Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Honouring Hiroshima


Hiroshima - 10th to 12th May 2012

8:15 am August the 6th 1945, the Enola Gay, an American B29 bomber, dropped the first atomic bomb to be used as a weapon. It was given the nickname 'little boy'. The damage it caused was far from little though and this one bomb directly killed 80,000 human beings with nearly that amount dying slowly and painfully over the following years. This was approximately half of the city's population. The bomb also levelled a large portion of the city's buildings...

I was greatly interested in Hiroshima from a historical perpective as being the location of the first destructive use of nuclear weapons and coming here was my idea. I expected the place to be fairly depressing because of this fact but to my utter surprise this was one of the most uplifting and peaceful places I have come across on my travels.

The people of Hiroshima rather than degenerating into hate and depression from the near annihilation of their city at the end of World War 2 instead decided to make it a symbol of peace and a centre to focus the push for the eradication of nuclear weapons from this planet. Peace Park was created on an open field left by the bomb where buildings had stood. It is immaculately kept and full of monuments to the victims and for peace.

There is the statue of a little girl with arms outstretched that represents an actual girl named Sadako Sasaki, who died of leukemia from radiation exposure. She was folding paper cranes util she died, believing that after making 1,000 cranes her wishes would come true. A school remembrance ceremony was happening at this site while we were there. The Peace Flame will stay alight until nuclear weapons have been eradicated.





There are bells for world peace, the bells themselves are covered in a representation of a world without borders and you are encouraged to hit it. The spot where it hits has an atomic symbol on it so that you are ridding the world of atomic weapons by banging it.

The A Bomb dome is strikingly both horrifying and beautiful as the ruins of a building mostly destroyed by the bomb. You can see it from virtually anywhere around the park and regardless of the time of day the light seems to accentuate it and it stands out from all the green surrounding it. There were many more memorials such as gates with Peace written on them in different languages, a cenotaph with victims' names, a counter with the days since the bomb dropped as well as the days since the last atomic test (155 days) and we spent many hours here wandering the gardens soaking in the symbols for peace and remembrance of the victims. We jogged/walked the park both mornings as our hotel (the Comfort hotel) was less than five minutes walk from it and we spent an afternoon here on a tour. It was difficult to leave.

There is also a museum, conference centre and hall, which goes through the history as well as showing efforts made here for the eradication of nuclear weapons. The museum was very sad with actual artifacts, like the burnt tricycle of a little boy, shoes, clothing, and even the shadow burnt into the steps of a bank where a man was sitting. Very difficult to look at.















We also visited Miyajima Island, the home of a magnificent Shinto temple, with its protective Torii Gate in the water itself. Unfortunately the gate had been damaged by a spring storm stronger than our tour operator has ever seen in 22 years and the gate was covered for repair. The island itself was a beautiful experience and blend of the Shinto religion and nature.

All in all Hiroshima was our surprising favourite place in Japan and we left the place feeling uplifted and peaceful after seeing how people can recover and what they can accomplish after such devastation.