On a Trip to Japan - My Family Travels

           Missing limbs, deadly body burns, and dripping skin.  This is the trauma that I saw while on my trip to Hiroshima, Japan.  During spring break in my sophomore year I was lucky enough to be a part of a “cultural exchange” program.  Our Key Club advisor took a bunch of students from Hilo High School on a home stay in Sumoto City.  For four days we were housed by students living on Awaji Island.  The next day we drove on a bus from the tiny island to Hiroshima.  This was beginning of a trip that touched my life.

            Our group visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum remembering the thousands who died from the atomic bomb during World War II.  Being an American in a museum like that is shameful.  You are reminded how absolutely cruel our country was to Japan.  Our atomic bomb decimated Hiroshima.  In the museum there was one model of Hiroshima before the bombing and after.  There was only one important building that stood, which is a monument today.  When you are at the memorial site, you can feel everything.  It is a very hard feeling to describe.  You can feel the sadness, the agony, and pain that those people went through.  You literally just want to cry.

            When we were first dropped off, we were able to view the building that withstood the bombing.  Across the water-work is a big bell.  Visitors can come and ring the bell in remembrance of all those who were killed.  The bell was like a gong.  It was huge and sturdy.  When it rang, it was deep and loud.  The sound waves practically penetrated through your body. 

            The next site was dedicated to Sadako.  She was the girl in the novel Sadako and the Thousand Cranes.  She fell ill with leukemia and was determined to fold 1,000 cranes to get better.  Our tour guide told us that Sadako’s mother, hoping to keep Sadako’s hopes up, would hide her cranes so that she didn’t know she had folded more than 1,000.  This memorial had clear booths filled with cranes.  Prior to our trip, we each folded about 50 cranes and strung them together.  At the memorial we were able to put our cranes in one of those booths to remember Sadako.  There were probably thousands of cranes crowded in those booths. 

            Finally we went inside of the museum.  In the first part, there was information about the attack, copies of letters from the Japanese discussing the possibilities of war, and many models and pictures.  The second part of the museum was truthfully frightening.  There were pictures of people with burns all over their body.  In one display, there was a man’s finger.  All that his mother found of his body after the bombing was his thumb.  Other displays had shreds of skin from victims.  Then there was a full size diorama of a mother with her two children walking in the rubble.  Their clothes were shredded.  Their body was burnt and their skin was oozing off of their arms.  It was those kinds of things where you want to look but you’re not sure if you should.  This part of the museum also had the actual cranes folded by Sadako.  They were so tiny and intricate and most of all, beautiful. 

            This experience helped me see myself and Japan in a whole new way.  I am of Japanese ancestry and my great-grandparents were from Hiroshima.  My trip to Japan really touched me in a deep way.  Japan is a part of me and this trip helped me connect to it. 

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