There is a subtle and strikingly desolate beauty to this building – the only structure remaining after the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. The decision to keep the premises as a memorial and site promoting International Peace has been no less than a controversial one, but to this day, the A-Bomb Dome – as it is now dubbed – continues to reflect in the routinely calm river near Hiroshima’s downtown core.
And, not surprisingly, the peaceful park that surrounds the Dome, is a place where people from all walks of life gather for a stroll, a photo op, a memorial service, a sing-a-long, or a Junior High history lesson. Each day brings a new crop of visitors to the grounds: vacationers, locals, repeat visitors, students, second-generation radiation survivors, peacemongers – all here for dissimilarly similar reasons, but I like to the think a common bond is formed by everyone who pays a visit to this historical site.
And that is of reflection, whatever the reflecting may happen to be.
On reflection, of reflection, in reflection. A hard thing to try and not do when you are riverside gazing at the Dome’s remaining jagged composition amidst sipping a tallboy and listening to the quiet folk of a local’s early evening hymns.
On a Saturday evening a day or two, or three ago, I took in the stillness of the air in Hiroshima with a couple (they are a couple!) close friends. They will soon return to the United States after taking in all that Japan can offer in a year’s time, so our conversation that floated gently under the voice of a young woman singing in the distance was of the more potent, and of course reflective variety. We discussed how exactly unforeign this entirely foreign place has become, the concept of time in defined one-year segments, home away from home, and goodbyes that have been said and that are inevitably just around the fictional corner that will be so entirely hard to turn.
Our hunger for delicious Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki ended the riverside chat before things got too out of control emotionally. I was then reminded of something I had written about saying goodbye after first coming to Japan, and well, here it is (again):
I cannot avoid goodbyes that have not yet been said, and the goodbyes that have been said are ever-so-difficult to swallow. However, I have learned that I can and should not dwell on these goodbyes – past, present or future – as there has to be a hello before every goodbye, followed by another hello.
I know that when July draws to a close, and I ride home alone on the train from an airport in Ube after what will be the most intense “see you in three weeks” of my life, I will put on a song called “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine. Various songs by Sigur Ros, Mike Midwestern, Bon Iver, and possibly a Top 40 hit or two for good measure will follow. As I flip through these songs, I will look out at the Japanese countryside – the saturated rice fields, broccoli mountains, and intimidating houses – and smile through the tears knowing from that moment on, God will be bringing me that much closer to you. And no matter the distance, the clocks will continue to circumnavigate, and the calendar pages will continue to be torn one day at a time, bridging the gap that time has created, but can never maintain.