Hiroshima’s main attractions, if they can be called that, are primarily centred around the park constructed in remembrance of the atomic bomb that was dropped on the city at 8.15am on the 6th of August 1945. Although the city itself has quite a buzzing and laid-back vibe, in the area around the Peace Park, where various monuments and museums are situated, there is an atmosphere of respectful quiet. Expecting our time spent here to be emotional, we agreed to visit in the morning, and to go to a garden in the afternoon, where we could relax in a less traumatic space.
Arriving at the genbaku domu mae (genbaku – 原爆 – means “atomic bomb”, and mae just means “in front of”) tram stop, the first thing you see, emerging from the trees, is the genbaku domu – the A-bomb Dome. Before we could reach the building itself we were accosted by several anti-nuclear campaigners, asking us to sign petitions, which of course we did, despite the fact that we had not yet seen things which would make our opinion on the matter even stronger. The dome was the public building closest to the hypocentre, and has thus been preserved as a symbol of both the destruction caused, and the hope Japan harbours that it will never happen again.
As you probably know, cranes are the most commonly made origami item, and are a symbol of peace in Japan (and, I suspect, may other countries). They are said to live for 1,000 years, thus the folding of 1,000 orgami cranes is said to bring peace and happiness to whoever completes them. The number of cranes around the peace monuments in Hiroshima is probably in the millions!
The photo above shows a view through the arch of a monument in front of which (below the flowers) is a stone chest containing the names of every known person who died as a result of the bombing. Names are added as hibakusha pass away from diseases thought to be related to the radiation of the bomb. The Japanese inscription reads, “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.” Through the arch you can see the peace flame, which will burn until all nucler weapons are eliminated from the world (you can’t see the flame itself as it was too hot and bright) and at the end the genbaku dome.
After walking around the park, we headed into the Peace Memorial Museum. Entry was a token fee of 50 yen, but the museum is excellent, starting at the begining with a history of the city itself and the background of Japans involvement in the war (which manages to be reasonably, although obviously not completely, un-biased), then moving onto the dropping of the bomb itself, with models showing the areas of the city decimated by it, artefacts belonging to people who died (including bottles and cups that had melted) and some truly horrific photos showing injuries sustained. There were first-hand accounts by survivors, speaking primarily of water – how the burn victims called out for it, but how there wasn’t any to be found, and that water containers that looked unaffected were often filled with the bodies of people who had climbed in seeking relief from their injuries. It was incredibly moving and really brought home the uninaginable devastation and horror that followed that morning back in 1945. A good section of the museum was dedicated to talking about nuclear technology, and which countries regularly conducted tests on weapons. The photo above shows a clock displaying how long it’s been since the last nuclear tests and the dropping of the last nuclear bomb. Finally, there were several galleries which contained rotating exhibitions; when we went there was one showing pictures done by survivors of what life was like just after the bomb. These were graphic, and showed everything from the burnt zombie-like forms of survivors walking through rubble to barrels of water with dead people staring up out of them.
After spending the morning facing the very worst aspects of human nature, a peaceful wander around Shukkein, a traditional garden, was the perfect antidote:
Sharifa loves Japanese food too, especially sweet things involving red beans, so I treated her to a kaki gouri. After spending the previous two days raving about the one I had in Tomonoura, I figured it was the least I could do ;)
Afterwards we headed back for an early night, both of us having an early start in store the next morning for our respective train journies.