First City Destroyed

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of Japan  , Chugoku,
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our short break to avoid the heat, humidity, and crowds of Japan in August is over and it's time to stuff the backpacks again (why does it seem like they're getting heavier?). One of DH's best friends, Deb P, is convinced that the only country in Asia is Japan, which is either a testament to her ability to sleep through virtually all history and geography classes during her formative school years, or an overall indictment of the Canadian educational system. As far as we know, she has also managed to sleep through the blog of our current journey through Asia but we thought we might wake her up with a few weeks in the one Asian country she can find on a world map (as long as it listed only those countries that started with a J.... and didn't include Jamaica, Jordan, or Jersey).

And what better place to start our visit to Japan than Hiroshima. It's always hard to think of a city like Hiroshima, which was the site of such an epic tragedy, as a 'tourist' destination, but the Japanese have used the event of August 6th 1945 as an opportunity to create a massive memorial that speaks to the need to assure that something like this never happens again. The memorials and park sit directly below the detonation point of the first atomic bomb ever dropped during wartime (the bomb actually detonated some 600 meters above the ground which maximized it's destructive power). The museum is the focal point of the park and does an admirable job of laying out the events leading up to, and following, the drop of 'Little Boy' (the goofy name assigned to the bomb) from the Enola Gay B52 bomber. Perhaps understandably, the Japanese role as instigator of the Pacific War during WWII is only lightly touched on, but there are also a number of suggestions that the bomb was dropped primarily to justify its development costs to the American public (and to keep the Soviets from replicating the land grab they had done in Eastern Europe). The history classes Deb P slept through would have also highlighted the Allied concerns around the enormous casualty counts they faced if they tried to invade the main islands of Japan to force an unconditional surrender.

That said, the loss of life and human suffering triggered by the atomic blast as detailed in the museum, was absolutely numbing (the atomic bombing of Nagasaki took place just 3 days later on 9 August). And the suffering went on for years afterward. The defined objective of the museum and park was to raise an awareness and concern among all reasonable people that might lead to further disarmament accords.

This very noble objective will probably always be counterbalanced by the need to contain/intimidate chuckle-heads like the ones heading up North Korea and Iran. Putting this scary genie back in the bottle probably isn't going to happen, but a significant reduction in stockpiles would certainly be a nice step in the right direction.  If you feel moved to do something, there is an on-line petition sponsored by a Hiroshima led group Among the many victim accounts of the horror of the bombing and suffering that followed, there were a couple of particularly poignant stories that made this tragedy all too real. One in particular concerned an innocent young girl who contracted leukemia from the radiation after the bombing but believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes, she would have good fortune and beat the disease. Unfortunately she lost that fight but her story became a cause celeb among Japanese school kids and even today, huge strings of folded paper cranes are delivered to the base of the children's memorial in honour of this brave girls struggle. Very heart wrenching.

Outside of the many Hiroshima Memorials, we also managed a day trip to nearby Miyajima Island, host to one of the more iconic symbols of Japan, the giant red wooden O-Torii (Grand Gate). Once off the ferry, DH (where the D stands for Deer Whisperer) started bonding with the local deer population in some sort of Bambi ritual until she realized they were eating her shirt and backpack (as indicated on all of the warning signs posted around the island). The entire 30 sq. km. island is designated by the Japanese government as a Special Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The must see Itsukushima Shrine, built in the sixth century, is dedicated to the maritime guardian goddesses. The shrine buildings are connected by corridors which stretch out over the water giving it the appearance of floating on the sea at high tide.

And apparently no visit to Hiroshima can be considered complete without sampling the local delicacy, Okonomiyaki - a savoury, layered noodle pancake cooked on an iron hotplate at your table. By following the locals we found a hole-in-the wall diner which served portion sizes that should challenge even the heaviest Sumo wrestler- I can't possibly finish my serving despite a large muscular frame (albeit, one that might be mistaken by folks like Carol C as somewhat robust) and on either side of me are two Japanese girls that couldn't tip the scales at 90 lbs soaking wet, and they are demolishing their meals. How do they stay so small- is this their only meal for the month?? DH didn't finish either but that had as much to do with being chop-stick challenged as anything. Despite lessons from the girl next to her (we're really liking friendly Japanese people) she still managed to snap a couple of her sticks right across the kitchen narrowly avoiding serious injury to the cook herself! In addition to being waddle-inducing, this particular dish was very tasty and a must-try when you're in the area.
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Indy on

Just a technical issue. The Enola Gay was a B29 Superfortress. The B52 Stratofortress was a jet powered bomber first deployed in 1952.

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