Iceland’s ash casts an enigmatic spell over Japan
It seems that there has been nothing else on the news following the eruption of Mount Eyjafjallajokull
in Iceland, which was of particular interest to me because on the 10th April I was flying from New York across the southern area of Iceland on my way to Rome, since which time I have passed through the UAE and Singapore on my way to Japan.
My work replacement was due to arrive on the 18th April after a holiday in the Mediterranean, but the flight which he was on was diverted into Paris because UK airspace was suddenly closed. He managed to continue his journey by train, ferry, car, taxi and bus but was then stuck in England. My duty had to continue but there seemed little point in propping up a hotel bar with other crews, so I decided to turn the situation into something positive.
After an exploratory trip into Tokyo, it was Paul, our Editor in Chief who put me in contact with his sister and her husband in the city, and another friend who suggested I should jump on a train and go to Hiroshima to see his son, who I know, so my travels started.
The transport system in Japan is extremely well organised with instructions and information well displayed in English along side Japanese. Everything is clean and modern, and runs to the second! At short notice I decided to make the journey to Hiroshima in this once in a life time opportunity, and there was the famous bullet train a monster of modern technology, which runs on banked rails at steady speeds of 400 kph.
We sped along through ever changing countryside. Initially the skyline was of mainly high rise buildings which changed to two story properties once we were out of town. The new leaves of spring and the famous blossom of the plum and cherry trees, and the quick glimpse of a Japanese water garden. Industry is mixed with small allotments, and tiny houses, roads and rail lines raised from ground level to make everything fit, and above that cables and wires, because of the threat of earthquakes, and past the stunning Mount Fuji, white with snow against a blue sky.
I never met such polite people, and on the train the guards and girls who pass through the carriage with drinks and food bow when they enter and leave. They are so well dressed and smart. No graffiti here!
Familiar Japanese trading names on local buildings, and strangely a huge Union Jack flag. I wonder how there can be so many buildings and parking areas full of cars ,but seemingly no people in view, but many large span bridges arching across hill sides to join places together.
Through Kyoto where there seemed to be a lot of energy being used, for purposes that were not immediately clear. College students in smart suits with white shirts and blue ties, passed quietly through the train. I noticed each time they had left the train at a station they took their rubbish with them, and put the seat back in the upright position!
At last after four hours we arrived at Hiroshima, which today it is a lovely modern city of which to be proud. There is just one damaged building standing in a stark fashion at the waters edge which is all that it takes to remind us of such devastation and the Garden of Peace, there to allow some quiet reflection.
I took a 45 minute boat ride to Mijajima, now a World Heritage site. This beautiful island is probably 15 miles from Hiroshima, and there amongst the beauty of the trees and a 500 year old shrine wander the deer, quite happy to sit as people pass by.
My thought as I came away from Hiroshima was that all leaders of any country with any connection to Nuclear weapons or power should be made to attend the A-Bomb Dome and reflect. As all the plaques say this must never be allowed to happen again.
By Bob Derham