Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum

This museum was the single most intense experience of my life.  The things I saw and read within will remain with me forever.  Simply reviewing and uploading the videos has made me shaky and upset.  I could barely bring myself to write the video descriptions.

Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum opened by eyes.  I’ve never been a proponent of war, but I am unequivocally opposed to nuclear weapons and I am certain that any person, regardless of background, would agree after seeing the museum’s many informational and emotional exhibits.

For my friends and family at home, I have a plethora of pamplets and books with priceless information about August 7, 1945.  I will gladly share it all with you.

For anyone who has stumbled upon this, I strongly recommend the following:
John Hersey’s book, Hiroshima, interviews with survivors in 1946. (Available at Amazon or free from the NYPL.)
–  Drawings by Survivors, a special museum exhibit.  See the site here.

Watch all 8 videos in succession here, Hiroshima – YouTube playlist.

The A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, Japan. The city of Hiroshima keeps the Dome in its exact state from 1945. The hypocenter for the attack was a few minutes’ walk from the Dome, one of the few buildings left standing in the city.

A view from the center of the park.

This section of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was constructed at the request of school children.  A young girl named Sasaki Sadako was diagnosed with leukemia nearly 10 years after being exposed to the radiation from the atomic bomb as a toddler.  While in the hospital, Sadako started to fold paper cranes.  She believed that if she folded 1,000 she would get better.  Sadako died on October 25, 1995.

“Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace (Memorial Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims) Erected 6 August 1952

Let all the souls here rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil.

This monument embodies the hope that Hiroshima, devastated on 6 August 1945 by the world’s first atomic bombing, will stand forever as a city of peace. The stone chamber in the center contains the Register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.” – text engraved at the stone at the foot of the cenotaph.

A recreation of destruction in the hallway on one of the upper floors of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima, Japan.

Visit the museum’s virtual site here:http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/virtual/index_e.html

Clothing remains of children killed by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and a full-scale recreation scene inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

“Tricycle and metal helmet, Donated by Nobuo Tetsutani, 1,500 m from the hypocenter, Higashi-hakushima-cho

Shinichi Tetsutani (then 3 years and 11 months) loved to ride his tricycle. That morning, he was riding in front of his house when, in a sudden flash, he and his tricycle were badly burned. He died that night. His fater felt he was too young to be buried in a lonely grave away from home, and thinking he could still play with the tricycle, he buried Shinichi with the tricycle in the backyard.

In the summer of 1985, forty years later, his father dug up Shinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave.

This tricycle and helmet, after sleeping for 40 years in the backyard with Shinichi, were donated to the Peace Memorial Museum.” – sign.

For more information, visit the comprehensive memorial and museum site at http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/top_e.html.

For photos, see Mike’s blog post, “I’ve Met the Atomic Bomb”.

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In Japanese there is no “s” as we understand it in English.  The language uses moras, so in the S category you have sa, shi, su, se, and so.

Because of this, the Japanese accent can make some English words sound much different.  Shinnamon (cinnamon), ex-shy-ting (exciting), and so on.

Well, last night in my adult class I asked Shino how his weekend was.  I teach his two sons, 8-year-old Mahito and Yusei (6, soon to be 7).

“How was your weekend?”
“We were going to Costco, but it rained.  So we went to a clothes store and my wife shopped.  A lot.  Many hours.”
“Oh… I see.  Did you have a good day?”
“Mmmm, I had to babyshit Mahito and Yusei.  Much energy.”

Luckily I teach them, so I passed my laughter off as an oh-you’re-telling-me! moment.

Shino’s not the only one to make such a mistake.  In a recent e-mail to my replacement I wrote, “You shit on the floor and play with the kids.”  Whoops.

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Hand Bell Family Concert

On November 27, 2011, I attended the “Hand Bell Family Concert” hosted at Hakuoh University, the nearby college in Oyama.

A few weeks ago, the mother of two of my students (Haruna and Natsumi) handed me a flyer for this concert.  She and the girls would be performing with hand bells and singing.  I was delighted to attend!  It was a really beautiful concert.

The girls were so sweet.  After the concert, I got a huge hug from both of them and their grandmother, who sometimes brings them to class on Saturdays, thanked me for coming to see everyone.

They played “Do Re Mi”, “It’s a Small World”, the theme from My Neighbor Totoro, a Lion King medley, the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, tango music, Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, Pachelbel’s “Canon”, and “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson, among others.

Enjoy the show! Click YouTube to view them in HD.  I apologize for any shaking.  There was a child behind me kicking my seat.  Akemi, my students’ mom, is on the far left for most of the videos.

There was also a cute game during the intermission where they played a small bit of a song and the kids tried to guess.  If you won, they make a circle (the Japanese symbol for correct) and you win a gift card.  As you’ll notice in the video where the child is wrong, they don’t outrightly say it.  It’s more of a hesitation.  “Eh…. try again!”

They’re also hosting a Christmas concert on December 23, but I have yet to decide if I will go to that.

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Thanksgiving and Black Friday in Japan

There is so such holiday in Japan.  Though they do celebrate Labour Thanksgiving on November 23 each year, it’s not a very important holiday.  In fact, one of my adult conversation students had work that day.

I explained the customs and traditions (not so much of the history) to two of my adult conversation classes this week.  There were various questions about what we do with so much leftover food, but mainly they were surprised by the bringing of food.

If you’re reading this and you’re not American, on Thanksgiving it’s customary to bring something edible to the house you’re dining at.  It doesn’t have to be home-cooked – you can bring dessert, even drinks.

Well, in Japan that is considered rude.  FIRST, a disclaimer.  The woman who told me this is in her 80s, and the woman agreeing with her is 52.  Just keep that in mind.   In Japan, if you bring food to someone’s house, especially cooked food, you’re saying two things (1) I don’t like your food and (2) I can do this better.  The only time it’s really acceptable is if it’s a close friend.

I explained to them that, in general, if you’re invited to dinner in New York it’s seen as a polite gesture if you decide to bring something.

Black Friday
A short summary for the unfamiliar:

Black Friday is America’s busiest shopping day of the year.  Many Americans begin their Christmas shopping at this time.  Department and chain stores offer huge sales on this day and open very, very early in the morning (anywhere from midnight to 5 a.m.).  Many shoppers line up, or even camp out at stores to have a better chance at getting a good deal.  In the past five years, violence has become more common on Black Friday.  In 2008, a male employee opening doors at a Wal-Mart was trampled and killed by a crowd of 2,000 people.

This was the topic of conversation for my Friday night class.  They were surprised by the idea, especially that stores seem to egg on this behavior.  Just a decade ago, Thanksgiving sales lasted all weekend.  In an attempt to bump single-day profits, the sale was shortened.

Mr. Nagai, a dentist in his 50s, asked, “Does something bad happen on Black Friday?” after I’d described the concept to the class.

“Oh, there’s a whole second page for that,” I answered.   And there was.

From trampling to gun threats and this year, actual pepper spray & shootings, Black Friday can be quite dangerous.

“I can’t imagine shooting someone because of a sale,” Kazuko, my student, said.

That’s precisely the cultural difference.  If you type “black friday” and gun into Google, you should be surprised by what the auto-suggestion says.  Some Americans think it’s no big deal to have a gun.  Or, in the case of some police lately, no big deal to pepper spray someone.

“They have no qualms about using and carrying guns because they think they’re smart enough to handle it,” Mike said.

Lucky Bag
On January 2 in Japan, department stores sell “lucky bags,” (福袋,  fukubukuro in Japanese)  It’s comparable to a grab bag – a bag full of mysterious items.  Though you don’t know the contents, the bags are sold at a considerable discount. Google Images

“Mr. Nagai, what do you do if you buy a bag with things you can’t use, like makeup and nail polish?”
“He can give it to someone!” Kazuko chimed in.

They also explain that though the stores don’t accept returns or exchanges on lucky bags, you can trade with another customer.

The stores may be crowded on that day, and people run to the lucky bags, but my students couldn’t recall any instances of violence.  (For more info, check out the Wikipedia.)

Perhaps, most importantly, “Lucky Bag Day” doesn’t exist.

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New torii in town

A new torii (gate) under construction at the main shrine in town.

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Post cards

I love post cards.  I’ve been purchasing them everywhere we go.  Since I love them so much, part of me hates sending them because then I no longer have the cards.

Well, I decided to scan a few so I could save them forever and share them with everyone digitally.

For my friend Andi.

The woodblock-print envelope for a selection of beautiful post cards from the Buddhist temple Byodo-in located in Kyoto.

And the postcards it contained that I made into a desktop background, wallpaper, whatever you want to call it. (1280×800, click to enlarge if you’d like to use it)

Most post offices in Japan sell this cute little card.  It’s a traditional post box with the city’s name in kanji.

This isn’t actually a post card; it’s the top of a sheet of stamps in similar design.

Fireworks festivals are very popular in the summer and my town is no exception.  Oyama has a particularly large fireworks display over the river (see my videos here and the original blog post, 20,000+ Fireworks), and of course the supermarket was selling these cute Hello Kitty post cards.

New Year’s cards!  Are you feeling left out, thinking, “I didn’t get one of these.”  Well, neither did anyone else because we never got around to sending a single card.  We’ve got about 20 of them if anyone’s interested…

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Praying Mantis

Giant praying mantis outside my apartment tonight:

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