the Bullet train heads west, away from
I try to take some photographs. It’s
difficult. The train is
travelling at speeds of up to 250kph, and it’s raining. We’ve
just missed the edge of a typhoon, and according to weather reports,
another is on the way.
I want to take photos because I’m seeing a unique landscape that
helps me understand something of Japanese art.
The train travels across large flood plains where modern cities
rise and rice fields provide nourishment for Japans 130 million
inhabitants. Behind the
flood plains the mountains rise, layer upon layer, often with mist and
cloud making them look like they are the stage set from some fairy
tale film. Rather than
three dimensional the perspective makes the mountains look layered –
almost exactly as you see it portrayed in Japanese art – and more
recently by impressionist painters who, understandably, fell in love
with the landscape.
you enjoy nature then
is a must visit place. Many
of the shrines and temples are set in exotic locations, my favourite,
the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, a half hour tram ride south
city. The shrine is a
world heritage site, originally built around 593 with the main shrine
buildings constructed around 1168.
The Otorii gate is one of the most famous views in
, standing as it does in the Sea, providing photo opportunities for
amateur and professional alike. If
you want to see my efforts, check out our website!
a place of outstanding beauty that has survived the ravages of time,
nature and man. Yes
indeed, perhaps man especially, since it was so near to the place
where man first killed man with an atomic bomb.
is witness to that event. The
peace park, the museum, the many monuments, activities and efforts of
the town council a stark reminder of the horrors of war, along with
active efforts around the world to act for peace.
I interviewed two elderly ladies who were in their teens and
twenties at the time the bomb went off.
The younger one should not have survived.
A 17 year old school girl she was 1.7 km from the epicentre.
Her skin was burnt and sliding off her like an undercooked
pizza topping. Her lungs
were scorched causing her severe breathing difficulties.
Her father found her and carried her to a first aid post where
they told him to take her away to die.
She was too far gone. A
horrific story – but she has no bitterness as she tells it.
And she has a peace in her heart as she shares how her faith in
God carried her through the difficult years following August 6, 1945.
faith that came, partly perhaps, by another disaster reported in last
Times. Otokichi was a
14 year old sailor in 1832 when, along with 13 others, he sailed in a
boat laden with rice and pottery.
That was the last time he would see home.
A severe storm blew up sweeping the small craft way out into
, where, with no mast or rudder, he and two others survived 14 months,
using their skill to desalinate sea water and surviving on a diet of
rice. Eventually making
, their adventures continued across to
and then to
. The intention was to use
the three of them as bargaining chips in a bid to open up trade with a
. It never happened for as
the American merchant ship, with them on board, approached
it was fired on wherever it tried to make landfall, and had to return
what has this story got to do with a A-bomb survivor and her faith?
lived a German missionary, Karl Gützlaff.
Using Otokichi and his friends he learnt Japanese and produced
the first Bible translation in 1837, a version of the Gospel of John.
It’s an interesting translation, starting out, “In the
beginning was the wise thing. This
wise thing was paradise”.
Not quite what you will read in a modern translation, but a
start, and, although today Christians make up less than one percent of
the Japanese population, they are a respected group and are making a
difference. For instance,
one council official I met in
told me how much she had benefited from the education she received at
. Christians are making a
difference in the lives of those who are seeking for more.
each Shinto shrine you will find hand written prayers to the local
deity. My guide told me
that if the prayers are not answered the person will probably go to a
different shrine and try there until success is achieved.
It can be a long search, and as I headed back towards Tokyo on
the bullet train, passing again past those silhouette hills, and then
as my plane takes off running ahead of Typhoon
Chaba and its 145kph winds, I think of those words, translated
into Japanese back in 1837, but of such meaning to all of us -- the
ultimate answer to all of our prayers.
God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that
the world through him should be saved.”
promise for now, for me, and for eternity.