Arrival at Hiroshima Station at 7:30 a.m.
Half asleep I found my hostel fairly easily, short walk,
and help from an older gentleman who could see my lost look.
Too early to check in, I changed and rested. Once slightly recovered
I rented a mamachari bike, cruiser style with a basket, and wandered
my way through Hiroshima. A handy tourist map kept me on track.
First stop Hiroshima Castle. Built in 1590, destroyed in 1945, then
rebuilt in 1958, it represents a piece of the past, replicated.
A hot, humid day, but the breeze on the bike was lovely.
My wheels rode me next to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
It seems like another age, another world, but it was less than
60 years ago that the atomic bomb was dropped. The A-bomb Dome
was the first thing I saw. The bare bones of this structure remain to
commemorate destruction. The day and the bike ride start to become
more sobering. Near the entrance of Peace Memorial Hall is a clock,
hands frozen at 8:15, the time the bomb dropped. Inside 140,000 tiles-
the estimated fatalities- recreate a panorama of old Hiroshima. Names,
pictures brought in from family members brought tears.
Then I saw the thousand cranes and thought of the folding of each one.
The Museum brought more disturbing facts and images of the atomic bomb
and its devastating power. What I remember most was a 20 foot tall
planet Earth with scaled replicas of bombs to represent the presence
of nuclear bombs across the globe. We have the power to destroy
ourselves and this planet a thousand times over.
What better to follow than a vegetarian lunch, happened upon
by chance. A place called Otis. Great food, great coffee and
it was owned by groovy Japanese hippy who talked to me
about his road trip through the Four Corners so many years ago.
Back on my mamachari I headed for a large green area on my map,
I assumed it was a park. It was even greener than the map had led me
to believe, and much higher up than I expected. Exhausted, drenched
in sweat, but well worth it. At the top of this hill I found a manga library,
the Hiroshima City of Contemporary Art, and a cemetery
with a stellar view. Japanese cemeteries, as opposed to Western ones
have no graves, no coffins, no bodies buried six feet below.
I always enjoyed Japanese cemeteries, even sought them out,
for a sense of peace, clarity, respect, and connection.
I stopped here to write. Then downhill, hooting, hollering,
enjoying the breeze, and I deduced my way back to the hostel.
I took a nap, woke up in a panicked state of loneliness.
It soon passed, but it scared me. It was just the beginning
of my travels. How would I feel after months had passed?
I pushed through it. Asked a woman at the front desk
for dinner recommendations. I decided on Shanti Vegan Cafe.
You gotta take real vegetarian food when you can get it in Japan.
I ordered a teriyaki tempeh burger. Delicious. Next I went to
a little bar I noticed earlier. Tasty, but stupidly expensive microbrews,
and a cute bartender to chat with. Again, take it where you can get it,
especially when it comes to good beer in Japan.
On the recommendation of a good friend, Becca Barnes,
who lived near me in Shimodate, but moved to Hiroshima
before returning back to London, I went to a gaijin bar
called Southern Cross. (Gaijin definition: the informal
and fairly racist term for foreigners in Japanese.)
There was no one in the bar except the bartender
and one sad Japanese girl trying to pick up gaijin.
Not my scene, so I headed toward yet another
foreigner bar called the Shack where I was informed
the owner of Southern Corss would be. I found him,
a big jolly New Zealander and a couple other English teachers,
all friends of Becca. I name dropped, was invited to a seat
and passed the evening over drinks with these welcoming people.
I stumbled back to my hostel, crawled into my bunk bed
and noticed the feet of a new guest hanging out from his bed