Prior to embarking on this trip I had no prior experience with Japanese culture. Well, it’s true that a few years ago I had visited a local Japanese restaurant, whose chicken fried rice was exquisite might I add, but aside from that I had never truly immersed myself within any culture other than that of the United States. Fortunately, however, the Global Connections 2015 trip afforded me the opportunity of a lifetime; for two weeks I would be traveling across Japan on a journey to observe the many ways Japanese culture memorializes peace.
Of the cities listed on the itinerary, two of them were the most famous of the bunch – Tokyo and Hiroshima. The former, noted for being one of the most, if not the most, fashion forward city on the planet had a pristine image that provided a stark contrast to the dark history of the latter. Seventy years ago, the city of Hiroshima became nearly synonymous with “catastrophe” after becoming the first of two cities to be wiped out from an atomic bomb. Oddly enough, however, while walking through the city streets of Hiroshima, not an inkling of despair or tragedy lingered in the air. It was almost as if there was an unspoken truth among the people; as if concealed beneath the multi-purpose skyscrapers and affluent shopping districts lay the memory of August 6, 1945.
Although public discussion of the bombing may have been few and far in between, the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall provided a platform for memorializing and promoting peace throughout not only Hiroshima, but also the world. With nearly every section of the peace park being constructed with actual fragments of debris left behind at the hypocenter, this memorial projected an aura that allowed me to reflect on the atrocity of not only the atomic bombing, but of war in general. While walking through the Memorial Hall for A-Bomb Victims, and grazing my hand against one of the 140,000 tiles that lined the wall, I took a moment to think of how utterly heartbreaking it must have been to have experienced such a tumultuous time as the day of August 6, 1945. Even as a twenty-year-old I still cannot fathom walking through a city of ruins as maimed corpses lay sprawled throughout the streets. I cannot fathom being a second grade student sitting in a classroom and in an instant having everything around me collapse in shambles. I cannot fathom being a child seated at breakfast with my parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles, and in a split second having each of them taken away from me. More importantly than this, however, I cannot fathom how anyone can even begin to attempt to justify the heartless and menacing injustice that was done to Hiroshima seventy years ago.
In spite of this, this trip has provided me with insight on the grave necessity of world peace. While visiting the peace museums I acquired a great deal of knowledge about the emotional and mental suffering that remains as a result of war. From this day onward, I shall make it my duty to educate others of the atrocity of war to ensure that another tragedy such as that of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, never happens again.