The first time I read the word “phoenix” related to my Japan internship was when I was looking into the background of the World Friendship Center. As I have mentioned before, the World Friendship Center was founded by a woman, Barbara Reynolds. Before Reynolds had started the center, she and her husband Earl sailed across the globe, visiting different nations to spread their message of peace as well as to protest nuclear testing. The name of their yacht was “The Phoenix”. For some time, Reynolds and her family lived on their boat while it was docked in Japan.
The second time was when I noticed the last name of the directors’, Maggie and Bernd, was Phoenix. I thought the coincidence was kind of amusing. Were they targeted for the job based on their last name? (Sorry, very lame joke.) Maggie and Bernd are coming to the close of their roles as directors and will pass the torch this coming August to a new set of directors. Directors of the World Friendship Center serve a term of two years. Maggie and Bernd sold their house, car and many belongings back in 2013 before coming to the World Friendship Center. Needless to say I was pretty impressed with their commitment, and working with them thus far has been an absolute pleasure. On the first day on our way back from lunch, Bernd had pointed out the golden phoenix affixed to the top of a Buddhist temple, our landmark for which street to turn on.
The phoenix has sneaked up in many little ways during my time in Japan so far, yet Hiroshima is the ultimate phoenix as it has rose from the ashes. Aside from the memorial park, it’s hard to believe the death and destruction that took place nearly 70 years ago. Before I came I was honestly expecting caution tape in some areas to shield the public away from highly contaminated areas – this is not the case at all. Hiroshima is bursting with life: from the countless flowerbeds to the flocks of school children, it is a very peaceful city. Hiroshima has come a very long way since the war. As my fellow intern has noted in her observations, the revival of Hiroshima has clearly been a community effort of people coming together, perhaps stronger than ever. There wasn’t a single hero who saved Hiroshima, it was families reaching out to families, teachers to students, neighbors to neighbors. The phoenix was not some Superman who came in to save the city, the phoenix is the city rising from the ashes, stronger than ever before.