At the epicenter of the nuclear bomb detonated on Hiroshima, Japan, sits a very solemn memorial. The complex, known as Peace Memorial Park, includes a historical museum explaining the devastating effect of the atomic bomb on the area with very graphic descriptions and photographs.
On the edge of the park is a concrete building with a steel dome which survived the blast.
Japanese children typically make the pilgrimage to the site on a yearly basis and it is customary to attach colorful origami figures to large structures in the park.
Their teachers lead them in prayers for peace and the children are extremely well-behaved.
Guides conduct tours of the memorial in many languages.
After a very emotional visit to the park, we were sitting on a public bus returning to our hotel. A Japanese woman next to me tapped me on the shoulder and reached into her purse to remove a piece of paper.
As we watched, she folded a piece of yellow paper into a turtle.
After making my turtle, she made another simple origami bird for my wife. The entire time, she was explaining to us in Japanese how she was creating these paper designs. It didn’t bother her at all that we didn’t understand a word.
As we got off the bus, we thanked her with “Domo arigato” and she smiled, thrilled that we at least knew “some” Japanese.
Can you imagine a total stranger in the United States doing that on a public bus?
This was one of many “Only in Japan” moments we experienced during our month in Japan traveling around mostly on a three-week JapanRailPass.
Of all the trips we have taken, my wife, Meryl, still says that Japan was the place where she felt the safest.