“Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms.” Ikkyu Sojun
I travelled to Japan in April to spend time with my cousin Jenni, who was living there and teaching English. It was her Spring break, which meant it was a very busy time to visit Japan – when the locals were tourists as well. But it was also the time of the Hanami festivals, when the cherry blossoms bloom and there are viewing parties held across the country.
“War is the work of man.
War is destruction of human life.
War is death.
To remember the past is to commit oneself to the future.
To remember Hiroshima is to abhor nuclear war.
To remember Hiroshima is to commit oneself to Peace.”
Pope John Paul II
Last week, I recalled my visit to Japan’s charming Takayama. But there were two other places in Japan that left a profound mark on me – Kyoto and Hiroshima. Kyoto was the Japan I had always imagined – with its ancient temples, cobblestone alleyways and delicately manicured Japanese gardens – while Hiroshima was simply overwhelming. We stayed with a local family, who treated us like royalty, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty as we explored the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. But then I realised that the people of Hiroshima have a simple wish and that is for visitors to reflect on the importance of abolishing nuclear weapons and realize lasting world peace.
A version of the article below was first published in Brisbane’s Sunday Mail.
A tale of romance and reality
“Let all the souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.”
Cherry blossom trees bloomed in the park where the Cenotaph is located. It is merely a week since Hanami festivals welcomed the arrival of the famed cherry blossom, but now grey skies and light drizzle marked the blossoms’ fall, gone until the following April.
Yet a flame burned, flickering, refusing to be extinguished. Here in Hiroshima’s Peace Park the Flame of Peace will burn until all nuclear weapons have gone.
“The journey itself is my home.” Matsuo Bashō
Takayama in Japan is another one of those places that has stuck in my memory; I fell in love with this gorgeous rural town the minute I arrived. It’s located in the mountainous Hida region of Gifu Prefecture and is also known as Hida-Takayama.
I spent three weeks in Japan, travelling with my cousin Jenni, who’d been living and teaching English there. We spent most of our time in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, and by the time we arrived in Takayama we were both fairly exhausted. So this was the perfect place to slow down and chill out for a couple of nights, before heading back to the fast-paced Tokyo.
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” Molière
Several years ago, I participated on a charity challenge – trekking on the Great Wall of China – which was organised by the Cancer Council Victoria and Intrepid Travel. It’s been on my mind lately, not only because some good friends of mine are travelling in China, but also because my niece is currently battling with breast cancer.
Many of the participants on the charity challenge were taking part because of family or friends who’d battled cancer or lost their fight with it. My motivation was a little different as, at the time, I didn’t really know anyone with cancer. But I did want to do something worthwhile; to use my love of travelling, writing and photography to give something back to those in need. The article I wrote, and that I’m sharing here this week, was first published in Brisbane’s Sunday Mail.
It was challenging trekking on the Great Wall of China but, for me, the hardest part of the program was coming up with ideas to raise the funds. I can quite safely say that the six months prior to this trip was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. But then again, it pales into insignificance compared to the journey undertaken by so many cancer sufferers on a day-to-day basis. My thoughts and prayers are with all of them, but especially my niece.