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Hiroshima and the A-bomb

 

The temptation was overpowering. Sure I didn’t need to go through those doors, as I’d been through them before, and much too often. But this is Japan! Maybe it will be different. And with that, resolve faded away, and I was sucked inside. . .

 

 

Today was rather unique in the sense that I made a plan, and more or less did everything on my plan. The plan of course was to see the A-Bomb sights, and then check out a castle that was located fairly close by. Actually, everything in Hiroshima is pretty close. You can walk from the rail station to anywhere else in probably 30 minutes. There are trams and buses, but if you use them, you’ll probably spend so much time waiting for them, you would have been better off walking.

 

So walking is what I did. I first walked from the hostel to Peace Boulevard, which now was a bit barren, but in the summer I’m sure it would have been quite lovely. Peace Boulevard runs east and west, and ends up taking you right to the southern area of the Peace Park and all of the other memorials. I could have probably walked it in 10-15 minutes, but I was stopping quite a bit to take photos.

 

At the memorial park, I suppose it occurred to me just how different things were, and how far Hiroshima had come. Today, you would be hard pressed to see any evidence of the bombing, except for the memorials all over town. There are a few other things left behind if you know what to look for. Bomb damaged trees, “shadows” left from the intense heat of the blast, and of course the A-Bomb dome. But otherwise, its all a modern city, much like any of the other Japanese cities I’ve been to.

 

The atmosphere at the park was not overly somber. Even within the museum building, people were taking photos of themselves in front of a few of the exhibits. The museum was good for at least an hour. I think I spent about an hour and forty minutes. It first examines Hiroshima before the blast, then the blast, and also has exhibits displaying recovered belongings, effects of radiation, the story of a girl who developed leukemia, and a display showing the current nuclear state of the world. I think it was very thorough, and well done. Lots of English. One of the interesting displays had the remains of burned up clothing, or personal effects that people found when looking for family members. It was not overly gruesome, with the exception of one display.

 

One thing I found a bit interesting is perhaps best preceded by saying that spending the last year in China has exposed me to the fact that Chinese people tend to dislike Japan. A lot. One example is a power point game questions: Which disease kills the most people in the west? The students must answer the question quickly, and see not to understand it very well. Thus, the answer is always, “The Japanese!”

 

So after leaving China where I had in some way been reminded about the Rape of Nanjing (which the Japanese have never actually apologized for) probably every couple of months, I thought it interesting that here the museum paints a picture that the Japanese were largely innocent victims. The exhibit and many memorials concentrated heavily on students and other young Japanese who died, many of whom were outside working on city defense projects the day the bomb fell. Somehow, as bad as the A-bombs were, the method of dealing out the destruction seems impersonal and mechanical. Its one thing to drop bombs from 25,000feet, even really powerful bombs. It’s another thing to spend weeks raping and killing 200-300,000 civilians, (which is more than both atomic bombs combined.) It is apparently the biggest mass rape in history, and possibly one of the most concentrated acts of mass executions every recorded.

 

I suppose though that while Japan has perhaps not truly apologized for the awful atrocities committed, they have moved on and seem to firmly embrace peace and the destruction of nuclear weapons. It really seems that the Japanese see the past as a different universe. Oh well, its still chilling to think of how complete the destruction was.

 

After the museum I met another guy who was also touring the place. He was apparently finished with high school, and was doing some sort of work thing where you work for room and board. We walked around a bit to see the A-Bomb dome, which is one of the few buildings left from the blast, and actually was nearly directly under the blast. Part of it survived and is left up for a monument. Today however, it had a lot of scaffolding. A sign said they conduct a thorough inspection every 3 years for the last 18 years or so. They were probably taking the scaffolding down at this point.

 

We next had lunch at some small Japanese bar, I guess. There were an extremely drunk, elderly Japanese man. He kept saying “camera man” and offering us sake. We both refused, but before he staggered out of the restaurant, he gave us 500yen (five dollars) in “beer money” as he put it. It went towards lunch, so thank you, however you are. I set off alone after our late lunch to see Hiroshima Castle. I suppose Japanese castles are rather barren and plain, at least, this one was pretty simple compared to the European castles I’d seen. You could go inside the tower, but no photos were allowed. I went to the top and took a picture. Inside the tower, you could see a range of displays including weapons and clothing. Nothing was over represented, as the tower wasn’t that big. Most displays had at least a bit of English.

 

After that, it was nearing sunset, so I walked back to the hostel, but did get some more pictures of the Peace Park and the A-Bomb. On the way back, I walked through a large pedestrian street, which was actually covered. It contained many shops. It was here that I saw a Mcdonalds. Now, I have to admit, I’ve grown quite fond of the place in China. Part of me decided that there would be no more Mcdonalds in Japan, but yet, I just had to go in and see what special regional choices this set of arches had behind the counter. Ah, a shrimp burger and what turned out to be a Mcflurry looked good. I ordered one of each, and after eating the, went back to the hostel to edit my photos.

 

 

Tomorrow I’m not 100% sure what I want to do. I see myself having plenty of time right now, so I might head over to see a couple of other museums before heading over to Nagasaki. Or I might head direct to Nagasaki. I’ll have to wait and see tomorrow. I’ll have to deal with my luggage, so thats a bit of a problem either way. I’m slowly, very slowly, reducing the weight of the clothing bag, but even if I drop all of my clothing, the camera and laptop equipment are a handful to deal with. Who knows, stay tuned. . .

 

 

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