Monday, March 24, 2008

A Few Last Things From Japan


It's been a while since I posted - sorry! I've been doing lots of catchup since getting back from the trip, and have to share the computer with my husband, who wants to be online even more than I do. The answer is not more stuff, I'm sure of it!

Anyway, I wanted to mention a few things that I haven't yet covered in my Japan trip photos. On the trip I made to New Mexico in January, I visited Los Alamos, famous (or notorious, depending on your place on the no nukes spectrum) as the place where the nuclear bomb was developed. At that point, I already knew that I would be visiting Hiroshima the following month, so went out of my way to check out Los Alamos so that I would see both sides of the story.

It was very interesting to compare how the two museums handled the presentation of the same item on exhibit. At the Bradbury Museum in Los Alamos, the gallery is bathed in sunlight, and the signage is bright and positively phrased. The life size model of Little Boy, the bomb that was detonated over Hiroshima and killed more than 100,000 people, is placed on the floor, so viewers stand over it. It seems surprisingly small, almost innocuous.

At the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, on the other hand, the model of Little Boy is placed overhead, where it looms more menacingly. One encounters it in a darkened room having already viewed items of clothing, hair and skin belonging to victims of the bomb. People in the museum seem very sober, sad and don't say much. It is an almost overwhelming experience to view these exhibits - very moving and emotionally draining.

I feel very privileged to have been able to witness both versions of the story. In Canada, we read John Hersey's book Hiroshima as part of our Grade 8 or 9 English class. I think that was a formative experience for me, and led to my involvement in the peace movement. My horror of nuclear weapons has not diminished over the years, and it's pretty obvious that my sympathies are on the side of the story that says nuclear weapons must never be used again.

Moving on to my search for signs of the crafty revolution...


Mrs. Mandu's friend Fuji-san showed me a bowl of life size vegetables and pincushions that she had made out of scraps of chirimen silk. They were charming and beautifully made. All things cute or "kawaii" are very popular in Japan, but there is still a generation that values the subtle, elegant aspect of the handmade.

And one last recommendation for all of you who long to visit Japan. Track down a copy of the 2004 movie "Kamikaze Girls". I tell everyone that yes, Japan is exactly as depicted in this movie. Vivid, baffling, funny, rude, violent and delicately feminine. And if I haven't tempted you enough, how could you resist any movie where embroidery is a major plot device?

2 comments:

  1. good on you for making it a point to see both museums memorializing hiroshima. the different depictions of the little boy 'bout says it all, doesn't it?

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  2. I agree that different placement of the bomb makes a big difference in how you perceive it, something under your feet doesn't seem to be so dangerous as something right above your head, it gives a food for thought.
    I'm in love with garlic and onion, very kawaii! *^v^*

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