Becoming More Comfortable


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.

Calligraphy with Yoko

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.

Poem monument in Peace Memorial Park
Monument dedicated to Korean Victims (the turtle points towards the Korean peninsula)

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.

One of my peace dolls

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.

Temple at Mitaki-dera

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.

Mata later,


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