My good friend Doug came to Misawa the first week of July. He currently lives in the UAE, but always comes back to Japan in the summer with his family to spend time in Kurashiki with his wife’s, Rie, parents. We spent a fun week together just hanging out and exploring a bit of Northern Japan.
A couple of days before he left, we got this idea that we should meet up again later that month when Mike and Judy came to Japan. The idea percolated a bit. Melissa and Rie were consulted. It did not take long for a plan to develop. But could we actually make it happen? You know we did! The plan became a reality in late July when we met the Rapleys in Hiroshima!
Our first day in Hiroshima was an emotional one. We visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and then walked through Peace Memorial Park, both are dedicated to the memory of victims of the atomic bombing during World War II. We toured the museum, read the stories, viewed the pictures, and our hearts ached. Such devastation. In the Peace Park, we walked by the eternal flame that will burn until there are no more nuclear weapons in the world and viewed all the paper cranes that current school children have left for Sadako…simply beautiful. We stopped and looked out across the river to take in the sight of the A-Bomb Dome and then walked over to the Bell of Peace and, one by one, we each rang the bell. For whom did it toll? Peace.
Back at the hotel, we had a drink in the bar, reflected on our day, and before we knew it, they had arrived! We met in the lobby and the Grahams were introduced to Doug, Rie, Lane, and Jacy Rapley, as well as Rie’s good friend Chiemi, who lives in Hiroshima. And Melissa finally met Rie, a meeting that has been in the works for twenty some years! All was right with the world and we headed out into the Hiroshima night for an awesome Japanese dining experience!
Dinner was delicious and as we walked back to our hotels, the rain began to fall. Minutes after I returned to our room, I received a text message from Doug:
“Hey Harley. The boys and I are going to walk around Peace Memorial Park before we go to sleep. Would love for you to join us.”
My reply: “I’ll grab my umbrella!”
I messaged Mike to see if he wanted to join us for this rainy walk in the park, but he was already comfy in his hotel yukata and declined.
I met the Rapley men outside their hotel, which was a short walk from mine. The rain was pounding down as the four of us walked over the bridge and entered the Peace Memorial Park. It was surreal and a bit eerie walking among the memories at night. The eternal flame flickered forever on through the rain, but the Bell of Peace was silenced by the nightly barricade. The four of us just walked in the rain, talked, and enjoyed one another’s company. A moment I will forever treasure.
The next day, we all headed to Miyajima Island. Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima, lies just off the coast of Hiroshima and is only a short ferry ride away. It is known for the giant, orange Great Torii Gate that lies just offshore the island. The giant torii gate is partially submerged at high tide and marks the entrance to the Itsukushima Shrine, which was first built in the 12th century. We made our way to all of the “must see” spots, had lunch, and before we knew it, we were back on the ferry headed to Hiroshima.
That night we all went to dinner at an Italian restaurant Rie had been wanting to try and had a great last meal with the Rapleys. Tomorrow they would be on their way back to Kurashiki and we would be bound for Fuji. The walk back to our hotels was the slowest any of us had walked on this trip. We did not want the night to end. But as all things do eventually end, we said sayonara to the Rapleys. Old friendships were strengthened and new ones begun. As we all look back, Hiroshima will hold a special place in all of our hearts. Doitashimashite Hiroshima!
More Japan exploration in part five of our family adventure is coming soon, so keep checking A Thousand Miles from Kansas…or better yet, subscribe and follow so you don’t miss a thing!
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