This past summer of 2015, I joined my Japanese class from my high school on a short exchange program in Japan, a beautiful country very different from my familiar America.
SEMI-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
By far the single most influential place I set foot was Hiroshima, a perfect example of how old can meet new and past can meet present in the starkest of ways.
We drove up in our tour bus along, new and shiny asphalt streets, lined with buildings all less than 70 years old. Everything is new and bustling, truly modern. Everything except one place, dedicated to the past, and one building, a message to the future.
We walked up to the beginning of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial where there’s a plaque commemorating the lives lost and promising to never repeat Hiroshima. There is a curved rock formation with a round rock under it with a pretty kanji, and beyond that you can see a fire burning on the other side of the rock memorial. I actually felt really weird standing there. I kept getting shivers. I don’t normally do that. But I swear there was something… everywhere I walked in the park.
We stopped at the famous statue of Sadako, the girl who folded a thousand cranes in the hospital in the hopes of surviving her radiation-related illness. She did not, but she is the reason my Japanese class brought 1,000 cranes 5,147 miles from home. We added them to the tens of thousands handing in glass boxes surrounding the statue. I felt another chill. It was as if we were shaking hands with this girl from the past, a silent, solemn oath passing between generations of youth, promising to preserve the peace the memorial has come to stand for.
We walked along the river, which was a grave for many bomb victims that were either thrown or dove into the water trying to escape the blast, its surface as quiet and reflective as we were. The one remaining building, the famous dome, stands as it did. Eerie and quiet, it lives in defiance, reminding mankind of the horror of war.
We walked through the museum as well. I kind of hated it. There were pictures and videos and shredded and charred clothing of school children. Nobody really spoke. I felt kind of sick. The only picture I took was of the little cellophane cranes folded by the girl from tiny medicine wrappers. I felt another chill.
We left in our tour bus. I haven’t felt a chill again since.
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