The next day, Slawomir and I met up to trek through the tragic history of the city of Hiroshima.
We started with the dome building at Peace Memorial Park. It was originally called the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and was used for art and cultural events. These days, though, it’s more commonly referred to as the Atomic Bomb Dome.
On August 6, 1945, at 8:15 am, the bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” was dropped on the city of Hiroshima. Hiroshima was chosen as the first target by the US because of the importance of its port and its location as the headquarters of the Japanese second General Army.
The reason the dome was able to withstand the mega blast, which was equivalent to 12, 500 tons of TNT, was because the bomb exploded almost directly over the building. The buildings columns withstood the vertical force from the blast and some of the walls were able to remain intact.
The dome was the only building left standing in the hypocentre of the blast. Over 200, 000 people died, and everything within a two kilometre radius was reduced to ashes.
In the aftermath of the blast, a controversy developed because some locals felt the building needed to be torn down, as it was too painful of a reminder of the tragedy of August 6th. Others, however, felt it should be preserved as a memorial of the bombing, a reminder of the atrocities of war, and a symbol of peace. In the end, the city chose to preserve it.
Years later, in the late 60s, the mayor of Hiroshima pleaded for funds for some preservation efforts he wished to initiate to help maintain the project. He got so desperate, that he even asked random people on the street for donations while on a trip to Tokyo.
From the dome, we headed towards the Children’s Peace Monument. Sadako Sasaki was exposed to radiation from the blast at the age of two, and eventually died ten years later of Leukemia. Her peers decided a monument should be built to remember Sadako and all children who lost their lives to the blast. Contributions from over 3200 schools across Japan and from nine countries abroad helped make the monument happen.
At the top of the structure stands a girl holding a golden crane above her head. The crane holds the world’s dreams for a peaceful future. The inscription at the bottom reads, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.” The phrases “A Thousand Paper Cranes” and “Peace on the Earth and in the Heavens” are carved into the bell hanging inside the monument.
The story goes that Sadako’s roommate at the hospital told her the legend that claims that anybody who folds 1000 paper cranes will be granted one wish. This inspired Sadako to fold every piece of paper she could find, from medicine wrappers to present paper wrappings, into paper cranes.
The Peace Memorial Museum says that not only did Sadako meet her goal of 1000 cranes, but she kept going afterwards. A documentary filmed by her father, though, says Sadako only got as far as 644 cranes before she passed away. Her classmates then made 1000 cranes of their own and buried them with her.
Those art projects definitely pulled at the heartstrings. I could imagine many of my students making something just like that. The thought was heartbreaking.
The Cenotaph was designed by a former professor at Tokyo University “in the hope of protecting those victims from the rain.”
I was a little worried about stepping foot in the Peace Memorial Park Museum after going through the Vietnam War Museum. I couldn’t even finish that one; I had to leave the place once I got to the Agent Orange section. I made it through this one in one piece, but there were several times where I secretly had to fight back tears.
The first thing we saw in the museum was a video with a collection of interviews with survivors, all of them reliving that terrible day for the camera. There was a mother who returned home to find her baby boy and her daughter dead, lying close to one another. There was the boy who tried to help his friend get home. The skin on his friend’s feet had been burned off. There was the boy in class who was one of ten who survived the blast. When he came to, the surviving children were singing their school’s song, perhaps in celebration that they were alive, perhaps because they didn’t know what else to do. There were so many gut-wrenching stories. One woman lost thirteen members of her family. They all described the same scene, though. There was a blinding white light, and when the light faded away, everything around them was gone. Fires were burning out of a few buildings that stood standing. One girl said that her father had been a Buddhist teacher, and so she had seen pictures of Hell before. She said that Hiroshima looked the same. The only difference was that Hiroshima was all black, red, and brown, while Hell also had some green in it.
Then there was a holographic video recreating the aerial view of the bomb dropping on the unsuspecting, beautiful, thriving city of Hiroshima. I held my breath as the bomb was falling. I knew what was about to happen, but I didn’t want it to. I wanted to somehow wish for an alternate ending.
The last part of the third floor featured a long display that stretched along one wall. It had stats and information about the bomb itself. Some examples:
– The temperature on the surface reached between 3000-4000 degrees.
– The US sent researchers over following the bomb to research the effects of the bomb on the environment and the people. I thought that one was particularly low. You kill 200, 000 people, and then you want to treat the survivors like a Science project?
– 70% of the buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed.
The second floor had information about the history of Hiroshima itself. I didn’t know that the Mayor of Hiroshima regularly sends out letters to world leaders in the US, China, Russia, etc., begging them to stop using nuclear weapons.
Finally, the first floor had an exhibition that featured items that belonged to children who died in the blast. There were some emotional stories here as well. One item was a tricycle that belonged to a three year-old. It was scorched red, black, and brown, just as the woman in that video had said. The father had buried the boy and his bike in the backyard. Decades later, he eventually dug them up, properly buried the boy, and donated the tricycle to the museum.
There were also paintings created by survivors of the bombing. There was one of a naked boy leaning against a black wall with his head resting on his hands. Underneath, it says, “A boy clinging to the gate seemed to be crying. When I called to him and touched him, I found he was dead.”
The saddest exhibits, though, were the ones titled “The Final Words of the Victims.” On display was a shirt that belonged to a boy. He had managed to make it home under his own strength following the blast so that he could tell his family what happened. The boy then told his mother Mom, you must not cry. I knew we students could not survive such a great war. Mom, do good to other people…” Then he died. In his mother’s arms.
Underneath that were the mother’s words. “We cremated his body and carefully picked up the bones the next morning. I didn’t even shed a tear at that time. I clutched the funerary urn to my chest, brought it home, wrapped it in a white cloth, and put it on the cupboard. It was that moment that my tears burst forth. I cried and cried as if all the moisture in my body had changed into tears.”
And that piece of shit, Drumpf, wants to INCREASE the number of warheads at America’s disposal. Any world leader in charge of a country that is in the possession of nuclear war heads is a piece of shit. They’re all walking, talking pieces of shit. You might be the leader of your nation, but that nation exists within the planet that we all share and call home. U.S., Russia, U.K., France, Germany, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Belarus, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Ukraine–I’m sorry to say this, but your political leaders are all pieces of shit.
After the museum, we headed for Hiroshima Castle. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, but the history was pretty interesting. It was built at the very end of the 1500s. It makes good use of the rivers that run through Hiroshima and uses a moat as an additional means of defence.
Short synopsis of the castle’s history: One daimyo (feudal lord) builds a castle in a strategic location, but is then forced to leave after losing a battle. The next lord is also forced to leave after repairing the castle following a flood without getting permission from Big Daddy Shogunate. The next lord listens to his elders, understands the importance of retaining the castle, and does just that until the feudal system is done away with in the 1800s. That’s the gist of it. Honestly, trying to remember the names of Japanese historical figures is harder than keeping track of Game of Thrones characters.
The castle was destroyed by the Atomic Bomb. The tower was reconstructed in 1958 and turned into a museum.
Lastly, we visited the Prefectural Museum of Art. I chose this museum because I thought it would have unique historical art from Hiroshima. It turned out to be a dud. The second floor was filled with boring European art and ONE Salvador Dali piece: The Persistence of Memory.
The third floor held some form of traditional drawings that featured mothers recurring themes like coddling their children and traditional games that children played.
With our self-guided tour of Hiroshima out of the way, Slawomir said our goodbyes, and I headed back to Miki and Ryo’s.
For dinner, we had some delicious Okonomiyaki. It’s kind of like a grilled pancake (though it’s more of a tortilla, if you ask me), with several layers of deliciousness. It can be made using a wide variety of ingredients. In fact, it varies region to region. Ours featured batter for the pancake itself, a lot of cabbage, soba noodles, an egg, and I think pork.
The three of us went to a really great restaurant for our memorable meal. Once we finally got to the front of the cue, we were seated around the long grill with everybody else, and we got to watch the magic happen right in front of us.
Our chef was a chubby and hilarious guy who came fully equipped with Police Academy-inspired sound effects and magic tricks, like stacking one egg on top of another. At one point, Miki was trying to think of the word to describe my hair, and with impeccable timing, the dude produced a Brillo Pad, which is exactly the word she wanted.
The server complimented my perfect pronunciation of “Excuse me, may we please have three more beers?” I was pretty proud of that.
Before we left, I told our chef that the food was “psycho.” In Japanese, psycho = amazing.
The gang then headed home, where we then proceeded to drink, laugh, and listen to music until just past 2 am. Oh, I’m going to miss those guys.