Moment Of Surrender

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Flag of Japan  , Chugoku,
Monday, April 12, 2010

Unfortunately U2 U2's instructions for "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" came 59 years too late.

You have to love the fast trains here, no delay at check in, just run into the station, flash the ticket and hop on a train. And so fast and smooth ….. it wasn't long before we were checking into our next ryokan; this one a little more hotel-like than since we had the luxury of our own bathroom but we still slept on futons on top of tatami mats. It appears that travel has been a bit of a growth experience for Derek, at least judging by the scale of this latest accommodation (see photo).

Hiroshima needs little introduction….as the target of the world’s first nuclear bomb, it was difficult to know just what to expect from this city, although we were sure the experience would be intense. When we left our hotel on Monday morning it was pouring with rain, which seemed somehow fitting for the sights we were expecting to see. We took a tram from the train station to the “A-Bomb Dome”. This once magnificent building was practically at the hypocenter of the bomb and was one of the few buildings left standing, although everybody within it perished. There was much controversy at the time as many people wanted the building torn down, however, a decision was made to preserve the building as a symbol of peace and the symbolic structure is now protected in its frozen state. Heresay at the time suggested that plant life would not flourish for 75 years, yet it returned the following fall in keeping with that indomitable human spirit that we have seen many places we have visited.

From the A-Bomb Dome we meandered along the river bank and across the bridge to the Peace Memorial Park where we visited several of the numerous historic monuments. Particularly outstanding features for us were the Children’s Peace Memorial, the Korean Memorial, the Atomic Memorial Mound and the Flame of Peace. Lauren & Alex were particularly moved by the Children’s Peace Memorial and the little girl whose story inspired the memorial. As a healthy toddler, Sadako and her mother had survived the bomb, but in trying to flee from the city they were caught in the “black rain” (fallout-impregnated precipitation). Sadako had grown up a healthy child who loved and excelled in sports, but ten years after the bomb, she was diagnosed with Leukemia. The crane is a Japanese symbol of health and longevity and Sadako believed that if she could fold 1000 paper cranes she would beat the leukemia and survive. Unfortunately despite managing to fold 1300 cranes Sadako lost her battle and died at the age of 12. Her story so inspired her school and the country as a whole, that paper crane folding has become something of a national pastime.

The Korean monument was erected to remember the Koreans who perished; the Koreans under forced labour accounted for as many as 10% of those killed by the bomb. The Atomic Memorial Mound contains the ashes of many of the victims of the bomb. The Flame of Peace burns between the cenotaph and the Children’s Peace Memorial and will endure until the last atomic weapon on earth has been destroyed.

At the southern end of the peace Memorial Park is the Peace Memorial Museum. We spent a couple of hours in the museum and only wish we had given ourselves more time inside. The museum provides a surprisingly balanced view of the story and explains Hiroshima’s long term history as well as its wartime role. From poignant stopped wrist watches and remains of clothing to melted glass bottles, heat warped masonry and “human shadows” to photos of victims and eye-witness reports; the displays were fascinating, yet disturbing, and I defy anyone to leave that building with a belief that nuclear weapons should ever be used again. On a personal note, I arrived in Hiroshima knowing little more than the basics of what had happened on that fateful day but somehow believing that what the US did needed to be done … I left Hiroshima with some more doubt as to whether such an event was necessary. Yes, the Japanese did surrender soon after, but they were at the verge anyway… hardly a justification for using a weapon of mass destruction because “well can’t we just try it out, Boss? We spent all this money”. It’s incredible to comprehend their peace loving approach, and we commend the Japanese for their active pro-peace and anti-nuclear stance … I’m with them.

We left the museum in the rain which seemed somehow ironic, having learnt inside that had it actually been raining in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 they may have been spared the atrocity due to inappropriate flight conditions.

Having made our way back to the station area we were hopeful that there would have time for a quick bite to eat and in particular to try okonomiyaki – a local speciality. We should have known better than to trust Derek for timing….we ended up gulping down bowls of soba noodles and soggy tempura (haven’t quite figured out the attraction of this and yet it is served pretty much everywhere) before rushing back to the hotel, grabbing our bags and literally running to and through the station to catch our next train…..ah, but where would the fun and excitement be without the drama of nearly missed connections??? Onward bound to Kanazawa…..
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