Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hiroshima

Last Monday I left Takatsuki and took the shinkansen to Hiroshima. On the way I stopped by Takarazuka (I think) to see the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum. Totally worth the side trip. He's the guy who drew Astro Boy and many other very popular cartoons, and is considered the father of Japanese anime. They had displayed hundreds of his drawings, which were absolutely gorgeous.
When I arrived in Hiroshima, I took the streetcar as per the directions I had been given from the World Friendship Center, a house run by a non-profit anti-war organization. I had all my luggage, and needed to find which way was south. I guess I looked like I needed help! And that's how I met the young girl who introduced me to some of the nicest people I've ever met. After getting to my accomodations, I met her at the Spanish restaurant owned by her friend. Coincidentally, the other guest at the Friendship Center, an Aussie, had also found these people and was already there! The next night, we were invited to dinner by the restaurant owner, and it turned out to be an elaborate birthday party at her friend's restaurant. We were not permitted to pay for any of this, despite our objections. In the course of this, I met an artist who the next day took me to the museum at his expense. The Japanese are incredibly polite and will often pay for things, but these people were beyond anything I've ever encountered.
I had gone to Hiroshima like most gaijin, looking to make some sort of pilgrimage and atone for the horror inflicted on that city by my country. But when I got there I saw this would be not only impossible, but unnecessary. I went to the Peace Park, and saw many people honoring the dead, but also saw children running around, old men playing board games, and people picknicking. The most serious-looking folks were all foreigners. I suppose if you lived in a place with such a terrible past, by now you would have no choice but to move on. Of course, the people of Hiroshima will never forget their past. But I hear that in Japan there is gaining momentum for increased use of the Self-Defense Forces, changing the pacifist clause in the constitution, and some are even calling for Japan to develop its own nuclear weapons. I'm sure the Japanese are concerned about North Korea, but to many inside and outside Japan, this is unthinkable. We can't forget the horror of Hiroshima's past. Even as the present-day city is a beautiful, bustling port with ordinary citizens living ordinary lives, art museums and parks, ramen shops and shopping arcades, in the midst of this normalcy, the Peace Park and the A-Bomb Dome are a constant reminder for the world of the horrible stupidity of war. We need to honor the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the best way to do so is by insuring that such tragedies are never repeated. The people I met in Hiroshima in no way harbored any resentment towards Americans because of what had happened. So there is no need for us to feel guilty on their account. Instead we should feel guilt because we continue to keep nuclear weapons and make war all over the world. Discontinuing these policies would be the best way to atone for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Barbara G. said...

Susan,
Your piece on Hiroshima was very moving and thoughtful. I found your discussion about guilt
new and enlightening. The attitude of moving on and forgiveness seems to be an Eastern inspired one as I have Vietnamese friends who behave the same way. Your descriptions are terrifc. I think you are
a writer as well as a visual artist.
Barbara

11:52 PM  

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