Hiroshima. I was only there for a day. I liked it a lot, maybe more than Kyoto. Probably because my feet hurt so damned much and Kyoto involved so much walking for me. There was something about the Hiroshima vibe that was more comfortable — maybe vaguely more familiar — to me.
All the monuments to the dead… it’s depressing. Yet I have to say, I’ve never seen more concentrated discussions of war and anti-war sloganing anywhere (except maybe some radicals I knew in high school). Yes, Japan has the black vans with the right-wing idiots; it has bunkhead politicians trying to get Japan to have an army, and it has Yasukuni Shrine, which was, after seeing the trash propaganda in the museum, frankly a pretty digusting sight, and I can understand why Koreans are so very against it even more now than I did before. But besides Yasukuni and the black vans and the idiot politicians, I get the impression there’s a lot of people who hate war, who get it that Japan did evil crap in the past, that it’s a place they’re just not willing to let the country go again. I read somewhere there are 50 peace museums in the country; I’ve only seen two, but I was impressed with both. (The one in Kyoto, run by a University, was both more frank about the idiocy of the Japanese empire, and less depressing than the one in Hiroshima.) So the net effect on my thinking is that the kidn of hatred some Koreans find it mandatory to express towards Japan is simply too generalized, and that Korean society is shooting itself in the foot to whatever degree it is, indeed anti-Japanese, since it seems to me there are a lot of potential allies over here, and all that’s gained in ignoring them or pretending they’re not there is a free hot-button issue for politicians to use to distract the masses from, well, real issues.
Which reminds me, I found a neat book (posted home) on the Comfort Women by a female Japanese scholar. Skimming it, I found that she raised points that had bugged me before, but I haven’t often (ie. more than perhaps once) seen raised in Korean discussions of the issue: that Japan victimized others besides Koreans (ie. in Korean discussions it’s usually framed as a racial/nationalistic issue, not a sexism or exploitation of women issue), and that the absence of commentary within Korea for more than a generation after the fact — how many generations is almost 50 years? — suggests something fishy, sexist, and nasty on the Korean side of the water, too. Finally, and this is something that never fails to make me shake my head, she reports that the first journalist to bring up the issue was a Japanese one. Yes, his book was ignored. But he raised the issue. What were Korean journalists writing about? Was all discussion of Japan barred? Even if they were, why did it take until the early 90s to become an issue? Yes, Japan was the one using military sex slaves… but just because your oppressor has dirty hands, doesn’t mean yours are clean; and clean hands seem hard to find, given what the comfort women had ended up living like for decades after the war.
More on that later, I imagine.
Nao-shima is a little island among some other lovely islands. I was there today, just for a daytrip, to check out some museums there, and while I was less crazy about some of the art — especially at the Benesse museum, where most of the art did little for me — I was blown away by the buildings the art was housed in, and the park that the Benesse museum was surrounded by. That was really impressive, and I kept thinking how I would love to get something like that built somewhere too, someday. (Anyone got a few hundred million dollars sitting around?) And there were SOME pretty impressive works, I have to admit. I’ll write more on that later, too.
There was even a festival of some kind in the village the day I was there, which was very funny to watch. Some kids did a horrible fake-karate dance to some horrible Japanese techno-rock fusion traditional pleaserturnitoff music, everyone (okay, just the women and girls) were out in kimonos, and some guys banged a taiko drum for a bit.
But my feet are killing me. I’ve developed not just one but a series of blisters on the same spot on my foot — I’m beginning to wonder whether maybe there’s a bit of glass lodged in the skin and irritating it as I walk; also, the calluses on my heels are beginning to ache like they have never done before. I’ve been walking a LOT, and my sandals are all but worn out. (They seemed okay in Korea, but they’re flat, the leather and cork on one is beginning to wear through, and they’re just not comfortable anymore.) I need a new pair. It will have to wait till Tokyo — nobody has my size in Okayama, where I’m sleeping tonight. But by noon tomorrow, I’ll be in Tokyo. I’ll be okay till then, I think…