This is what we call a #latepost, aka I’m posting it late…life gets in the way. It happens.
My mom and grandma just came to visit in Okinawa, which was amaaaaaazing! We’d talked about them visiting since we’d moved here, so to have them here in the flesh was a little bit surreal. My grandma is originally from the Tokyo area, so she was over the moon to be back in Japan (she’d say stuff like “Oh! that sign says funeral home! so nice!”–just happy to see Japanese writing all around her 🙂 )
Fukuoka and Hakata
After a few days in Okinawa relaxing, we moved on. My grandma had requested to travel to Kyushu “before I die”, so Fukuoka was the natural choice for its convenience and access to tourist destinations. We stayed in Canal City, an area close to a huge mall and lots of restaurants.
After a few days of shopping and exploring the historic Hakata area, my grandma casually announced that any trip to Kyushu was incomplete without stopping in Dazaifu. I quickly read up and found that it was the historic capital of Kyushu island and boasted an elaborate shrine–but that it was also about an hour away from where we were staying. This trip was harder than any before because I was guided by the wisdom of an 82-year old, who knew that the best pace was nice and slow, with plenty of breaks.
Dazaifu was beautiful, and we enjoyed the shrine completely. We each bought omikuji, which are little fortunes for purchase at shrines, and each achieved “small lucky” (much better than the bad luck I’d earned in Tokyo) After a full day of touring, we sipped chai lattes at the unique Dazaifu Starbucks, one of the coolest designs I’ve ever seen.
How cool is this? Last summer, my mom hosted Makiyo, a Japanese foreign exchange student at her home in San Diego. When we visited Fukuoka, we were able to reunite. This is basically the whole point of foreign exchange programs.
Fukuoka was amazing, and after a few days, we were ready to move on to Hiroshima. In a cool 1.5 hours, we’d arrived– the amazingness of Japanese public transportation.
Our time in Hiroshima was brief; all said and done, it was only about one day. My mom, who was marathon training, got to see the city and run around the Peace Memorial Park, but my grandma and I waited to visit the museum all together. It was beautiful and heartbreaking.
We’d arrived at the most perfect time of year: sakura season. Cherry blossoms only bloom for a few weeks in the spring, and we were lucky to find them in full view across the city, framing the A-dome perfectly. The A-dome is noted as the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast, which turned an entire city and its inhabitants into nothingness, but mysteriously left the building directly under it intact.
Sadako’s One Thousand Paper Cranes
In the aftermath of the atomic bomb, many people, especially children developed leukemia. Sadako Sasaki developed this “atomic bomb disease” and fervently folded one thousand paper cranes according to an old Japanese legend that tells of fighting illnesses magically in this way. Tragically, Sadako died at the age of twelve, and became a sort of martyr of the children of Hiroshima. Her statue is featured at the Peace Memorial Park along with thousands upon thousands of cranes from prayerful well-wishers asking for peace on Earth.
With my mother and grandmother, I folded a paper crane with some scrap origami paper in my purse and said a prayer here. We were all touched by the sadness of the museum and park, and stood here for a long time, quietly soaking it in.
I was sad to say good-bye to Hiroshima–I know that there is more to do that we missed out on! We had people to see in Osaka, and I headed back to work the next day. After a great visit with two of my favorite people, it was time to lapse back into reality. Until next time, amigos!!