At the last minute in February, we decided to spend 10 days touring Japan in March. If we'd planned for it, we would have booked a tour in the cherry blossom season (April) but as good fortune would have it, the cherry trees bloomed early this year—the second earliest blooming in history. There’s probably a message in that to not try and control everything in life—just go with the flow and wonderful things can and will happen.
Japan is a delight in so many ways. Firstly, the people would have to be the most considerate, respectful, helpful, gracious people in the world, at least based on our travels so far. They’re an example for all of us. Secondly, it is spotlessly clean everywhere. After a few days, I was intent on finding some rubbish on a street somewhere or a dirty footpath that hadn’t been washed clean that morning. It was not until Tokyo did I find a single piece of rubbish on a footpath. That’s quite incredible for a small island country with 127.5 million people and there are no public rubbish bins, anywhere! There are a couple of reasons for this: (1) the Japanese don’t eat and walk at the same time so they do not produce the usual meal time garbage, (2) the Japanese are dedicated recyclers so they take their rubbish home to recycle it correctly, and their process is far more advanced than ours in the west. They have separate see-through bags for paper, plastic, polystyrene, glass, metal, cans and bottles. Each has its own collection system and collectors won’t take bags that aren’t correctly sorted so everyone knows when you get it wrong—much shame to your household.
Our visit to the Peace Memorial Park and museum in Hiroshima was a sobering day, and more so as there is a Peace Watch clock in the foyer which shows the number of days since the first dropping of A-bombs in 1945: 24,702 days, and a second timer for the number of days since the last nuclear test: 40 days (North Korea, January 2013). So basically, after seeing mortifying images and reading unforgettable stories about the first A-bomb, we’re left with a reminder that this can happen again any time. A monument in the Peace Memorial Park says it “expresses the spirit of Hiroshima—enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and a yearning for genuine, lasting world peace.”