No trip to Japan would be complete without visiting Hiroshima.
Which, for all the wrong reasons is internationally famous.
I’ve always said there are some places you visit for pleasure and others (like the killing fields) you get little pleasure from, but your learn a lot and are broader as a person.
We check into our hotel and visit the Hiroshima peace memorial museum.
It’s undergoing extensive modernisation and rebuilding.
The entrance uses rubble leftover from the bombing, to re-create the effect immediately after the blast.
A demonstration shows the explosion.
The ball of fire would have been like a small sun, destroyed 5 square miles of the city with temperatures of 8000 degrees.
A replica of Little Boy, I was surprised at the small size of the device.
It was said that within 3 years of the Hiroshima bomb, bombs were available with 3300 times the payload.
Steps from the Sumitomo bank.
You can just make out the dark stain on the stops, all that remains of the person who’d been sitting there when the bomb went off.
I’ve not written too much about the technical nature of the bomb, as that can be easily found online.
For me, it was more about the experience.
Of the two occasions where I had to wipe my eyes were the story of a little boy who had gone missing.
His mother found him after 3 days of searching. She could only identify him by his steel lunch-box.
The other was this series of video where people told there story.
One involved a woman who’s son and daughter had both been killed (she had been in the basement) the buttons on her sons shirt had melted onto him.
Her husband survived the initial blast but died 10 days later.
The most upsetting was the simple statement she said next “It was a shame, we were such a happy family”.
Along with your ticket to the museum, your given a copy of the peace declaration.
The major of Hiroshima leads of consortium of 500 + leaders around the world who refuse to have nuclear weapons in their city.
Specifically, the declaration says that nuclear weapons are simply not compatible with humanity’s continued inhabitation of earth.
Outside the museum I went to the peace park outside contemplating war and peace.
I’m neither cynic nor idealist and it was hard to make any sense of the things I’d seen in the museum.
Only 150 metres from the blast, the A Bomb dome still stands as a symbol of the events of 8:16 am, August 6th 1945.
The cenotaph nearby has the names of all the people who died (above 111,000) in several volumes.
It’s shape is designed to protect the soul’s of the dead.
The inscription nearby says simply “Rest in peace for we shall not repeat the evil”.
Looking back towards the museum, the none eternal flame, that shall burn only to be ignited when all nuclear weapons have been destroyed.
The Peace Bell.
A clock financed and built by local businessmen.
It chimes each morning at 8:16am.
The Children’s Peace monument.
Sadako Sasaki who contracted Leukaemia as a result of the bomb, was convinced if she could fold 1000 paper cranes she would get better.
She only managed to make 644 before her death, the other children at School made the rest and they were buried with her.
Today, thousands of paper Cranes are sent by school children from all over the world and are put on display by the monument.
The memorial mound.
It contains the ashes of 70,000 people who’s bodies were unclaimed either because they were unidentifiable or because the entire family had died and there was none to claim them.
A memorial to Koreans killed in the bombing.
With a heavy hart I left the peace park.
I wandered over to this reconstructed castle, most people seemed quite upbeat.
The first time I laughed that day, was this ridiculous sign, which meant ride your bicycle carefully, but its motive could be misconstrued.
We wondered around by the shops and restaurants and I found something that quite amazed me.
Away from the park, Hiroshima is a thriving international city.
The local people didn’t seem sombre, they had rebuilt their city and rebuilt their lives.
Whilst they would not easily forget, they had chosen not to carry it with them (well, thats how it felt to me).
In the evening we try Okonomiyaki pancakes with chicken and noodles.
I’m not a great lover of Japanese food, but these were delicious.
After a few drinks around the town, I wander back to the A Bomb dome which is lit up at night.
In a contemplative mood, I go back to my hotel and drift off to sleep.
In the morning I’m awake for breakfast.
The view out of the window is the peace park.
It’s a new day. Whilst I wont forget the things I’ve seen here I wont be weighed down by them either.
Just like the residents of this amazing city, I know how valuable the gift of life really is.