Day 9: Hiroshima

Day 9: Hiroshima

And here we are, arguably this tours ‘BIG DAY’ and it lived up to be so in so many ways for the orchestra.

To start it was a 6.30 breakfast call, loading the coaches with what we needed and going to Kyoto railway station for the 8.49 train to Hiroshima. Once again, we made it all on the carriage without leaving any member behind, lucky!

Then we had a stop at Shukkeien Gardens. ‘Shukkeien’ means small yet the garden itself did not feel small at all. In the middle was a body of water filled with turtles and koi carps. The orchestra all loved watching the turtles swim around together so there were plenty of photographs to be taken of the big pond. The entire place felt very serene yet there some sadder details within this beautiful place. Here there was a tree that survived the A-bomb along with a burial site for those who had sought refuge in the garden but did not receive medical care on time. 

A young woman writing poetry in the garden.

Once we all had taken our photographs and sat and watched the butterflies it was time to get on the coaches and head to the part of the tour we had all been waiting for. We travelled to the Hiroshima International Conference Centre who provided us with lunch boxes which we enjoyed taking in the atmosphere of the park itself. Across the park are many sculptures and design features. One rather poignant one that cannot be missed is the huge water fountain directly outside the conference centre. After the A-bomb hit there was desperation for water that just could not be relieved and to appease the spirits they have built a large fountain with constant flowing water.

After this, it was time for the museum which the Mayor had kindly gifted us all free entry to. The museum inside was much the same as the art outside, a tribute to those who lost their lives and to those who survived. The content was extremely harrowing. You could hear a pin drop and rather than picking and choosing what exhibit you wanted to look at every person was moving in a queue so that you could reach each section. This may seem an unimportant detail yet once reading the information and looking at the items on display, each painted a vivid picture of the individual lives that were lost or somehow against the odds continued after the event, how every long that would be. With painful detail, you get a very intimate picture of that morning and what the years to come for the people of Hiroshima and Japan was like – and just how this first A-bomb changed the course of history forever. Going through the museum was one of the most harrowing experiences for us on any tour. The museum had a real focus on getting home to us that these were full and very real lives that were destroyed in seconds and that it was important that we learn from the past and carry peace forward.  There were plenty of tears and there was a sense of shared experience between visitors regardless of where in the world they came from. One of the survivors went on to campaign for better treatment of survivors and destruction of weapons of mass destruction and his motto was “Hiroshima survivors know no borders.”

The building after the A-bomb that we played in front of.

Now we had a deeper understanding of what had occurred that dark day it was time to assemble at the Children’s Peace Memorial, originally thought up and campaigned for by children who survived that day for their friends and family they had lost.  The orchestra had the amazing privilege to have a presentation and recital at the monument that was surrounded by past presentations to the park of colourful signs of peace made from cranes. Enclosed by Japenese media, we made presentations of Peace Tartan, our crane garland and the music to ‘The Lament for the Children of Hiroshima’ to the Mayor. The performance by Mia Walsingham was so incredibly moving and played with such heart that you could not take your eyes off her. It was a high-pressure performance with the Mayor and cameras watching, along with the crowds of tourists and general park visitors. Through all this, Mia looked so calm and graceful. Every single member of our orchestra was full of pride for how she played that song and for how she conducted herself. After all, we had seen in the museum, hearing the song at the epicenter of the bomb was overwhelming. We are certain she has done everybody at home proud and the nation as a whole, as a young woman playing her violin for peace.

After her performance and the presentations, some other players joined her in playing at the river, again a site that we had read much about, in front of the famous building that remained almost intact after the blast.  It was really humid and all the players did themselves proud. Then it was time for some interviews by the media who were asking all sorts of questions; including what the peace tartan represented and how we felt being there representing Scotland.

The conference centre fed us a lovely dinner after our emotional and busy day, where we could all come back together and share our thoughts from our day.

Tiredly, we made it back to the Hiroshima Station, and as I type this, rather emotionally, we are on the Shinkansen back to Kyoto for one more night. Tonight after this BIG DAY, it is time to pack so that we can make our way back to enjoy some more time in Tokyo. We are supposed to be having supper when we return so hopefully we do not all fall asleep on the bullet train and miss our stop!

I am sure that today will be iconic for the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra. It will be one for our history books and our thoughts from today will be carried with us forever. Today, in particular, has proved that trips such as this are important, not just for a treat or for a concert, but for joining people across the world together through empathy and in our case, music. 

AFO standing proudly with the Mayor in the Peace Park

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