For our last full day in Japan, the group headed Northwest to the other side of Kyoto—near Kinkakuji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion made famous to Western readers by Yukio MISHIMA—to start our peace-related activities. We took a bus to the end of the line, disembarking in front of Ritsumeikan University. Around the corner we found Ritsumeikan’s Kyoto Museum for World Peace.
After taking care of some housekeeping in Tokyo in the morning, our shinkansen spirited us away to Kyoto. We settled into our hostel, and the students felt like they were returning to dorm life. We didn’t have much time before dinner, and we got as far as the Kamogawa River before deciding that it might be better simply to divert toward dinner. We split up for dinner and returned for a seminar.
After a Monday on our own, we were back at it early in the morning. Our experienced travelers prepared for a long day away from the hotel with a variety of audiences. Somehow we managed to find the Shokeikan, an elusive museum dedicated to the hardships of veterans and their families. The museum bears the subtitle, in English, of “Historical Materials Hall for the Wounded and Sick Retired Soldiers,” but as the website notes, the “shokei” also “means to pass down, succeed or inherit,” clearly indicating the impetus behind the creation of the museum.
We arrived in Tokyo after another full day of travel. Before we left Hiroshima, however, we had a seminar with reflections led by Justin Sia and Kimberly Reynolds, our two most recent student bloggers. The conversation was so interesting and productive that we continued long past when we originally thought we would catch our streetcar. The students explored many ideas about peace, justice, and nuclear disarmament. They had some very nuanced and insightful things to say about how one (we? they?) reaches current and future generations, how one reaches across cultures, how one gets people to care about these issues we have been exploring. It was a perfect way to conclude our time in Hiroshima.
After lunch, the group boarded another shinkansen bound for Tokyo. After one of our longer travel days, we settled into our accommodations near the famous Shinjuku Gyoen (park) and had a brief orientation before dinner on our own.
It was this day in Hiroshima that anchored our travel experience. We started the day hosted by the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation (HPCF) and the remarkable Ms. Yasuko OKANE for a recitation of bomb-related memoirs and poems at the Hall of Remembrance for Victims of the Atomic Bombing. Three volunteers and the students participated in the poetry recitation, and as poems were repeated multiple times by different voices, all of us were overwhelmed by the experience. The recitation—active, not passive—disrupted our expectations and required participation in a way the students hadn’t yet experienced, “resetting” everyone for the day and using the unsettling time to open them to the encounter.
Today we had our first big day in Hiroshima. We shared breakfast at a beloved café—a reunion of sorts for Prof. A—and then returned to the hotel for a seminar. Ready for the day, we set off for West Hiroshima to find the Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University (HCU). There we met with Drs. Bo JACOBS and Ran ZWIGENBERG to discuss the work of the institute, their research, and our questions.
We got to ride our first shinkansen (bullet train)! Students loved the power of the super-high-speed train to shuttle them from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Then, after decisively concluding that 11 people with luggage have no place on crowded Hiroshima city buses, we got settled into our accommodations in Hiroshima and never used a Hiroshima bus again. The women students would share Japanese-style rooms, sleeping on futon mattresses laid on tatami mat floors. But first, we had other fish to fry. We headed for the ferry terminal.
We started our first full day in Japan with a day trip to Osaka. Our volunteer guide, Mr. Akihiro NOMURA (aka “Aki”) helped plan a packed itinerary to keep people moving through a day of jetlag.
In rain that turned to a downpour, the students gamely visited the Osaka International Peace Center (known as Peace Osaka), Osaka castle, and the shopping arcades Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi, before making our way to a train back to Kyoto. On our way back, we stopped at one of the most powerful and beloved Shinto shrines in the area, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and wandered through its many torii (Shinto gates). We parted ways with Aki in the historical Gion area of Kyoto, ate a light dinner, and the students had time to explore the area.
We have a wonderful group of travelers. Whether experienced in global travel or flying for the very first time in their lives, ours is a steadfast group ready to handle whatever comes.