time though and next thing I knew I was in Chicago. My friend Litzy picked me up and it felt so nice to see her, but I also missed Hiroshima so much.
Even now, over a month later, I talk about it every day. I hope someday I will be able to go back because it was the best experience I have ever had.
My journaling has been a bit inconsistent lately because this week was one of my busiest weeks since I arrived in Japan. I will talk more about it in my blog I will hopefully get it done tomorrow morning. August 6th, the anniversary of the A-bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, was yesterday. Yesterday was a day full of reflection and analysis. I learned a lot this week about different forms of peace work and initiative. Although yesterday was busy, that, to me, is the point of peace work. Being passionate about something and working towards a more peaceful future takes focus and dedication.
Today was super hectic because I moved homestays and spent time with one of the WFC board members. I do not really have a drastic update to include in this post…just that I need to work on my time management. That is a new goal of mine for the next 2 weeks.
I have been caught up with my work at WFC and fell behind on my daily journal entries. I plan to give a big recap in my weekly post. I have been feeling very weird lately. I keep realizing that I only have two weeks left here. As much as I want to go home, I love being in Hiroshima. I also feel like I am not fully taking advantage of my time in Hiroshima even though I have done so much since I have been here. I have visited every major historical attraction and site, except for RERF. I have traveled to Kyoto and Osaka. I have explored the shops and nightlife. I have lived with families and independently. I am having a very dynamic experience, yet I feel like I am running out of time. This thought will hopefully clear up.
Today was one of a more serious, influential day for me since I have been in Hiroshima. I met with one of the hibakusha involved with WFC. My journal entry today is going to be a reflection of my time spent with him and his story. One thing I noticed was that he talked little about himself and what happened to him specifically and more about his family, especially his mother. He seemed to remember so many details when it came to his family. He remembered the impact the radiation had on his mother vividly. I believe this represents his care and concern for his family and their well-being. He was young at the time of the bombing, his memory of everything impressed me. He made it clear to us that he feels like he was one of lucky ones and yet he still lost family and friends due to the bombing and radiation. I greatly appreciated his willingness to spend time with us and telling us his story.
I said I would never bike anywhere again in Hiroshima, but here I am about to rent an E-bike to get to the Military Cemetary. Biking in Hiroshima is so much different than biking in rural Illinois. I am just hoping to not embarrass myself too badly.