One of the very best experiences I've ever had traveling in Japan was visiting Hiroshima. It is one of the most peaceful places on the planet, and the message that beautiful city conveys to all who pass through is one I'll never forget. It's difficult to describe how it feels to walk through its Memorial Peace Park and Museum, or put to words how the silence there is at once haunting, yet comforting.
Hiroshima today is a beacon of hope and peace, and a city that celebrates cultural diversity (and, might I add, amazing food). Its local people have every right to be angry and bitter about their history, yet they remain vigilant in their mission to push aside any feelings of resentment, and instead show the world that it's important for us all to strive to understand each other.
Rising from the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness from Hiroshima
Dr. Akiko Mikamo
Released September 4, 2013
MSRP: US$14.99 PB [BUY] US$9.99 eBook [BUY]
Rising from the Ashes is a quick read. At only 206 pages, it doesn't take long to physically get through. By the time you're done though, you might feel like much more time has gone by.
Though the story is penned by Dr. Mikamo, the words are all a recollection from the perspective of her father, Shinji Mikamo. It was he who was standing on the rooftop of his home, getting some work done with his father, when suddenly the world turned upside down. He then recounts in meticulous detail the grueling days that followed, what his father (Dr. Makimo's grandfather) did to ensure his survival, and his life after the disaster.
Besides the details of his personal experiences, Shinji sets the scene for Japan during that period of history. He talks about the political situation, what the public was led to believe opposed to what was really going on, the various restrictions that were in place, and the aftermath. His story continues all the way into the present.
Though the material in the story is heavy and the writing a little somber, it isn't the sort of book that you'll feel depressed reading. Shinji pours plenty of heart and substance into his words, and emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and looking more at the big picture. Of course, he also went to great lengths to instill his philosophy in his children, including the author, who is the president of San Diego WISH and a practicing psychologist.
Shinji's story is absolutely incredible, and if you can't get yourself to Hiroshima for a visit in the foreseeable future, then this is the easiest way to teleport there. This is a book I recommend even if you have visited the Memorial Peace Park and Museum. You'll definitely learn some history as recounted from a different perspective (a first-hand one), and you'll also learn the origin of some cultural aspects of Japan that are still intact (at least somewhat) today. The only mild lament I have about this book is I wish it had been a little longer, if only because I am interested in learning more.
[9.5 – Exceptional. One of the best things its genre has ever produced. You'll find few memoirs as important or insightful as this one.]
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