It's time for spring vacation in Japan, and in lieu of a proper holiday I'm making several small weekend trips. (Even though the students have no school, I would have to use up some of my precious paid vacation to get time off. Boo!)
One three-day weekend I boarded yet another highway bus to Kobe to visit Risa, my host sister from Kobe.
What do you think of when I mention Kobe? Most Americans know Kobe beef- a very fatty, marbled delicacy I was content not to partake of. Actually in Japan, Kobe is equally famous for its bread. Japanese bread is like eating a cloud- so light and fluffy! Wheat bread or any carbohydrate that requires much chewing is hard to find. In addition to beef and bakeries, Kobe hosts one of two Chinatowns in Japan (The other is in Yokoyama I believe). Kobe's Chinatown is quite small- only about one street long. I had forgotten that I'd been in Kobe before- actually the first time I came to Japan- but this scene brought back some strong memories.
Although Risa is fluent in English, she's actually majoring in Chinese at her university. What a talented lady! Not only that, but in high school Risa and I were both kind of nerdy: just your average spectacled teenager. While I am still definitely nerdy, Risa has turned out to be a beautiful woman. It's amazing how people grow up! We walked around the campus of her university. She said it's one of the smallest public universities in the country. All prospective college graduates in Japan have to write a 卒業論文 or graduation thesis. Risa, being from Hiroshima and having a great interest in Peace Studies, will write hers about foreign countries' thoughts on the atom bomb. This is an especially tricky subject in Japan. Most Japanese are eager to put all of World War Two behind them and embrace the idea of peace.
While being in Japan I have never felt a grudge towards Americans for our own act in the war, whether it is to be considered a terrible tragedy or a defensive maneuver. However, Risa says although many Japanese, especially in Hiroshima, learn a great deal about the atom bomb, most don't know about Pearl Harbor or Nankin. Like many governments, the Japanese government is quick to turn a blind eye to its own faults. I think in this time, while our own government and governments around the world are making difficult and terrible decisions, it is important to remember that governments and their people are not synonymous. Peace cannot be attained from the government down. It has to come from the opposite direction, from people making peace with people through travel, through education and understanding, and from an open mind. Apart from pleasure, I truly desire to travel more to make more of these connections, more bridges to make the world a more united and closer place.
We also visited Kobe Tower- not quite as well known as Tokyo Tower but still cool. It's shaped like a drum, supposedly. Here is a view of the view from the top of the tower. Kobe is also famous for its sea ports, and the tower is situated in an area known as Harborland. Harborland has shopping, an amusement park, and several lovely restaurants. It also has a park called Merikan Park (although I suspect they mean American Park).
Kobe was a fun visit, and it was really great to catch up with Risa. Our visit was short, but I felt really lucky to be able to keep this connection with my friend from so many years ago.
Unfortunately on Monday Risa had to go to Tokyo for a job interview, but luckily for me Kobe just a quick train ride away from Kyoto, my very favorite city in Japan. Look forward to reading about it in my next blog!