Hiroshima - City of Peace

Trip Start Mar 15, 2008
Trip End Oct 02, 2009

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Flag of Japan  ,
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ben Reporting:

Obviously a city like Hiroshima comes with some pre-conceptions from a Westerners point of view. It was the first city in history to be bombed by an atomic bomb, an action that, in a flash, destroyed an entire city and ended WWII. Some might expect Hiroshima to be a dirty city, still showing scars of ruins, others might expect a city still bitter and closed off to outside contact. The reality is much different.

To be honest, Hiroshima is one of the cleanest, neatest and most well ordered cities I've visited. It's a beautiful city, which isn't packed and busy, despite its 2.8 million population, with a small town feel to it - somewhat like Adelaide.

We arrived in Hiroshima and quickly found our hostel, about 10 minutes walking distance of the city, a bright, friendly place with fairly big dorm room. One of the first things we did was to venture to 'Peace Park', in the city centre, a large city park and memorial to the Atomic Bomb victims. The park is a fantastic place for the people of Hiroshima to while away their lunch times in the sun - a great public space and not a depressing monument to the past.

The park had several monuments to the past... erm, well, it had several touching monuments to honour those lost I should say. There's a centaph, which is an arch that sits above a concrete box, which holds the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb attack. Further along there's a lake and a torch that sits by the lake, the flame of which will burn until the last atomic bomb on earth is destroyed. For a long time in other words.

There's also a tall concrete statue that honours Sadako, a Japanese girl who was exposed to the bombs rays and, about 7 years later, fell victim to leukaemia. The monument represents Sadako's plight, in which she decided to fold 1000 paper origami cranes, which legend told would bring her good luck. The monument is surrounded by thousands of paper cranes that have been sent to Hiroshima by schools all over the world.

Besides these monuments there are several others, including the most moving, which is the only building that was not either knocked down or rebuilt after the a-bomb. The building is now called the A-bomb dome, and its twisted wreckage is the only real eyesore in a beautiful city. The wreckage, of course, is a shuddering pillar to the events of August 1945, still surrounded by rubble, but also still standing despite being within 1km of the bombs blast.

Also in Peace Park is a museum. The museum is only 50 yen (about 55 cents) to enter, and we spent about 4 hours there pouring over the details of the bombing. The museum presents the history of the bombing in a very even-handed but informative fashion. From the reasons behind the American's decision to drop the bomb, to the event itself, to the aftermath, and importantly the impact on the people and the destruction caused. It's hard to imagine anyone could come out and see the creation or harbouring of Atomic weapons as good from any perspective.

The second day we spent in Hiroshima, we decided to see some more of the town. First we visited the Hiroshima Art Museum, which had some Monet's and some Van Gogh's, you know, that sort of thing - very awesome to see first hand. Then we found a very beautiful castle just outside of the city that had a museum within, with some very cool artefacts from Japanese history. Unless Leah takes pity on me, you might see a photo of me in an ancient Japanese battle helmet (replica). We had a further look around the city but the day quickly escaped us.

Before leaving Hiroshima on the last day, we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (different from the one we visited the previous day), which had some very interesting modern pieces, included some Warhol pictures. Then we visited the Hiroshima Manga Library, although all of the books were in Japanese, so we didn't waste too much time.

After that we rode on the Sky Escalator, which took us from the top of a park, down quite a few hundred metres to street level. We left Hiroshima feeling humbled by the experience, but glad that the city was now such a thriving place with a real message of peace behind the motivations of the citizens.

Leah says: One more thing to add is that Hiroshima is also famous for its Okonomiyaki dish that I luckily tried at a small family restaurant while here. It was enthralling watching this traditional dish being made on a huge hot plate in front of you. It is basically a kind of pancake shaped meal with layers of batter, cabbage, bacon, egg, noodles and special sauce. I had mine with corn and cheese as well and it was simply delicious!
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