When I was a high school freshman living in Hawai’i, I, along with a group of friends/classmates, entered a national Army sponsored science competition. Our project was on how to effectively and safely clean up the oil leaking out of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. We won.
Well, we won regionals and were flown out to Washington D.C. to compete in nationals. I remember being extremely proud and honored to be representing the great state of Hawai’i. The fact that people were always excited when they found out we were the team from Hawai’i was nice too. I’m not going to lie, being from Hawai’i made us stand out. When interviews came they always interviewed us. When pictures were being taken the photographers always wanted a photo of the girls from Hawai’i with the flowers behind their ear.
Whenever an interview would talk to us they would always ask the same question.
“What inspired you to do your project on the USS Arizona.”
I remember answering “Well, we really liked the movie Pearl Harbor”. I was trying to funny. I wasn’t.
In all honestly, and I can’t speak for my friends, I was always a bit confused why they would ask us that question. Why wouldn’t we do a project that had to do with Pearl Harbor?
What I’m trying to get at is that growing up in Hawai’i, Pearl Harbor and the atrocities of World War II, especially in the Pacific, were very real to us. Pearl Harbor was in our backyard. We had teachers who remembered the day of the attack vividly as children. We had grandparents who fought in the war and grandparents who were sent to Japanese internment camps. Growing up we knew what December 7, 1941 stood for.
But wars are never one sided, are they? Growing up I used to think they were. Now I know better.
My trip to Hiroshima was the one thing, other than eat at every ramen place in sight, I had to do while in Japan. As a military dependent, as an American, it was my duty to pay my respects.
The day I went to the Hiroshima Museum must have been the same day all schools in Japan took a field trip there. I remembered being annoyed. How dare they ruin the cinematic moment I set up in my head? And then I passed an exhibition focused on the school children killed by the bomb and my annoyance was silenced.
My time at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was humbling.
Like most of my travels, the two highlights of my trip to Hiroshima were the people and the food.
In Hiroshima they have something called okonomiyaki. I honestly can’t explain it. It’s made of layers of egg, shredded cabbage, noodles, pork, and a bunch of other stuff. The texture is different that what one would expect, as is the taste. Definitely not bad! Just very different.
One of the many perks of traveling solo is that when it comes to eating at a popular restaurants I usually get seated at the counter and usually get seated a bit quicker. This time the counter was directly in front of the action.
A couple minutes after I was seated a woman set down next to me. Though I decided to leave my American flag shirt and bandana at home this trip it was still pretty obvious I was an American. Maybe it was my rendition of “God Bless America” as a prayer before I ate? Who knows?
Anyway, the woman, who I would later come to know as Yoshie, started up a conversation with me. She was an English teacher at a local school. She grew up in Hiroshima and assured me that Hiroshima okonomiyaki was the best. Her dream is to move to Hawai’i and do something awesome.
My day in Hiroshima, I was reminded of the cruelty of man. Over food, beer, and good conversation I was reminded of the peace and joy that is possible and that now exists in so many people. A woman from Hiroshima, and a woman who grew up next to Pearl Harbor. Now, friends.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Much Love. Always.