Hiroshima

Spirits Rising: ひろしま / hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako
January 18, 2020 – March 15, 2020 / Garden Hours
Location: Pavilion Gallery & Tanabe Gallery
https://japanesegarden.org/events/spirits-rising/

Portland Japanese Garden is commemorating 2020 as the Year of Peace in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Throughout the year, the Garden will be taking the opportunity to stimulate conversation and facilitate thoughtful discussions on the importance of cultivating peace and cross-cultural understanding.
This exhibition will include a selection of the internationally acclaimed photographer’s monumental ひろしま / Hiroshima series, documenting cherished items and clothing left behind by victims of the atomic bomb detonated in Hiroshima at the close of World War II that are now housed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

U wrote this haibun two years ago, in Japan:

Hiroshima
today it’s just a station
on the bullet train

Or, more than that, it’s a lovely city with great food and shopping. I don’t know why I expected it to be frozen in the past, a smoking ruin. That’s as foolish as expecting to be met by Puritans in black hats at Boston’s Logan Airport. Still, it is a pilgrimage, different than a Tokyo neighborhood of food stalls or the earthly delights of Hakata Station in Fukuoka. We get an AirBnB near the Peace Park.
Everything is an adventure. This is Japan, after all, and I’m traveling with my daughter and son-in-law. I adore them, but they are millennials, and different than me. Three futons are laid out, and we all sleep in one room. I could never have done that with my own mother.

Peace Park
a twig broom sweeps
the wind

One of the more upsetting pieces for me is a memorial to the girls’ school where the students died. Because Japan was still under occupied forces when it was built, the U.S. said that the sculptor could not reference the atom bomb by name in this plea for peace. So “atom bomb” is replaced with “E=mc squared.”

no sleeping
on park benches, pigeons,
the funeral mound

tailless black cat
on its own
mysterious errand

tourists weeping
and snapping
cell phone photos

A giant tortoise, memorializing Koreans, is surrounded by Japanese sparrows.

We’re from New Mexico. An hour from Los Alamos where the A-bomb was birthed, monstrous, into this world. And somehow I feel more implicated by this more than by being an American. Even though these events happened before I was born. But we talk about Robert Oppenheimer and Los Alamos as we enter the museum. And there are shocked to find not one mention of either name. No New Mexico. No father of the bomb. A great deal of accurate and interesting history, and from the Japanese perspective. Melted roof tiles. Photographs of disastrous ruin. But not our own guilt terrain.
I feel I need to apologize to someone but nothing here demands apology. Instead, the greatest focus is on peace.
At the neighborhood shrine after I bow and drop my coins in the box I’m surprised to have a Shinto priest appear and shake a branch tied with white cloth over my head. But I feel better. I can’t just leave the Peace Park and go looking for lunch without a transition.

the word for “gods”
and “paper”
sounds just the same

I buy
origami sheets to fold
cranes for a friend.

2 thoughts on “Hiroshima

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