18 October 2014
Richard really felt we should visit Hiroshima. I could understand his sentiment, that as citizens of the USA we should visit the site and, well, just be there in empathy and solidarity with the people of Japan, and do something to symbolize our wish for peace in our time. Or soon.
But it takes roughly two to four hours to travel to Hiroshima from Osaka. Or more. The less money you pay, the longer it takes, obviously. Without the camper, as first planned, this was going to be either an expensive or looooooong trip.
Wisdom prevailed, as it sometimes does. We're not going to Hiroshima.
But I started making origami cranes before we came to this decision. The traditional practice of sembazuru, folding 1,000 origami cranes, comes from an old Japanese legend that if you fold the 1,000 cranes, you will be granted a wish by a crane. Other legends say that you will have long life, good health, fortune, all the usual things one person might wish for.
But the international peace movement adopted the practice of making sembazuru, leis or garlands of 1,000 cranes - and it all came from a story of a young girl in Hiroshima. Sadako, the girl, was two years old when she was exposed to the radiation of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. When she was 11 years old, she developed leukemia, one of the diseases prevalent among people exposed to radiation. Sadako began making 1,000 cranes so that she could be granted her wish, to survive this disease, but she died 8 months later.
Her death triggered a campaign to build a peace monument, and the Children's Peace Monument stands in Peace Park in Hiroshima. Approximately 10 MILLION cranes are offered each year at this monument. That's ten thousand sembazuru!!!
So that was our plan. I'd make the cranes. Either both of us would go and put the cranes there, or Richard would go with the cranes. (I should add that I only was making 100 cranes - this project started in Kyoto, so we only had two weeks to work on this.)
Other interesting thing to note is that the manhole covers in Hiroshima depict the origami cranes. Not that I'll get to see them, but I did look online.
Okay, that's the background on the cranes.
So today - being both the Jewish Sabbath and the day during the High Holy Days that we observe Yizkor, remembering family and friends who have passed away - seemed like the right time to find a Buddhist temple where I could hang our cranes.
We had no idea where to find a temple or shrine. We had several maps, but no indication where a temple or shrine was located in our neighborhood. But it was a beautiful day, and I didn't want to take a train and then wander around. I wanted to walk somewhere. (And our love hotel seems to work so hard at being discreet that there is rarely a staff person to be found.)
I walked down to the train station, and found the man who sells tickets to those of us who are confused by the machines. He doesn't speak much English, so I drew a picture of the torii, the temple gates that are so prevalent in Japan. Aha, he said, he knew exactly what I was looking for. He pointed on my map, then led me over to the large neighborhood map on the wall of the station. He showed me where to find the closest temple.
At this point, an older woman (read, the neighborhood yenta) came by and got involved. She talked to him, the two of them showed me to walk straight here, turn left, walk two big blocks, turn right, temple is there. Lots of Japanese and hand gestures, with the numbers in English.
Ms. Yenta decided to walk with me part of the way, until the first turn when she could point me on my way. I thanked her and bowed. She bowed. She saw my bag with the cranes, and asked (in English), "Dry flowers?" No, I said, origami cranes. I opened the bag and showed her, and repeated "origami." Ahhhh, she says, and nods. I gave her hand signs to show not 1,000, only 100. She nodded as if giving her seal of approval, we smiled and bowed again, and off I went.
I found a little shrine on my way, and lit some incense, but no one seemed to be hanging anything here so I didn't hang our cranes. (But it had a really nice gong!)
I wandered along, looking at flowers and houses and such, and finally found the temple. Turned out to be a lovely, large temple complex, with lots of torii and little sub-shrines. I think my favorite part was the row of bright orange torii leading up to the fox shrine.
Anyway, I looked around, took photos, said my usual silent hellos to the various statues, rang the bells (they didn't have a gong) and made a little donation.
I didn't see any other sembazuru, but there was a board with the little wood prayer plaques, all with large orange koi on them. There was a roof over the board, and large hooks for hanging the plaques. I figured this was the spot to hang the cranes, so I tied the garland up, took a few photos, said the traditional Jewish prayer for mourners, and left.
I know, quite a mix of traditions there. Some going back several thousand years.
But somehow, it just felt right.