“If you’re never able to tolerate a little bit of pain and discomfort, you’ll never get better.”
–Angela Duckworth

It’s a rainy day in Okayama, Japan. My buddy, Adam, and I had been planning to visit the art island of Naoshima (Wow Place #61) that day, but who wants to tour an outdoor art installation when the rain is pouring down? We need an indoor location.

“Adam, what do you think popping over to Hiroshima? It’s less than an hour from here by Shinkansen.”
“Sounds depressing, Dave.”
“Yeah, but it’s one of those places you should visit.”
“Okay, let’s do it.”

Hiroshima is not for everyone. The Peace Memorial Museum is a sobering place. You can’t help but being moved as you see pictures of what the city was, and then what it became after being hit by the A-bomb. The stories of the bomb’s aftermath — the suffering, the radiation, the survivors — is akin to visiting Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It’s rough, raw material brought to vivid life. And yet, a trip to the Peace Museum is inspiring as well. You hear stories of resilience, of people helping each other, of rebuilding their town from the ground up into the dynamic, vibrant city it is today. The main lesson you take away is, “We can’t let this happen again! The suffering and devastation is too great!”

The first time I visited Hiroshima, back in 1985, my biggest fear was that the people would hate me. After all, I represented the country, America, that did this to them. But that isn’t the reception you receive when arriving in Hiroshima. Just the opposite, in fact. It’s common for school kids to approach you with homework assignments to engage foreigners and ask them how they feel about their visit. At no point do you feel blamed or condemned. Rather, the vibe is, “Let’s work extra hard for peace here, to prevent another Hiroshima or Nagasaki.” Contrary to expectation, Hiroshima might just be the friendliest place you visit in Japan. It’s a city dedicated to peace.

(What activity have you been putting off because it promises discomfort? Exercise? Meditation? A trip to the dentist? Whatever your Hiroshima, keep yourself open to the experience. Along with the discomfort, you might just discover a welcome that you never expected. With pain often comes transcendence.)