This past weekend, my church (All Souls Unitarian) welcomed a delegation from the Roshi Kosei-Kai (RKK) Hiroshima Dharma Center. Some of us had visited them in August 2014 and experienced the "radical hospitality" of this Buddhist congregation.
The Japanese guests arrived Friday afternoon (November 6) and we had a welcoming reception for them at All Souls Church. I met the tow guests who would stay with me in my home and I instantly liked them. They are a couple--Yoshinobu and Kaori Takayama. I didn't take as many pictures as I wish I had, but above is a picture of them at my house for dinner. They are on the left. As you can see, Louisa's family joined us. We also had an interpreter, Davon Collins, who is in the next picture:
Before the dinner, we went to the National Arboretum and viewed a bonsai that had survived the Hiroshima bomb and was donated to the Arboretum during the Bicentennial. Other members of the Japanese delegation joined us, and I was charmed by how they posed with this precious bonsai.
The author of a book (The Peace Tree: The Little Tree With the Big Story) about this bonsai also joined us. That was fun because she had done a lot of research and was very knowledgeable about its history.
On Saturday, the Japanese guests had a bus tour of Washington DC and then we joined them at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (Udvar-Hazey campus) to see the Enola Gay. We had a little time to reflect on peace and reconciliation. I had never been to that museum, and found that it was very interesting--well worth going back again. It was special to share this moment with our Hiroshima guests, one of who is a survivor of the bombing and many of whom had family members affected. This is a picture of the Enola Gay.
The plane is large, and dominates the area where it is displayed, but it evokes a lot of shame and grief from me. We reunited with the Takayamas and took them to their hotel that night.
The church service on Sunday morning was very moving. Reverend Rob Hardies, our minister, and the Reverend Kotaro Suzuki gave a joint sermon on "Peace in the World, Peace in the Heart." The reality of Hiroshima is that it gave impetus to those who fully understand the threat of nuclear war to refuse to endorse any use of nuclear weapons. The issues are too complicated to address here. The texts of both sermons will be available on the All Souls Church website. Here's a picture of Reverend Suyzuki in the pulpit:
You might recognize him from the picture with the bonsai at the arboretum....and also because he looks like Colonel Sanders! His sermon was very moving because he brought the truth of Hiroshima to us.
After the services (there are two each Sunday) we had a program about "Peacemaking, Nuclear Disarmament, and Nuclear Non-Proliferation." It included a talk from the hibukusha (survivor of the nuclear bomb) as well as others involved in current activities regarding peace. Again, too much information to put into a blog....but, if you are interested, google "Peter Kuznick, Ph.D. and Director of the Nuclear Policy Institute at American University; Bruce Knotts, Director, Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, UUA; and/or Kevin Martin, Executive Director, Peace Action--National. I heard the presentations but had to miss the discussion because I had to help set up for a Thanksgiving dinner for our guests.
The dinner was a fitting end to a great weekend. We had turkey and all the fixings plus more pies than could be consumed. There was a band and the Hiroshima guests sang some songs. I was particularly enchanted by Kaori Takayama using hand signs when the group was singing.
It was a good weekend, filled with the hope for Peace that is typical of the people of Hiroshima. My hope is that I can visit them again and that my Japanese will be better.