updated 1 February 2000
Where was b? 1999
Japan- Land of the Rising Sun
The boat ride was rocky. I met a Korean-Canadian. He was involved in organic farming.He had recently met a Korean woman and decided it was the life for him. They were engaged to be married.He was a very wholesome person. He was scandalized by my contrast of Korean and Japanese sexual mores.He described North Koreans as fighting machines brain-washed to hate South Koreans.He saw no real hope of re-unification.
I was assigned to a cabin with Japanese passengers.We spread out our futons and blankets on the floor and we each had a place to sleep. They asked why I was there; they figured I had been sequestered with the non-Koreans.
13 July 1999 -- Hiroshima
It's radioactive. Like the phoenix she arose from the glowing ashes.At a quick glance, little distinguishes this large urban sprawl of concrete from other Japanese settlements.There are pleasant rivers crossed by bridges and a working network of street cars.In the middle of the town is a large patch of green known as the Peace Park.It was blasted clear in the infamous bombing of 1945.
The story basically runs thus: Hiroshima was a bustling town of 350,000 to 400,000 people. Like Japan in general it had been mobilized for the war effort that Imperial Japan hoped would make it the master of Asia. The youngest children had been evacuated in anticipation of Allied bombing. Students were demolishing things to create broad fire lanes also in anticipation of Allied bombing.Hoping to limit Allied causalities and keep the Russians out of Japan, the US was eager to haste the Pacific war to an end. On August 6th 1945 at 8:15am about half the population of Hiroshima vanished along with houses, shops, and the bulk of the city.The world's first hostile nuclear blast wiped out a 2 or 3 kilometer radius of a proud Japanese city.
A visit to Hiroshima helps bring home the awesome destructive power of a single bomb. The knowledge that we have now have weapons that are 1000 (or more) times more powerful is a numbing reminder of our tenuousrestraint. Hiroshima helps brings the abstraction of nuclear war down to earth. The city of Hiroshima has made itself into a sort of crusader for the elimination of nuclear arms and the prevention of nuclear war. Visitors are encouraged to hope for peace. Comment books bear out this plastic hope. The wishes for peace by prominent world leaders who have made a pilgrimage to Hiroshima are displayed in glass cases. Also displayed in glass cases are old watches stopped at 8:15 on August 6th 1945. You can also view children's clothing torn and burnt in the blast. You can walk through a Vietnamese jungle in the South Korean war museum (for an extra charge) and in Hiroshima you can walk through a building with blasted-out windows on desolation. I prefer the rickety walk over the bridge (built by allied prisoners of war under typically inhumane circumstances) over the River Kwai in Thailand, not so far outside of Bangkok.
Most visitors find it difficult to keep the tale of Hiroshima in the context of a broad and vicious war. Nevertheless the museum in Hiroshima does an admirable job of describing the militarybuild up of Hiroshima and its link to the Nanjing Massacre in which perhaps as many as 200,000 Chinese were killed by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
15 July 1999 -- Nagano
16 July 1999 -- Takayama (Hida)
Sometimes referred to as little Kyoto, because of its many temples and preserved traditional architecture. I don't think it compares much to Kyoto, but it makes an excellent place to visit. Set in the mountains where they begin to emerge from the vast plane that stretches all the way from Nagoya. Takayama is the "traditional town" on the toursit itinerary. Indeed, it's more difficult to reach than many destinations, as it's not on a Shinkansen route. I travlled a good 6 hours from Nagano to get there. The last stretch was a long three hours on a local train. I wasn't able to time the express just right.
Three long streets have been preserved/ renovated to exhibit traditional Japanese architecture.Architecture which I don't posses the vocabulary to describe in great detail, but which I find fantastic. I had an immediate like for the Japanese aesthetic and it hasn't left me despite the urban nightmare that is Tokyo.
I stayed in a Buddhist temple that has converted it's monk's quarters into a dormitory/hostel. I had trouble getting the hostel rate without my card, but I managed. There were Chinese-Canadians, Anglo-Canadians, and Americans at the hostel.
I rented a bicycle from the hostel and rode around the town and out into the countryside. There was a large new temple of some kind on the road. The sign out front said that once upon a time God had created the human soul in this vicinity in Ancient Hida. I figured it wasn't every day that one stumbles on the place where the soul was invented so I had a look around. The place was the New World Temple or something. The main temple was a very large building, fronted by a mass of white steps. Water poured through dragon heads in the noisy fountain.I walked in and was handed some information in English and I proceeded into the main hall. Pews were laid out along a main aisle. I've noticed Japan evolving towards a Western model in their larger temples- pews and carpet instead of sitting on the tatami mats on the floor. The info explained that after a three day training session one would be presented with a special crystal locket. With this locket one would be able to serve as a channel for a divine and healing light. You could cure disease, purify toxic food and so on. Unfortunately I didn't have time for the initiation so I can't say whether or not the program works.
19-20 July -- Tokyo, Japan
I am working at the American School In Japan as an English teacher for the summer day camp.This is my second year here, teaching Japanese 4th graders.The camp is located at the American school which is a piece of Americana transplanted in Japan. In contrast to the surrounding architecture and furnishings everything is big. And plenty of American English is spoken here. The school is almost 100 years old.The camp is 25 years old and has always been a hit, being one of the first such programs available in Tokyo.
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