Today Tsuchida Sensei took me to the Peace Park at the site of the first atomic bomb dropping in Hiroshima. He invited Ikeoka Sensei (5 dan iaido) to come since she speaks some English and she actually drove us around all day. One of her students is a New Zealander who's in Japan teaching English, so she brought him along as well. This was really nice since it gave me someone to talk to and he could also help with some translating.
When we got to Hiroshima, we were met by Yoshihara Sensei (7 dan kendo), who is another of the senseis who visited us in Portland last year.
As I had kind of feared, once we started walking around the area Tsuchida Sensei started talking about his experiences during the war. I was really glad someone was there to translate because he was there when the bomb was dropped. He was only 17 years old at the time, stationed at a base just outside Hiroshima. When the bomb was dropped, he actually saw the mushroom cloud and heard the ringing of the explosion.
He also talked about the fact that he was a fukuryu, which is something I'd never even heard of. Apparently, this was another kamikaze unit that was being trained to defend the Japanese mainland in case of a direct assault. These soldiers were trained to get in scuba suits and literally walk up to incoming ships underwater and then stab the ship hulls with an explosive spear. Because the atomic bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered, this force was never deployed.
This flame was taken from the smoldering ashes of Hiroshima and has been kept lit ever since:
Booths full of paper cranes made by children as wishes for peace. The pictures are actually mosiacs made from cranes:
The bomb was exploded in the air almost directly over this building, which somehow kept the walls intact. It is now kept standing as a memorial:
We went to the museum afterwards, which is about as sad as you'd expect. I think they do a really good job, though, of talking about the war as a tragedy for everyone and not trying to place blame.
After Hiroshima, we went to visit the island of Miyajima. This island is absolutely beautiful. It is considered a sacred home of gods. In fact, the island itself is worshipped as a god so they built the gated entrance to it in the sea.
Ferry to the island:
Tame deer wander all over the place here. These two were really interested in this bakery: