30.08.2012 - 28.09.2012
A place that I always have wanted to go to was Hiroshima. Having been to Auschwitz and The Killing Fields I was able to gear myself up for what I knew would be a thought provoking trip. I found myself some accommodation, which is run by a NPO called the World Friendship Centre (which you can find information about at http://homepage2.nifty.com/wfchiroshima/). It is currently managed by an American couple from Oregon and they have been managing it for 18 months – all on a volunteer status. It is set up in a little typical Japanese house in a quiet neighbourhood. My room was a standard tatami mat room with a very comfy futon – we should have futons like that! Joanne was an ex teacher of gifted and talented students and also a professor and teacher supervisor so we had a lot to talk about education wise. They had also set up a foundation for street children in Seattle and so were very interested to hear about Green Gecko. After talking to them for three days I have decided I need to get learn more about finance so I can also live a life doing more for others in a volunteer or lesser pay capacity – I wonder if Kochie will help me out! Whilst I was staying there they had 3 interns who were all studying some form of economics/business at Hiroshima University and were there to learn how an NPO worked. Again they were volunteering their time, as this was not a requirement of the university bit more of them wanting to learn more. They all belong to the 1000 Paper Crane Club – which is a club that works on developing programmes to support the promotion of peace and anti nuclear technology. They were lovely and great to talk to – wish I could have spent longer with them.
The World Friendship Centre can organise a talk with a Hibakusha (A Bomb survivor) at the Peace Park Museum. The night before I was to go to the talk I was reading much of the material that the WFC had on the A bomb. I read this story about a man who survived and what he saw. As fate would have it, the next day the Hibakusha talk I was scheduled to listen to was by the same man. He was an amazing storyteller and really expressed what he saw and felt beautifully. I feel very lucky to have been able to experience such a talk. Joanne warned me that the Peace Park Museum could take up to 4 hours – well being me I took all day! The museum is excellent and I learnt so much about the actual event. I thought I was quite educated about the Pacific War and the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima but I learnt so much more and will continue looking into the events surrounding the bombing and the after effects. I was shocked to find out that Hibakushas were shunned, rejected and isolated after the dropping of t he bomb. Many believed that what they ‘had’ was contagious and that they were now ugly. They could not get jobs, they had no welfare and many had lost all of their family. It was not until at least 10 years later that things began changing for them and the Japanese Government began to offer help and treatment. The museum has lots of information on actual nuclear technology and radiation (past, present and future). One of my favourite sentences that I read was “Can mankind and nuclear technology ever coexist?” Especially being in Japan only just over a year since the tsunami it was a question that got me thinking. And I will admit that the nerdy SOSE teacher within me immediately thought – what a great topic to study! – need to start thinking how I can fit that into the Australian Curriculum!
Surrounding the museum is a beautiful peace park that has many monuments within it. When I was a child I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes and it is a story that has always stuck with me (see it has been my destiny to be a humanities teacher). Within the park is a beautiful monument to all the children who have been affected by the A-bomb. It is dedicated to all the children but it is a statue of Sadako and a crane. Surrounding the monument are many thousands of paper cranes that people can make and bring to the monument.
The centrepiece of the park is the cenotaph where all the names of the people that died in 1945 due to the A-bomb are listed. Of course this is not the total amount of deaths recorded in the years that have followed. Even now there are people who have unexplained illnesses. Behind the cenotaph is a flame – but not an eternal flame – as it will be extinguished when there is no more nuclear technology left in the world – so will it be eternal??
Standing tall in the park is the most amazing relic. Originally an exhibition hall the A Bomb Dome is one of the only remaining structures left after the dropping of the bomb. There was a lot of debate on whether or not the structure should be demolished but I am glad they the decided to leave it standing. It is a reminder of how important peace is and is more of a symbol of hope for change then a reminder of past evils. In fact this hope is something that I found walking through out the whole of the museum and the park. They resonated peace and hope not despair and tragedy. Like Auschwitz and The Killing Fields, Hiroshima made me think, made me wonder and left me sad but unlike the first 2 places I left Hiroshima with hope in my heart that we can learn from this and search for the never ending desire for peace in this world.