atomic time travel
hiroshima and nagasaki
This month marks 75 years since the United States dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
August 6, 1945 and August 9, 1945. The dates are tattooed to my memory. As a peace activist I care, and living in Japan all those years, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are living testimony against nuclear weapons and nationally commemorated. Also the ten years I lived in London, memorial events were held a block from my work, in Tavistock Square, and without fail I and colleagues took part.
Out of curiosity I looked and this year’s event was held on-line. Another necessary adaptation due to the coronavirus.
Four years on in Valencia and I confess that I haven’t marked the days in any particular way, apart from my usual practices of mindfulness and compassion for war’s victims (that is all of us) and the scared, arrogant men (and yes, men because nearly all wars are started by men) who take bullying to the level of mass murder.
This year however, I had the surprise and joy of translating a mass from the Church of the Rubber Duck which honored the civilians killed by the atomic bombs with a mass and denounced the self-serving murder of thousands of people simply so the United States could show off its new weapon.
a brief aside
Yes! So I have a new translation project. This time, so my clown can have the pleasure of work and play, I have started translating these masses (yes as in the Catholic sense) for the Church of the Rubber Duck, the creation of Leo Bassi a buffoon and great artist. Hopefully soon they too will be posted and if you don’t know him, you can have that delight.
journey down memory lane – first visit to hiroshima
As I’ve said this summer again and again, until the coronavirus situation improves I don’t plan on travelling far from home. Also Valencia, that has been mildly hit with the virus until recently, is now surging with cases. Boo! That’s bad news isn’t it?
But let’s get back to Japan and the cursed nuclear bombs.
So, the first time I visited Hiroshima, I actually never left the train station. I was so racked with guilt and ill-feelings about being a descendant of the people that had decided to drop the bomb that I just couldn’t find the gumption to go into town.
I was on my way home from a meeting in Kobe. Hiroshima was en route. Some colleagues had dropped into Hiroshima on their way to our meeting. That’s what gave me the idea, and the fact that I had a train ticket that allowed for stops at stations en route to my destination.
sitting down with discomfort
I got off the train with my small rucksack. It was a Saturday morning The week before I had been in a residential training course in Kobe and I was on my way home to Kagoshima. It was Autumn 1990. I had been in Japan for about 4 months and I was a language teacher with the JET program. So much was still so new and culturally baffling.
Finding a bench on the platform I sat down to look at some notes that colleagues had given me about places to visit and other tips about how to navigate the city. At some point I looked up and around. I didn’t feel well. I was flooded with feelings of discomfort, tears in my eyes, knot in my stomach. I tuned into myself and saw that my heart was already taking a tour of the city, to ground zero, to the famous Atomic Bomb Dome (a former government office building) and meeting victims of the bombing.
I sat there with a heavy heart. Sad. And angry. I didn’t support or believe the usual spin to the story that dropping the bomb was to save US soldiers’ lives. I knew it as a racist and brazen act drawing the line in the sand and set up the next game of Empire-building and rivalries.
And I was wiped out. The week before had been intense and busy. In fact, in general everything felt intense and busy, or super slow and lonely. I was going through cultural adjustment. A time would come when Japan felt comfortable and like second skin, but not at that moment.
So even though I was curious to visit Hiroshima, I didn’t have the heart-mind connection to delve into that tragic story that particular day. Not even going out beyond the station to have lunch appealed.
When the next train came along, I got on, and went home.
Eventually I would visit both Hiroshima and Nagasaki several times for work and pleasure.
They are beautiful, touching and inspiring cities. The dropping of the bombs was a tragedy and horrible but the cities re-built and the calamitous event serves as a reminder to never forgot and a focal point to unite voices to say “Never again!”.
of interest ….
Virtual visit to the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation – committed to a world free from nuclear weapons