This is it. This is our first, full day in Japan. We started it off by eating breakfast together at the hotel. The buffet-style breakfast featured mostly Japanese food with some American breakfast food, like cereal. I had miso soup, rice with cucumber slices, two pieces of tamago (a sweetened egg omelet) and cold oolong tea. Though it did not keep me filled for long, it was tasty and healthy. We then headed out to meet our guide, Mr. Aki, at the Kansai train station. He was fatherly and personable and I soon found myself enjoying his presence in our group. After taking the train to Osaka, we walked through a park to reach the International Peace museum.
I enjoyed seeing the greenery in the park and throughout the sidewalks of Osaka. The peace museum was three levels and the first level seemed to focus primarily on the Osaka air raids, which I had never heard of. In fact, I don’t think I remember hearing about it in my history classes in high school. The stairs down to the first level featured pictures children had drawn and choice phrases by survivors. I found these phrases to be especially haunting because they provided such raw emotion. The first level concerned the dropping of several bombs, including pumpkin bombs and the atomic bomb. Pumpkin bombs and what they were used for was also unfamiliar to me, and I felt absolutely certain that I had never heard of them. I could not got to the third level, because I ran out of time.
From the peace museum we then walked to the famous Osaka castle. At the this point, it began to rain and it continued to linger for the rest of the day. I found this to be fitting, especially since the museum left me feeling somber and pondersome. I almost wouldn’t have minded sitting in a café for the rest of the day, letting these feelings wash over me continuously. But then, I would have missed the fabulous Osaka castle and all its glory. To reach the castle itself, we had to climb many stairs until we reached the entrance. We then went to the top and soaked in a lovely view, from which you could see a panorama of Osaka city. I loved this view. We were able to view the other exhibits in the castle as we slowly made our way back to the bottom. There was a little place on the second floor where one could pay to try on a feudal warriors’ helmet and pose with a samurai sword. In retrospect, I wish I tried one of the helmets on.
Heading into a shopping arcade in Osaka, we found our okonomiyaki restaurant. This is where we would all try the Osaka specialty that was cabbage, egg and a protein of some sort fried on a personal griddle and topped with sauce and Japanese-style mayonnaise. I ate with Mr. Aki, Charlotte and Amy and found them to be good okonomiyaki eating buddies. I am sure that if my dad ever came to Japan, he would love this food and how they cook it at your table. We were then set free in the shopping arcade. So many people! I enjoyed looking at the stores and buying a few things. But I definitely prefer the country to the city. I hope that while we are in Japan, we can see the countryside.
From here, we went to Fushimi-Inari, a Shinto shrine tucked away in the hillside of a city. It was approaching dusk and it was still raining. I found this combination of the time of day and the rain to make a very fitting atmosphere for our visit. It felt serene and peaceful while also feeling charged with a certain energy. I could have spent a whole day there, walking through the different paths and looking at the different statues and shrines. I felt like the visit to the shrine was a good way to set the mood for the rest of the trip and the issues we would be encountering. That and the visit to the peace museum. I hope to learn more about what peace is and what the role of religion is, not only in reconciling the atomic bomb and its aftermath but also for humanity as a whole.