2009/02/27

Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part IV

This is the final installment of this series of posts. Earlier posts can be found here:
Dai Hiroshima Ondo
Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part II
Dai Hiroshima Ondo Part III


On our third day in Hiroshima, we revisited the Peace Park. This time we also took in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which has so much information and so many displays that we broke it up into two visits.

In an age when thousands of nuclear weapons, all magnitudes more powerful than the ones used on Japan, stand in silos, airbase bunkers, and submarines, ready to be launched within minutes, and some people actually glibly call for their use, it is good to learn about what the effects of these weapons are. The museum is an excellent source of in depth knowledge on that topic, made personal by the stories of victims and artifacts of daily life - watches stopped at 8:15 AM, the time of attack - melted bottles, even melted roof tiles - an intact lunch box still containing rice, which a mother found under the burned body of her fourteen year old son.

And recollections of victims, like these:

"A dragonfly flitted in front of me and stopped on a fence. I stood up, took my cap in my hands, and was about to catch the dragonfly when . . . ."

From Yoshito Matsushige, the sole surviving photographer who could only bring himself to take five photographs, "I fought with myself for thirty minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears."

And a this, “I went with my uncle to the charred rubble of his house, where my aunt had been. Near the back door, we halted. “Ah! Ahh…” We couldn’t speak. There before our eyes were the skeletal remains of my aunt, still standing. With large teardrops flowing down his cheeks, my uncle said, “Oh, how hot you must have been! I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” My uncle gently tried to clasp her skull with both hands, but it suddenly fell apart into pieces on the ground.”


The main wing of the museum as seen from the Peace Flame.



Looking from the museum over the Memorial Cenotaph, Peace Flame with the Atomic Dome in the distance.


The area that is now the Peace Park was a residential neighborhood of wooden houses. On August 6, 1945, people, many of them children, were busy demolishing some of the homes to make fire breaks in anticipation of a conventional bomb attack.

Atomic Dome


On our last day, we visited the Atomic Dome once more then headed north from the park toward Hiroshima Castle. The castle, origianlly built in the late 16th century, was destroyed by the Atomic bomb, of course, and was rebuilt in 1958. It houses a museum of the city's pre-war history. We were not interested in the castle itself, however, but something on the castle grounds that I had read about and was curious to see. To get out of the August sun, we walked part of the way through an underground shopping mall.

Guard house of Hiroshima Castle


The moat around the guard house also separates it from the castle.


If you enlarge the picture above (click on it) you can see a berm or mound above the wall in the center of the picture. During WWII this was a communications bunker.
Once open to the public, the bunker is now sealed and marked with a plaque.



This housed the communication room of the Chugoku Regional Military Headquarters. Chugoku is the name for the entire region of west Honshu from Kyoto to the west end of the island.

Soldiers in the bunker were assisted by Hijiyama Girls' High School students mobilized for the war effort. The atomic bomb destroyed telephone and telegraph lines, but the students, using the barely intact military phone system, managed to relay news of the destruction of Hiroshima. Theirs seems to have been the first report of the atomic bombing.

Photo of the communications bunker taken by a US Army photographer, October 1945


The bunker was 700 meters from the hypocenter. We slipped though a narrow passageway between two sections of the bunker, only to find a dead end alley with an incinerator at the end. On the West side I found two sealed windows. However, there was slit that was just large enough to allow me to take a photo of the interior.


Inside the bunker.


In addition to carp, there are lots of turtles in the moat.


After lunch I took a few last pictures of Hiroshima and some monuments.

The Gates of Peace, constructed in 2005, says "peace" in 49 languages.


Mother and Child in the Storm - a mother with one child at her side and another trying to cling to her back, bends forward against the blast.


Over the last century, the proportion of civilian deaths in war has increased dramatically. In WWI it was 14%; in WWII, 67%; in the Vietnam War, the US dropped the equivalent of one 500 lb. bomb for every person in the country and killed three million Southeast Asians. In the 1980's civilian deaths accounted for 75% of war casualties, and now, the proportion is over 90%. With nuclear weapons, the victims are almost all civilians. This post is not to lay blame on this country or that, but rather to draw attention to the universal suffering caused by war and the fact that innocents are increasingly its victims.

During World War II, the United States totally destroyed five cities - Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

'President Truman was aboard the cruiser Augusta, returning from the Potsdam conference, when he was informed of the United States' incineration of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb. Truman was exultant. He declared, "This is the greatest thing in history!" He went from person to person on the ship, officers and crew alike, telling them the great news like a town crier.'
~JFK and the Unspeakable, Why He Died and Why it Matters James W. Douglass 2008


The full realities of the effects of nuclear weapons were hidden from the public for decades, and a mythology justifying their use on Japan was spun, as cold warriors planned for World War IV. Only in the last decade or so have documents become unclassified which reveal the truth. To those still clinging to the mythology of necessity, I urge you to do some reading. Soon after WWII Truman threatened the USSR with annihilation over, of all places, Iran. The British were in southern Iran at the time getting oil leases. The USSR had its army in northern Iran, seeking the same thing. Truman summoned Ambassador Andrei Gromyko to the White House and told him that the USSR had 48 hours to remove their troops, or the US would drop the only atomic weapon it had left on Russia. This from the same man who supposedly bombed Japan only as a last resort to "save lives".

Unless nuclear weapons are eliminated, it will only be a matter of time before they are used again, somewhere. Ironically, perhaps, it was military men - those in charge in the various theaters of the war in fact - who opposed the first use of them. Today, it is retired (of course) military men who lead the efforts to eliminate them - men like Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.), who is Chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Jack Shanahan, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), but it will take public pressure on politicians to reverse the hold of the military-industrial complex which profits from these weapons systems.

Leaving Hiroshima, I was left not with feelings of grief so much as hope. It is a city that has emerged from utter destruction to become a vibrant place full of life and yet at the same time has not forgotten its tragic place in history and which works tirelessly to remind the rest of the world of that event until the day that nuclear weapons are no longer a threat to life on Earth.

We took a taxi from our ryokan to the train station. As we entered the parking lot and approached the line of taxis waiting to drop off their passengers, our driver shut down the meter to spare us from paying for waiting in line. Would that acts of compassion were practiced on a broader, larger scale. Peace.

A Hiroshima street corner with lots of examples of my favorite truly eco-friendly, recyclable, and sustainable transportation. ;^)

Heiwa Dori (Peace Boulevard). Considered extravagant when built in a cash-strapped rebuilding Hiroshima, it now is source of local pride and enjoyment for those who use it. Wide, tree shaded, landscaped strips with meandering lanes for bicycles and pedestrians flank each side. Pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, a motorcycle, cars, a bus and a street car can all be seen in this picture.


"We cannot and must not allow ourselves to have the message of Hiroshima and Nagasaki fade completely from our minds, and we cannot allow our vision or ideals to fade, either. For if we do, we have but one course left for us. And that flash of light will not only rob us of our vision, but it will rob us of our lives, our progeny, and our very existence."

~Takatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima City

2009/02/23

Lunar Eclipse As Seen From The Moon

Total lunar eclipses are not uncommon, but do not happen in a even pattern. There can be two or three over a period of 18 months, and then none for two or three years. A penumbral lunar eclipse is a phenomenon in which the Sun, Earth and Moon line up in tandem, hence the moon is in the Earth's penumbra, or, when you look from the Moon, the Sun is partially covered by the Earth (partial eclipse.) For a discussion of lunar eclipses with diagram, see my post "Lights Out".

Now we get to see what it looks like from the moon! The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and broadcaster NHK released unique footage of the the Earth eclipsing the Sun as seen from the Moon on Wednesday. This was taken using the SELENE lunar orbiter's high definition camera. (JAXA/NHK)

For more about the SELENE mission, see the posts A Moon Maiden Takes Flight - Princess Kaguya , Top Of The Moon, and The Earth Also Rises.

Below is the world's first footage of an eclipse as seen from the Moon. Of course, from the earth we see this as a lunar eclipse, but to a viewer on the moon, it is a solar eclipse. This is a partial eclipse, so the sun is mostly eclipsed by the Earth, but one part shines like a diamond on a ring. Beautiful.



The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and broadcaster NHK released unique footage of the the Earth eclipsing the Sun as seen from the Moon on Wednesday. This was taken using the SELENE lunar orbiter's high definition camera. (JAXA/NHK)

2009/02/20

Take Me For A Drive

I have this song video on a DVD that K gave to me back in 2002, and now someone has put it up on youtube.

"Drive ni tsuretette" (Take me for a drive) is fun for me on many levels. First of all, it is a song by Miki Imai, who is my favorite Japanese pop singer, but beyond that it was filmed starting in Lancaster, California out in the desert about 40 miles north-northeast of where I grew up - the San Fernando Valley. It is also just a couple of miles north of Palmdale airport where all of the Space Shuttles were built, some planes my dad designed parts for flew - SR-71 for example, and near where my nephew Lewis (the flying instructor) lived for a while.

The car in the video is a 1966 Ford Thunderbird, which is the same model car that my mother had when I was in high school and thus got to drive, except Mom's was silver and had a white "Landau" top.

Other trivia - note the parked 1957 Corvette when Miki pulls into the diner. Then there's little angel figurine she buys and puts on the dashboard which says "Music fills the heart with joy".

At the end, the movie on the marquee at the theater is "Killer Potatoes Attack", which I don't think was an actual movie, but there is a movies titled "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" and "Attack of the Killer Potatoes" was the title of a 1997 children's book. The Orpheum theater is located in Los Angeles.

Best of all, perhaps, the theater, itself is an historic one. Built in 1926, the Orpheum theater on Broadway was owned and operated by the Orpheum vaudeville circuit and featured performers such as Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers. Jack Benny is said to have met his wife "Mary" while he was working here. Mary Livingston was a lingerie salesperson across the street at the May Company department store (a chain I worked for just after graduating college). Special movie events are still held at the Orheum, sometimes with silent films accompanied by the completely restored Wurlitzer organ.

So, keep all that in mind as you watch, and enjoy the ride. Besides, in two or three years, when peak oil really grabs hold, a music video may be the closest you get to cruising Southern California in a T-bird...



An English translation can be found about halfway down this webpage: Imai Miki Lyrics

2009/02/18

Picture Serendipity

Last April, a fellow in Singapore named Clement, who was making a documentary film about the life of the Japanese Buddhist priest, Shinran Shonin (1173-1263), came across my posts about the temples Sainen-ji and Daikaku-ji here in Ibaraki Prefecture where Shinran spent a great deal of time and wrote his most important work. See "In the Footsteps of Gutoku - the Foolish Baldheaded One" and "Change of Heart".

Clement asked if he could use some of the pictures for the film and also if I had any pictures of Zenko-ji temple in Nagano where Shinran also lived for a while. Of course, I said yes he could, and yes, I did have pictures of Zenko-ji which I took when K and I visited that temple in 2003. But as the pictures of Sainen-ji and Daikaku-ji were taken in winter and with my old camera to boot, I offered to retake them in the beautiful month of May with my newer Canon camera. So, K drove us up there again and I photographed the temples with more greenery.


A beautiful May day near Daikaku-ji.
Click picture to see the larger image. Zoom in and note the person walking along the paddy, a small truck and the wind turbine on the mountain.


Some of my pictures were utilized in the documentary which has been translated into other languages for Jodo Shinshu audiences in Australia and other countries in southeast Asia.

Main gate of Sainen-ji

Then, last November, I was contacted by the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts and was asked if they could use some of my pictures from Sainenji in an article for their magazine 'Insight Journal'. Again, I agreed, but offered the more recent pictures which I had taken for the film. They then told me that the article was being written by Dr. Taitetsu Unno and his son Mark Unno. Now, that really got my attention!

I have heard Dr. Unno speak a few times in Hawaii, asked him (ignorant) questions over lunch, and also attended a seminar on the island of Lanai in October of 1987 (pilot's logs are good for looking up dates) for which he was the featured speaker. I even have some of his books.

Dr. Unno is the Jill Ker Conway Professor Emeritus of Religion at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. A priest ordained in the Shin Buddhist tradition, he is the author of Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn into Gold, Tannisho: A Shin Buddhist Classic, and River of Fire, River of Water. He is considered by many to be the foremost authority in America on the subject of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism.

Mark Unno is currently Associate Professor of East Asian Religions at the University of Oregon. He specializes in medieval Japanese Buddhist thought and the philosophy of religion. He is the author of Shingon Refractions: Myoe and the Mantra of Light, and the editor of Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures. He is also an ordained priest in the Shin Buddhist tradition.

(above mentioned books available from Amazon and other booksellers)



Dr. Taitetsu "Tai" Unno on Lanai, October 1987.

I am very privileged to have my pictures used in an article by these two. How wonderful that an inquiry from someone in Massachusetts to me in Japan should turn out to involve an article being written by someone I knew when I lived in Hawaii. Small world department. Anyway, if you are interested, you can read the article (and see my three photos) by downloading it as a PDF file from Insight Journal, Volume 31: Winter 2009 from the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. The article is titled "Shin Buddhism".

But this story doesn't end there. One of the pictures (Lotus pond at Zenko-ji Temple) that I sent in for the documentary about Shinran Shonin, is now on the cover of a new book - Liturgy for Birth, Ojoraisan - Compiled by Monk Shan-tao (613–81) and translated from Chinese to English by Zuio Hisao Inagaki, an eminent reverend and professor with the Horai Association at Ryukoku University in Kyoto. The Horai Association was founded by his father to spread Shin Buddhist teachings in Australia. The book is available by mail from Singapore by contacting stanton_tan (at) hotmail.com .

Lotus at Zenko-ji Temple, Nagano


Are my pictures worthy of such heady company? Not really. I think it is more a matter of the fact that there are not so many people who take pictures of Sainen-ji, Daikaku-ji or Zenko-ji and post them on the internet, especially in an English language blog. Regardless, I am very happy that they have attracted some attention and found a greater purpose, and that I was able to contribute in some small way to help spread the Buddha Dharma.

"The more ice is bathed in the light of compassion,
the more it becomes the flowing water of reality."

~ Shinran Shonin

Namu Amida Butsu.

2009/02/03

Photo Tag!

-Not be confused with "Guten Tag!"

Bonnie, our friend who is a Hawaii transplant thriving in New York City and writes about her kayaking and sailing adventures on the blog "frogma" tagged me for this.

In general "I don't do tags". However, I will make an exception in this case, since it is such an easy one. The instructions were: "go into your photo archive, pick the 4th folder in the archive, select the 4th picture in the folder, and write about it. A person then needs to tag 4 other people to do the same". The only hard part is choosing people to tag as I have turned down so many others.

I was pleasantly surprised that the photo turned out to be one I like very much.


I took this picture of the Haiden (worship hall) at Kashima Jingu shrine (the major Shinto Shrine in our area) in late 2005. This picture was later (as discussed in my post "Pandabonium Goes Poetic" June 20, 1006) chosen by San Fransisco poet Joanne Olivieri to be the cover for Ya'Sou! Ezine online poetry magazine.

I tag Moody Minstrel, Snabulus, NZM, and Olivia (who can't seem to settle on a blog name as she keeps moving around!).