It’s good to be back home! We were only gone four nights, but traveling around Japan with your 65-year-old mother and two kids can be a lot of work. After seeing the sights in Kyoto, we rode the train to a town called Uji (OO-gee), famous for its green tea and for the beautiful Byodoin Temple, the 900 year old building which appears on the back of the Japanese ten yen coin. We then went on to Nara, a small city that was the capital of Japan hundreds of years ago, and took in the quiet beauty of Nara Park while feeding the deer that overrun the place.
In preparation for our trip, I had made sure to pack all the various electronic devices I’m accustomed to carrying with me: Powerbook, digital camera, cell phone, iPod, Canon Wordtank, PSP, and all associated chargers, of course. I have to admit, I felt a little odd, carrying electronic gadgets while going to see such beautiful and ancient places, such as Miyajima, a shrine established in A.D. 593, built above the beach so that it seems to float when the tide comes in. I wish I could have left all my electronic gadgets at home and gone on my trip with nothing to detract from the ancient beauty of what we were seeing, but I’m just too much a slave to electronics, I guess.
The last day we visited Hiroshima, something that’s always a solemn experience for any visitor to Japan. Hiroshima was a bustling commercial port and wartime center when the first atomic bomb used against humans exploded over it at 8:15 on August 6, 1945. The destruction was devastating, killing at least 50,000 people instantly, including factory workers, soldiers, children, and Koreans and Chinese who were made to work in factories in the city. The Peace Park, located at ground zero, is a beautiful place to walk and reflect on what happened, and see the famous symbol of the city, the A-Bomb Dome, a former commercial building that managed to partially survive the bombing. It was important for me to show my children the site, as well as the sobering exhibits in the Peace Museum, which include before-and-after models of the city, glass bottles that had melted in the heat, and a wristwatch that had stopped forever at 8:15. My son asked me many probing questions about what he saw — why did America and Japan start fighting? What happened to people like him, who were both Japanese and American, living in Japan at the time? I was glad that my mother and children were able to visit this important place with me.