Monday, November 2, 2009

Japan on a Friday: An Obamajority in Hiroshima



Obamajority - that's what the mayor of Hiroshima wrote of his denizens in a peace letter addressed to all nations that still insist on stockpiling nuclear weapons. I souvenired several copies of this letter, stamped with an official Hiroshima Peace Museum logo, to gift to my most vocal peace and Obama-lovin' friends.

Obama is yet to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park, according to
A-bomb survivors and witnesses like Mito Kosei. Affected by radiation when still in his mother's womb, he outgrew a sickly childhood and now roams the park as a volunteer guide, offering free and informative backstory to the official materals displayed in the museum.

"[Aussie Prime Minister] Rudd was the only PM to visit the Peace Park BEFORE he was elected to office, Obama has not," he said.



"I think it not easy for him. 60% of Americans still believe dropping the bomb was a good thing. That makes it harder for Obama to visit."

He showed me a picture of the museum's models of people with their skin hanging off in sheets like moss on the limbs of a tree.

"Look at their faces," he said. "How can their faces be relatively unscathed while the rest of their skin was burned off?"

He then turned his flip book pages to a chilling drawing of a black shadow of a human with eyeballs, tongue and intestines bursting out of its incinerated remains.

"That was caused by the vacuum of the blast," he said matter-of-factly.

I videoed Mito-san and will share his empassioned and informative discourse when I get back from this trip.

The museum consisted of renactments of that fateful 8.15am event in all manner of media - video, so-mo, drawings, words, models.

I recorded some of the witness accounts. It seemed strange that while the majority of people in the 1-3km from the A-dome epicenter (seen through the cenotaph arch monument in the first picture) perished, some amazingly lucky individuals managed to escape major illness. Yet, others farther from the blast also fell ill and perished.

Mito-san showed me a picture of a man very close to the epicenter who survived because he was in a basement protected by 4 layers of materials - most noteably thick concrete and water, through which radiation cannot penetrate.



I also popped by Shimuzu Geiko, a theater venue near the hostel, to sample their new show. I say 'sample' because without leaning Japanese it was as intelligible to me as a medieval Ukranian soap opera.It was 1800 yen (about $US20) for a full 3 hours. I offered them 1000 yen for a 1/2 hour peek - really all I needed for the blog. They refused politely several times. I just stood there repeating the offer. They then went away to discuss it and came back with their decision: 900 yen for the 1/2 hour peek. That's the Japanese for you - impeccably and politely fair - and civilized, remembering that wars as told by the Hiroshima memorial museum are waged not by a nation but by a handful of nutcases. Also, there's something effective about using a vocab of two words, crestfallen puppy dog facial gestures, and simply standing there - a cross cultural variant of the maiden-in-distress act. Though I can't see myself pulling it off in NYC.

But back to the show. It opened with characters that might have stepped right out of a Japanese full color samurai comic or Geisha calendar with a bit of Liza Minelli/Celine Dion thrown in. The halting, tai chi like moves were entrancing. Like watching ikebana in action ...



Tomorrow, Myajima.

More at www.galfromdownunder.com/japan

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