Julia's Trip Recap: Hiroshima, Japan


This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Hiroshima, Japan for about eight days in August.  Every year, two members from the junior class at my school are selected to travel to Hiroshima as "Hiroshima Peace Scholars."  It's been months since the end of my trip, but I can't stop thinking about the people I met and all that I experienced.


Traveling to a foreign country is like stepping into a completely different world.  This was my very first time traveling out of America, so every aspect of this trip was all-new and exciting to me.  Here are some of the highlights from my trip abroad:

1. Presenting a 1,000 paper crane garland at the Children's Peace Monument

The Children's Peace Monument in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park portraying Sadako Sasaki.

Sadako Sasaki is a famous child victim of the August 6, 1945 atomic bombing on Hiroshima, who made the act of folding 1,000 paper cranes a powerful symbol of hope and world peace.  According to Japanese legend, anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted one wish.  Sadako, ill with leukemia caused by the bomb's radiation, folded her deepest wish to live in every paper crane.  

1,000 paper crane garlands on display at the Children's Peace Monument.

Sadako's wish was not granted and she later died, but her persistence in pursuit of a more peaceful world inspired many.  Today, people from all around the world visit the Children's Peace Monument to present 1,000 paper crane garlands in hopes of seeing a more peaceful world.  Last school year, my fellow peace scholar and I conducted an effort to fold 1,000 paper cranes.  With the help of classmates, teachers, friends, and family, we were able to reach our goal.  Upon arriving in Hiroshima, we presented a paper crane garland at the monument on behalf of our school.


2. Collecting nuclear disarmament petition signatures in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

On another day, we collected nuclear disarmament petition signatures in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park with Japanese high school students. Although the day was extremely hot, we spent the entire morning walking around the park attempting to gain another signature.

The Atomic Bomb Dome in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

My partner and I actually only collected around 20 signatures in a two-hour span, but in total, our group of high school students collected around 1,507 signatures that were later sent to the United Nations.


3. Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

I was impacted profoundly by visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  The gruesome images and horrifying displays stayed with me long after leaving the museum's premises.  Although I was previously aware of what happened on this infamous day in August of 1945, never before had I so deeply understood the pain of the city's people.

A model showing the destruction of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

U.S. President Barack Obama's message of peace on display.

Both America and Japan have experienced great pain and suffering in the past.  Although once enemies, these two countries are now friends, proving that reconciliation and peaceful relations are possible. It's my hope that the rest of the world takes heed of this powerful message.


4. Meeting a hibakusha

The message of the hibakusha, or an atomic bomb victim survivor, is a simple, yet powerful one: never again.  These people have the most reason to feel spiteful and harbor hatred against others, but instead, they choose to spread the message of peace.  The hibakusha were very clear: they do not want anyone else to go through the same pain and suffering.


5. The day of the atomic bombing

On the anniversary of the atomic bombing, I attended the annual Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.  Seeing the people of Hiroshima come together in such a beautiful way was one of the most moving experiences of all my life.

People offering flowers at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

Incredibly beautiful rows of flowers.

And at night, I attended the annual lantern floating ceremony with my host family to honor and remember the deceased.

Lanterns with messages of peace floating in the river.

It was one of those days you know you'll always remember.


6. Participating in a peace forum

On our final day, my fellow peace scholar and I participated in a peace forum with over 100 high school students from all across Japan.  Together, we discussed current contemporary world issues related to peace such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or the NPT.


(Unfortunately, I don't have a photo from the peace forum to share, so here's an illustration of a paper crane instead.)


7. Living with a host family

And finally, living with a host family was definitely one of the best aspects of the entire trip (and one I didn't quite expect).  Although I study Japanese in school, immersing myself completely in another language and culture proved challenging.  When I first arrived in Hiroshima, I definitely felt a little homesick and out of place, but my host family made me feel comfortable and safe.

My host sister, Takako, made this sign and presented it to me upon arrival.

My host family welcomed me warmly and always did their best to accommodate me.  With language barriers in place, I doubted any real connection could be forged between us, but I was proven wrong.  Thanks to a lot of patience (and Google Translate), we communicated slowly but surely and were able to form a lasting international friendship.

My dessert the first evening!

I continue to keep in touch with my host family still to this day.

Applying for this scholarship was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  Although nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear abolishment, and a more peaceful world seem unattainable at times, there are always small actions we can take in our daily lives to see a more peaceful world.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Hiroshima, Japan, please do.  Hiroshima is the most beautiful, resilient city I have ever had the honor of visiting.  I'll forever hold it close to my heart.

Julia's a dreamer. She often zones off periodically throughout the day thinking up plans for the future, pining over fictional characters, and concocting up possible plot lines for stories.

You can find Julia on her main blog, Peach Print, on Twitter @peachprint, on Instagram @yapeach, and of course, right here on the APCB blog.

3 comments:

  1. Such a great experience. Especially because of such a chance! I also studied Japanese (in my country it's quite uncommon though), but I never did go. It's quite far from Europe and quite expensive. Maybe one day I'll go, but I'm not sure. I have had many Japanese guests though! That's why it's strange that you thought you couldn't form a bond :) fluent language is not that important. Human connection are just.. something else. You can form one talking by pointing, basically :) also, the Japanese are a very welcoming people. You can't enter their home and feel unwelcome. The way they give gifts is also somewhat of a legend. Very glad you had such a wonderful experience :)

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  2. Wow, Julia, your trip sounds so incredible and so powerful! I can only imagine how it must have felt to be able to visit these sites and get to know these people, and it's really cool that you got to do it.

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  3. This sounds like such a moving experience - I wish every person who supports nuclear weapons would be able to take a trip like this to truly understand what they can do. When you're far away from the damage, the numbers of people who died as well as those who still live with complications can seem unimportant but when you actually travel there, it really makes you understand.

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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