No More Nukes!!

Trip Start Jul 16, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Japan  , Chugoku,
Saturday, November 17, 2012

So after days and even weeks on trains we were quite excited to try out the Japanese Bullet trains or Shinkansen, these trains travel at 240-300kmh so not far off the Maglev in China. So after covering 381km in just an hour and a half this was quite impressive, about the same as flying across the country but without all the hassle of air travel.  I have to confess that I am actually quite missing overnight sleeper trains, there is something a bit cool about going to sleep in one town and waking up fresh and ready to explore (most of the time) in another.  However it is one more thing to add to the 'done list'.

So we arrived in Hiroshima and had only given ourselves a day and a half here as the Peace Museum and Memorials were all we knew there was to see.  On our arrival I saw a sign advertising ‘Hiroshima Dreamination’.  Seemingly the Japanese love Christmas and they also love Christmas lights so every December Hiroshima has a massive light display down either side of the cities Peace Avenue and we happened to arrive on turn on day.  We hopped on the city tram and made our way to Peace avenue and we were definitely in the right place there were lights everywhere and a few people stood around awaiting the switch on.  It was pretty cold here in Hiroshima so we were decked out in hats and gloves and it all felt quite Christmassy.  After a good 20 minutes of sitting patiently freezing on a park bench waiting the lights to turn on, I suggested that maybe we could head to Starbucks to wait, literally as we walked away towards Starbucks the lights turned on behind us, typical!  Hey ho, we decided to treat ourselves to a hot coffee before exploring the avenue of lights.  Boy do the Japanese know how to do lights, these were brilliant!  Each set of lights had a different theme, from cherry blossom trees, and autumn leaves to princess carriages, pirate ships, dragons, giants fruits and obviously a huge lit up Christmas tree.  The best thing about these lights was they nearly all had some interactive element, whether it was a lit up chair to sit in, a mouth of a whale to stand in or a carousel horse to ride on.  We had the best time playing with the lights every which way.  So much fun.

Our only full day in Hiroshima, where else to go other than the A-Bomb Dome and the Peace Museum.  I don’t think either of us expected to be so affected by this visit.   We have all grown up knowing that an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the 2nd world war and that the cities were flattened to the ground, but you really cannot appreciate what happened to these cities until you see the A Dome and the Peace Museum.  The A-Bomb Dome was originally the Grand Hiroshima Exhibition Hall, when the bomb was dropped the Exhibition hall was almost directly below the bomb and therefore its skeletal remains survived the bomb and it was one of the only buildings still standing within a 2km radius.  Looking at the photographs of the aftermath it is quite haunting to see the A Bomb Dome as the only building still standing among lines and lines of collapsed streets.  Thankfully the A-Bomb Dome was preserved as a memorial of the most destructive force ever created by humankind. 

The Hiroshima Peace Museum was possibly the cheapest attraction in Japan, it is almost unbelievable that they only charge 50p entry, but this is also amazing as there is no excuse for anyone not to visit.  The museum was such an eye opener from the moment you walk in.  It is not about blame or trying to accuse anyone for what happened during the war, it is about educating people about what occurred that morning in 1945 and educating people to ensure that it never happens again.  It was amazing to really understand more, Hiroshima was among 4 cities selected as potential targets as they had an urban area of at least 3 miles and where air raids were prohibited.  Hiroshima was thought to be the first choice as it was one city without an allied prisoner of war camp.  Seemingly fate was not smiling on Hiroshima on the day of the bomb as the final requirement was that clear skies were needed over the city of choice to ensure the bombing could be accurately observed, sadly Hiroshima had clear skies and its fate was sealed.

On the 6th August 1945 at 8:15am over 70,000 people were instantly killed and another 70,000 suffered fatal injuries from the radiation.  But sadly this was not the end of the death and destruction with many survivors still suffering from cancer, leukaemia and other after affects today.

The museum really didn't hide anything, from eyewitness accounts of dying children’s last words, to shredded school uniforms and lunch boxes containing just charred remains.  There were numerous watches all stopped at 8:15 which were quite haunting.  Some of the most unbelievable exhibits were roof tiles, pottery and glasses which had melted and fused due to the extreme heat and the most horrific was a set if stone steps which were outside a bank, these steps have a black shadow burned into them where someone had been sitting on the stairs when the blast hit, they were vaporised and their shadow forever burnt into the stone.  Looking at the exhibits and photos of terrible burns and injuries was like we have seen in recent years following the tsunami’s and earthquakes that have plagued the earth, it just makes it more horrific when you realise this was all inflicted by man.

The Mayor of Hiroshima is doing everything to try to ensure that a nuclear bomb is never again released and there is a petition asking that all nations agree to never use nuclear weapons against a city again.  I for one have signed and hope that a few of you will follow suit if you have not already.

Outside the museum in the park stands the Children’s Peace Monument.  This was inspired by the death of a young girl, Sadaka Sasaki, who was just 2 years old when she was exposed to the radiation and at the age of 12 she suffered an untimely death from leukemia.  Her class mates petitioned for a monument to be built in honour of all the children that died from the bomb and its effects.  In her final months Sadaka faithfully started to fold 1,000 paper cranes as there is a Japanese folk story that says that anyone that folds 1,000 paper cranes will be granted a wish by the gods.  Sadaka never finished her 1,000 cranes but the tradition has continued and there are now hundreds of thousands of paper cranes surrounding the Children’s Peace Memorial.  Tim and I attempted to make one to add to the collection but sadly our origami skills failed us.

After the most emotional afternoon we then met a man in the café of the museum who managed to tell me that he had lived in Hiroshima and was 17 when the bomb hit and he was now 83, if only we were able to speak some Japanese to find out more about his story, but he was very excited to meet people from England and was more than happy to let me take a photo.

Hiroshima is definitely an amazing place and I am so pleased that we have been, emotional, educational and opens your eyes to the amazing culture of people who have suffered so much but they seek only peace and hope that no one else ever has to endure such an attack.

I am sorry that this has been more of a history lecture than an entertaining blog, but that is what going somewhere like this does to you!  Just to make this a little more light-hearted there is something that I forgot to mention in the Kyoto blog.  When we were in our favourite Japanese shop, the 100yen shop buying all the essentials to make a home cooked dinner, I ummed and ahhed and denied myself a sieve assuming that I would be able to drain spaghetti without it.  That was a schoolboy error and lead to three nights of fingers burnt by hot pasta.  The reason that this rather dull piece of information is considered blog worthy, is that instead of spending £1 on a sieve we spent £2 on his and hers ninja masks.  Complete with a dressing gown ‘borrowed’ from our Osaka hotel and Pyjama’s supplied by our Hiroshima hotel, we put on our ninja suits and took to the corridor of the hotel (there was barely room to stand on the floor in the hotel) for a ninja photo shoot.  All was going well until we saw the lift open and had to dart into the room and continue the ninja shoot.  Be warned we are now highly trained Japanese fighting machines!

Ninja Suits packed and hearts heavy like our backpacks, we are on the move again.  Tokyo here we come! 
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