Personal Journeys

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

March 30, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

In Hiroshima, a place of contemplation

By Tom Potts

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

During a visit to Japan, my wife and I realized we could take the train to Hiroshima rather than spend a second day touring the shrines and temples of Kyoto. We boarded the Nozomi bullet train and traveled at speeds up to 180 mph to reach Hiroshima.

Because the taxi driver at the station -- dressed in suit, tie and white gloves -- understood no English, I pointed to a picture of Hiroshima's Peace Park in a brochure, and we headed there.

I was in the Navy when Hiroshima was bombed, and I was unsure of what my emotions would be after all those years. The Peace Park Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but there were few visitors that day. The "A" Dome, an isolated structure that was not totally leveled by the blast, still stands as a reminder of the explosion that flattened five square miles of the city.

There were no vendors, souvenir shops or any of the usual tourist trappings. Only a small shop in the museum building sold postcards and sandwiches.

Monuments in the park honor the blast's victims; one honors children who had been forced into slave labor before being killed by the bomb. Most touching was the Children's Peace Monument, with piles of multicolor, paper cranes at its base. Their makers were inspired by a girl, exposed to the radiation and suffering with leukemia, who folded cranes until her death. The Flame of Peace and the Peace Bell are focal points of the park, and visitors are invited to toll the bell.

The museum is divided into two sections. One depicts the nature and horrors of nuclear weapons; the other covers the events starting on the morning the bomb was dropped, Aug. 6, 1945.

A film shows the U.S. bomber Enola Gay on its flight, and a tape plays the radio transmissions from the plane's crew. A model depicts the city immediately after the explosion. Burned clothing, melted pottery, bicycles and other reminders of the personal tragedies are displayed.

Our time at the Peace Park was quiet and reflective. The stillness in the air, the few visitors and the occasional low-pitched gong of the bell were in contrast to the most calamitous event of our lifetime.

On our way back to the station, we drove through the modern city of a million people, a city of wide boulevards and modern buildings. We admired the courage it must have taken to rebuild.

As we sat back in our seats for the return trip to Kyoto, I felt a sense of fulfillment in having made the trip, and I was grateful to the Japanese for having turned the site of such devastation into a monument for peace.

Tom Potts lives in Houston.

My Best Shot

Steven Allen, Glen Burnie

A valley in paradise

During the fall, my wife and I usually travel to a location where we can see the leaves change color. But last fall we wanted to do something out of the ordinary. So we decided to visit the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It was a special place that truly captured the beauty of nature. When I gazed over this valley in Wailua River State Park, I said, "Now this is paradise."

Readers Recommend

Versailles, France

Beverly Hickman, Catonsville

On a trip to Paris with Catonsville High School students, we visited the palace at Versailles. A long walk on the grounds took us to a pastoral scene -- a village constructed for Louis XVI's queen, Marie Antoinette, where she could amuse herself by playing the role of a shepherdess.

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska

William Loper, Baltimore

My family and I were on an Alaskan cruise last summer and one of our destinations was the Hubbard Glacier. It was a cool, sunny day, and the glacier was beautiful. As we moved close to it, we were able to see many types of birds and seals lounging on the ice. It was an unforgettable experience.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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