Stories of people & places, festivities & traditions from my travels around the world

The World Friendship Center, Hiroshima

by Lucy Hornberger

Hiroshima is a destination on many Japan travel itineraries - visitors typically spend time in the Peace Park and Peace Memorial Museum, photograph the A-Bomb Dome and perhaps take a trip to the beautiful island of Miyajima. All well and good, but for a deeper and more rewarding experience it's well worth booking a night or two at the World Friendship Centre (WFC).
The WFC offers bed and breakfast accommodation at reasonable rates, but it is far more than just a place to stay. A non-profit peace organisation, the Center was founded in 1965 by an American, Barbara Reynolds, who had arrived in Hiroshima some years earlier with her radiologist husband who was studying the damaging effects of nuclear radiation on children. She quickly realised that there was much for her to do, especially in support of the hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) who were then often shunned by other Japanese due to rumours that radiation sickness might be contagious. Her projects started to give hibakusha a voice, campaigned for adequate medical care, and focused on peace education not only in Japan but across Europe and the United States. She was clearly a remarkable and tireless woman. The WFC continues her legacy today, providing a place to stay and learn for those interested in Hiroshima and its violent history. In addition the Center offers a supportive environment for hibakusha to meet, and a forum for them to discuss their experiences. As part of this, those staying at the guesthouse are encouraged to meet a hibakusha and listen to his/her story first-hand, with English translation provided by dedicated volunteers. We were fortunate to have the chance to take part in the programme and strongly recommend it. You can read about our experience here.
The WFC is located in a quiet residential area, just 15 minutes or so on foot from the Peace Park and Museum. The hospitable on-site Co-Directors, Maggie and Bernd Phoenix, speak English and German and host their many visitors with cheerful informality. The guest rooms are Japanese-style, basic but perfectly adequate, and there's a comfortable lounge with an extensive library of books on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plus a range of Japan guidebooks. There's also a piano that guests are welcome to play. The western-style breakfast is communal, which is great for a discussion of peace issues, or simply swapping travel tips.
In addition to hibakusha talks, the Center offers a number of other activities and programmes, including guided tours of the Peace Park by informed English-speaking volunteers, monthly visits to a nursing home caring for hibakusha, and tours of the last remaining Schmoe House, built for hibakusha by Floyd Schmoe, an American Quaker pacifist.
The World Friendship Center website is:
A pin map shows how wide the influence of the WFC has been in recent years.

Barbara Reynolds (1915-1990), founder of the WFC, Hiroshima.

Maggie Phoenix, current Co-Director (with husband Bernd) of the WFC.

Article & photos posted April 7th, 2016

Text and photos copyright © 2016 Lucy Hornberger. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.

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