Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H: Oh, the Places You'll Go!

H is for Hiroshima, Hong Kong, and Henley-upon-Thames

It's Day 4 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, in which I'm focusing on overseas destinations I've visited. 

Hiroshima, Japan (May 1987 and March 1988)

I first went to Hiroshima during my first spring in Japan. I had begun a relationship with Mike, but soon after that started, he had a friend visiting from England for a month (!), so I wasn't able to see him because she had a mad crush on him and he didn't want to hurt her feelings. So instead we wrote love letters (these were the days before e-mail), which was a great way for two English majors to kick-start their relationship. During that time, a trip away was just what I needed. My friend Abby and I went to Shikoku and then traveled down to Hiroshima and Miyajima.

The important thing to do in Hiroshima is visit the Hiroshima Peace Museum, a memorial to all of the people who were killed in the atomic bombing. The most famous part of the complex is the bombed-out shell of the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, which was constructed in 1915. When the atomic bomb exploded, it ravaged the building instantly. Heat blazing from above consumed the entire building, killing everyone in it. Because the blast attacked the building from virtually straight overhead, some walls escaped total collapse. Along with the wire framework of the dome, these walls form the shape that has become a symbol. At some point it became known as the "A-bomb Dome."

A-bomb Dome
The museum itself is unforgettable--it contains images and artifacts from the bombing, in addition to videos and audios of survivors.
The museum
Child's tricycle and hat
Map of Hiroshima, showing where the bomb hit

One of the many poignant statues outside in the memorial grounds
View from the river

I didn't feel comfortable taking photos in front of the memorial,
but in the boat seemed okay
After I left Japan, I lost touch with Abby. She was such a funny friend, and I enjoyed spending time with her, but she wasn't terribly deep...so that night I felt really depressed. I lay in my bunk at the youth hostel and wrote in my journal: "I feel an incredibly overwhelming craving to be held right now. Preferably by Mike, but anyone I love would do. This has been such an emotionally exhausting day--there's an ache inside me, like a well of emptiness...and it yearns to be filled with love...to remind me of the good inside of me. I feel shame at being an American, and at being a member of the human race, which plays with life and death as if in a game. What an aching I have for a motherly hug right now, to have Mom assure me that it will be alright, that it won't happen again, that my children will not see a nuclear war in their lifetime. 'It'll be alright, Marie...' I hope so. It's all I can do to blink back the tears and pray."

Right now I'm in the midst of Ruth Ozeki's new novel, A Tale for the Time Being, which describes the recent earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe in Japan...and reading about the disaster reminds me of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bomb. I am well aware of the horrific things Japan did during World War II, and I understand why Harry Truman decided to drop the a-bomb. It was a complicated situation, and he wanted to end the war and prevent further deaths. But this scale of destruction was heartless and horrifying, no matter which country dropped the bomb. I'm a pacifist at heart, and I wish that no countries would resort to war to resolve their problems.

I returned to Hiroshima when my parents visited Japan in 1988, with Mike and my friend Jean. It's a destination everyone should visit once in his or her life.

Dinner in Hiroshima with my parents, Mike, and Jean

Hong Kong (July 1987 and July and September 1989)

Just a few months after Mike and I got together, I asked him if he wanted to go to Hong Kong with me (I was so forward!). I also told him that I was going to return to Japan again the following year because I wanted to see where the relationship led. He reacted cautiously to both, as I enjoy reminding him. I definitely knew he was my one and only before he knew that about me! But thank goodness I didn't scare him off, and  he did decide to join me in Hong Kong where we met up with my friend Debbie and her then-boyfriend. We stayed in the Sky Guest House, a hole in the wall, where we returned again in 1989 to begin our big adventure after Japan.

Riding the Star Ferry

View from the Peak at night--so beautiful!!
We had a great time touring Hong Kong--riding the Star Ferry, eating wonderful food, going up to the Peak both during daytime and at night, and seeing the sights. We also had clothing tailor made--me, a dress made of a silvery silk I bought in China, and Mike three suits and a blazer and trousers. One thing I remember is going to the same restaurant twice--once in our casual traveling clothes, and on another occasion in our new duds, when we were treated like royalty. That was the first time I realized that people (especially in service) treat you completely differently when it looks like you have money. I still have the dress, but alas the styles have changed a lot since 1987 (no more shoulder pads) and it got some damaged from an iron. I wonder if I could have it altered or use some of the fabric in some other way--the fabric is really beautiful.
In our fancy clothes
I loved the busy vibe of Hong Kong. We haven't been there since it transferred back to China in 1997. I would like to return someday.

Henley-upon-Thames, England (1991, 1999)

Henley-upon-Thames is a charming village near Reading, where Mike's parents used to live. It's famous for its annual regatta. When my mother-in-law still lived in Reading, we would go there occasionally when we visited the UK.

Visiting Henley

Hope English call boxes will not be obsolete with the proliferation of cell phones--
they are so much prettier than our  boring pay phones!

Visiting Henley with Chris and Mike's cousin's daughter Emily (1999)
Henley is most famous in our house for being the home of Cookie Monster, a beanie that my mother-in-law bought in a Henley toy shop (Bagatelle) and gave it to Christopher when he was three. That Cookie Monster was loved to death! He had to go to the Cookie hospital a number of times.
The home of Cookie!
Henley is a beautiful place to visit if you have time, especially in the summer.

You can check out A-G here. Tomorrow it's back to Japan for I!


  1. I hope to visit both Japan and Hong Kong on of these days! I love England and cannot wait to go back!

    Just Hopping by! Musings of a Book Lover!

    1. Thanks for hopping in! I'm getting a real travel bug with all this reminiscing.

  2. What great story. The pictures are splendid, and that statute ... wow, what an emotional sight.
    Japan is most certainly on my 'must visit' list.
    Silvia @ Silvia Writes

    1. Thanks, Silvia! I hope you make it there--I would love to go back.

  3. Your visit to Hiroshima, and the ensuing emotions that followed, were very reminiscent of my time spent at Dachau, Germany. I may have to revisit that on my blog one day.
    Jamie Dement (LadyJai)

    1. Yes, I imagine it's similar...although I suppose Hiroshima could be rationalized by some, while Dachau cannot be.

  4. Hiroshima must be a place that makes people think a lot about consequences of wars. And Hong Kong is like one of my greatest dreams for a visit. I have a picture of Hong Kong Bay on my wall.
    Father Dragon Writes

    1. Yes, I think so. I would love to go back to Hong Kong--it's beautiful and so interesting!

  5. Great photos, and I love the brewing romance between you and Mike. Your forward-ness paid off :-)

  6. I know of quite a few people who have never forgiven Japan for attacking Pearl Harbor and, therefore, have zero problem with what we did to end the war. I LOVE English phone booths!

    1. I don't know too many people like that, but I know they are out there.

  7. I can just imagine what it was like to visit that museum. I am guessing it's something like visiting the Vietnam Memorial or the District Six Museum in Cape Town SA. Humans get quiet revisiting places like that. It's as if your inner core just knows and silences you.

    1. Yes, that's exactly right, Jean.

  8. Lovely post Marie - thanks for sharing with us and those wonderful photographs. They say that there is a visible shadow of those who died, imprinted on one of the walls in Hiroshima .. a tragic reminder of the effects of WW2.

    Susan Scott's Soul Stuff