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APRIL 2007-kaleidoscope of ancient & modern Japan -part III

Paper cranes in Hiroshima and red colours of Miyajima

semi-overcast 13 °C

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HIROSHIMA

It is difficult to say why we came to Hiroshima. All other cities we had visited in Japan where the obvious tourists hot spots, rich in cultural heritage and filled with countless attractions and fun things to do.
Although plenty of tourists visit Hiroshima every year I find it difficult to put it down on the same list of places we've been to so far.
The city's main attraction is ironically one of the greatest human tragedies, a terrific disaster to its nature and its people fully scripted and actioned by powers of other human beings on the 6th of august 1945 who turned this once military but also an educational city into the first atomic bomb target.

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Standing on the soil that has once, within seconds been burnt to ash and facing some of the reminders of this horrific event, one can't believe the horrors that had happened in this city:

The A-bomb Dome, the only blast survivor left in ruins, a naked skeleton of a building that had once proudly stood and served as an Industrial Promotion Hall has now become and eternal reminder of the sufferings and a symbol of a total destruction that took upon Hiroshima.

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Across the river from the A-bomb Dome, there is the Peace Memorial Park stretching behind the T- shaped bridge which was the actual target used by the bombardier.
It is dotted with memorials

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The Cenotaph that includes all the known names of the victims (excluding the Korean ones who have a separate memorial) and is believed to serve as an arch for the souls to hide from the rain. There is a flame burning beneath the arch and it is to be extinguished once the last nuclear weapon on earth has been destroyed.

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Further along the park there is the Children's Peace Memorial

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inspired by one of the victims Sadako, who at the age of 10 developed leukimia and decided to fold 1000 paper cranes -the Japanese symbol of longevity and happiness- hoping that once she achieved her target she would recover. Unfortunately Sadako passed away having completed her 644th crane. She was buried with 1000 cranes, the remaining 356 made for her by her schooldfriends.
The paper folding of the cranes continues up to this day and the monument is surrounded by milions of them, sent or delivered from schools from all over the country.

Each day we came back to our hotel room we would also find a different paper crane folded for us by the room-maid and in hope for peace in the world.

The Memorial Mound

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Although you probably find yourself like us feeling deeply touched, sorry and angry for what had happened here -especially while you are at the museum, where exhibits speak for themselves and the model showing the town after the blast makes it easier to imagine it although you are probably still nowhere near the reality of those days- the town is far from depressing.And it is all thanks to the citizens who have recovered and on the contrary remained in their town and managed to build a new city of a tranquil yet modern atmosphere and also rebuild some of its previous attractions. If anything it gives you inspiration and hope and shows how much us human beings can achieve on both - bad and good fronts. It reminds us how precious our life is and how little time it takes to destroy it!

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The Hiroshima Castle and one of the trees that had survived the blast and kept growing:

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And while visiting in the castle Nick and Maja got to wear traditional Japanese costumes and grins:

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MIYAJIMA

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Designated as a World Cultural Heritage, Miyajima is an island that makes a perfect day trip if you are staying in Hiroshima (although if you enjoy nature you can easily spend a few more days here!). It can be reached from Hiroshima by a train, followed by a short ferry crossing.

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On the day of our trip we were very lucky with the weather - the sun was shining and the sky was blue which contrasted nicely with the red colours of the famous "floating" O-Torii gate (classified as one of the "three Japanese best views), the shrine and the 5 -storied pagoda.
The island's corret name is Itsukushima taken from the Itsukushima shrine located on the island since the 6th century, although its present form comes from the early 12th century. The island had (and I suppose still has) a holy status and people were not allowed to set the foot on the island unless they approached the shrine - constructed in a form of a pier - on the boat , going first through the O-Torii gate.

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We walked around the gate for a while and then decided to climb the sacred Mt Misen - 535m above the sea level, not too high but those who did the walk know how difficult and fairly steep it was in places.

We passed by the Daisho-In Temple
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-one of the most prestigous temples in Western Japan. This is where we found why the little statues of Bosatsu (Buddhist monks) are wearing the red bibs and caps like babies - the parents who have lost their children take good care of them as though they were their lost children.

We also came across the statue of Tengu, who with his wings and a long nose has been considered to posses supernatural powers since the ancient times and is indispensable to the holy sites on mountains in Japan. It reminded me of our Polish "Duch Gor" -The Ghost/ Patron of the Mountains-.

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During the walk,Maja needed some serious encouragement from time to time and with a little help of daddy's back and the promise of an ice-cream afterwards (always works!), she proudly made it to the peak.

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The views from the top were magnificent and as the walk back would be same as the walk up- mostly through the forest - we decided to make our way down using the cable car and enjoy the views just a little bit longer. It was fun!

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There is plenty of other attractions on the island -for example the Eternal Fire Hall which shelters the fire, lit by Kyobo Daishi (who underwent the ascentic practise for 100 days on the mountain in the autumn of 806) and believed to have been burning for 1200 years! This fire was used to lit the Flame of Peace in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
The island is full of cultural assets and various spiritual sites located mainly on the mountain, "wonders of nature" and "Miyajima's living miracles" as advertised on the leaflet together with traces of travels of famous worshippers which are probably very interesting to the followers but wouldn't have much significance to us.
Still, we found the place absolutely stunning. The shrine and temples "co-exist" with perfect harmony with nature, that has been kept totally intact creating a magnificent scene for anyone who visits.

Here is what we found on the slopes of the mountain, a perfect description of the place put into words by the First World War poet Edmund Blunden who must have visited the mountain during his life- if you click on the picture it should enlarge:

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This month we also liked:

Books:

very sad and very true:
"Eyewitness Testimonies Appeals From The A-bomb Survivors"
"Hiroshima" John Hersey could not describe it better then The New York Times did on the back of its cover -"...nothing can be said about this book that can equal what the book has to say. It speaks for itself, and in an unforgettable way, for humanity..."

learning how to fold the paper cranes: get your colour square paper ready:

http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-crane.html

Posted by Bulls 09:45 Archived in Japan Tagged family_travel

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