Kat’s Guide to Depressing Oneself: Day One
Okay, honestly, the trip wasn’t that bad.
But welcome to the first of my travel-logs about my four day trip to Hiroshima! Wahoo! Like many of my trips, I did this one solo, mostly because everyone I know has already been to Hiroshima. But it’s a good thing, anyway, as I don’t like being dependent on what other people want to do.
In any case.
So I started the trip out on the bus. There are two convenient ways to get to Hiroshima from Fukuoka, the shinkansen (bullet train) and bus. The former takes an hour and costs about $100 one way. The latter takes four hours and should cost $70 two ways. Thus I decided to take the bus. This ended up creating two problems, both of which were my fault and both of which emphasized that I really REALLY need to get down and dirty with my Japanese studying.
The bus ride itself was fine. Comfortable. I listened to music most of the way. Then we arrived in Hiroshima, I got off the bus, got my bearings, and entered the escalator.
That’s when I realized I’d left my camera on the bus.
Yes, that camera.
The Canon 30D (outdated now, but when I bought it, it was worth $1500). With the 10-22, 70-300IS, 520EX II flash, lensbaby 3D, 50mm 1.8, two fancy shmancy white balancing thingamabobs… the list goes on. All together, if we’re discussing purchasing here, it’s worth about $4000. But more than that, it’s a tool I use to record my memories. I use it for art, to express myself. I love photography. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in improving my eye.
AND I LEFT IT ON THE BUS.
It is difficult to describe how panicked and stupid I felt.
Needless to say, I scrambled back up the stairs, ran to the departure side when the bus had already disappeared, tried to control myself and understand Japanese while at the information desk, wandered around aimlessly, panicking, called the bus company, did not understand a word. I explained as best I could that I’d left a “big, expensive camera” on the bus from Fukuoka, that I’d be in Hiroshima for four days, that “OMG I want it back right now” and then, once I got off the phone, I sat down and cried. Then I called Christine. And as she reminded me, “Kat, you’re in Japan, it’s fine, you’ll get it back,” I cried some more and continued to berate myself as the biggest god damned idiot EVER.
I did mention that at least I hadn’t left my purse, which had all my money, my passport, my identification card for Japan, my credit cards, my DS, my license, my smaller camera…
In any case, eventually I found the correct person to talk to, the head of lost and found at the bus center. I explained what happened, he called the company for me, and told me that my camera would be brought to him in an hour and a half, at which point I could come pick it up.
I friggin’ love Japan. Lots. And lots.
Much less worried, I went to go check in at my hostel, returned to the bus station at the appointed time, and hugged my camera bag and almost started crying again. It was about 5:00pm at this time, I was exhausted, but I still had the evening ahead of me. Well, I hadn’t shed nearly enough tears for karma’s sake, so I thanked the lost and found man profusely, escaped with as much dignity as I could manage, and made my way to the Peace Park.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last sixty years, Hiroshima was the first city (of two) to be the victim of an atomic bombing attack. It is estimated that, from the blast and associated illnesses/complications, in the four months remaining of 1945, 180,000 people died from exposure to the bomb. If you cannot imagine that many people, here are some comparisons:
- that is a third of Wyoming’s population;
- Spokane, Washington, would be wiped off the map (there are 200,000 people living there);
- everyone in Guam (plus a few people who’ve moved out of Guam) = DEAD.
Within a 2km radius of the epicenter, Hiroshima was leveled (barring several mostly concrete buildings, including the one above–the Atomic Bomb dome). It did not help that, at the time, most Japanese homes were made of wood and paper.
Did you know?
During the Manhattan Project, the United States built fake Japanese cities to see how they would “burn” under an atomic bomb attack.
Hiroshima was chosen as one of the candidates for an atomic bomb attack for several reasons.
- It had a population of over 200,000
- It hadn’t yet been destroyed by firebombings (like Tokyo)
- It held the headquarters for the Army fifth division (I believe)
- It was believed that there were no Prisoners of War held in Hiroshima, though this was later proved to be false.
Peace Park was built near the epicenter of the bombing. It was made both as a memorial and in protest of the continuing existence of nuclear weapons. It is a beautiful, well-planned, and touching place that I encourage anyone to go see despite the excessive amounts of tourists, somewhat disrespectful Japanese school kids, and, well, depression that likely results if you’re not a sociopath.
The above pictures come from the Children’s Memorial–funded by schools across the world to remember the children who died directly from the bomb attack or later because of radiation poisoning. The most “famous” of these stories is that of Sadako, a girl who was diagnosed with cancer while in elementary school. There is an old Japanese belief that if you fold 1,000 cranes, your wish will come true. While she became sicker and sicker, she folded more and more cranes, wishing to get better. She died before she could finish.
The crane now represents the Japanese wish for peace and the end to all atomic weapons.
The flame above will not be extinguished until every nuclear weapon on Earth has been dismantled and destroyed.
I spent a total of about three hours wandering around the park as it became progressively colder and colder. Finally, as the sun began to set, I left because my stomach became a bit rumbly.
There’s only one thing to eat in Hiroshima! (And it’s not atomic.)
Yay for lighter notes! Okonomiyaki is often billed as “Japanese Pancake Pizza,” although really, that’s not a very good descriptor. Essentially, for Hiroshima okonomiyaki at least, they take a (not sweet) crepe, put cabbage, bean sprouts, bacon, and fish flakes on top. Then you can also add the ingredients of your choice (my favorite: udon noodles, corn, and cheese). Then they top it all off with an “egg pancake” (one egg, omelette-ized) and tons of the delicious, delicious okonomiyaki sauce.
While I was in Hiroshima and Miyajima, I ate okonomiyaki each night.
This is probably why I didn’t lose any weight.
So anyway, more depressing goodness to come!
Miyajima isn’t as depressing as Hiroshima proper, though. But that’s on day three. 😉