We boarded our Kyoto Shinkansen train at 7 Sunday morning and arrived in Hiroshima just after 9.
My bride had told me a few days prior that we’d be spending Fathers Day at Hiroshima, somewhat apologetically, but that’s how the itinerary had fit together, and was that okay? Who was I to argue with what had so far been the most well put together trip I’d ever taken? And so here the 5 of us were, walking into Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
We walked through the museum, which included a tricycle that had been buried with its rider’s remains, only to be unearthed decades later and ultimately placed behind glass.
We saw the “atomic bomb dome” – the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall – where the bomb detonated 160 meters southeast, from 600 meters above. The walls and supports for the dome survived; its occupants died instantly.
We saw ground zero (called the “hypocenter”), marked by a plaque by a sidewalk a few blocks from the peace park and the museum.
Mostly, I just felt the weight of it all. Americans, walking where our people killed their people, to the tune of perhaps over 100,000, using the most destructive weapon ever implemented in war.
I thought of how I felt when I saw Japanese tourists at the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor in 2008; how some seemed flippant…why were they even there?
Or when I went to Ground Zero in Manhattan a few months after the September 2001 attack and then again when I took the children to see the memorial in 2015, flanked on all sides by foreign tourists jockeying for position with their selfie sticks. I didn’t want my children to inadvertently treat some Japanese person visiting this site of great tragedy the way I’d felt treated in such places in America.
But they didn’t. They were quiet and deferential. They asked questions that can’t be answered but need to be contemplated. They were empathetic. I was proud of them and glad we went there.
Shortly after noon, we walked over to Okonomi Yaki for, well, okonomiyaki. It’s a savory cabbage-filled pancake of sorts, and it was tasty.
Then, it was back on the train for an hour ride to Miyajimaguchi station, where we took a ferry to “the sacred island” of Miyajima for our stay at the Iwaso hotel, a traditional Japanese inn where the Emperor stays when he visits the sacred island.
Having several hours of daylight left, however, we decided to ride the ropeway to the observation point on mount Misen and then hike to its summit, because the day had so far been far too relaxing for my taste, as I like to exert and torture my children on fathers day (we actually do hikes most years). Since our ride down was time-sensitive, we pretty much ran the several miles to the top of the mountain, which is part of Setonaikai National Park, before having to scamper back down for our ride to the inn.
Here’s my youngest, smiling before we started the hard climb to the summit:
When we returned to the inn, we took badly needed showers and were told to don our yukata. I was last to bathe, so I grabbed whatever one was available. What I didn’t see was what the stacks looked like a half hour or so before:
Apparently, “girl” took the “father” one, so I was left with the “girl” one, but how was I supposed to know a yukata doesn’t stop at one’s knees like a tunic or one’s elbows like a jersey?
I entered the dining room, and the server’s face turned to discomfort as she politely asked if she could see my tag. She giggled slightly and said, “You have your daughter’s clothes on,” which made my family howl, and that moment of realization that I was wearing my 11-year-old’s outfit has since been labeled “one of my favorite memories ever” by my spouse.
We got in-room massages after dinner, which sort of made up for it. Also: dinner was amazing.
We lay on our futon mattresses at this beautiful mountainside inn built in 1854, surrounded by trees, lulled to sleep by the stream rushing just outside our windows. It was an other-worldly father’s day.
The next morning, we’d take the long train ride back to Tokyo.