Sunday, June 8, 2008


A-Dome Model at the Peace Memorial Museum

Her lunch with the curator was splendid. Yukie had worked at the New Museum for four years, where elin had worked in the early 1990s. They knew the same wonderful security guards. She is the new head curator and has done some fast and great changes: transformed the name and logo from the incomprehensible HCMCA to Hiroshima MOCA; scheduled the openings at night instead of at 9:30 in the morning; painted the drab fabric walls white; opened a little book and gift shop with Kusama and Yanagi stuff; but most of all she will open her first big show while they are here – about the A-bomb that will include the black and white photographs of the Peace Memorial Museum collection by Hiromi Tsuchida (who will be at the opening!) and newer ones, in color, by a woman photographer. It strikes her how much more organically political everything is here that is related to art. Yukie talks about how the A-dome has become a capitalist tourist attraction rather than a true symbol and beacon for peace – this is also part of the premise of her upcoming show. She likes Yukie a lot. She is from Tokyo and says that the food, especially the fish, is far superior in Hiroshima than in Tokyo. The fish in Tokyo are big, from the Pacific, tasteless. Hiroshima has island fish, smaller, more delicate, tastier. Yukie explains that the hill she lives on and that the museum is on is considered the border between everything that was destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed and rebuilt again and the older sections of this region. She also explains that one of the reasons the city built Hiroshima MOCA on the hill was to reclaim it as their own – in opposition to RERF. Yukie plans on having tours through RERF as part of the upcoming exhibition – a rare event for RERF. It thrills her that Yukie is also perplexed by all the attention that artists like Rachel Harrison gets. “Why?” she asks.

The family and Deana walk downtown that night for a religious festival of sorts. It is really like the state fair or a carnival except that instead of hot dogs there is squid on a stick and okonomiyaki on a stick. They try squid fried in a dough ball but they throw it away because the dough is not cooked and the squid is too chewy. They next eat the okonomiyaki on a stick (a thin pancake topped with cabbage, vegetables or meat, sauce and an egg) which is good. They also have those delicious triangular rice puffs stuffed with seaweed and spices and wrapped in seaweed. The kids get candy apples and Harper has so many random people laughing because her entire face is sticky red. They also get cotton candy. It is really crazy crowded with women mostly dressed in traditional Japanese clothes and lots of make-up and the funky wooden shoes with the toe socks. They run into Emi and Miles, the nice lady from Boston and her 3 year old son whom they met on the plane over to Japan. They plan to get to together to play. They decide to try the “moon bounce” but as they pry open the door and the air comes blasting out at lightning speed, Harper freaks out and hides behind Deana. Guthrie goes in and immediately begins screaming and crying because he bumps into someone much older and bigger and it really is a nightmare. They people running it have no clue that they are trying to rescue him and David finally just has to take his shoes off and goes in to retrieve Guthrie. They take a taxi home.

On Saturday, the family decides to take an adventure and go to the famous island of Miyajima. They take a train and a ferry boat. On the boat they devour a sampling of the trademark Hiroshima pastry of a slightly puffy maple-leaf shaped cookie filled with various fillings: vanilla or chocolate cream, cheese, sweet bean. They are immediately stunned by the small, tame and wild deer everywhere. One of them eats half of a lady’s map and tries to chew on a boy’s shirt. Everyone pets them and they roam freely through the tourist crowds. They stroll through the low orange maze of the shrine-temple – hovering just above the sea. The kids pour holy water over their hands with the wooden ladles and collect shells on the small beach on the edge of the sea where the world heritage site gate stands in the water – bright orange, built in the 1500s, a structure that hundreds of people take pictures of every day. There are paper prayers and stone buddhas and wooden shrines and flags everywhere. They stop for lunch and even though Harper will not sit still and spills rice all over the floor and everything costs twice as much as it should, they enjoy it because Guthrie is gobbling up clams and eel on a bowl of rice and she finally has her divinely chilled soba noodles with a simple broth with wasabi and scallions. Harper has a pork cutlet and French fries which makes everybody laugh because it is the biggest serving at the table for the littlest one.

They go to the aquarium next and are mesmerized by the red octopus, the eels crammed together in the clear pipes as if they are stuck, the long lone eel with a bright yellow stripe along his back, the big electric eels, eels, eels, eels, the gorgeous sea horses, an albino turtle, huge turtles, perfectly white and hairless dolphins who keep pressing their cheeks up to the glass, sharks, jellyfish and a diver cleaning the glass inside the tank in a full scuba suit and goggles. The kids could have watched him all day long but they had to have ice cream and see the sea lion show. The sea lions were incredible – like a circus performance. The audience sits in a semi-circle ring of bleachers above a pool and wet stage and the sea lions come out with their master. Who would have ever thought that sea lions speak Japanese? They danced and clapped and caught rings on their noses, leapt through hoops, turned off the alarm clock, waved goodbye and were generally human. Everyone loved it.

They probably should have gone home after that as David wanted to do but she felt since they were there, why not stay and see more? They tried to walk up to the cable cars but when they finally made it up the steep rocky incline, it would have cost a fortune for them all to ride up to the top for a view. They headed back down towards what they thought was the bigger beach but it was getting hot and Harper fell asleep so they sat on a stone wall in the shade near some sacred stones and statues. Guthrie and she hiked up the stony hill and were surprised to see the tall, ancient and impressive orange pagoda waiting for them at the top. They cut through the island’s narrow streets of shops and homes and thought they would be close to the beach but they ended up right back at the ferry terminal so they decided to just go on home. She was sunburned and the kids were exhausted.

Today David looks online and discovers that it is a flea market day so they decide to go on another adventure. They take a 30 minute train ride and walk another 30 minutes on an industrial road that runs alongside a river and a dam. Finally David asks a lady with his map where the flea market is and she points in the opposite direction. They turn around and finally see the tents down by the river – right where they were when they got off the train! They walk down to the scattered and forlorn tents and are pleasantly surprised by the bargains and the funky collections of stuff. They all buy random things and have a great time. The kids get bubbles, a tiny sword, an Anpaman (Japanese character like Thomas) backpack for Nico but Harper quickly claims it, balls, a plasma light and lots of funky kids clothes. They end up leaving past naptime so they are all cranky and hungry as they hike back to the train station. They come upon a COCO’s restaurant – very western but perfect for the kids. David and Guthrie share a pizza. Harper has chicken nuggets and fries. Deana has a quesadilla and fries and elin has crustless triangular sandwiches with a small pot of yogurt topped with jam. They take the train and taxi home and go food shopping down and up the hill to fill their empty cupboards. David makes fish which is way too fishy for them all so they eat lots of rise and edamame.

She is reading Barthes and wants to copy entire passages into this diary but is too tired. She is feeling less inspired tonight, almost comfortable but never quite, oddly and awkwardly homesick. She misses fresh vegetables and her kitchen, the big yard and wading pool, cocktails and friends. She likes missing this all, appreciating what is faraway, her home. But she simultaneously feels so lucky to be here, immersed in this place and yet hovering above it, literally, emotionally. She should do more rubbings tomorrow – of the bank floor and wall, A-bombed trees, monuments. She is not sure she needs to photograph more dandelions but she probably will. She has been given permission to photograph the Peace Memorial Collection for one day but she is going there on Tuesday to meet with the Director of the Peace Culture Foundation and will try to push it. She really wants to make long x-ray exposures of the objects which can not be done in one day. But she will do what she can. Most people are very discouraging about her idea of making x-ray exposures of objects because it is unscientific. There is no way of knowing if the radiation is just “background radiation” or residual radiation from the A-bomb. She wonders if this really matters? David does not think it matters. Radiation is radiation. And radiation in Hiroshima takes on a whole different meaning regardless of its origin, doesn’t it? But she still does not have x-ray film or a translator. The Geiger counter DID tick tick tick as the held it out at a gravestone nearby…..

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