It's been said that good things come to those who wait. After three hours of multiple trains, this proved itself true when we arrived in Hiroshima from Kyoto.
We found our way to the hostel where we would be staying for the next few days; it was a tall white building reflecting the sun rays of a cold, yet clear, late afternoon. As we walked in, we noticed that there was a larger group of local students already waiting. They were students from Hiroshima City University whom had generously offered to be our hosts and guides for the day. After we introduced ourselves and checked into the hostel, the day officially started.
The first place we went to was Hiroshima Castle — also known as the Carp Castle — which had been turned into a museum. The castle, originally built in 1590 to serve the needs of the daimyō, or local feudal lord, had been turned into a four-floor museum. I noticed that the castle appeared quite young, only reminiscent of its age and role. I asked myself why; the other castles we visited had seemed to preserve more of their historical appearance than this one.
I did not have to go far to get an answer. There was a sign quite close to the entrance explaining that the castle and its tower had been leveled to the ground after the 1945 nuclear attack on Hiroshima. What was there now was the effort of the people to reconstruct and preserve their heritage and identity that had been so abruptly taken away from them.
I then went on a tour of the four floors and, as I reached the top floor, stepped out onto the observatory overlooking the city center of Hiroshima. I realized why Hiroshima is now called the city of peace: in the face of human atrocity, it managed to maintain its identity and welcoming attitude towards everyone who desired to visit.
After visiting Hiroshima Castle, the next activity was organized by the Hiroshima City University students. They took us to the city center to get some food. The group I was in, together with seven Japanese students, took us to a local restaurant where we tried a dish called okonomiyaki. Although called a Japanese pancake, it is more of a savory pancake with seafood instead of the pancakes we are used to in western countries. I highly recommend trying it. We also celebrated the birthday of one of our Luther students!
The night ended the same way the day started — full of excitement and an internal feeling of happiness.