Children's Peace Monument, Hiroshima

On Location: A Brutal Look Back in Japan

Zegrahm Contributor|May 1, 2010|Blog Post

April 26 - Miyajima/Hiroshima: Our day was a mix of emotions: The morning dawned bright and hopeful off the coast near to the sacred town of Miyajima, but fated to be a day of such stark and brutal extremities of experience.

From the holy shrines of the Lord Buddha and Shintoism, where silence reigned golden and serenity was the eternal paradigm beyond the legendary seabound Torri Gate, the veritable symbol of ancient Japan, we moved to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park: a peace theme park for a world which will never tire of war; a symbolic expiation of unexpressed Japanese guilt for a war and its catalog of atrocities.

A beautiful park and a mournful museum. But a sad place in so many other ways: not just a memorial to those who died but a stinging indictment of a nation’s inhumanity and blind insouciance. Indeed, a deeply depressing place enlivened only by the laughter and innocence of hundreds of Japanese schoolchildren. May they be long preserved from understanding man’s inestimable iniquities.

April 28 – Tsushima: It lent its name to arguably the most decisive battle of the twentieth century: the Battle of the Tsushima Straits. It saw the demise of Russian naval power as the much traveled Baltic Fleet was wiped out in the cold waters between Japan and Korea in May 1905. More than 4,000 Russian peasants turned sailors drowned and more than 5,000 were taken prisoner by their Japanese foes.

There is little evidence today of that seminal event on Tsushima Island, except that it is still divided in two parts: the Japanese used dynamite to force a passage through the island for its own fleet. That ‘cut,’ bridged by a vivid red, half-moon steel structure, still survives but no shipping passes through it. The island is sleepy: temples, lantern memorials to dead samurai, and dramatic though mist-laden vistas.

Not so many people make it to these parts. The island, just 30 miles from the coast of Korea, fails to make it into Lonely Planet. Once so important, today its existence hardly seems to matter.

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