Having arrived in Hiroshima, and explored the museum and peace park, the most striking thing about this city was how far it had come since that terrible day of August 6, 1945 when the worlds first nuclear strike flattened the city, incinerating 200,000 men, women and children.
Since then, Hiroshima has re-created itself, becoming a vital modern city, whose mayor sends a telegram to every country that launches a nuclear test.
One of the few buildings to survive intact was the Industrial Promotion Hall, now known as the A-Bomb Dome, its fractured walls, skeletal domed roof and empty window frames are a haunting reminder, whilst the city carries on its day-to-day life.
I wasn't planning on meeting an hibakusha, that is a survivor of the bomb, but staying at the `World Friendship Centre`, a charity who assists with the ongoing reconcilation, I was introduced to the President of the organisation, who was visiting for a meeting. He was an elderly fellow, a retired Professor of Cal ligraphy, and sometime poet, who had participated in a world pilgrimage back in the 50s, visiting Europe, the States, and Russia, to make sure that people knew the consequences of this terrible new weapon. The blast must have hit him side on, scars lined the left side of his face, and his ear was missing, I really didnt know what to say to him, but we made some chit-chat and he went his way home.
A day sight seeing over on the island of Meijima, a large red shinto `tori` gate seemingly floating in the water at high tide, the following day was spent relaxing in a Meiji-era onsen bath. Oh, bliss...after a week of tearing through the sights and sounds of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, a few minutues poaching in the thermal hot waters was wonderful. Still, it was a bit of a culture shock to my western sensibilities, stripping off in public, ladling water over my head and sharing a bath with two strangers!
I'm currently in Nagasaki, having spent yesterday hiking up the volcanic ranges of Aso, the largest volcanic caldera in the world. The many volcanic craters in this area having long since collapsed to form one giant 128km crater, and home to the small town of Aso. It was very helpful to be travelling with a geography teacher at this point! Still, it’s not extinct, and as we hiked up the steep slopes one of the peaks was steaming away, plumes of sulphuric smoke wafting into the air. Its refreshing to find a part of Japan not overloaded with housing and office blocks, there were small terrace fields, and little temples atop hills, as well as the occasional bamboo forest. The most peculiar thing though was the full scale `Yellow Submarine` sitting out the back of the hostel! I attempted to ask the elderly owner why it was there, but his English wasn`t much better than my Japanese, and despite singing a verse, it remained a mystery. If anyone is a Beatles fanatic, and knows whether there is some obscure Yoko Ono link to Kyushu, and Mt Aso...