Finding Forgiveness in Hiroshima

Mass grave in Hiroshima.

It was July of 2008 and we walked up to our hostel in Hiroshima, Japan, sweaty, sticky, and tired. Why did we decide that coming to Japan during the summer was a good idea? Oh yeah, I guess it was the only opportunity we had to join our friend during his last month of summer vacation and the end of his studying abroad classes.

A-Bomb Dome

We quickly freshened up and made our way into the scorching heat. I instantly broke into a sweat the moment we made it out the front doors.

Good lord, it feels like Texas out here.

We were lucky and got a hostel near the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum – the focus of our trip to Hiroshima. Being on a budget we meandered into a 7-11 to pick up some refreshing, cold soba noodles and a CC Lemon to enjoy in the park while making our plans for the next few days.

A shady tree across the A-Bomb Dome called our names and the bench had a prime view of the park and one of the only standing buildings left from the A-Bomb that was dropped there in World War II. As we picked at our food – the heat makes your appetite nil – we melted onto the cool grass of the park and started people watching. A woman on a bicycle made her way to us.

Woman: “Are you guys from Australia?”

Oh man this was a conversation that I had wanted to avoid with the people of Hiroshima. Bracing ourselves our travel mate finally had the balls to squeak out…

Mate: “We’re American.”

We braced ourselves for what we could imagine was a tongue lashing. Instead, what we got was something that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. The woman cracked an amazingly warm smile and said,

Woman: “Welcome to Hiroshima!”

Three musketeers in Hiroshima!

She rode off in a cheerful manner and we sat there stunned in silence in what seemed like an eternity.

I knew that my life would be forever tethered to this place. How could someone be so forgiving for such an atrocity that our country had done to these wonderful people? I have cried so many times replaying this conversation in my head. I had no clue that I could carry on guilt that surpassed generations. The love that she poured into those words will never be taken for granted and from that moment, I vowed to live a life with more forgiveness and love.

My favorite city that we have visited is Hiroshima.

Have you ever been caught off guard with how people perceive you?

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13 Responses to “Finding Forgiveness in Hiroshima”

  1. Mary R March 23, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    I agree that Hiroshima is a very powerful place… and to answer your question, I’m always surprised by how engaging and open-minded and forgiving people are around the world. I’m impressed when others can accept foreigners at face value despite media perception, historical conflicts, stereotypes, etc.

    • Erica March 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

      @Mary: I can only imagine that my eyes will be opened to a whole new world and way of thinking when we start our long term travels. I am so excited to see what the history books failed to mention.

  2. Dalene - Hecktic Travels March 23, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    What an incredibly humbling moment that must have been, I can appreciate the powerful impact it obviously had.

    It’s important to think that if they can be so forgiving for that, then maybe we can each forgive a little more ourselves for much more minor things that happen in our lives, hey? That’s a lesson I personally need to learn better…

    • Erica March 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

      @Dalene: I had no clue that this would have been the outcome of our trip there. I think we were half curious just to see what it was like.

  3. Evan March 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    I am flying into Hiroshima on Wednesday. Your story touches on some things that I have been thinking and feeling but haven’t been able to really verbalize.

    It’s good to see. :-)

    • Erica March 23, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      @Evan: It was a really difficult place to digest – but in the end, I fell head over heels for this place. Make sure to hit up the hidden popular okonomiyaki arcade. You’ll have to ask around here it is.

  4. Ali March 27, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    Short and sweet, but emotional and powerful. Strange to think how today our nations are allies but many years ago we bombed them in such a horrific way. Brings tears to my eyes to think of all the places I want to visit that have been so negatively affected by our country.

    • Erica March 27, 2011 at 2:56 am #

      @Ali: I had a really hard time with it. Honestly, no blog would be able to cover the range of emotions I felt seeing disfigured people with birth defects walking down the road.

  5. Lorna - the roamantics March 27, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    that’s so sweet, and i wish the way things had gone for us in vietnam. :( i was caught off guard- by how unfriendly and sometimes even hostile people were to us there, no matter where we were. and in spite of learning some polite vietnamese, of practicing our usual cultural relativism, etc. i hated to even notice it. as someone with a degree in anthropology the last thing i wanted to do make any kind of generalization. but really, the only place people were nice to us in a way we’re used to was in hoi an. i get it, i understand all the reasons, so i just put up with it, but it was pretty sad. glad you had such a different experience!

    • Erica March 27, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      @Lorna: I don’t even want to think about how I’m going to handle Vietnam. I already experience issues with that and we’re not going to be there for quite some time. I already get emotional about the stupidest things – I can only imagine!

  6. Bethany March 29, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    I only had a bad reaction once to being an American and it was in Ireland of all places. But I think the girl may have just said the words wrong because she did seem pretty nice. In Italy we were loved. :)

  7. Sarah Wu April 3, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    I use to work on a Hiroshima project for the whole semester. I borrow so many books trying to design3 poster in memory to them. Yea I picked on a heavy subject. (It’s in my portfolio if you want to see). I remember when I read the book and looking at the pictures, I feel so sad for the people who had past away and the kids. It must b a very unforgettable experience to visit this place.

    • Erica April 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

      Sarah: Sometimes heavy subjects can spark your creativity though. I will never forget my experience in Hiroshima.

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