The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Sunday, December 17

No More Hiroshima, Part 2 of 3

The remaining dome tower
and river where victims soothed their burns.
Sometimes stories can take years to unfold and be heard fully.

This story from Yukoh Tamagawa happened more than seventy years ago when the Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  

I was honored to be in his presence and hear it directly.  It changed me - and for the better.  Now I’ll try to pass it on to you.

We’re gathering at the Rissho Kosei-Kai's Hiroshima Dharma Center. It’s a place where a form of Buddhism known as engaged Buddhism is promoted through study, meditation and social justice work.

All Souls, Unitarian has developed friendships here with deep roots.

It began shortly after the city was destroyed by the Atomic Bomb.  Hearing of need in a elementary school only a few blocks from ground zero, the Church’s children gather a half ton of school and art supplies and sent them as a gesture of goodwill

A child's picture from happier times.
In return, the surviving children of Honkawa Elementary School sent paintings of happier times a generous thank you.

Take time to learn more about this amazing story - Picturesfrom a Hiroshima Schoolyard. 

It’s free for Amazon Prime and only two bucks for others. Well worth viewing.

Our small group with Yukoh Tamagawa and interpreter.
Today we’re in small groups and joining with Hibakusha (被爆者). This is a unique Japanese word that literally means “explosion-affected people.” 

At the time, I didn’t know it, but for some of the Hibakusha it was the first time they had the courage to speak of those horrible days. They were only children then….

Yukoh Tamagawa was thirteen. On that Monday morning in August 1945, 319 of his 340 classmates were pulverized or died within days of the Atomic Bomb dropping. 

He survived because the streetcar that he was waiting for had been delayed by air raid sirens. So he was still in the outskirts about 2 kilometers from ground zero.

Yukoh shares his story
Suddenly I felt a bluish flash of light that was like a spark caused by a short-circuit,” he shares.

“And then I lost consciousness. When I came to, it was pitch dark because of thick clouds of dust which had been raised from the destroyed buildings and which shut out the sunlight completely.”

He tells us, “I was blown 20 – 30 meters away from where I had been standing....I became aware that I was bumped on the back of my head. The right side of my face and the back of my hands had been burned and were blistering.”

Diorama of the destruction
from mountain ridge to mountain ridge rubble 
He stumbled around as the landscape gradually became visible. Familiar homes and shops were gone. They no longer existed.

He saw a man half trapped under a collapsed house. “He was floundering around and crying for help. I was quite at a loss as to what to do.” Yukoh tells us that he just ran away.

A shadow from an A-Bomb victim
burnt into granite
But so many other people were burned beyond recognition. He could barely look at them – so horrible the appearance.

“The sight of a soldier gave me the most intense shock,” he recounts. “He was badly burned all over with his skin in tatters... crying out groans of pain.”

About 12 hours later and after witnessing many gruesome sights, the thirteen year old boy found his way home. But at first his mother did not recognize him because of his burnt flesh. And now he was developing a high fever.

For days he struggled to survive and then….

A Korean came to his aid with a folk remedy. Daily for three weeks the Korean brought a liter of cow’s blood from his workplace, a butchery. And everyday as the blood separated in the bottle, the young boy drank the thick liquid composed of plasma and white blood cells from the top. This high quality protein gave him strength and sustained his life.

This kindness is remarkable because of the harsh enmity existing between Japanese and Koreans. They were enemies. Many Japanese considered Koreans to be inferiors, less than human. Like slaves, Koreans were taken from home and forced into labor. And yet, a Korean helped Yukoh Tamagawa.

I am very ashamed of having despised Koreans whose fellow countryman showed great kindness,” recounts Yukoh. “In spite of unfair treatment of Korean people, he transcended the boundaries of nationality and gave his warmhearted help bringing the best medicine available to me day after day for three weeks.”

This story resonates in our own world of boundaries, hatreds and fears based on racial and religious prejudice. I’m thinking...what might we do to heal our own wounds and sustain human life?

Yukoh tells us about the occupation of Americans that followed the Atomic Bomb.

My ill feelings for Americans was deeply rooted due to the inhuman act of dropping the Atomic Bomb. I thought that in general the Americans were frightful and brutal. So I hated them.”

Then in 1958, he had an accident. A US Forces tank truck collided with the jeep he was driving. He suffered compound fractures of the thigh.

Feeling responsible, the Americans wanted to evacuate him to Okinawa, an occupied territory at the time.  But Japanese authorities objected vigorously because no one was allowed to go there without a passport.

Yet the Americans took emergency action and transported Yukoh to an Okinawa hospital by helicopter.

I was in the hospital for forty-five days and had operation for compound fracture as well,” tells Yukoh…. “When I was given a blood transfusion at the time of the operation, a dozen American soldiers volunteered their blood to me.

Although I used to see Americans as horrible and hateful people, I have come to look at them in a new light since they saved me transcending nations and boundaries.”

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

There’s the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. It radiates from the epicenter of the Atomic Bomb's dropping. We pilgrims wander its grounds on a beautiful Fall day. We pause in prayer at memorials and show our respect with the laying of flowers. 

The Korean Memorial now has a special meaning to me.  Their story is often unknown, but remarkable none-the-less.

Inscription at the Korean Memorial

About 70,000 - both civilians and military-succumbed that day or within a few weeks.

Mass grave 
I pause at a mass grave where 
unrecognizable bone fragments and ashes are interned. 

A chill runs through me as I ponder them and another 70,000 victims who were dead before the end of the year.

I see children playing on a nearby school yard and think of Yuhoh’s 319 school mates who perished in an instant. I think of how many stories those lives would have had and now they’ll never get told.

There’s a clear message here. No More Hiroshima.

In writing this blog I consulted notes from our meeting, an autobiographical pamphlet of Yukoh Tamagawa’s experience and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum’s web site.

As my pilgrimage continued through the research and writing, I came across a painting by Kichisuke Yoshimura, an 18 years old at the time of the Atomic Bombing. I wanted to include his eye wittiness work.

But according to Museum rules direct copying is prohibited. So instead I offer this link  Kichiske Yoshmura Painting 

And I give my own impression inspired by his work. For me making it was like etching the message into my consciousness.  

No more Hiroshima. 
Please, no more Hiroshima. 

Saturday, December 9


So you’re going on a Peace Pilgrimage ...huh?  

With 24 other pilgrims from All Souls, Unitarian, Church in Washington, DC, my destination is Japan – Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto. 

Different culture. Different religions. And of course, confronting the evil of warfare and the Bomb.

I’m thinking that this can be a wake-up call for me. After years of retirement, I feel like I’ve been slipping into a rut of easy living. Days have a way of blending into mindlessness. Like, what exactly did I do last Tuesday?’s never too late to live more intentionally.

Like everyone, I’ve built a world view. What’s the stuff that shapes mine? Does it build walls or open pathways to learning and understanding? How do my eyes distort reality? Are corrective lenses needed? I’ve got lots of questions.

Already, our group is delving into the meaning of peace making especially in today’s troubled hate filled times. It’s raising even more questions. 

Is peace about going along to get along – a passive cordiality? Or is it more strategic and aggressive? What exactly does it mean to win the peace? Can there be a just war? It’s good to be confronted with these knotty questions.

We read from Lao-Tse.  He's considered the founder of Taoism.

We pause to write a prayer for Peace
and post it among many prayers.

If there is to be peace in the world,There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,

There must be peace in the heart.”

This ancient reading has insight, like a prayer.  And I think it’s still relevant in the 21st century.  

The gate separates secular from the Holy 
Today, we Peace Pilgrims walk with a Shinto Priest through the Meiji Shrine. It’s a sizable wooded area in the midst of busy Tokyo. Believers enter the gate and bow in a prayer.  They honor restorative powers.  

The Kami is here among the gods of nature.

Shintoism is ancient predating Jewish and Christian teachings. It’s woven into the history of the people living on this archipelago. They interacted with natural forces honoring their benefits as well as dealing with their destructive powers. 

Over millennia, they carried in their collective consciousness a way of life centered on purity, honesty and sincerity.

Shintoism is an optimistic faith, as human life is thought to be fundamentally good. They believe evil comes from evil spirits. Rituals of prayer, purification and offerings to the Kami are meant to check the spread of evil and give wellness.

Here two traditionally dressed children walk to the Shrine.  They come in gratitude for wellness and with hope for the Kami to watch over them.  

Before we enter the Shrine, we wash our hands and rinse our mouths. Life has a way of smearing our best intentions. 

At the Shrine we join in a ritual of purification. It is meant to remind us that Kami surrounds us – if only we notice and clear away the dirty film that covers our soul’s eye.

Our Shinto priest tells us a parable: “When we plant seeds in the ground, we say, ‘grow up little ones. Grow up good and strong.’ and so it is with the seeds we plant in heaven – the seeds of kindness, forgiveness, justice and peace. Grow up little ones - good and strong.”

Shintoism married Buddhism in the 6th century. At least that’s what it seems like to me. 

Instead of religious wars, the two came together and coexist in Japan. About 79% of Japanese consider themselves Shinto and 67% Buddhist. Of course the total is more than 100% because many consider themselves to be both.

It’s no problem. Consider this….While less than 1.5% are Christian, more than 65% of marriages in Tokyo take place in Christian chapels. Even the Vatican allows non-Catholics to partake of the sacrament of marriage in Japan. 

It seems like Japanese are born Shinto, die Buddhist and in between wed as Christians.

This may be influenced by the nonreligious nature of many or the religious tolerance emanating from 6th century coexistence. 

I find it most interesting, especially in a world where tribalism is having a resurgence.

Late in the day we travel to Kamakura, a region adjacent to Tokyo. We visit a Buddhist Temple where the Great Buddha has been watching over people since 1252. 

It’s massive towering four stories or 44.8 feet over tourists and worshipers.  Buddha dominates the area. I find a comfortable spot at the base of the figure to soak in the tranquility and mystery.

A family passes me by. The father looking at the Great Buddha and then at me. He says, “Great Buddha and little buddha.” I smile broadly as he takes my picture.

Of course upon reflection, there’s deeper truth. They say that within each person is Buddha...yearning to be known. 

We have choices to live towards greater enlightenment.  Instead of living for possessions and power and control of others, Buddha opens a way of peace and harmony and kindness. 

We can live to help others expanding love and bringing more justice, kindness and understanding into our world.

For me there are echoes from the Buddha in Judaism and Christianity. 

I’m learning to appreciate more about the diversity of our world.  Instead of judging, I'm trying to practice openness to our amazing connectedness. 

Recently, I discovered a musical group.  I hope you'll take a moment to discover and be inspired by them. Playing for Change. 

Their songs take me to places of peacemaking where Buddha, The Prophets and Jesus join hands.

Yes, I’m on a Peace Pilgrimage.

Tuesday, October 17

Our Local Art Exhibit - VanNess North, Washington, DC

It’s like woodworking. Check measurements twice and then cut. Take time.  Three completed and lots of small ones yet to do. But of course, I don’t have the saw dust.

I’m huddled over my art table cutting mats for my watercolors. In less than a week, I’ll be joining 15 other artists in a Biennial Art Exhibit at VanNess North, my apartment building.

It’s a chance for artists in our building to show their works and maybe make a few sales. My sales will go in support of local charities and social justice work.

I haven’t had too many showings, so each one is exciting for me. I’ve selected three of my larger paintings for the main exhibit.  

This one is entitled Just Goldfish. It evolved from

 one of my small paintings.

I’ve gotten into the habit of posting a watercolor on the door of my apartment. I like trying new ideas and techniques. 

A small goldfish turned out well and I decided to try a larger and more ambitious rendering. Here I learned a lot about tonal quality and blending colors. I think Just Goldfish has captured movement and gentle beauty.

Autumn Color is a composite from photos. Recently, I’ve been taking loads of pictures – many more than before. My smart phone makes it’s easy. As they say, the best camera is the one you carry with you. So I click away.

Back at my art table, I sort through the photos becoming more inspired. Often I’ll combine aspects of one with another or two. 

When folks ask, “Where’s that from?” I say a little from reality and a lot from imagination. In the process I’m learning more about composition.     

Here I emphasized color. I want to draw the viewers eye into the color both near and far. I played with reflections and gave texture to rocks and trees. My hope is that viewers will want to sit on one of those rocks and enjoy the splendor of autumn….

Who doesn’t love birch trees? One day I was clicking through images on Google and I found several that featured birch trees in the snow. I wondered if I could compose a painting of contrasts. 

Snow and shadows. “The darker the shadow and the brighter the light will be,” I thought.   

Winter Shadows invites viewers to slide down the snowy hill and jump between light and shadow. Pick up a few branches of autumn color and notice the contrast on distant hills. Can you find the hint of a pathway?

In addition to the main exhibit, artists are invited to submit smaller paintings for the art bins. Many of my “door paintings” will reappear here. Here’s a sampling...


If you’re in the Washington DC area, come check out the exhibit. An opening receptions starts at 6:30 pm on Friday, October 20 and the exhibit stays open through Sunday.