Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Winding down, Summing up

Winding down:

Our trip is now finished. Although we are excited to be back home, many great memories of China and Japan will forever remain. The people during the trip and the places we visited will not soon be forgotten.

We have been gone from Wartburg College for over a month. It is bittersweet to be home. Many of us have been writing in journals to remember some of those experiences that we don’t want to forget. In my journal, I tried to write less about what we did and more about what we noticed along the way. I hope none of us will forget some of those subtleties that make China and Japan so interesting and remarkable.

While preparing for our trip, we focused more heavily on Japan than we did on China. We were obviously excited to go to China and see many amazing places, but sometimes it was thought of as just a detour on our way to Japan. That was wrong. The incredible places we visited will not be easily forgotten and we soon realized how lucky we were to be in China. For example, playing on the Great Wall of China and seeing David propose to Brittany on the Great Wall was pretty memorable (youtube: 'David and Brittany engagement'). We also witnessed the history and impressive archaeology of the Terra Cotta Warriors. Still, the Silk Museum, Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square, Beijing Zoo, Temple of Heaven, and Jade Buddha temple were very special to us. I hope none of us took those experiences for granted. For many of us, this was a once in a lifetime experience.

Honestly, the history of China was so vast we found ourselves lost and confused quite often. But the fact that this country has so much history was fascinating. We could see this history in the customs, architecture, traditions, ceremonies, and people that we came in contact to.

One of my favorite parts of China was leaving the hotel early in the morning with a small group to go explore. Because we weren't able to have home-stays in China, this was a very exciting part of seeing China. China woke up to a new day. We saw businesses starting up, monks praying, people eating breakfast, vendors selling dumplings and egg sandwiches, father and son de-feathering and cleaning chickens, and people patiently waiting for the perfect moment to cross the eternally busy streets. We did it too and it was an experience that cannot be forgeten.

It would be a shame to forget one of the most influential parts of our visit in China. Our Chinese national tour guides were with us throughout Beijing, Xian, and Shanghai. Many of us mentioned that spending time with them made the trip not just possible but also very memorable and fun. Michael and Anthony were a huge blessing for us. They helped in endless ways and were always happy to teach us about the culture and history. They quickly became a part of the family and were missed very much when we left for Tokyo.

One of the best parts of the trip was recollecting spending time with host families in Japan. We had some unforgettable experiences in Japan because of these amazing people that shared their homes, culture, and values with us. It was hard to express in words how special these families have been. No matter how many times we said “Thank you” or “Arigato Gozaimasu,” it could never come close to conveying our real emotions and gratitude that we felt for these families. In this highly digital world, it will be easier to keep in contact. Thank you World Wide Web, Facebook, Gmail… and blogspot!

Part of what made our performances so special was that we had host families to play for. We also had friends to play for because we were able to meet and get to know the students from the schools that we were performing with. This trip has not just been about touring around and giving performances. We have found it to be so much more about the people that we had the opportunity to meet and friendships that resulted from them.

Looking back on the trip, it is interesting to note that we took just about every form of transportation you can imagine. We rode on planes, trains, cars, subways, trolleys, public bus, private bus, rickshaws, and ferry boats. I’m sure some of us did even more with our specific host families.

It is difficult to say everything that should be said. It would take too long unfortunately. But we don’t want to spoil the surprise of what Asia has to offer. If you can, go and experience some of these things for yourself. Maybe you can write a blog yourself and explain how your eyes have been opened to a whole new culture like ours were. The language barrier was an example. However, no matter what language you speak, we have found smiles, laughter, and music to always be universal languages!

Summing up:

We performed concerts in Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Ichikawa, Utsonomia, Kumamoto, and Uto.

We visited at least a dozen cities, including: Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Tokyo, Ichikawa, Nikko, Utsonomia, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Kumamoto, and Uto. (I personally want to include Nasu on my list because one of my wonderful host families lived in that town, about an hour north of Utsonomia).

We performed various joint-concerts with local school and community bands, heard performances from some amazing Japanese bands, had the opportunities to have clinics with Japanese school bands and play a couple songs together, played on the Great Wall of China, etc.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog. The Wartburg Wind Ensemble has enjoyed writing about these unforgettable experiences and sharing them with you along the way has been very special. If you have not been to Asia, we hope you will have a better idea of the people, places, and culture that make up China and Japan. Maybe you will have the opportunity to go someday. If you do, don’t forget to make your own blog so your friends and family can see it too! We thank you for taking the time to read and discover parts of asia with us.

Huge thank you to Dr. Craig Hancock, Dr. Eric Wachmann, Kiyoshi Miyamoto, Anthony and Michael from China, our host families in Japan, Concert and Study Tours, donors, family, friends, and everyone that made this trip possible.

Jeremy Idler
Wartburg College Concert Bands
May 2013

Thank You Band - Todd Souhrada

Doc and Eric, I just wanted to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation to both of you  for allowing me to attend your concert in Ichikawa and to spend a couple of days with my daughter.  After being away from home and family for so long I certainly appreciated the time I had to visit with Aren.    It was a fun time and I enjoyed every minute of it. I have been here for nearly a year and I have spent most of my time here alone and working.  Therefore, spending a few days with my daughter and then being blessed with an opportunity to watch, observe and attend your concert was an absolute treat.  I will forever be in your debt for the hospitality you all showed me.

I would also like to take a few moments to tell you how impressed I was with the young men and women that you have playing in your band.  I was absolutely taken back by the polite demeanor and respect that each of them displayed toward me.  I realize that I was an inconvenience to the group as an outsider but never did any of them make me feel that way.  The mature attitude that was displayed throughout my visit was very impressive.  I witnessed a young lady give up her seat on the train for an elderly gentlemen without hesitation, I witnessed their generosity when helping out their fellow band member with money issues and when the work needed to be done everybody pitched in and helped without asking or being told.  Most of all I witnessed a bunch of young people that come from different places work together to make such wonderful music and I have to say that each and everyone of them are truly blessed with a gift.  As a leader of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in my Navy career I have worked with many young men and women over my 15 years and I can tell you that I would stack up this bunch with the best of them.  I was truly impressed with their discipline, dedication and loyalty to their band, their director, their fellow members and to their country.  And it gives me a wonderful feeling to know that these individuals are our next generation of leaders in our society.  They are an absolutely wonderful bunch of young people and I cannot say enough good things about all of them.  I truly felt like one of the them even if for only a day or two which made the experience all the better.

Please pass this along for me and thank them for making me feel so comfortable while visiting and intruding on their trip.  I will truly remember those few days forever as they were special time for me and my daughter but also for the wonderful hospitality and generosity you all showed toward me!

I thank you for allowing me to be part of your Wartburg family for a few days and it gives me great comfort to know that my daughter has so many good friends in her life.  Being gone so long from home makes a man worry about his family.  I can tell you that after spending a few days with all of you I can honestly say that I will worry less about who my daughter associates with in her life.  If she picked a nice bunch of kids like you as friends I know she is headed in the right direction.


LCDR Todd Souhrada, USN
COMNAVFORJAPAN N2 Plans, Exercise,
Senior Watch Officer and Senior Military Adviser

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Performance for the Performers; "Hard Work and Dedication" b

From Sunday, May 19th

I cannot believe that this is our last full day in Japan. This has been a wonderful trip; it has been the trip of a lifetime! Alas, all things must come to an end, and this is the end of our group's tour. Today was a free day with our host families. We were free to do what we wanted to do with our host families, but it was highly encouraged that we attend a sporting event and ceremony at the Kakujo Middle School. Several members of the Wind Ensemble came to watch the event; our family stayed for the entirety of the sporting event, as one of their daughters was in the day's events on multiple occasions. The event, from beginning to end, resembled an American track and field meet, however, this meet was much more ceremonious. The day started with the raising of flags, much like an American sporting event would. Then, however, there was a presentation of flags, which I found to be unusual. The flags were of three different colors and were given to three students. Then I noticed that all of the rest of the students were wearing headbands matching the colors of the flags. My host father explained to me that the Middle School was divided into three separate teams by colors, and the school teams competed with each other, and not with other area schools, as would often be the case in the United States. The students also did a lot of bowing on command.


After the presentation of the flags, the opening ceremony took place. The ceremony was extremely impressive on its own, and was made even more impressive by the fact that the students were on a field completely made of sand and the weather was raining very hard. The first of the two halves of the opening ceremony consisted of an all men's group performing acrobatics and movements to the beat of a drummer at the head of the group. The performers went through several poses, formations, and personnel arrangements throughout the course of the ceremony. Most amazing, however, was the final formation in the boy's opening ceremony. Many of the smaller and younger boys were situated almost directly in front of the audience with their arms locked with one another, making what appeared to be waves rippling back and forth. The other boys divided and created three human pyramids, each seven boys high. This feat was made all the more impressive by the fact that the rain made this stunt much more difficult and dangerous. However, the boys and their coaches were dedicated to their hard work and determined to put on a show, and performed the stunt anyway.

After the boys' ceremony came the girls' ceremony. Their portion of the opening events was much more dance-based and was choreographed to a song which was played over the PA system. I asked Megumi-san what the song was, and she told me it was a "Song of the Fishermen," which made perfect sense to me when I looked closer at the girls' movements. They appeared to be sweeping back and forth, much like a fisherman would do while swinging nets ashore. All of the girls wore several different colors of robes, which added to the flare and to the "showiness" of the performance. Their choreography required a great deal of balance and coordination, which was also impacted by the rainy conditions. In spite of the weather, the girls performed their part of the opening festivities well, which then lead straight into the day's sporting events.

Only two events of the several which were scheduled were actually performed due to the rain. First, the students participated in a relay race. This took place like any American track and field relay race would, except that the relay was co-ed, which I found interesting. However, their running track was completely made of sand and, as a result, there were several slips, falls, and unintentional slides over the course of the relay. I felt bad for those who fell down in front of hundreds of people; they couldn't help the fact that the track was so slippery.

After the relay came the cheering squads for each of the three teams. Each team's cheer squad was allotted five minutes to perform their choreographed act. All of these acts were choreographed to a drum, much like the boy's portion of the opening ceremony. Both men and women were equally represented in the cheer squads' acts. Each team had its own squad and its own cheering act. The artistry and precision of these groups was superior to many American cheer squads that I've seen.

After a thirty minute intermission in which the students were able to clean off and reorganize, there was a parade of all of the school's sporting and interest clubs. Among the clubs were the band (which headed the parade with their instruments and music, much like a marching band), choir, softball, tennis, table tennis, running, swimming, and many other groups. As it turns out, one of my host sisters, Jun, was captain of the school's swimming team (which was awesome to find out!).

[Host sister Jun (left) and a friend]

[Jun and the Swimming Club]

The day's events concluded with a closing ceremony, consisting of a final presentation of the three flags and an announcement of the winners. As it turns out, all three teams were considered winners by the judges and there was no single team which won the day. All of the students were rewarded equally for their hard work and dedication. I thought this was good, as I didn't feel that any one team outperformed any of the others. The day's events were very well done and were astounding to say the least. It felt good to watch the fruits of another performing group's hard work, after doing so many performances ourselves. I was happy to have attended the event and was thrilled to have spent the day with my host family at this wonderful showing of talent.

What a great part of our final day in Japan this was.

-Levi Endelman

Saturday, May 18, 2013

It's never "Goodbye", it's always "See You Later"- Mollie Emerson

The time has finally come; we hit our last concert. 

This particular performance was jammed packed with lots of different acts. The concert hall in which we were at, Uto Shimin Kaikan Concert Hall, was beautiful. The acoustics were great and our sound excelled through the audience.
The performance started out with a brief Japanese play about growing rice and praying to the rice gods.

Following that, we witnessed an authentic taiko performance. This was fun to watch, but the taiko outfit was a little short on clothing.. But it was amazing!

After the taiko solo, we watched 6 different traditional Japanese dances by some fantastic women. It was everything that we had been researching in one performance.

Following the dances, there was a brief exchange of gifts and the city of uto gave us 5 plants to bring home. During all this, there was a set change behind the curtain. After the exchange, one of the local middle school bands played 3 songs for the audience. 

Then there was another set change. We were invited to play 3 songs with the community band! Their director conducted the first two pieces we played; Rock Version and Brass Rock: Pomp and Circumstance. Dr. Hancock conducted our last piece, it was a melody of Japanese songs and the community band director sang them while we played. 

Then there was about a 10 minute break while we set up for our final portion of the concert. By this time, we were all already hot and we knew the rest of the concert was going to be rough, but we were ready for the challenge. During the song Yagi-Bushi, all of our percussionist got to play on different taikos! It made the song sound amazing!

Peter and Jessie

During Stars and Stripes forever, Riko, a middle school student came out and directed us! It was fun and I think we made her life!! 

Brittany Manning directed Nearer My God to Thee and The Lord Bless You and tears were flowing. I will admit that I cried twice that night..

These seniors that are graduating are wonderful. They will be greatly miss and I'm glad I had them to look up to. Thank you for your leadership :) 

It is weird to be done performing now, but this group has had a fantastic year and I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to tour Asia!

-Mollie Emerson

Friday, May 17, 2013

Taiko Drums -Siri Hansen

Happi Times

One of the big things we did today, May 18, 2013, was centered around Taiko drums.  This morning I went with my host family to a Taiko drum museum.  We wore happi.  Happi is what you wear when you play Taiko drums.  My host family told me that each of the areas in this town had their own drum a long time ago and each of these drums was in this museum and we got to play them.  When we joined the rest of the students in the auditorium we had a Taiko demonstration done for us.  He played the drums louder and faster than I have ever heard anyone play. We each got a chance to try playing the drums (there were enough for about a third of us at a time) and we performed a small “concert” in three groups for each other.  There were three types of drums also.  One was giant—taller than any of us! Another you sit on the ground and wrap your feet around it and lean back to play.  The last one that was demonstrated was one that had a shoulder strap and a drum head on each side.

Hearing the Taiko demonstration and getting to play the drums was one of my favorite things we have done so far in Japan.  I have had a lot of people be really excited to see me (because I have blonde hair and pale skin) and many people impressed by our concert.  However, this was a great opportunity for us to be not only interested in their culture but also impressed by them.  One of our members tried playing one of the larger drums and broke the stick!  But he wasn’t even playing half as loud as our demonstrator! I was shocked by the amount of force used to play these drums the right way.  I think if we used that much force on the drums we used at our concerts at school they would break or fall over.  I can’t wait to see these Taiko drums used the way we learned today at our concert.

Uto Schools-Katie Aldrich

    This afternoon the wind ensemble traveled to Uto, Kumamoto. This city was founded in 1958 and has a population of about 38,000. Upon arrival in Uto, we split into four smaller groups, each anticipating different destinations for the day's activities. The first group visited with the mayor of Uto and the governor of Kumamoto. The second group went to a performance put on by the Kakujo Middle School.The second group participated in planned activities at the Uto Elementary School. Last, but not least, the group I was fortunate enough to be a part of had an assembly to attend at the Uto Higashi Elementary. 
      Higashi Elementary school houses 291 students grades 1-6. These students welcomed us with the waving of their homemade American flags. The assembly began with an introduction from each of the Wartburg students. Next, the Wartburg senior clarinet quartet (Erika Verberg, Brittany Manning, Chelsea Hill, Stephanie Reinert) performed three selections. The students all watched carefully with big smiles on their faces. On the stage, behind the clarinetists, there were two flags: the flag of the United States of America and the flag of Japan. The purpose of the event was to promote good relationships between countries of different cultures and the power of music as an international language. Therefore, the students of Higashi Elementary presented us with their music next. The students sang their school song and another well-known Japanese song. All of the Wartburg students were impressed with the quality of music that the students presented. The final portion of the program was a gift presentation. Several students of the Higashi Elementary school made each Wartburg student a newspaper helmet. This was a tradition of Children's day, which was celebrated on May 5th. The helmets wished upon us good health, and strength. We wore them very proud. After the conclusion of the assembly, the Wartburg students were bombarded by the Higashi students for pictures. We enjoyed taking photos with them and talking with them. They were incredibly excited about us being at their school, which gave us such a welcoming and heartwarming experience. 

Kindergarteners in Kumamoto!--Catherine Wilcox

Our final activity in Kumamoto was by far one of my favorite parts of the trip. We visited the kindergarten class at a Lutheran school near the Kumamoto Ooe Church. There were dozens of kindergarteners, all excited to see us. Mothers of the kindergarteners sat in the back of the room and watched the class. There were multiple teachers who helped control the restless children. At the beginning of class, the students stood and turned around to welcome us.

It was a very special day for the kindergarteners. Today, the class celebrated all the students' birthdays that were in April and May. Each student was called to the front and wore a hat with the face of Kumamon the panda, who is the mascot of Kumamoto. After all the kindergarteners were called to the front, our own April and May birthdays joined them. Dr. Hancock, having a May birthday, was among those who were recognized. The kindergarteners sang a Japanese birthday song for everybody with April and May birthdays.

The kindergarteners prepared Japanese songs to perform for us. Although we didn't know the words, we clapped and hummed along. Once they had finished, a group of Wartburg students went up front and sang for the children. We sang songs such as "Old McDonald" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." For the grand finale, we all sang "The Lord Bless You and Keep You" and the Wartburg College Loyalty song.

As a music education major, I enjoyed the visit very much. The Japanese kindergarteners were very much like American kindergarteners: restless, excitable, and very cute. They all enjoyed singing and dancing to their favorite songs and some joined our actions when we sang. I don't think anybody could help smiling when the kindergarteners greeted us or how much they clapped after we sang for them. This was an enriching experience not just for music educators, but for the entire band.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Concert at Kyusyu Lutheran College - Clara Davidson

After a fantastic first night with our Kumamoto host families, we all gathered back together at Kyusyu Lutheran College.  This is where we would have our first of three concerts today.  This college was originally established as an all girls high school in 1926, but in 1997, it switched to become a four-year college for both men and women.  Kyusyu Lutheran College is one of the two colleges that is affiliated with the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church.  
When we first got to this college, we attended their chapel service with some of the students.  It was pretty similar to the 15 minute chapel services we have at Wartburg College, except for the fact that this service was all in Japanese.  I think it's safe to say that the large majority of us have no idea what the message was about.  I thought it was interesting to see something that was familiar to us, yet in a completely different language.  The most difficult part about this service was the fact that they gave us song sheets to sing along, but they were written with Japanese characters.  We couldn't even sound words out, but we were able to hum along.  
The chapel area was also the space in which we would be playing our concert.  It was really beautiful with the stained glass and the big windows along the sides that brought in plenty of the sunlight.  However, the space was limited for this performance.  As you can tell from the picture, the percussionists had to stand in front of the stage instead of behind the last row where they are normally found. 


This space was perfect for songs like Song from County Derry and Near My God to Thee.  These slower pieces filled the room, which helped the songs to soar.  During Semper Fideles, our song that features the trumpets, they all went out into the audience to play their memorized part of the song.  It was so cool to see the reactions of the audience, and they really loved this interaction with us.
This concert was especially fun because there was a whole group of kindergarteners who came to listen to us play.  They were all so energetic and eager to hear us play.  It was fun to have such a young and lively audience there to listen to us play.  


For many of us seniors, this was one of our final concerts with the WCCB, and for all of us it was one of our final concerts as the 2012-13 WCCB Wind Ensemble.  It is definitely surreal how fast this year has gone.  I have loved making music with these people everyday, and I feel blessed to have had the privilege to travel with the WCCB across China and Japan this May Term.  This past month has been one heck of an adventure, and we are all looking forward to coming home in only a few more days to see all of our families and friends!

See you all soon!


Kumamoto: sites, food, and hosts - Sarah Wickett

Today was our first whole day in Kumamoto. So far it has been a fantastic city! The weather here is hot, but the city itself is beautiful–it has many trees and is constantly moving and thriving with its people, cars, and city buses. It certainly is a long way from Iowa, but is full of the same smiles and cheerful greetings.

One of the city's attractions is the Kumamoto Castle. The castle was built as early as the 1600s by Kato Kiyomasa, and now thirteen undamaged structures in the castle have been desginated as Important Cultural Property. It is one of the three premiere castles in Japan, and is an important part of Kumamoto (information from Wikipedia). On the way to Kyusyu Lutheran College, where we played a concert, my host family was kind enough to take my roommate and I to see the castle. We only stopped for a few minutes, but it was long enough to take a few pictures and admire the castle's unique structure. I loved being able to share that moment with my host family–it was great that we could see a part of their culture with them, and that we could take that photo together.

Our host family has been just wonderful. Last night they served us great Japanese food for dinner. We had "somen," which were white, thin noodles served on ice. We ate them by dipping them in a thin brown sauce that tasted like a mild soy sauce. In Japan, this is a tradition summer dish, and we both enjoyed it a lot. Another dish we had was specific to Kumamoto–it was a soup called "dahgo suru." It has vegetables and doughy, dumpling-like pieces inside a broth that tastes similar to our chicken noodle soup's broth. It was also very tasty. It was really interesting to see both Japanese and Kumamoto dishes, and both were very good.

The conversation at the dinner table was even better than the food. Although our hosts don't speak much English, we were still able to communicate with gestures, re-wordings, and their Japanese-English  dictionary. We tried to teach them to say words like "Europe," "volunteer," and "thank-you"–these are difficult to say since the Japanese language doesn't have the same sounds as English does. It was so fun to communicate and laugh togetehr about the language! Not knowing the language almost made it better–we could laugh at things more easily and laugh in delight when we understood each other. Every word was precious, and together we helped each other understand not just the words, but also our lives and hearts.

Kumamoto also has a type of mascot–his name is Kumamon ("Coo-ma-mone"), and he is a cute panda bear. At dinner last night, our host family presented us each with a small Kumamon bear keychain. They also showed us their Kumamon–when you turned him on, he would repeat everything you said. It was very fun because as soon as he repeated something, we would all laugh, and then Kumamon would laugh too. It was so cool that Kumamon could repeat everything we said, even though he is from Japan and we are from America. The laughter was the best part–no matter where people are from, we all laugh the same–even panda bears like Kumamon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hiroshima and Free Activity -Emily Hogan

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the final stages of World War II are well known. 

Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day. The Hiroshima prefecture health department estimated that, of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% died from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes.  During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries.  In both cities, the vast majority of the casualties were civilians.

Japan surrendered 6 days later on August 15, 1945.  The ethical role of the bombings and nuclear warfare are still debated.

The city of Hiroshima itself also has an interesting history aside from the second world war.  Hiroshima has been a city since 1889 and is the capitol of the Hiroshima prefecture.  The city's name means "wide island" in Japanese.  The city was founded in the Sengoku period in 1593 as a village by the warlord Terumoto.

During the Great War, Hiroshima became an important military location as Japan joined the allies and housed German prisoners of war.  This standing as a strong military base which began in World War I led to the United States Air Force targeting Hiroshima for the atomic attack in World War II.

During my free morning in Hiroshima we returned to the Memorial Peace Park that we also saw briefly the day before.  Experiencing the Memorial site was truly one of the most moving places I have ever been too.  A different blog entry has covered the park itself and the museum, but I will talk more about experiencing the Memorial Park on a individual basis.  Being able to go back to the park and museum for an unguided tour in smaller numbers allowed me to really reflect on a personal level.

I found it really interesting that the site and museum are both momuments to remember those who lost their lives on the August 6, 1945 bombing and also I call to World Peace.  The openness of the park made me feel almost hauntinlgy aware of the devestation.  That openness combined with the portions of the museum dedicated to ending nuclear warfare caused me to feel almost angered that it was mly own nation that chose to evoke such destruction and suffering.

Portions of the museum and plaques around the park called attention to the devestation caused by this atomic bomb, also calling specific attention to the United States Air Force's military decision to make the attack.  I did find it interesting that one specific room of the museum was a type of history lesson.  This section was a reminder that Japan has also caused many other nations and people's harm during war times throughout history.  The nuclear bomb was a product of the evolution of war fare itself, and so World Peace needs to promote not only nuclear disarmament but also peaceful resolutions to conflict in general.

The somberness of the overall experience was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  I am truly greatful I had the opportunity to experience the Hiroshima bombing site while on this trip.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hiroshima -Colton Thoreson

Colton Thoreson

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was created in Hiroshima’s city center as a memorial to the victims of the atomic bomb dropped there on August 6, 1945. The memorial park stands on the area that was the hypocenter of the blast, an area completely cleared of almost all standing structures and vegetation. The park was built in 1954 to memorialize the victims of the attack, of which there are up to 140,000, and to establish a memory of the horrors of nuclear warfare and to advocate for world peace. The park consists of a memorial cenotaph to the victims, which reads “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall never repeat the error.” The “evil” refers to the evil that is warfare. Also included in the park are 6 gates of peace, which have the word peace written on them in 49 different languages, the peace flame, which has burned since 1964 and will continue to burn until all nuclear weapons are destroyed, and children’s peace monument, to which thousands of paper cranes are donated to in the memory of Sadako Sasaki, who folded paper cranes until she died at age 12 after she contracted leukemia from the radiation. She did this with the belief that whoever folds 1000 paper cranes will be granted one wish. Perhaps the most famous monument at the park is the A-bomb Dome, the remains of the building almost directly under the blast that remains standing to this day. A museum is located near the entrance of the park that preserves artifacts from the blast and serves to educate people of the horrors of nuclear warfare.




We entered the park by the gates of peace and made our way to the cenotaph. The park had a very sorrowful feel, and as such, the band was very quiet. It seemed that the park had an effect on everyone, and all wanted to show their respects. From the cenotaph, we made our way past the peace flame and towards the children’s monument. Our original intentions were to present the cranes we had folded earlier in the year at that time, but as our luggage had been moved ahead to the next town without us, we had to make arrangements to have them delivered there at a later time. Instead, we gathered as a group and sang “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” It was an honor to sing at the monument and it felt incredibly right to sing at that time. Several members of the band had goosebumps and many had tears in their eyes. I, myself, had several times where I was almost to the point of tears while walking through the park. I would consider it as a sign of emotional maturity and another way of honoring the dead.

                        After we sang, we rang the peace bell there and proceeded on through the rest of the park. We stopped to look around when we came to the A-bomb Dome and saw the incredible destruction that the bomb had caused, and several of us stopped to reflect for a moment.

                After that, we moved on and entered the museum. Inside of the museum was many artifacts that had been destroyed or preserved from the bombing, and there was also sever models that showed the town center both before and after the bombing.
                Also in the museum was a world globe showing all of the current nuclear stockpiles, graphic images of the human damages a nuclear weapon can cause and, what I consider to be the strongest images of the museum, paintings of the horrors seen by some of the survivors. I feel it important that everyone is aware of these horrors, so some of the paintings, though graphic are included below.

    In all, this was an incredibly emotional experience for nearly every person in the band, and though it was incredibly tragic, I’m very glad to have had the experience. It most definitely changed the person that I am and changed my opinions on war and any type of violence, and I have a feeling that it did the same for many of my band-mates. The amount of respect that should be shown for the people who survived and rebuilt from such a horrific event caused by our country is immeasurable.

The Itsukushima Shrine -Liz McElligott

The Itsukushima Shrine is a Shinto Shrine in the Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan, most known for its “floating” Torii gate. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and dates back to the 6th century. The shrine has been destroyed several times over the course of history, but its current design dates back to the mid-16th century. The Torii gate at Itsukushima Shrine is designated one of the Three Views of Japan and is an immensely popular tourist attraction.

During high tide, the shrine appears to float in the water. It was built on pier-like structures so that it would be separate from the sacred island, and only the truly devout would be able to cross to the shrine. Before the shrine was built, people on the mainland worshiped the great mountain on the island from afar, too much in awe to approach the island. However, eventually some ventured to the island to appreciate it religious significance. The only people allowed on the island used to be religious practitioners, but now it is open for other Japanese people to live, and for tourists to visit. At low tide, people can cross the sand to approach the gate. Many visitors place coins in the cracks of the legs of the gate and make wishes, or gather shellfish during low tide. Locals often use the shellfish they gathered to make miso soup for their evening meals.

The Itsukushima Shrine carries great religious significance to the people of Japan. It was dedicated to the three daughters of the Shinto deity of seas and storms. The island itself is also sacred, and over the course of history, commoners were not often allowed to set foot on the island. The Torii gate appears to float, which symbolizes the liminal space between the sacred world of the shrine and the profane world of the people on the island. In fact, to retain the purity of the shrine, no deaths or births have been allowed near the shrine since 1878. Pregnant women are required to leave the island for the mainland as delivery approaches, and the ill or elderly leave for hospitals on the mainland. There are also no burials allowed on the island.

The island itself, located in the Seto inland sea, has long been a holy place for the Shinto religion. The shrine today preserves the same ancient styles of traditional Shinto architecture, which features contrast in color and form between the mountains and the sea.


It was easy to understand why our guide called it the third most beautiful place in Japan. The shrine took up the main view of the front of the island, so we could see the floating gate from the ferry as we rode into the island.  We made it to the shrine in the middle of the day, so the tide was rising. Low tide was at 11:30am, and high tide would be at 6:00pm. Some of us had fun watching all the little crabs scurry around on the sand before the tide came in!

While walking around the shrine, we stumbled upon a dance ritual that was happening. We weren't allowed to take pictures, but it was really cool to watch. There was a dancer dressed up and a Gagaku Orchestra performing. It contained some traditional Japanese instruments, like a sho and a ryuteki, some flute instruments, and two different drums. The music was very different from Western style music but really interesting to listen to. It was really cool to see a ceremony being performed, even if we didn't understand what it was for. We've visited a lot of shrines but this is the first time I've seen groups there that weren't tourists. We had free time to look around, so lots of us took pictures in front of the torii gate with the beautiful sea in the background. I loved Miyajima Island and the Itsukushima Shrine, and I would definitely go back in a heartbeat if I ever have another opportunity!


Liz McElligott

Miyajima Island - Amanda Schares

Miyajima island is a small island less than an hour outside of Hiroshima city and is just a short ferry ride from the mainland.  Though actually named Itsukushima, it is more commonly called miyajima, which is japanese for shrine island. It is most famous for its giant tori gate which seems to float at high tide. Because of its many temples and shrines, the island is considered a very holy place. As such, women were not previously allowed on the island and the sick and elderly people were taken to the mainland to die. 

Miyajima island is full of mountains and forests and is fairly removed from the city, making it a nice change in pace. Numerous deer wander the streets  and are tame enough to pet. If you have food though, they will not leave you alone.  We were able to see then main shrine in the island and then have free time to explore on our own.  There were many different shops lining the narrow streets. You could find anything you would ever want, from green tea ice cream to hand painted glassware.  One thing that was prominent in many of the shops were wooden spatulas.  Miyajima is well known for rice scoops or spatulas and is the home of the worlds largest spatula.  This spatula can be seen along the main shopping street on the island. 

Miyajima island was wonderful to visit.  The island itself was beautiful, with flowers and trees everywhere.  The many shrines made the island a very serene place that would be great to visit at night.  As we have been spending a lot of time during this tour in big cities, it was very nice to go somewhere that was much smaller.  We could have easily spent a whole day there, exploring the mountains and relaxing on the beaches.  Miyajima island is very popular tourist destination so there were many people there when we were.  It would be amazing to go to the island at night when the big crowds of people are gone and all the lanterns are lit. I had a great time visiting the island and only wish we could have spent more time there!