Since meeting Keyu in Miyazaki, I have traveled through 3 more prefectures. I visited beautiful Sakurajima, an island with an active volcano in Kagoshima prefecture where I met a mysterious Japanese man who accompanied me around the island without saying a word. I saw Aso-san, an active volcano with the largest caldera in the world in Kumamoto prefecture where I met an Indonesian young man and a Chinese girl from APU (an International University in Beppu) and with whom I spend a great day at the mountain. I spend two rainy days in Saga prefecture watching movies on my laptop at my host’s place during the day and eating delicious Indian food at night.
Me with smoking Sakurajima
Mt. Aso' caldera
Finally I arrived to Nagasaki. I was staying with a young Japanese girl. She was adorably messy and super beautiful. She had two obsessions: dinosaurs and Middle-East. Her room was adorned with dinosaur posters and toys, her bed was decorated with long lianas hanging from the ceiling, her DVD collection contained every dinosaur movie and cartoon ever made. She has traveled to Pakistan, India, Turkey, Bangladesh and Iran to fulfill her middle-east crave. We had many stories to share over karaoke and late night dinners. Unfortunately, Asuka was busy during the days and so I set off to explore the city on my own.
Karaoke with my host Asuka and her friends
My first stop was a park near Asuka’s house. What I didn’t know at the time I visited that it was the epicenter of the atomic bomb explosion on August 9th, 1945. The park was simple. On one side a beautiful statue of a mother with a child and on the other, a strange structure which, from far away, looked like a bunch of bricks.
I stood in front of the “Mother with a child” statue for a long time. Getting on my knees, I prayed. I prayed for peace, I prayed for love, I prayed for victims, I prayed for their families, I prayed for those who inflict pain onto others. I got up emotionally drained but optimistically happy, wanting to change the world, one person at a time. I vowed to spread as much love and light as I possibly can. It is us who make the world the way it is. And if we can make a choice every single day: to be good, to smile at strangers, to spread the light - the world will reciprocate.
Then slowly I walked over to the brick structure.
Within 5 feet an awful smell hit my nostrils and then a huge wave of a powerful negative energy hit me. I couldn’t move. My limbs went completely numb. I felt death with every fiber of my being. I do not remember feeling this much horror even at the Holocaust Museum in Israel. Without realizing what I was doing I turned around and ran. I ran and ran and ran. Thoughts scattered, I couldn’t breathe.
The further I got away, the less I felt the grip of death. Finally, I couldn’t feel it anymore and slowed down. I had to recuperate fast. I didn’t want the negative energy to linger in me. Turning on the best uplifting song I could find in the iPod, I tried to clear my head. Remembering the faces, conversations and places I’ve encountered while traveling in Japan, I soon felt better.
The mood lifted exponentially within the next hour. Walking by Nagasaki Station, I caught an amazing performance of Okinawan Dance Eisa by a high school group of students. The beat of taikos (Japanese drums) transported me into the land of rhythm, chanting and freedom. I no longer remembered the park.
A few minutes later, a Japanese man in his early 40s approached me and offered to be a guide around the city and in turn he wanted to practice his English. I spent the whole day with Taizo-san. He showed me the beautiful hills of Nagasaki which reminded me of Hakodate and San Francisco. We ate a local specialty, chanpon, while teaching each other our languages. We discussed history and politics standing on top of a mountain, looking down at the whole city, marveling at how powerful the force of survival is.