10.22.2009

Hiroshima Peace Ceremony


I know I’ve been a little MIA from here because I’ve been busy blogging about Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace. Over the past 11 weeks, I have traveled to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Yokohama, Tokyo, Honolulu, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles to meet with hibakusha and organizations committed to world peace.

In Japan, I attended the World Conference against A & H Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and not only got to meet with hibakusha, but also people from around the world who share a common goal – peace on Earth. What was really inspiring was to see so many young people passionate about world peace. You can read more about my experience here.

Of course I took lots of pictures while I was there, which is what this blog is all about.

August 6, 2009 was a hot and humid day in Hiroshima, Japan. The air was thick and the cicadas were loud. (I thought the crickets outside my window at home were noisy) Heiwa-dori (street) was blocked off as police with white gloves guided the throngs of people walking toward Peace Park to attend the 64th annual Peace Ceremony to remember those who passed away and to call for peace throughout the world.

Before the ceremony, a father explained to his daughter the meaning of the ceremony.

Students (and dignitaries) presented flowers at the Cenotaph.

Children folded paper origami cranes and others brought tributes to those who have passed away.

After the ceremony, thousands of people wait in line to pay their respects. Yes, I waited in line with them to pay my respects.

At night, thousands more gathered to release paper lanterns on the Motoyasu River (top photo) or place candles around the Genbaku Dome.

It was a busy day in Hiroshima. A day spent remembering a day many would like to forget. But we can not forget that day, nor the days that followed. We can not forget how devastating nuclear weapons can be. We can not forget how it not only destroys the land, but also how it destroys people’s lives.

The sentiment felt by most of the people of Japan, the only country to have ever been bombed by a nuclear weapon, can be summed up with this slogan for peace created by a hibakusha: No more Hiroshimas. No more Nagasakis. No more war. No more atomic bomb victims.

NOTE: If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to support my peace project, please go to the Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace blog and in the right hand column, you can read how you can make a donation.

8.31.2009

Welcome home Euna and Laura

on August 5, 2009, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were released from North Korean custody. while i was flying over to Japan, Euna and Laura were flying home to the US! yihaaaaa!

here is a video clip from Laura and Euna:


if the video clip doesn't work, please cut and paste the link below:
http://current.com/items/90672274_thank-you-from-laura-and-euna.htm

thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who prayed, sent post cards, attended vigils, mass emailed friends and showed your support in various ways for journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. as the great Martin Luther King said, "Free at last!"

6.07.2009

Free Euna and Laura

UPDATE: on August 5, 2009, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were released from North Korean custody. while i was flying over to Japan, Euna and Laura were flying home to the US! yihaaaa!!! WELCOME HOME EUNA AND LAURA!!!

thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who prayed, sent postcards, attended vigils, mass emailed friends and showed your support in various ways for journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. as the great Martin Luther King said, "Free at last!"

see their thank you video here

UPDATE: Euna Lee and Laura Ling have been sentenced to 12 years in a labor prison. "The North's Central Court tried American TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee during proceedings running from last Thursday to Monday and found them guilty of a "grave crime" against the nation, and of illegally crossing into North Korea, the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency said."

we now must work together to gain their early release.

On June 3, 2009, people across the nation gathered together at eight vigils to raise awareness and call for the release of two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling. this is one of the most important stories i have reported on thus far. together, we can bring them home. this is my story...

Hundreds March for Detained Journalists
June 3, 2009

Santa Monica, CA - There was thunder and lighting just hours before a candlelight vigil was set to begin to raise awareness for two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who have been detained in North Korea since march 17th. Organizers were worried that mother nature might put a damper on what was one of eight vigils planned across the country.

The rain didn’t come, but the people did.

More than 500 supporters packed themselves in like sardines at Wokcano’s outdoor plaza and overflowed up to the second floor balcony. Emcee Welly Yang had to ask twice for everyone to squeeze in to let in more people that were waiting outside.

Members of the Korean Veterans Association were on hand, some in full uniform. Other supporters bore signs that read “Bring them home” and “We miss you”.

Just hours after the vigil had started, the American journalists were scheduled to go on trial on charges of illegally crossing the border and unspecified “hostile acts”. The pair had traveled to China to do a story on refugees when they were detained by North Korean guards at the China and North Korea border.

Lisa Ling, Laura’s sister and a well-respected journalist herself, fought back tears as she spoke personally about her sister and Euna. “My sister is strong, but there is nothing hostile about her. Euna is the mother of the most angelic 4-year-old daughter, hardly a threatening character.”

Kelly Hu read a message from Roxanna Saberi, another journalist who was convicted on charges of spying in Iran, but was released last month after serving only four months of an eight-year sentence in an Iranian prison. Saberi wrote, “Laura and Euna, I pray that you remain strong and know that neither your families nor you are alone. I hope that a way will be found to return both of you to your families as soon as possible.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper conducted a live interview with Lisa Ling, Iain Clayton, Laura’s husband and Michael Saldate, Euna’s husband, via satellite. During the interview, supporters held their candles and placards high for the cameras to see in order to send a powerful message of love and support. Their hope was that the broadcast would be seen, not only by the American people, but also the North Koreans.

Grace Su of Santa Monica came to the vigil “to really support the families and really be here to show the collective support so that the media can see it, so that the US government would see it, that the North Korean government would see it and hopefully the verdict will be something positive and the girls will return home safely.” A sentiment felt by many.

From the beginning, the family had remained quiet due to the sensitive nature of the events and hoped the government could use diplomacy to bring the reporters home. But last week, Lisa got an unexpected phone call from Laura. Lisa said Laura’s voice was trembling as they spoke for roughly four minutes. “Li, it’s me,” Laura said, “I need your help.”

With tensions rising from North Korea’s renewed nuclear and missile testing, the families decided they needed to speak out. During that phone call, Laura said that the only hope that she and Euna had to be released was for both governments to talk to each other. Currently, North Korea and the United States do not have a diplomatic relationship and the only way they communicate is through a third neutral country.

By speaking out, the families hope that the two governments would keep this separate from the larger geo-political issues. In a statement released to the press the family appealed to both governments, “We hope that our two countries can come together to secure the expeditious release of Laura and Euna on humanitarian grounds.”

Vigils were already being planned to call for the release of Lee and Ling when the families decided to go public. Birmingham, Chicago, New York City, Portland, San Francisco and Washington, DC were all joining together to raise awareness to the journalist’s plight. Sacramento jumped on board this past Tuesday.

With candles still burning, the gathering marched through the streets of Santa Monica to Third Street Promenade. There was no chanting, there were no bullhorns, but they caught the attention of people on the street with the rhythmic beating drums of Bombu Taiko leading the way. And the group of followers grew.

Their final destination was a dinosaur fountain near Wilshire Boulevard. The thunderous sounds of Yukari Taiko filled the night air with heart pounding beats that drowned out the sound of the spewing fountain. It all seemed a bit metaphorical. In this day and age of high tech gadgets and instant messaging, our countries seem to be stuck in prehistoric times of one country trying to outdo another, when perhaps the simple solution would be to pick up the phone and have a dialogue.

Lisa Ling was touched by the overwhelming outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike. “Our families have been just so surprised but moved by how many people came out to support Laura and Euna. This is a total grassroots effort that was ignited by Facebook.”

People across the nation joined together in a unified show of support for two American journalists who just wanted to tell a story, but instead became the story themselves. Lisa ended her message with “As they stand in that courtroom, alone and afraid, we thank YOU for standing here behind them and not letting their voices go unheard.”

As of press time, no official word had been reported from North Korea regarding the fate of Lee and Ling.

for the latest information, check out the Bring Laura and Euna Home website or on Facebook.

to see more pictures, you can watch or click on the slideshow below.


Lee Ling Vigil - Images by darrell miho

5.29.2009

Tokyo : the amazing city, part 1

Tokyo ni ikimashoooooo! Let's go to Tokyo!

Tokyo is an amaaaaaaazing city…and it’s HUGE! This, coming from someone born and raised in Los Angeles, the urban sprawl capital of the US. Tokyo is by all means the definition of urban sprawl. A concrete jungle that makes Los Angeles look like a small town. A Manhattan on steroids, without the honking horns.

The ironic twist is that as much as I hate LA for being a concrete jungle, I love Tokyo for the very same reason! Perhaps it’s the newness of it all. There is so much to do and see that I would need months to explore the whole city. Perhaps it’s the cleanliness. I have yet to see a dirty bathroom. There are no unflushed, pee-sprinkled toilets. Sorry about the graphic description, but I think all the men know what I’m talking about.

Perhaps it’s the politeness everyone seems to possess. Even during rush hour when the subways are packed like sardines, everyone is still polite. Even when it seems there is no more room on a packed train, somehow the mass of people shuffle their feet to make room for one more and you can get on just as the doors close behind you. If they are sick, they wear a doctor’s mask to keep from spreading their germs to other people. One elderly lady even apologized to me before I sat down next to her because she was sick.

I know one thing for sure, I love the subway system and perhaps that is the best reason of them all. I don’t have to drive! All the other drivers and pedestrians can be thankful for that. I don’t want to drive on the wrong side of the road while trying to read street signs in a language I can’t read to save my life, when I can go to just about anywhere in the city in 30 - 40 minutes on the train, regardless of the time of day. The trains are GREAT! Unless you’re a female, then maybe not so much. They have female only cars because of the widespread groping that occurs when the trains are crowded.

To make riding the trains even easier, they have prepaid electronic pass cards Suica and Pasmo to make the subway even more convenient and takes the guess work out of which ticket to buy (fares are based on distance).

So what to do in Tokyo? Well, more like, what isn’t there to do in Tokyo? Tokyo is so big it has everything. You can spend months there and not do the same thing or eat at the same restaurant twice. Which is part of the charm of this vast mega-metropolis. I’m not a creature of habit, so I like to try different things.

So what are some of the ‘must see' things? I’ve been to Tokyo three times and spent a total of three weeks so I’m still a newbie, but so far my favorite place is the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market or what is commonly known as the Tsukiji Fish Market. It is the largest fish and seafood market in the entire world and covers more area than 40 football fields.

Tsukiji Fish Market is an unbelievable sight to see when it is running at full steam at 6 in the morning. Motorized carts zipping around, tuna auctioneers barking out prices and warehouses full of every seafood imaginable make for great pictures. But please be respectful to those that are working. They recently closed the tuna auctions to tourists because they were being too disruptive. They have since re-opened the auctions from 5:00 am to 6:15 am only. They now have security personnel and no flash photography is allowed.

The key is to go early in the morning. If you’re visiting from the US, getting up early shouldn’t be a problem your first couple of days in Japan as your body clock will probably wake you up before the sun rises.

Second, Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. It is the largest temple in Tokyo where locals and visitors alike flock to pray and make offerings. There are many rituals performed here at the temple that may appear odd to the unknowing. I thought they were odd until I found out why. Standing around an incense urn and waving the smoke into your hair is not my idea of pleasant. If I have clothes that smell like incense, the first thing I do is throw them in the washing machine. But in Japan, the smoke is looked upon as the breath of the Gods and will bring you good fortune. Someone please give the Gods some mints.

As you arrive from the south, you'll come across the Kaminari-mon (Thunder Gate), which marks the beginning of a string of souvenir shops along Nakamise-dori. If you need to buy omiyage (souvenirs) to take back home, this is a good place to look. They have a myriad of little trinkets that aren't too expensive and won't take up too much space in your suitcase. You'll also find pottery, kimonos, fabrics, fans, dolls and all things Japanese.

I have a lot more recommendations, but I’ll leave that for the next blog entry. After all, I need a part 2 if this is part 1.

Whatever you do, make sure you pack a good pair of walking shoes and a good map with train station locations. The public transportation system is great and will get you within walking distance to most of your destinations. If you don’t feel like walking, taxis, with doors that open automatically, are prevalent throughout Tokyo.

There are a few other great things about traveling in Japan. One is they have single rates for hotels. Double occupancy is not required. Woo hoo! While the rooms are smaller than a standard room, your wallet will be fatter. Another nice thing is there is no tipping. This is partly due to the spirit of the Japanese people and their commitment to impeccable service. It is their honor to serve you and it is understood that excellent service will be provided at all times and should not be rewarded. Keep in mind also when you are in a restaurant, they will not constantly come to your table to ask how everything is. If you need something, just say “sumimasen” and someone will come to your table. When you are ready to leave and pay for your bill, you have to call them to your table and ask. You are their guest and they will not rush you.

Until part 2, have fun! Tanoshinde!

5.20.2009

Come sail away

have you ever gone landsailing? if you haven't, and you like adventure and have a need for speed, then you should try it. it's pretty fun. actually, it's a LOT of fun! sit back and watch...

video

the cool part about shooting the video footage is my friend Nelson built this rotating seat, the XCP-1, that attached to the back of the landsailer and it works GREAT! our friend Ely was the first guinea pig and went for a spin, literally, in the seat. then it was time to try it with me buckled in and videotaping our friends sailing around the El Mirage dry lake bed.

Nelson and i got some good footage for our first time out. we're heading out again this weekend for another trial run. now that i tried it out, this time i'm going to do a little directing and get some better footage. hollywood, here we come! ha ha!

here is the cast of characters...the Landsharks...
(L-R) Nelson, Lynne, Sunhee, Jack, Landon, Ely, Hope, Esther, Jimmy, Susan and me.

4.20.2009

Miyajima


I don’t believe in love at first site, but after spending 8 hours exploring Itsukushima Island, commonly referred to as Miyajima (shrine island), I fell in love with this place. Miyajima is designated as one of the three most beautiful places in all of Japan. And I must concur.

Despite the hundreds of tourists that were sharing my newfound treasure, there was still a sense of serenity. Perhaps it was the feeling of accomplishment after the hike to the top of Mt. Misen and the panoramic view it offered. Or maybe the deer that have grown accustomed to visitors and will come up to you in search of food. I can’t really explain it. It’s just one of those places you have to experience yourself to gain a full understanding of the mystique the island offers.

Located in the Inland Sea in the southwest portion of Hiroshima Prefecture, Miyajima Island is a revered sacred destination where it is illegal to chop down a tree or bury the dead. The island is home to Itsukushima Shrine, which was first built in 593 and was recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1996.

As the ferry approaches Miyajima, you are greeted by the most recognizable landmark, the 50 foot tall otorii (great gate) that marks the entrance to Itsukushima Shrine. At high tide, it appears to float on the water and at low tide, you can walk up and touch it. So how many ways can you shoot a torii? If you’re me, quite a few!


It was a day trip and my main goal was to get one great shot of the otorii. My favorite shot came after the sun had set and most of the tourists had gone home. While most people tend to capture the beautiful red, orange and yellow hues of sunset, I like to stick around for when the sky turns blue and purple. I added a little fill flash to bring out the detail in the pine tree and stone lantern.

There isn’t a boat load of things to do on the island, but that is part of the charm of this sacred place. You can walk through Itsukushima Shrine, peruse the shops in the Omotesando area, visit the Miyajima Aquarium, take the ropeway (aerial tram) up the mountain to see the monkeys and hike to the top of Mt. Misen. If you're really adventurous, you can hike down and see several more shrines along the way.


But before you leave the island, you have to pick up a box (or two) of momiji manju, a Japanese pastry filled with red bean paste, custard or chocolate. Yum!

I plan to go back in the fall when the hills are a sea of red from the changing colors of the red maple trees. After all, when you're in love, you shouldn't stay away for too long.

3.31.2009

Obama, Japan : inauguration


if you read my story about covering the Obama inauguration in Japan on sportsshooter.com then you can pretty much skip this blog entry unless you want to see more photos. other than that, the text is exactly the same.

Since I was already heading to Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan to do some research on my hibakusha project , I decided to take a side trip and be somewhere different for the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States. It was surely going to be a historical event so rather than be one of a thousand journalists, I thought it would be great to be somewhere I could get a completely different perspective. So I made arrangements to be in Obama, Japan.

It was a crazy idea since I had a late assignment on Saturday night and it takes almost half a day just to get to Japan, another 5 hours to get to Obama from my friend’s apartment and they are already 17 hours ahead of the west coast. But I have never claimed to be sane. So I boarded my flight Sunday and arrived in Tokyo on Monday afternoon, spent the night at my friend’s apartment and jumped on the first train out of Tokyo station and 4.5 hours later, I was in Obama, Japan before noon.

After dumping my bags at my hotel I wandered the streets to see what I could find that was related to the soon-to-be-President Barack Obama. I went to the tourist information center just outside of the train station to get a map (in English) and found out there was a local gift store, Wakasaya, that sold “I Love Obama” omiyage (O-mee-YAH-ge : souvenirs). Cool! So off I went.

When I arrived, a Japanese photographer was shooting pictures of the omiyage. The selection was quite interesting. There were the usual t-shirts and stickers with the “I Love Obama” logo printed on them, but there were also hashi (chopsticks), hachimakis (headbands), senbei (rice cookies), manju (rice cakes) and bread-in-a-can. What? Bread-in-a-can? I still don’t understand that one, but it does exist.


Outside, a news crew was interviewing Sara Wall, an American from Santa Barbara, Calif., who was traveling through Asia for six months and decided to come to Obama for the inauguration. She said if McCain/Palin had won, she was not going back home until they were out of office. I guess lucky for her, she can go home whenever she wants.

Shortly after interviewing her, the TV crew interviewed the store owner, Tatsuya Sano, who is a big supporter of the Obama for Obama tourism campaign. Shoko Hashinaga, a reporter for TV Kanazawa donned an Obama mask and wielded a suit-on-a-stick while she interviewed Sano-san. It was obviously a very lighthearted interview.


Since I was semi-officially on an assignment with two newspapers interested in publishing my Obama story story, I had my friend in Tokyo arrange an interpreter for me so that I could get a Japanese perspective. I speak some Japanese, but not enough to fully understand a native speaker. So I met my interpreter at the train station and her friend drove us to the celebration at the Hagaji Temple 20 minutes away.

A funny thing happened on the way to the temple. The map I had wasn’t exactly drawn to scale nor did it accurately display the roads. You guessed it, we got lost. So as we’re driving around trying to find our way, I learned that my interpreter is a Japanese American from Michigan who was teaching English at a local junior high school and doesn’t really speak Japanese. Huh? Well, that is not going to help me with my interviews. Apparently some things got lost in translation between me, my friend, the vice principal and the interpreter.

And it gets better. After we finally arrive at our destination, she says that she is tired and she and her friend were going to go back home. Huh? I didn’t say it out loud, but I was thinking to myself how the heck are we (Sara and I) going to get back to Obama?

Well, I couldn’t really worry about that. I had other things to worry about. I was late and missed the beginning of the celebration and had some catching up to do. My new problem was everyone talks too fast for me and I wouldn’t be able to piece together enough Japanese to understand anything they were saying. Minor detail! Did I mention that I was doing double duty as both the writer and the photographer? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words, so hopefully I can at least make a good snap.

Luckily, my friend in Tokyo got an advance copy of the evenings events and translated them for me, so at least I knew the schedule of the events. Fireworks, hula dances by the Obama Girls and Boys and the ringing of the peace bell were on my list of things to shoot.

I had missed most of the speakers, so perhaps being late was a blessing. Up next were the fireworks. Cool. Fireworks usually make good pictures. Everyone then turns around and looks back toward the city. Darn! There are trees blocking the view and the bursts are a mile away and are just specks through the tree branches. Crap! One photo-op down the drain. Next up, the ringing of the peace bell.

I still didn’t have a picture showing the crowd, so I positioned myself behind the bell looking back towards the TV crews and the people surrounding the bell with a corner of the temple in the background. It’s clean, simple and gave a sense of place. Then someone walked around to my side and stands in my frame. My clean shot was gone, but at least they were wearing an “I Love Obama” hapi coat, so it actually helped make it a better picture. Yay for me!


The Obama Girls and Boys were next. They’re important because of President Obama’s Hawaiian upbringing and one of the newspapers running the story was the Honolulu Star Bulletin . I make some decent photos of their performance and then the celebration is over.


For me, it’s crunch time. I had to find a Japanese who spoke English! My first instinct was to approach the Obama Girls because I had questions about their hula performance and since they listened to Hawaiian music, I was hoping one of them spoke English. After asking 4 or 5 of them, I finally found someone who spoke pretty good English. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a heck of a lot better than my Japanese.

Next on the agenda, find an American. Sara was out, since I came with her. Enter Ashley Hayes, my angel in disguise, who happens to be an African American who works in Nagano and is bilingual. Jackpot! I got an African American perspective, she was able to find me another English speaking Japanese person and later on, she would serve as my interpreter at the inauguration viewing party. Woo hoo!

She really did turn out to be our angel because we got a ride back to Obama with her friend that she came with, but only after we lifted her friend’s car out of a ditch that she drove into when she parked her car. At least we were in Japan and her car was the size of a Mini Cooper and not a Hummer.

As we were driving back to Obama, I found out the real reason why my interpreter didn’t want to stay for the celebration. It turns out that Alcillena Wilson, Ashley’s friend who's car we just un-ditched, knew my interpreter and told me that my interpreter is a hardcore Republican and can’t stand Obama. So rather than suffer through the agony of an Obama celebration, she feigned fatigue in order to save face and not be subjected to any Obama questioning. It all makes sense now!

The last thing on the agenda was the inauguration viewing party at Hotel Sekumiya. Since noon Eastern time was 2am Japan time, I had several hours to kill before the viewing party, so I headed back to my hotel to start writing my story and editing photos.

After a few hours of work, I headed over to the viewing party. There were about 15 people seated around a flat screen tv in the hotel lobby watching the live telecast. The four Americans, Sara, Ashley, Alcillena and Lucia Brea, sat in the front row with a flag on their laps and Obama on their shirts. There were plenty of cheers, flag waving and spontaneous chants of “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!” There were probably just as many media people documenting this momentous occasion as there were celebrants.


It was quite the experience to see not only Americans but also Japanese truly excited about the events that took place that day half-way around the world in Washington, D.C. They stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to watch an American president get sworn in halfway around the world.

We really do live in a small world. What happens in America affects what happens in Japan. Japan is also suffering an economic recession. The Japanese people, not just in Obama, but all over the country, are hopeful that President Barrack Obama can do something that will not only change America, but change the world.

2.23.2009

hiroshima : the story of sadako sasaki

While doing my research on Hiroshima, there was a sad yet inspiring story that I came across. The story of Sadako Sasaki.

On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima killing over 70,000 people instantly, an estimated 140,000 by the end of the year and injuring countless others.

Sadako survived. She was two years old and a mile away when the bomb was dropped. Ten years later, she developed leukemia, as did many other survivors. While undergoing treatment, Sadako began folding origami cranes.

Japanese legend says that a crane lives for a thousand years and is one of three holy beasts. By folding a thousand cranes, the legend promises that you will be granted one wish. Sadako believed that if she folded a thousand cranes, she would be healed and free of the leukemia.

As she continued to fold more and more cranes, they became smaller and smaller. Some were folded using needles and had less than a half-inch wingspan. The number of cranes was no longer important as each was instilled with her hope to live.


On October 25, 1955, Sadako Sasaki passed away at the age of 12.

Sadako’s story has become an inspiration to children and people around the world. Her classmates began a crane folding campaign in remembrance of her life. Soon children across the country and around the world were folding cranes in memory of Sadako with the hope that there would be peace throughout the world.

Her friends and classmates wanted to do more, so they raised money to build a monument in remembrance of Sadako and all the other children who died as a result of the bombing and their hope for peace in the world. “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.” is inscribed on a plaque at the base of the the Children's Peace Monument.


Today, thousands of cranes are sent from around the world and brought to the Children’s Peace Monument and left in display cases at the base of the monument.

While my trip to Hiroshima was mainly to do research for my hibakusha project , I do have to eat and since I was there on the weekend and I couldn’t meet with anyone, I did take some time to do some sightseeing.

Of course you have to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Peace Memorial Park. The photos, displays, monuments and wealth of information is an eye-opening experience. Textbooks don't even come close to describing the living hell that Hiroshima became after the bombing. The death and destruction is unimaginable, but this scale model helps put it into perspective.


At the very end of the tour, there are video presentations where you can sit and hear first hand accounts of the bombing and the aftermath that followed from people who survived the blast. It is my hope to add more personal accounts from hibakusha living in the US, Japan, Korea and other parts of the world to the museum's archives.

While I was out exploring the city, I ventured upon a cute little cafĂ© along the bank of the Kyobashigawa River – the Oyster Conclave. Hiroshima is know for it’s oysters, so your darn right I was going to try some. I elected for the oyster lunch set which included oyster soup, oyster rice, oyster salad, pan fried oyster, oyster canape and of course a raw oyster. Yum!


Another thing Hiroshima is known for is okonomiyaki. I don’t know exactly how to describe what this is, (a Japanese tostada?) so when all else fails, take a picture.


While neither one disappointed, the oysters were unbelievably flavorful and delicious and I am told that winter time is the best time for eating oysters. Oishikatta!

Stay tuned for part 3…my trips to Miyajima and Obama.

2.07.2009

project hibakusha : a personal journey...

it's 5:45 in the morning and i can't sleep. i'm not sure if it's because i have ten million things going through my brain or because my body clock is all screwed up since returning from my trip to Japan and is lost somewhere in the pacific ocean. either way, i'm up and can't go to sleep!

my trip to Japan was in one word - incredible. amazing, fabulous and inspiring would work too. it was another whirlwind tour, my schedule wasn't quite as crazy as my midwest tour, but it was pretty close. i went to Tokyo, Obama, Nagasaki, Hiroshima and back to Tokyo in 13 days. this is my third trip to Japan, but my first trip outside of Tokyo. whoever thought of the JR Rail Pass is a genius!!!

while my first stop was Obama to do a story on the inauguration celebration there (i'll write about the Obama story in my next post), the main reason for my trip was to do research for my hibakusha project documenting the stories of the atomic bomb survivors.

after staying up all night filing my story and cramming in as much travel info as i could in a day in Obama, it was off to Nagasaki to visit the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (NABM) and the Nagasaki Peace Park.

i had four minutes between connections in Hakata (Fukuoka) to catch the last train to Nagasaki. thank goodness trains in Japan run like clockwork and the gate agents know the schedules and platform numbers without even blinking. after 10 hours of riding the rails and a short taxi ride, i finally made it to my hotel just before midnight.

the next morning was cold, overcast and dreary which fit the mood for the things i was about to experience. i hopped on the tram and found my way to Peace Park and Hypocenter Park where the Hypocenter Monolith stood at ground zero.

on August 9, 1945, 500 meters above the monolith, the second atomic bomb was detonated, killing roughly 75,000 innocent men, women and children and injuring another estimated 75,000 people. everything within a 2.5 kilometer radius was destroyed.

as i stood there in silence and full of emotions, i couldn't imagine what that day must have been like, or the days and years that followed for those who survived. the trip to the NABM would soon answer some of those questions, but yet, so many remain. who were these people? what did they do? why the need for a second bomb?

after venturing over to Peace Park and seeing the Peace Statue and many of the 50+ statues and memorials on display, i spent the rest of the day at the NABM meeting people and looking through old photos of Nagasaki before and after the bombing.

i was surprised with the access i was given to people and photos considering i had no appointment, didn't know anybody and spoke little japanese. everyone was so accommodating. i spent so much time there, i didn't even make it to the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims which was right next door. not to worry though, i'll be going back.

the next day i was off to Hiroshima, where i actually had some meetings arranged thanks to Kaz Suyeishi, a hibakusha living in Torrance, who has been so helpful with this project and gave me the names and email addresses of people that spoke english. without her help, i don't think i could have accomplished half of what i did on this trip.

i had four days to spend in Hiroshima, mostly because of the timing and not being able to meet with people over the weekend. the pace was a little more relaxed visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

the Flame of Peace burns on, never to be extinguished until all nuclear warheads are destroyed, and a warm glow bathes the Cenotaph for the Atomic Bomb Survivors. visitors from near and far pause and pay their respects at the Cenotaph, where the names of every person who has died as a result of the bombing is kept. every year on August 6th during the Peace Memorial service, the crypt is opened, and the names of those who have passed away the preceding year are added and sealed away.

while much of my experience in Hiroshima was not as moving as Nagasaki, perhaps because Nagasaki prepared me for Hiroshima, a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims brought the whole experience close to home and left me yearning for more answers.

inside is the name of every person who died as the result of the bombing. you can search through the names and see a picture and profile information. my paternal grandfather emigrated from Hiroshima before the war, so i have family i have never met in the area. out of curiosity, i searched the registry and found out that six of my relatives were listed there. i knew the possibility existed, but seeing their names and faces on the screen was a little more than i was prepared for.

this project has suddenly taken on a whole new meaning, a whole new purpose. it is sooooo much more personal now. despite its enormity, there is no possible way i can stop now. the journey has begun.

i feel extremely grateful and lucky to have met many people on this trip that are just as dedicated as i am to telling the stories of the hibakusha. because of their support, their willingness to help (because there is no way i can do this on my own) and this new found connection of the bombings to my family, as unfortunate as that may be, i feel like this is what my 43 years of existence has led me to.

the 25 years of taking pictures and the countless hours volunteering and helping others has trained me well for the road ahead. i still don't know where my journey will lead, but i'll never know unless i go. so go i must.

1.14.2009

digital is not cheaper...

you want it for what? free?

while many people see the digital age of photography as the greatest thing since sliced bread, i on the other hand, as well as many of my other photography colleagues, think otherwise.

while there are indeed some great benefits to digital - faster turn around, greater retouching abilities and instant gratification - the flip side is at what cost does this convenience come with? i'm not just speaking dollars and cents. i'm also talking about the deterioration of the industry as a whole (which i'll address in another entry).

there are so many negative sides that i really don't know where to start...or where the end is. one of the biggest misconceptions is that because it's digital, it's cheaper.

let me say this loud and clear...DIGITAL IS NOT CHEAPER!!!

while there are no film and processing costs and digital media keeps getting cheaper and cheaper, people often forget that professional photographers need to upgrade their equipment a lot more often.

back in the film days, i used the same two camera bodies and five lenses for over 10 years. fast-foward to digital. in just over 5 years, i have upgraded my camera bodies twice and my computer twice. thankfully, i have been able to use the same lenses. my laptop, however, is due for an upgrade within the year. add to that the cost of software and upgrades. as you can imagine, this will all add up into the 5 digit zone. give me back those film and processing charges...at least clients were willing to pay for those!

as a result of this digital-is-cheaper mentality, people tend to want it for less...or worse yet, free. people seem to think that because there are no real tangible costs to copying or transmitting digital files that they shouldn't have to pay for them.

think again.

while there may not be any tangible costs involved, there is still intrinsic value within each digital file. after all, if someone wants to use it, then it should have value.

a colleague of mine sent me this youtube video, which led to me to write this blog entry. although he's talking about a video interview, i think screenwriter Harlan Ellison pretty much covers the notion of giving your stuff away and why people shouldn't expect it for free.


any questions?