Next stop on our Japanese road trip, Hiroshima. Sadly, this is a city that needs no introduction. As I looked out the hotel window, it was hard to imagine that 70 years ago, this August, this beautiful city was nothing more than a pile of rubble.
One of the first questions that came to mind was, why Hiroshima? After a quick google search, a few of the reasons were; there was a high concentration of troops and military factories here, it had been largely untouched by bombings thus far, and the geography made it a good target to measure effectiveness. (You can see from this picture I took on the ferry the previous day, that Hiroshima is cradled between a mountain range and the sea, thereby creating a ‘bowl’ for the blast. This bowl helped to keep the blast somewhat contained from further destruction to more outlying areas.)
We spent a sobering morning wandering the grounds of the Hiroshima Memorial Peace park, and learning about the effects of war.
The arched structure is the cenotaph, or “empty tomb”, for all of those who perished in the blast.
Also, the Eternal Flame of Peace, which will be distinguished once all atomic weapons, world wide, have been destroyed.
Sadako was a young girl who developed leukemia as a result of the A-bomb blast. She had a wish that if she folded 1,000 (origami) paper cranes, she would become well. She was only able to fold 644 cranes before she was too weak to continue, but her friends and family joined in to finish her dream. She was buried with 1,300 paper cranes.
Now, paper cranes are sent from all over the world to this monument, as a sign of peace.
Each room was filled with thousands of colorful cranes.
A Japanese school group began singing the most beautiful, reverent song while we were there. I will always remember that moment and those sweet voices filling the air.
And finally, the ‘A-bomb dome’, as it is now known. Also, the river that so many people jumped into, in hopes of sparing their lives.
It seemed very odd to stand in front of this building and smile for the camera.
This was a shot of the before and after.
We circled the entire building and tried to take it all in. The girls had lots of questions.
This was inside the main hall.
Through the efforts of many, the building still exists almost exactly as it did that day, to serve as a reminder of war.
And Hiroshima today, is quite a vibrant city.
Tragically, many Japanese children were forced to work in labor camps and factories, for the war effort, and this was a monument to those who had lost their lives. Also, sadly, 10% of those lost in the blast were Korean prisoners, being held captive in Hiroshima. Many people had left fresh flowers and also more paper cranes.
I loved the beauty that surrounded the park. It truly was a peaceful place to be.
The museum was difficult to see, but very well presented. They did not employ the propaganda tactics that we saw in Vietnam. Everything was very straightforward, and they just presented the facts.
The ‘hypo-center’ of the bombing.
Seeing the children’s clothing and toys was heartbreaking.
Roof tiles, and also glass, were absolutely melted from the heat of the blast.
This nice man had a bag FULL of paper cranes that had been donated, and he was so happy to give the girls a few.
After the blast, this bank was the only building left mostly standing. I asked a museum volunteer if it was possible to see the building, and she gave me directions.
This is the building today, looking almost exactly how it did that day, seventy years ago. Amazing!
The building is no longer a bank, but this plaque was posted near the building as a reminder of its past.
Wow! That was a lot to take in and process in one morning. Eva was upset by the museum, so we googled some pictures, had a good discussion about Pearl Harbor and the reasons for the war. It was especially hard because we love Japan and the Japanese people so much. “Unfortunately”, we said, “sometimes war is necessary for protecting the freedoms we hold dear”.
After the peace park, we got back in the car for the drive back to Osaka, where we spent the night. Then on to Tokyo, the next morning.
We had a fun night wandering the streets of Osaka.
I just love seeing small restaurants like this.
And once again, the truck stops in Japan are amazing! The red and green lights show you which stalls are open, and the floor is so clean, you could eat off it. Seriously!
Speaking of clean…At the gas station, a man came running out with a damp cloth for Matt to clean the dash with. Only in Japan!
We had such a wonderful time on this road trip, and checked off a big bucket list item….Hiroshima.
Very moving. Thanks for the post.
I feel like I'm going to cry. That would be so hard for your girls to see. I'm glad that it seems to be such a healing sort of place.
How brave and wise you are to have taken your girls and talked them through it. What a powerful memory that will be.
Poor sensitive Eva. It would be strange for her. She loves Japan and yet it's our countrymen that caused such devastation. Great blog.