Placing our cranes

We placed our 1000 cranes at the children’s memorial this morning. There are so many beautiful crane arrangements on display. We are proud that we achieved our goal and hope our small effort will help bring peace.

In yet another spontaneous moment in Hiroshima, we watched a group of Japanese elementary students place the cranes they made next to ours. They lined up, sang a song, and had a moment of silence. Although the language was different, we understood everything they said.

This morning we are taking it easy and doing our last bit of shopping. Will ride the Shinkansen back to Tokyo this afternoon. Tonight is the capsule hotel!

20120605-091826.jpg

20120605-091937.jpg

Mt Fuji

On the train back to Tokyo we finally caught a glimpse of the magnificent Mt Fuji. It was too hazy the first time we rose past. The pictures don’t do it justice, but then again we are traveling at 120 mph.

20120605-182452.jpg

20120605-182500.jpg

Miyajima Island

Today we visited the island of miyojima, the birthplace of the rice scoop, and home of the world’s largest rice scoop. My favorite part of the island was the deer, there were deer all over the island. There were signs posted warning us about looking monkeys in the eye, but we didn’t see any monkeys.

In order to reach the island we took a ferry. The first thing we did when we reached the island was take the sky cars to the near top of the mountain, we got off the sky cars and hiked the kilometer to the peak for a great view of the island.

When we got down we went shopping for nick-nacks and food. Claire got a cookie wrapped in plastic that unfortunately was taken out of her purse by a curious deer and eaten plastic and all. Tonight we are finishing our 1,000 cranes for the Hiroshima peace park.

Ben Moreland.

Hiroshima Day 1

Today (Sunday) was a day of opposites: our last day in Kyoto and our first in Hiroshima, the day started frenzied, became somber, and ended with an exciting bang.

Our day started off with a delicious early breakfast in our hotel in Kyoto after the last time we would use the communal bathrooms to get ready. From there we went to Kyoto Station, and as we waited for the Shinkansen (bullet train) that would take us to Hiroshima, we worked ferociously toward our goal of folding 1000 cranes to hang in the Hiroshima Peace Park. While we worked, more curious Japanese students watched us apparently fascinating Americans, some of whom erupted into applause after they asked Jeffery to flex and he obliged. Once on the train, everyone stuck their headphones in and focused intently on folding cranes. I think some of us may have underestimated how difficult it would be to fold 1000, but we’re looking forward to achieving our goal and leaving a piece of our group in the park.

After arriving and checking into our Hiroshima hotel-which includes private bathrooms!-we prepared ourselves for a more serious subject and headed over to the Hiroshima Peace Park, in memorial of the victims of the atomic bombing. The first thing we saw was a series of stone arches engraved with the word “peace” written over and over again in various languages, ranging from Japanese to English to Russian to Hebrew and many more. We then entered the main museum, which proved to be an extremely powerful and thought provoking experience. Models such as one which depicted the Peace Park land directly before and after the explosion of the a-bomb helped us visually wrap our brains around the destruction experienced by the city that now appears to be thriving. There was also helpful information about the effects of the heat and radiation emitted from the blast, how radiation works, and specifics about different immediate,acute effects on humans as well as those which didn’t appear until years after the event. However, I think the most moving aspect of the museum for most of us was the personal stories. Seeing extremely realistic wax depictions of victims, sometimes graphic photographs of victims, and drawings sent in by survivors illustrating their personal experience in the bombing literally took my breath away. For example, there were many displays of charred, ripped clothing that children, close to our own age, had been wearing when they were exposed to the bomb, and had died in some time over the following days. Although one sees pictures and hears stories about the effects of this event, it feels almost abstract until you really see its specific impact and read personal accounts; then it suddenly feels much more real. The story of a young girl Sadako particularly struck a chord with me. To sum it up, Sadako was exposed to the bomb at the age of 2and appeared to experience no effects, until 10 years later when she discovered she had leukemia. Hearing that 1000 cranes would grant a wish, Sadako folded cranes in the hospital, believing that they would help her get better, but unfortunately she passed away at the age of 12. Her death and memory led to the construction of the Children’s Memorial in the Peace Park, and inspired visitors to bring 1000 cranes to leave as a sign of peace, which is what we plan to do. A 45 minute long video about the effects of the atomic bombing on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed our time in the museum and helped to sum up the experience and provide even more personal stories. We then walked around the park at our own pace, visiting the centigraph with victims’ names on it, the Children’s Memorial, the hypocenter of the bomb, and the atomic dome. We noticed that, although it was built in the memory of a tragedy of war, the park itself was very peaceful and hopeful. We sat and talked about our experience throughout the afternoon, and for many of us, it seemed to be an interesting mix of feelings, understanding how to be patriotic and appreciate the devastation and tragedy surrounding this world event at the same time.

After leaving the peace park, our somber moods were lifted into excitement. We had planned to observe a kimono parade, so everyone quickly grabbed a nice dinner at a shopping arcade and met up. However, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Hiroshima seemed to be having some kind of carnival, with rows of booths selling food, toys, and games to play lining the streets. Although we had already eaten, everyone suddenly realized they were starving, and we meandered our way through the stalls sampling everything from traditional Japanese desserts to some of our favorites from home, like french fries and snow cones. Once we were finally full, we arrived in a square, where a woman donning a kimono was signing and providing great live music in a tower. We stopped and listened for awhile, and then decided to get the locals involved in some of our fun. There were some boys standing near by, so we approached them asking if they wanted to dance, and soon we had a Congo line going with at least 20 of the bystanders. After a couple of lively dances, we had to head home and get some rest for an early morning, but everyone was reenergized by the unexpected burst of energy into the day.

Katie Williamson

Kyoto Day 1

Today was the trip from Tokyo to Kyoto. We traveled on the Shinkansen, which is the very fast bullet train that took us 300 miles in about 2.5 hours! We bought food at the enormous train station before we left, and although the bento boxes and Japanese meals looked good, some of us were craving food from home and bought sandwiches. When we got to Kyoto, we walked very far from the station to our hotel. When we arrived at the hotel, most of us were in shock. We had to take off our shoes before we could even enter the little inn. Upon entering our respective hotel rooms, we quickly noticed how small the rooms were. Each room had 2 little folded-up pallets on the floor and each pallet had a pillow made of little plastic pellets. There are 2 showers for the entire hotel, and only 5 sinks and 2 “western” style toilets! None of us were expecting that all 12 kids and 3 chaperones would have to share 2 toilets between all of us. Fortunately for us, the chaperones had the good sense to give the girls the bigger hotel rooms with the closets. After we settled into the hotel, we went to the Kiomizou buddhist temple. Mizou means water, and at this temple, the 3 waters converge. It is said that if you drink from the 3 waters, you will have good luck. Another tradition at kiomizou is the lovers walk. There are 2 rocks placed about 15 yards apart, and it is said that if you can walk from one rock to the other with your eyes closed, you will find eternal love. This being the first time I’ve been to a Buddhist temple, I was taken aback by the serenity and calming nature of the temple. After the temple, we walked down “teapot lane.” This street is famous for having a great selection of teapots and teacups. We had a great time exploring the surrounding neighborhoods and looking for dinner places, but we were all relieved to return to the hotel early so we could get to bed and rest up for the next busy day.

Madison Hoff