02.04.2008 - 02.04.2008
I arrived at Hiroshima at about 730 and made my way to the hostel making use of the tram system, which was luckily towards the empty side. Following the directions diven by the hostel i arrived with no bother and left my belonging there while I went off to explore for the day. My hostel was a short walk from Peace Memorial Park. A park located a mere 300metres from the epicenter of the bomb on that fateful day. Well it wasnt a park back then but a highly popnes in populated residentual area, but now serves as a peaceful reminder of the devastation of the world first atomic bomb.
Upon arriving at the south of the park i was aiming to go to the museum first, but happened across some rather poignant statues first. They show a women carrying their babies and children in the aftermath of the bomb, weak themselves from the effects, searching in vain for some help. Beneath there statues lay thousands of paper cranes, which I learn later are of great significance.
I entered the museum, which at only 50yen was very reasonable, so i deciced to enhance my experience with a headset to narrate me around. The museum was very well laif out. The first section focusing on the run up to the event, not failing to mention events such as Pearl Harbour, but also going speaking of conflcit with China. It is sometimes easy to forget that the war went far beyond Europe. Im sure that at school we learnt more about the effects on Europe and very little about events even as big as Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima. This section of the museum also featured information about how it came that an atomic bomb was even made and the tough decision that had to be made about where it would be dropped.
A model of the area showed the utter devestation that can only begin to be comprehended today in the city when you see the A-bomb dome in the north of the park. There were lots of photos of the area directly after and in the year or so after as the city tried to rebuild itself.
The next section spoke about Hiroshimas mission to rid the world of atomic bombs altogether. For every test carried out by the US, France, the UK, Russia, etc the mayor of Hiroshima sends a letter to that country to object. HUndred of letters later and nothing has changed.
The next area of the museum was much more emotional, now turning the focus on individual stories of lost ones and personal effects of the bomb. BY this stage i was starting to rely more on the headset and reading a little less of the plaques, but there wre a few stories that stood out for me.
ONe of a man whose fingernails when they grew after the bomb were black and oozed blood when he cut them.
There were several building tiles that can be seen to have melted from the impact of several thousand degrees heat hitting them in an instant, only from this can you begin to imagine the impact on human skin. The manniquins of zombie like creatures with skin hanging off is easily imagined to be true.
The significance of the paper crane is that as a result of the bomb a 10 year old girl developed Leukimia, as she lay dying in the hospital she began folding 1000 crane in the hope that when she reached this number her wish would come true. SHe surpassed this but still died. Her classmates continued to fold the crane and now they can be seen around the park as a symbol of peace.
Leaving the museum and feeling the emotional impact of its contents, i went to sit on a bench outside and contemplate. Just having taken a bite from a biscuit an elderly japanese man comes over and begins talking to me. He plays the harmonica, 3 differnet ones and shows me the book that he has written. He seems to have suffered a stroke of something similar as his right side continues to move involuntarily. Though with the citys history, anyone can guess the cause. HE was certainy of an age that would make him very young or an embryo at the time of the bomb, After 30minutes of him talking to me, i managed to escape and continue eating my biscuit. As i was about to reach a tree that survived the bomb I was interupted by a group of 3 women and a man who wanted to practice their english with me. They were very friendly, and asked me about my stay in Hiroshima, one lady handed me a leaflet for Miyajima when I told her i was going there the next day. And as i bid them farewell they insisted on offering me a paper crane and a rice cracker for my time, which was very nice of them. I eventually got to finish my biscuit and to see the tree, despite the exposure the tree continues to grow and even does so after being moved from its original location.
I headed further north in the park to the monument to remember the event. by itself it looks quite unremarkable but it was only after i got to see it straight on that i realised it was in line with the A-bomb domb and the flame that continues to burn between the two, only to be extinguished when the last atomic bomb is destroyed. An offshoot from the flame has made its way to Ueno park i remember seeing when i first arrived in Japan. The monument itself holds the names of the victims of the bomb and is updated every year since as new victims are discovered.
A very poingant statue was the Childrens Peace Memorial, built with the leukima crane girl in mind but used to remember all of the children who suffered as a result of the bomb. This statue had glass cabinets behind it full of the paper cranes and arranged in images.
The memorial mound that I walked to next held the ashes of tens of thousands of the victims of the bomb. not really a striking memorial compared to some others but its simplicity still holds an important message.
The monument for the Korean victims of the bomb was important for remembering that this was a world war with victims from many nations. Also to remember that Americans also died from this bomb, which wasnt intended. Hiroshima had infact been chosen from the shortlist of possible cities based on the information that there was no POW camps in the city. There was, it was just that America didnt know about it yet.
The park, like many others in Japan at this time was in full cherry blossom bloom and there were families enjoying their picnics under the trees. Even more impressive becasue it was thought that nothing would grow in Hiroshima for 75years.
The bell of peace in the part continued to chime as people went up to it to show their support for the message of Hiroshima city for world peace.
I had now finally reached the very north of the park, where the A Bomb dome is located. Back when it was built it stood out in the city for its blue roof. After the bomb it was one of the few buildings from near the epicenter to survive the blast. There was controversy over whether it should remain intact, to act as a reminder and monument to the event or be demolished as the people who survived would rather forget and move on. After many years deliberating it was decided that it would stay and be preserved as a monument to the devestation that nuclear weaponry can cause.
The exact coordinates that the Ameicans were aiming for was Aioi bridge just by the A bomb dome. The actual bomb was some 600meters away when it exploded so the bridge remained relatively intact and was used for many years after, only being replaced recently (1983) when it surcumed to general wear and tear.
Last place to visit in the park was the memorial hall. This had a monument outside which represents the time at which the bomb struck at 815 am. INside were many photographs of the victims and a searchable database for such information as where a victims was when the bomb hit. THere were also some video clips of survivor stories. There was a giant hall with a 360degree view of the city in the aftermath of the bomb.
That night for dinner i went to a recommended restaurant to have okonomiyaki. HAving tried it in Yoyogi park and discovering octopus inside, it was reasurring to watch this one being made. Replacing the octopus with bacon for the hiroshima variety and with the choice to add cheese to the egg, it was rather tasty and very filling.