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Asia Adventure #6: Co-Travelers, Part 2

Hiroshima Dome

I forgot to mention in part one that the reason I’m blogging about people I meet is because I think that is one of the richest parts of travel for me. I get a bit worn out seeing sites, dealing with crowds and public transportation, and trying to decipher menus, etc. We’ve stayed at a lot of hostels and guest houses this trip and they typically cater to a lower economic caste and younger clientele. We’re not in the younger caste, but Lori pulled this off for us by finding cheaper lodging and, having done so, we have encountered all sorts of interesting people. English is often the shared language- Spanish on occasion, so sitting down at the table with people from all over makes for interesting conversations and exchanges.

When we left Busan on the ferry and crossed to Japan on a diesel waterbed, we made our first Japanese stop in Nagasaki. We stayed on the other side of Nagasaki at a guest house in a fishing village named Mogi. As soon we entered the place, even before we registered, I met a young Israeli who had been traveling in China and who wanted to become a musician. He and I spent some time playing music ( I don’t think I blogged about my acquisition of my Made in Korea guitar. In fact, I think that there is a direct relationship between the getting the guitar and my reduction in blog production. Sorry) and he turned out to be quite good and I didn’t appreciate that one damn bit. He writes songs as I do and did appreciate it when I introduced him to a helpful musical tool, the circle of fifths. I’m thinking if this guy hits it big he better by remember me in his Grammy speech for helping him sort out his sound.

I also met a tall, good looking Spaniard who I thought was maybe a Spanish James Bond or involved in some kind of clandestine activity. He joined me for a swim on a beautiful afternoon and he encouraged my interest in teaching at an international school. As I was peddling away from him on the hotel rental bike, I looked back at him and saw him laying in the warm sand much like a tall, dark Spanish-speaking dolphin. That image pretty much dissuaded me from my conviction that he was a covert operative. But, if you think about it, isn’t that just what a covert operative wants to do? Don’t they want you to think that they are anything but a spy? That guy is totally deep cover.

From Nagasaki we traveled to Hiroshima. Actually, I stayed a day more at the fishing village while Cata and Lori went ahead. I was very much tired of packing and unpacking so I hung out looking for Spanish intelligence types. When I arrived in  Hiroshima, at our skyscraper hostel, Lori was on the roof terrace with two young Canadian fellas from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. These guys were taking their Japanese beer taste-testing quite seriously and sharing with us how they don’t like the Prime Minister of Canada because he won’t let them catch any more fish. They were kind of woodsy, outdoor guys and it was interesting listening to them while surrounded by about 100,000 Japanese apartment buildings.

When Lori and Cata went to bed, I joined my fellow North Americans in search of karaoke. After 3-4 failed landings, it began to dawn on me that maybe it was operator error rather than a paucity of Karaoke venues in Japan. Eric, the Canadian electrician most frustrated with Trudeau, was in charge of Karaoke location and GPS operation. He was also in charge of his own inebriation and the two did not a successful Karaoke experience make. Still, I enjoyed hanging with them. Eric apologized profusely that we didn’t find a Karaoke joint. When I told him not to fret and stop apologizing, he stated that’s what Canadians do.

We bid goodnight. I made my way to the Peace Park in Hiroshima and my Canadian companions hightailed it back to the hotel to relieve themselves of digested beer, having been reluctant to do so in a dark alley fearing the legal consequences for public urination.

I arrived at the Peace Park around 10-11 pm carrying my guitar and transitioning from a frivolous romp with a couple drunk kids to a powerful encounter with the reality of the nuclear attack of Hiroshima. Thanks to Eric, he told me to visit the dome of the conservatory which was still standing after the Aug 9th, 1945 bombing. At night the whole park had a solemnity to it. There was a memorial to the victims of the bombing, an eternal flame that will only be extinguished once our globe is rid of nuclear weapons, and the Prefecture Building.  As I walked along in silence, encountering each of those spaces, tears welled up in me-even as they do now in this writing. Of course, I have seen photos of the domed prefect building and the surrounding desolation left by the bomb, but to see it in person, illumined as it was on this night, was particularly moving.

I found a place to sit on some slick steps leading to a water channel. I have been working on a song about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki I call “Flashes of Light.” With so few people around, I felt comfortable to sing out there. The experience was not heart rending, but it was sobering and I feel grateful that I have had the opportunity to see that place. As someone who came of age in the Cold War, I identify with the fear and dread caused by nuclear weapons and their proliferation. I came close to weeping when I read that the Hiroshima flame will only be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon is gone.

Done with my soliloquy, I zipped up my guitar began to head back to the hostel. I didn’t make it very far before I met a lovely couple sitting on the same steps who complimented me on my song.  Olley was from London and his girlfriend was from Ireland but they both currently live in New Zealand where she (her name escapes me) is doing graduate work in geology and Olley is restoring houses. Turns out that Olley is a helluva guitarist and played mine very nicely which upset me. We discussed Brexit, her interest in teaching at a secondary school once done with her training, and random YouTube videos about which I knew nothing. Olley very much had the mannerisms of British comedian Eddy Izzard and that comic’s easy way with the F word, which I enjoyed.

We didn’t speak much of the domed building or that space there in that park that evening. I think sometimes places and experiences can be such an enormity that one finds it difficult to find words to use in those contexts, should a person even want to do so. We did acknowledge that our western educational system tends to give short shrift to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of our school students know about the events but I think its rarely delved into. I was glad I could say that I intend to do more than I have on the bombings now that I have been to Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Part three will finish this up and probably be the last blog I post before returning to Los Estados Unidos tomorrow.

Peace and Love from Yokohama, Japan.

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