Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Sojourn in Japan: Part 1

Konnichiwa! I have just returned from a 10 day visit to Japan and have much to share. I will probably tell about the adventure in multiple blog posts. This first will outline generally what happened. I went with my fellow YAVs (Katie and Becky), our site coordinators, 3 Korean college students, and a Korean college chaplain. This was a cross-cultural study trip. We visited three universities in Japan and had presentations on environment, peace, and discrimination. I spoke in Hiroshima about peace.

Our home base was Kobe. But, from there we took the public transportation, including the super sweet bullet train, all over southern Japan.

In Nagasaki, we saw many temples and shrines, but the highlight was the Atomic Bomb Museum and the Peace Memorial Park. I can't begin to describe or understand the horrors that Nagasaki experienced, but atomic bombs should never, ever again be used.
This monument marks the hypocenter of the explosion, where the bomb detonated 500 m in the air. Around 70,000 people died in a matter of moments, with thousands of more deaths in the next months and years related to the bombing.

But rather than responding with more violence, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become international leaders in the peace movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. This is a statue in the Peace Memorial Park in Nagasaki.
We also explored the city of Kyoto, a city rich in history as it was the imperial capital of Japan for centuries before the capital was moved to Tokyo.
Here is a beautiful pagoda at Kiyomizu shrine.
And this gem is the breathtaking Kinkakuji pavilion at a Buddhist temple.

Also in Kyoto we saw the walls of the imperial palace, the imposing Nijo castle (one-time home of the Shogun), Nishiki traditional market, and other temples and shrines.

In Osaka, the highlight was seeing Osaka Castle.
It really is stunning.
At the Osaka History Museum, Katie and I got to be dressed in Japanese kimonos.

I spent a day in Tokyo. One of the great parts of the day trip was getting to meet up with Dr. Nordmann, a professor from Coe, and his wife Stephanie who took me around Tokyo where they are living for the year.

This is Sensoji temple, where these lanterns were pretty amazing.
Meiji shrine is one of the top places to see in Tokyo, and it is a very tranquil, historically rich place.
This is the Akihabara district, which is known internationally for electronics and technology.
This building under construction will be known as the Tokyo Sky Tree or the New Tokyo Tower. When completed it will be the tallest tower in the world.
Finally, we went to Hiroshima, which you can imagine, was interesting and challenging. It was fun to see sites that are famous, but the fact remains that they are recognizable because of horrible tragedies. This was the A-bomb dome. We went to the museum, which was well done and devastating, and the peace park is beautiful. However, it makes you pause when you realize you are walking on ground that is elevated several feet from where it was before the bomb. This is because there was so much debris and so many bodies that they couldn't all be removed, so dirt was just brought in and covered over the area to make a new ground level. Again, atomic bombs should never, ever again be used.

Finally, we went to Miyajima, which is an island off the coast of Hiroshima. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the top three most beautiful places in Japan. The most recognizable feature is this gate in the water, but the island is quaint; it is covered in majestic mountains among which are nestled temples, shrines, and little shops. It was a nice way to end our travels.

Stay tuned, I think the next Japanese blog post will be about the food!

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